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Last Word
Listen to the latest editionFriday   16:00-16:30
Sunday 20:30-21:00 (rpt)

Radio 4's weekly obituaries programme
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This week
Friday 20th April 2007
(Rpt) Sunday 22nd April
Matthew Bannister
Matthew Bannister tells the life stories of people who have died recently. This week: Dick Vosburgh, Joan Wyndham, Paul Leventhal and Neville Duke.
Richard Kennedy Vosburgh,
Comedy writer and lyricist who has died aged77.

Born in Elizabeth New Jersey, Dick persuaded his father to send him to the UK to study at RADA in 1948, where he won the comedy acting prize. Whilst he was a student he was already contributing sketches to West End reviews and he went on to work with many of the great names of British comedy – from Tommy Cooper and Frankie Howerd to the Monty Python team and the Two Ronnies.

Dick Vosburgh’s love for Broadway musicals and classic American films resulted in many an accurate parody, culminating in a Broadway show. A Day In Hollywood, A Night In the Ukraine was written with the composer Frank Lazarus, and combined a revue satirising the movie industry with a pastiche of the Marx brothers.

Matthew Bannister talks to Ronnie Corbett and to Barry Cryer – who knew Dick Vosburgh for forty years and was one of his earliest writing partners. 

Richard Kennedy Vosburgh was born August 27th 1929. He died London April 18th 2007.
Joan Wyndham
Writer who has died aged 85.

Joan Wyndham had an affair with Lucien Freud, was propositioned by Dylan Thomas (who she recalled smothered her with beery kisses) and went to parties with Quentin Crisp. The bohemian Joan was born into an eccentric upper class family. She came to public prominence late in her life on the publication of diaries she had kept during the second world war. Her charming, irrepressible descriptions of life as a young art student in London as the bombs dropped made her something of a literary celebrity. One critic called her “a latter day Samuel Pepys in camiknickers”. Joan describes a round of parties, love affairs and eventually the much desired loss of her virginity.

After the war she opened Oxford’s first espresso bar, ran a hippy restaurant in London’s Portobello Road and cooked for the actors at the Royal Court Theatre. She became a passionate - if not always well informed - fan of Chelsea football club and in latter years eagerly followed their progress on satellite television.

Joan’s home was a bohemian refuge for actors, artists and models. In 1957 she divorced her first husband and married her Russian lodger Shura Shivarg. The couple bought a scruffy Georgian house in London where there were always parties, cats and lodgers.

Matthew Bannister talks to two of her lodgers Neil Norman and Simon Shaw.

Joan Wyndham was born October 11th 1921. She died April 8th 2007.
Paul Leventhal
Educator, journalist and nonproliferation expert who has died aged 69.

Paul Leventhal started his career as an investigative newspaper journalist. But a desire to see government from the inside took him to Washington where he ended up working for a Senate subcommittee on how to re-organise the American Atomic Energy Commission. It was work which changed his life. He was passionate about the dangers of nuclear proliferation and devoted the rest of his career to working against it. He established and ran the Nuclear Control Institute, travelled the world to lecture on the subject and was in demand as an adviser to governments.

Long before the events of September 11th 2001, Leventhal warned of the dangers of terrorists gaining access to nuclear materials.

Matthew Bannister talks to his friends and colleagues at the Nuclear Control Institute, Eldon Greenberg and Richard Wegman. 

Paul Leventhal was born February 12th 1938. He died April 10th 2007.
Neville Duke DSO, OBE, DFC and two bars.
Squadron Leader and test pilot who has died aged 85.

Neville Duke was a wartime fighter ace who moved into the jet engine age and broken the world air speed record. He was awarded a DSO and three DFCs for his courage in wartime dogfights in the skies above North Africa and Italy. He shot down an astonishing 27 German planes. After the war he took on the perilous job of testing experimental aircraft for the Hawker company. His record breaking flight came in the Coronation year of 1953 at a time when Britain was briefly ahead of the Americans in the development of jet planes. It made him even more famous with a string of children’s books based on his exploits and an appearance in the Eagle comic’s “Heroes of Today” column.

Matthew Bannister talks to Norman Franks who edited Neville Duke’s wartime diaries, read by Nick Rowe.

Neville Duke was born January 11th 1922. He died April 7th 2007.

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