Woody StrodeAthlete turned actorWoody Strode, football player...


Woody Strode

Athlete turned actor

Woody Strode, football player turned actor who had supporting roles in John Wayne films and costume period epics such as "Spartacus" and "The Ten Commandments," died in his sleep Saturday at his home in Glendora, Calif. He was 80.

He had been diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago, said his daughter, June Strode.

He recently completed "The Quick and the Dead," a western with Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman, his daughter said.

Born in Los Angeles and educated at UCLA, he parlayed his strapping frame into careers in Canadian football and professional wrestling before breaking into acting in 1941. In the 1950s he was seen regularly playing black muscle men in small parts.

It wasn't until 1960 that he was given a real opportunity to act when he landed the role of a soldier on trial for murder and rape in "Sergeant Rutledge," one of his best-known performances.

He acted in many Wayne movies and had a prominent part in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance."

With his angular, intimidating looks and imposing physical demeanor, Mr. Strode alternated between playing villains or heroic figures. He often played a gunslinger or bounty hunter.

He played a gladiator in the epic "Spartacus" and also appeared in "Once Upon a Time in the West," "Pork Chop Hill" and "The Professionals."

Mustapha Harun, 76, a one-time office clerk who helped lead Sabah out of the British empire and into Malaysia, died Monday of a heart attack in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Jess Stacy, 90, who rose to fame as Benny Goodman's pianist and went on to become one of the most influential musicians of the Swing Era, died Sunday in Los Angeles. He was in Goodman's orchestra from 1935 to 1939. His improvisation in 1938 on "Sing Sing Sing" during the first jazz concert at Carnegie Hall became known as one of the great piano solos in jazz history.

Vladimir Zhitarenko, 54, a Russian war correspondent, was shot to death Sunday covering the fighting in Chechnya for the armed forces newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda.

George Eells, 72, a writer and editor and a biographer of such entertainment luminaries as Cole Porter, Mae West and Anita O'Day, died on Sunday in New York City of pneumonia after complications from brain surgery in June. His best-known work was his book about Porter and his songs, "The Life That Late He Led."

Eugene P. Wigner, 92, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who played a prominent role in the development of the atomic bomb and nuclear energy, died Sunday of pneumonia in Princeton, N.J. A professor emeritus in mathematical physics at Princeton University, he won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1963 for his insight into quantum mechanics. He used group theory to organize the quantum energy levels of electrons in atoms. He took a leave of absence from Princeton in 1942 to join a team at the University of Chicago working on the secret project to design reactors to produce the first plutonium for nuclear weapons.

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