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TERENCE SMITH: Althea Gibson was the first black to compete in the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament, Wimbledon, and the first to win.
ALTHEA GIBSON: I represented myself nobly, and my people and the country.
TERENCE SMITH: On the court, Gibson used an overpowering serve-and- volley game to win an extraordinary 11 Grand Slam titles in singles and doubles between 1956 and 1958. She was especially proud of capturing the U.S. title.
ALTHEA GIBSON: There’s no greater feeling than to win in your own country, in your own city, and being the first Negro to have done it.
TERENCE SMITH: The 5’11″ tennis star was named woman athlete of the year by Associated Press two years in a row. She grew up poor in Harlem, and learned tennis, largely a country club game in those days, by hitting balls against a brick wall. Gibson became a role model for tennis greats who followed her, including Billie Jean King and the Williams Sisters. Some have compared her to another great athlete who broke the color barrier in baseball a few years earlier.
SPOKESMAN: A ticker tape parade for Althea Gibson.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA Today: You could easily make the case that she is to women’s sports what Jackie Robinson was to baseball and then to men’s sports. She paved the way for so many generations, including Serena and Venus.
TERENCE SMITH: Gibson left tennis after her Wimbledon victory, and in 1960 took up golf. Two years later, she became the first black woman on the LPGA tour, but she never won any golf tournaments. Gibson died of respiratory problems yesterday at age 76.
TERENCE SMITH: Director Elia Kazan was both loved and hated in Hollywood. Kazan once called himself the most successful director in America. For his work on the silver screen, he won Oscars for two classics.
BRANDO: “On the Waterfront” You was my brother, Charlie, you should have looked out for me a little bit.
TERENCE SMITH: “On the Waterfront,” a searing account of union corruption along the New Jersey docks.
ACTOR: I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.
BRANDO: You don’t understand. I could have had class. I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody.
TERENCE SMITH: And “Gentleman’s Agreement,” a powerful look at anti-Semitism.
ACTOR ONE: May I inquire, are you… that is, do you follow the Hebrew religion yourself or is it that you just want to make sure?
ACTOR: I’ve asked a simple question. I’d like to have a simple answer.
ACTOR ONE: Well, you see, we do have a very high-class clientele. Naturally….
ACTOR: Then you do restrict your guests to gentiles?
ACTOR ONE: Well, I wouldn’t say that, Mr. Green. In any event there seems to be some mistake because we don’t have a free room in the entire hotel. But if you’d like, perhaps I can fix you up at the Brewster Hotel down near the station.
ACTOR: I’m not staying at the Brewster. I’m Jewish. You don’t take Jews. That’s it, isn’t it?
ACTOR ONE: I never said.
ACTOR: If you don’t accept Jews, say so.
ACTOR ONE: Don’t raise your voice to me, Mr. Green. Speak a little more quietly please.
ACTOR: Do you or don’t you?
ACTOR ONE: Mr. Green, I’m a very busy man. If you want me to phone for a cab or a room at the Brewster, I’ll do so. Otherwise… (bell ringing)
TERENCE SMITH: He teamed up with author Arthur Miller on stage, winning Tony Awards for “Death of a Salesman” and “all my sons.” In a 1995 documentary, Kazan explained why he was drawn to stories with underdog characters.
ELIA KAZAN: I also was sympathetic of people who were struggling to get up because I struggled to get up, and I struggled all my life, and I’m still struggling I guess.
TERENCE SMITH: Kazan directed his actors with the method approach, asking them to deeply immerse themselves in the mind-set, emotions, and personalities of their characters.
BRANDO: (“A Streetcar Named Desire” 1951) Stella!
TERENCE SMITH: Besides Marlon Brando, Kazan drew some of the best performances in film history from such big names as James Dean, Warren Beatty, and Natalie Wood, along with many others. But in the 1950s, Kazan drew fire from the Hollywood community. He testified before the House un-American Activities Committees in 1952, identifying eight people as communists. All were blacklisted, and most never worked in film again. Some of his colleagues never forgave him, and when he was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1999, some in the audience refused to applaud.
ROD STEIGER, Actor: He was our father. He was Elia Kazan, carrying the torch of truth, personal involvement, and creativity. And it’s like we found him sleeping with our sister. It was unbelievable. It really was a psychological shock.
TERENCE SMITH: Movie critics said that one scene in “On the Waterfront” paralleled Kazan’s testimony. Marlon Brando appears before a commission investigating corruption, and informs on friends and enemies.
ACTOR: (“On the Waterfront”) Is it true that the night that Joey Doyle was found dead that you were the last one to see him before he was pushed from the roof?
BRANDO: Yes, that’s right.
ACTOR: Is it true that you went –
BRANDO: Except for the guys who pushed him off.
ACTOR: Is it true that you went immediately to the friendly bar and there expressed your feelings about the murder to Mr. Johnny friendly.
BRANDO: John friendly, right.
TERENCE SMITH: Kazan directed 21 movies, 16 plays, and wrote six novels and an autobiography. He died at his Manhattan home yesterday at age 94.
DONALD O’CONNOR SINGING AND DANCING: (“Singin’ in the Rain” 1952) Make ‘em laugh don’t you know everyone wants to laugh
TERENCE SMITH: Entertainer Donald O’Connor was best known for his song and dance number “Make ‘Em Laugh” in the 1952 movie classic, “Singin’ in the Rain.”
DONALD O’CONNOR SINGING AND DANCING: Those old honk-tonk, monkey shines you could charm the critics and have nothing to eat … just slip on a banana peel, the world is … make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh
TERENCE SMITH: O’Connor’s acrobatics landed him roles in other musicals, but also led to typecasting and, O’Connor said, kept him from getting serious roles as an actor.
DONALD O’CONNOR SINGING AND DANCING: But give it plenty of home — make ‘em roar make ‘em scream take a fall, split a scene — it’s not like pretending you’re a dancer with grace — you wiggle and giggle all over the place — don’t you get a great big custard pie in the face make ‘em laugh .
TALKING MULE: Most second lieutenants are.
TERENCE SMITH: He played the foil against the talking mule Francis in six movies in the 1950s, and later moved to television. In his seven-decade career, he won every major entertainment award except an Oscar. O’Connor died Saturday of heart failure at age 78.