British film director Michael Winner, whose vigilante thriller "Death Wish" painted a grim portrait of crime-plagued, 1970s New York, died Monday in London. He was 77.
"Death Wish" was a career-making hit for Winner and its star, Charles Bronson, who played Paul Kersey, a New York businessman set on avenging the murder of his wife and rape of his daughter by a group of thugs.
Upon its release in 1974, many critics blasted "Death Wish" for its brutality.
The New York Times' Vincent Canby said the movie "seems to have been made for no reason except to exploit its audience's urban paranoia and vestigial fascination with violence for its own sake."
But "Death Wish" became a surprise hit, raking in $22 million at the box office and spawning four increasingly grisly sequels over the next 20 years, two of which Winner directed.
Born in London in 1935, Winner specialized in grungy action movies such as "Death Wish," including the original, 1972 version of "The Mechanic," which also starred Bronson, this time as an aging hitman, and 1973's "Scorpio," in which Burt Lancaster played a retiring assassin.
After his movie career dwindled, Winner had a second life as restaurant critic.
He took an unsentimental view of his work as director, once saying: "If you want art, don't mess about with movies. Buy a Picasso."
Ebony editor who grew up in Nazi Germany dies at 87
Hans Massaquoi, a former managing editor of Ebony magazine who wrote a distinctive memoir about his unusual childhood growing up black in Nazi Germany, died Saturday, on his 87th birthday, in Jacksonville, Fla.
"He had quite a journey in life," said Hans J. Massaquoi Jr. "Many have read his books and know what he endured. But most don't know that he was a good, kind, loving, fun-loving, fair, honest, generous, hard-working and open-minded man. He respected others and commanded respect himself. He was dignified and trustworthy. We will miss him forever and try to live by his example."
In 2000, Massaquoi told The Associated Press that he credited the late Alex Haley, author of "Roots," with persuading him to share his experience of being "both an insider in Nazi Germany and, paradoxically, an endangered outsider." His autobiography, "Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany," was published in the U.S. in 1999 and a German translation was also published.
Massaquoi's mother was a German nurse and his father was the son of a Liberian diplomat. He grew up in working-class neighborhoods of the port city of Hamburg.
Massaquoi recounted a story from 1933, when he was in second grade. Wanting to show what a good German he was, Massaquoi said he cajoled his baby sitter into sewing a swastika onto his sweater. When his mother spotted it that evening, she snipped it off, but a teacher had already taken a snapshot. Massaquoi, the only dark-skinned child in the photo, is also the only one wearing a swastika.
He writes that one of his saddest moments was when his homeroom teacher told him he couldn't join the Hitler Youth.
"Of course I wanted to join. I was a kid, and most of my friends were joining," he said. "They had cool uniforms and they did exciting things - camping, parades, playing drums."
Germany was at war by the time he was a teenager, and he describes in the book the near-destruction of Hamburg during the Operation Gomorrah bombing attack in the summer of 1943.
He wrote about becoming a "swingboy" who took great risks by playing and dancing to versions of American swing music, which was condemned by the Nazi regime. After the collapse of Germany, he said he was able to save his mother and himself from starvation by playing the saxophone in clubs that catered to the American Merchant Marine.
Eventually he left Germany, first joining his father's family in Liberia before going to Chicago to study aviation mechanics. He was drafted into the U.S. Army while on a student visa in 1951. Afterward, he became a U.S. citizen and eventually became a journalist.
He worked for Jet Magazine before moving to Chicago-based Ebony, where he rose to managing editor before retiring in the late 1990s.