British director Antonia Bird has died at 54

Antonia Bird directed "Priest" (1994), and "Mad Love" (1995), among other films and TV shows. (Los Angeles Times)

Mary Finch Hoyt

Press secretary to Rosalynn Carter

Mary Finch Hoyt, 89, White House press secretary to former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, died Oct. 17 in Washington, according to Carter's spokeswoman Deanna Congileo. She had cancer, the Washington Post reported, citing her family.

Carter said that Hoyt was a "trusted adviser and loyal friend who served the nation with honor and distinction."

During the 1968 presidential campaign, Hoyt served as press secretary to Jane Muskie, wife of Democratic vice-presidential candidate Edmund Muskie, and in 1972, she served in the same role for Eleanor McGovern, wife of Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush said Hoyt "set a wonderful example for career-minded women across the country" and praised her service and commitment to charitable causes.

A journalist and author, Hoyt also worked as Washington bureau chief for the Ladies Home Journal and later served as director of communications for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Born in Visalia on Dec. 17, 1923, Hoyt experienced personal tragedy over decades. Her only brother was killed in World War II when his B-17 bomber was shot down. Her first husband also died during World War II. Twice divorced, she lost the younger of her two sons, a lobster fisherman, when his boat capsized off the coast of Rhode Island in the 1970s.

Antonia Bird

British film director

Antonia Bird, 62, the English director best known in the U.S. for her controversial 1994 film “Priest,” died Oct. 24 in the county of Suffolk of anaplastic thyroid cancer, according to her agent, Sue Rodgers.

In a statement, Bird’s husband, Ian Ilett, said, “Despite a determined fight, she had come to terms with the inevitable in the last few weeks and died peacefully in her sleep.”


FOR THE RECORD:

An earlier version of this article contained an incorrect age for director Antonia Bird. She was 62, not 54, when she died. This report also includes additional details.


“Priest,” her first feature film, was about a conservative priest dealing with the fact that he was gay, as well as other issues. The British movie was roundly criticized by the Catholic church, which sought to have it banned in some areas, but “Priest” won awards at several major film festivals.

Antonia Bird was born on May 27, 1951, in London. She began her career in the theater while still a teenager, turning to directing because she suffered from stage fright, according to London’s Guardian newspaper. She became a resident director at the renowned Royal Court Theatre, known for presenting new, innovative works.

The writers she worked with included Samuel Beckett and Hanif Kureishi.

But in the mid-1980s Bird began directing television dramas and found she preferred that work over theater. “At last, I’d found my medium,” she said in a 1995 Los Angeles Times interview. “I’m much better with a camera than I ever was on a stage.”

She said she made “Priest” “because I was seething with rage when the pope said again in 1993 that Catholics shouldn’t use condoms. In this AIDS-ridden world.”