Been and gone: Bond's stunt double and the cartoonist who saved Batman
Our regular column covering the deaths of significant - but lesser-reported - people in the past month.
Fred "Nosher" Powell's colourful career took him from professional boxing, via the fringes of London's gangland, to stunt work in a string of Bond films. He was Sean Connery's stunt double in From Russia with Love and for all of Roger Moore's 007 films, although Bond producers never credited their stuntmen. Powell's first film appearance was as a knight in the 1944 film Henry V, a part gained because he had experience of looking after his father's cart horses. During his boxing career he took time out to act as minder to various stars, including Sammy Davis Jnr, as well as continuing in films. He also worked as a bouncer on the doors of celebrity nightclubs where his boxing experience was handy in deterring gatecrashers including, on one memorable occasion, barring the notorious Kray twins. His two sons, Greg and Gary also became Bond stuntmen, the latter acting as stunt coordinator on Skyfall.
Leo Branton was a lawyer who made a career out of taking on unpopular cases, none more so than when he defended the radical campaigner Angela Davis in 1972. His client, a prominent black activist and communist, had been charged with murder after a gun registered in her name was used to kill a judge in California. Many believed that Davis, with her links to the revolutionary Black Panther Party would never be acquitted by an all-white jury. Branton, himself an African-American, delivered a brilliant closing argument in which he asked the jurors to imagine what it was like to be black, before pulling the prosecution case to pieces. Davis went free. Branton qualified in 1948 and soon gained a high profile after a successful defence of California Communist Party members accused of plotting to overthrow the US government. He also represented a number of prominent black celebrities, including Nat "King" Cole and Richard Pryor.
When Denise Epstein's mother began writing a novel in the early 1940s, she had intended it to be a five-volume work based on her experiences of being a Russian-Jewish emigre in occupied France. In the event, Irene Nemirovksy died in Auschwitz in 1942, leaving the manuscript unfinished. Her daughter, who had managed to escape the fate of her parents - her father also died in Auschwitz - was sheltered by sympathetic nuns until the end of the war. Throughout this time she carried her mother's manuscript in a suitcase but it was not until the 1970s that she found the courage to read it, only then realising it was a novel rather than a diary. Finally published as Suite Francaise in 2002, it became a worldwide bestseller. It was received with mixed feelings in France, where people were reminded of the collaboration of French authorities and many French citizens in the Nazi persecution of the Jews.
The tens of thousands of tourists who visit St Michael's Mount in Cornwall each year have reason to be grateful to the 4th Lord St Levan, whose family had owned the mount since the 17th Century. In 1954 he negotiated a ground-breaking agreement with the National Trust that allowed the charity to take ownership of the property, together with a generous endowment for its upkeep. However, the family would continue to run it as a commercial organisation. This enabled St Levan to channel income from the property into local charities and good causes. He was also a great supporter of Operation Neptune, the fund raising effort that allowed the National Trust to protect hundreds of miles of coastline from development. Born John St Aubyn in 1919, he had an eventful wartime naval career, captaining a rescue boat at Dunkirk and serving on nine Arctic convoys including the notorious PQ17.
While early pop groups could get all their kit into the back of a Ford Transit, the increasing technology needed by rock bands on tour called for bigger vehicles. Edwin Shirley started life as an actor but by the end of the 1960s was working as a lighting director for artists such as Paul McCartney, David Bowie and Tina Turner. After a particularly problematic tour with the Rolling Stones in 1973, he founded a haulage company, Edwin Shirley Trucking, dedicated to transporting all the paraphernalia needed by a rock band on tour. Painted in snazzy purple and yellow, and bearing the slogan "You rock, we roll", EST trucks could be found at a variety of stage doors carrying kit for bands such as Queen, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones. He also set up a company to build the massive stages needed for rock concerts, including one at Wembley for Live Aid in 1985.
Artist Carmine Infantino was at the forefront of the so-called Silver Age of comic books in the 1950s and 60s, when superheroes returned to the mainstream. The popularity of comics had dipped after World War II and those that were produced were seen to be poor imitations of the originals. Infantino was called on by DC comics to draw a new adventure for The Flash in 1956, which set new standards for artwork and spawned a string of relaunched publications. In 1964 he was commissioned to work on a revival of the Batman franchise which attracted a new generation of fans. Three years later he was offered the then huge sum of $22,000 by Stan Lee from DC's great rival, Marvel Comics, but elected to stay with DC after being given the role of editorial director. This allowed him to hire new artists to keep the artwork fresh. Ousted from DC after sales declined, he continued to work as a freelance.
Also missed in April:
- The UK's first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
- Country singer, and ex-husband of Tammy Wynette, George Jones
- Richie Havens, singer and guitarist who opened Woodstock Festival
- Writer, journalist and design guru Jocasta Innes
- Theatre director, actor and writer Patrick Garland
- Designer of iconic album covers Storm Thorgerson
- Long-time London Symphony Orchestra conductor Sir Colin Davis