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Composer Andre Previn and Soap’s Katherine Helmond both pass at age 89

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ACCLAIMED conductor, composer and pianist Andre Previn, a versatile musician who won four Academy Awards for film scores and led some of the world’s great orchestras while mastering a rainbow of musical forms, died on Thursday at age 89, his management company said.

Mr. Previn, who won numerous awards for his musical accomplishments, was composing new music until only a few days before he passed away, IMG Artists said in a statement. The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear and the company could not be reached for further comment.

The German-born musical prodigy who fled Nazi persecution with his Jewish family in 1938 to Paris and then Los Angeles, Mr. Previn made his name as a jazz musician and writing scores for movies. By the end of his career, he had become one of the prominent music figures in the second half of the 20th century.

Mr. Previn was a conductor of major orchestras in Europe and America including the London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and others. He also composed numerous classical works including two operas, A Streetcar Named Desire and Brief Encounter.

His hundreds of recordings led to a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 and 10 other Grammys. Mr. Previn was knighted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in 1996. His personal life was controversial, with five marriages, including one to actress Mia Farrow.

When he arrived in Los Angeles, an uncle was providing music to Universal Studios. Mr. Previn launched his film-score career by age 20 when the MGM studio asked him to write music to accompany a famous collie in the 1949 movie Challenge to Lassie.

He soon was the most successful music man in Hollywood. He won Academy Awards for Gigi (1958), Porgy and Bess (1959), Irma La Douce (1963), and My Fair Lady (1964). He also wrote an admired score for the film Elmer Gantry (1960).

But at the height of his success in the early 1960s, he changed his career focus from films and jazz to classical music and conducting.

“I stuck around in Hollywood for too long,” Mr. Previn told Britain’s Guardian in 2005. “I was there a long time and when I left I was smart enough to realize that what I was leaving was not just the movie business,” he said. “I wanted to get rid of the whole atmosphere. I had a lot of friends and there were a lot of very talented people that I liked — and I still like — but it’s not an atmosphere in which to make serious music, it just isn’t.”

His goal was to conduct — he had studied with well-known conductor Pierre Monteux — but found that his film work did not boost his chances.

In 1968, he became chief conductor for the prestigious London Symphony Orchestra, and became quite a celebrity in Britain. He kept the post until 1979, an unusually long tenure.

He also was a virtuoso classical and jazz pianist and performed with many big names. He also had success in musical theater and his Broadway show Coco was nominated for a Tony Award as best musical in 1970.

Mr. Previn was known for trying to popularize classical music, organizing music festivals, and inspiring children about music.

He also generated headlines with his controversial personal life. He was married five times. In 1969, while still married to his second wife, Previn became involved with Mia Farrow, the former wife of actor and singer Frank Sinatra and the future partner of movie director Woody Allen. Ms. Farrow and Previn married in 1970, after she had given birth to twins and just weeks after his divorce came through. They divorced in 1979. Soon-Yi Previn, an adopted daughter of Mr. Previn and Ms. Farrow, later became Allen’s wife.

Mr. Previn’s fifth marriage in 2002 was to famed German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, who was 24 years younger than him. They divorced in 2006.

SOAP’S KATHERINE HELMOND
Actress Katherine Helmond, a seven-time Emmy Award nominee who played lusty matriarchs on the hit TV sitcoms Soap and Who’s the Boss from the 1970s into the 1990s, died last month at the age of 89, her talent agency said on Friday.

Ms. Helmond, who also delivered a memorable turn as a vain woman obsessed with plastic surgery in director Terry Gilliam’s dystopian film Brazil (1985), died Feb. 23 at her Los Angeles home due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Ms. Helmond was in her 40s and had already been nominated for a Tony Award for her work on Broadway before landing a starring role on Soap, a prime-time parody of daytime soap operas that ran on the ABC network for four seasons from 1977 to 1981.

She then starred on Who’s the Boss? on ABC with Milano, Tony Danza, and Judith Light from 1984 to 1992, followed by recurring roles on sitcoms Coach starring Craig T. Nelson from 1995 to 1997 and Everybody Loves Raymond with Ray Romano from 1996 to 2004.

Ms. Helmond played Jessica Tate, a sex-crazed scatterbrain, Soap, a show known for warped characters and deliberately farfetched plots, including alien abduction and demonic possession. People magazine referred to its “cheerfully tasteless handling of such topics as impotence, homosexuality, promiscuity, adultery, etc.” and it caused some controversy when it debuted.

“I don’t think it’s lurid,” Helmond told People. “Daytime soaps go into areas — lesbianism, married nuns, a woman in love with a priest — that would not be touched in prime time. And they’re super-serious. We just take real situations and exaggerate them.”

On Who’s the Boss? Ms. Helmond played Mona Robinson, the man-crazy mother to Light’s character, an ad executive who hires retired baseball player Mr. Danza as her housekeeper.

Ms. Helmond won two Golden Globe awards in 1981 for Soap and in 1989 for Who’s the Boss? She never won an Emmy but was nominated four times for Soap, twice for Who’s the Boss? and once for Everybody Loves Raymond. Helmond also appeared in director Alfred Hitchcock’s last movie, Family Plot (1976), and in Gilliam’s films Time Bandits (1981) as an ogre’s wife and in the visually striking Brazil (1985) as the plastic surgery aficionado.

She is survived by her second husband, David Christian. — Reuters

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