Christopher Fry


Christopher Fry, 97, a Christian humanist playwright who helped T.S. Eliot revive verse drama in the 1940s and who was one of the people credited with helping to write the film script for "Ben Hur" in 1959, died June 30 at a hospital in Chichester, southern England. The cause of death was not announced.

A master of whimsical comic verse, Mr. Fry's best-known plays, "The Lady's Not for Burning" (1948) and "Venus Observed" (1949), have a sense of benign providence and hope for humanity that struck a chord in a world still coming to terms with news of the Holocaust and the use of the atom bomb.

Mr. Fry trained as a teacher and taught for a number of years before quitting to found the Tunbridge Wells Repertory Players in 1932, directing the English premier of George Bernard Shaw's "Village Wooing."

He also wrote music and lyrics and began to take church commissions.

Fame came with the staging of "The Lady's Not for Burning," which made it to London's West End with John Gielgud playing the former soldier Thomas Mendip, who longs for death, and Pamela Brown as an alleged witch who is trying to escape being burned. Claire Bloom and Richard Burton had supporting roles.

In 1950, Mr. Fry produced "Venus Observed" for Lawrence Olivier's debut as actor/manager at London's St. James's Theatre; it tells the tale of a duke who asks his son to choose a stepmother from his father's paramours.

In the late 1950s, Mr. Fry turned to film scripts, rewriting William Wyler's film of "Ben Hur" and scripting "Barabbas" for Dino De Laurentis.

He continued to write plays, and in 2000 penned "A Ringing of Bells" for his old school; it was later staged at the National Theatre in London.

Ray Davis

Funk Singer

Ray Davis, 65, a singer with the band the Parliaments, which later became the flamboyant 1970s funk group Parliament-Funkadelic, died July 5 of respiratory complications at a hospital in New Brunswick, N.J.

Mr. Davis provided bass vocals on such songs as "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucka)," "One Nation Under a Groove" and "Flashlight." The latter two songs reached No. 1 on the R&B charts.

Under band leader George Clinton, Parliament-Funkadelic fused R&B, jazz, soul, gospel and psychedelic rock styles and employed futuristic costumes and elaborate stage displays. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

Lorenzo Thomas

Poet, Scholar

Lorenzo Thomas, 60, a poet and professor at the University of Houston-Downtown, died July 4 of emphysema at a hospice in Houston.

A native of Panama, Mr. Thomas learned English when he moved with his family to the United States at the age of 4. His poetry, designed to "knock the mind out of the rut of commonplace thinking," reflected the influence of American popular culture, particularly blues music.

After teaching at Texas Southern University, he joined the University of Houston-Downtown in 1984 and taught creative writing and black literature courses.

Marga Lopez

Mexican Film Actress

Marga Lopez, 81, an Argentine-born actress and naturalized Mexican citizen whose career on stage and screen spanned seven decades, died July 4 at a hospital in Mexico City. She had heart ailments.

She was born Catalina Margarita Lopez Ramos in San Miguel, Argentina and came to Mexico as a teenager. She twice married and divorced businessman Carlos Amador.

A star of Mexico's "golden age" of movies in the 1940s and 1950s, she appeared in such films as "Salon Mexico" and "Soledad."

More recently, she was known for her work in such Mexican television series as "El privilegio de amar" ("The Privilege of Loving") and "Lazos de amor" ("Bonds of Love").

William J. Brink

Editor; Wrote Iconic Headline

William J. Brink, 89, the editor who turned a 1975 edition of the New York Daily News into a classic of American journalism with the iconic headline "Ford to City: Drop Dead," died July 1 at a hospital in Norwalk, Conn. He had congestive heart failure.

The Daily News story with the headline was about President Gerald Ford's threat to veto any federal legislation that sought to financially aid the city of New York, which was in danger of fiscal collapse.

Mr. Brink scrawled the "Drop Dead" headline with a pencil on a sheet of newsprint. Three decades later, the phrase is still shorthand for any elected official's snub of an important constituent.

Mr. Brink joined the Daily News as an assistant managing editor in 1970, and was managing editor from 1974 until retiring in 1981.

Abdul-Majid Shoman

Chairman of Arab Bank

Abdul-Majid Shoman, 94, the chairman of the Arab Bank, Jordan's largest and oldest financial institution and a symbol of Palestinian nationalism, died July 5 at a hospital in Amman hospital. No cause of death was reported.

Mr. Shoman hailed from a prominent Palestinian family from the West Bank town of Beit Hanina. His father, Abdul-Hamid Shoman, established the first branch of the Arab Bank in Jerusalem in 1930. The bank was a symbol of Palestinian aspirations, representing a drive to create financial institutions for a new nation.

After Israel's seizure of the West Bank, including Jerusalem's traditional eastern Arab sector, the Shomans moved to Jordan, where they set up branches for their bank across the Arab kingdom. Under the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the Palestine Liberation Organization kept a large part of its funds in the Arab Bank.

The Arab Bank has more than has 30 branches across the Middle East, Europe, the United States, Australia and North Africa. Trading in its shares often leads the Amman Stock Exchange.

This year, the bank announced it was closing down its branch in New York, where it faces lawsuits alleging that it supported terrorism by funneling donations to Palestinian suicide bombers and their families. The bank has denied the claims.