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JULY 10, 2000 VOL. 156 NO. 1

Milestones
BY PENNY CAMPBELL

DIED. VITTORIO GASS-MAN, 77, veteran actor who was one of Italy's top screen stars in the 1950s and '60s; in Rome. The multitalented Gassman mastered a range of genres, from suave leading man to Shakespeare to light comedy, appearing in more than 120 films and 150 plays over five decades.

DIED. PIERRE PFLIMLIN, 93, the last Prime Minister of France's Fourth Republic; in Strasbourg. He held several cabinet posts before serving briefly as conservative Prime Minister in 1958. Unable to deal with the crisis in Algeria, he handed power to General Charles de Gaulle. A great champion of European integration, Pflimlin served as a member of the European Parliament (1979-89) and as its president (1984-87).

DIED. VERA ATKINS, 92, unflappable British World War II spymaster said to have provided the inspiration for Miss Moneypenny of Ian Fleming's James Bond stories; in Hastings, Sussex. Romanian-born and Sorbonne-educated, Atkins was recruited by London to coordinate a network of 500 spies in occupied France. She was later awarded the French Legion of Honor and made a Commander of the British Empire.

ARRESTED. DUSKO SIKIRICA, 36, Bosnian Serb indicted for war crimes during the 1992-95 war; in Prijedor, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sikirica is the former commandant of a Bosnian internment camp where hundreds of Muslims and Croats were alleged to have been tortured and murdered. He will be transferred for trial to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague.

SENTENCED. YASUO HAYASHI, 42, former leading member of Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo, to death for crimes including the deadly sarin gas attack in a Tokyo subway in 1995; in Tokyo. Twelve people died in the attack and thousands were injured. Prosecutors contended that Hayashi was directly responsible for eight of the deaths.

SACKED. HEDAYAT LOTFIAN, as head of Iran's law-enforcement forces, by supreme leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei; in Tehran. Lotfian's removal had long been demanded by students and leaders of the nation's reform movement, who hold the brigadier general responsible for the bloody assault last July on a student pro-democracy demonstration.

SACKED. DOVER SAMUELS, 61, New Zealand's Minister of Maori Affairs, following allegations of a sexual relationship with an underage girl; in Wellington. Prime Minister Helen Clark said that it was impossible for Samuels to be effective in his job amid the controversy the allegations have provoked. He denies the charges, saying that the girl, with whom he admits to having a relationship, was above the age of consent.

Eulogy
The decision by WALTER MATTHAU who died of a heart attack last week at 79, made moviegoers laugh at their own venality--make that humanity. A deft character actor with star quality, he was the ideal mouthpiece for the wisecracks of Neil Simon (The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys) and Billy Wilder (The Fortune Cookie). But he didn't need good writing to be funny. Born Walter Matuchanskayasky, he had a posture designed by Rube Goldberg and a lovely snarl of a voice that cut like a foreclosure notice. That got him small, dark roles (he beat up Elvis Presley in King Creole, took a shot at Audrey Hepburn in Charade) until Wilder and Simon put him above the title. Then he suavely juggled two genres: romantic comedy (A New Leaf, House Calls) and 32 years of grumpy-buddy movies with Jack Lemmon. He had a few weaknesses, but optimism wasn't one of them. "I'm a degenerate gambler," he said in 1994. "If I get lucky, I'll die before I go broke." He went out (as a dying meanie in Hanging Up) the way he came in: like the sour sage who believes nothing he hears--or says. If Walter Matthau were to be told that Walter Matthau had died, he'd ask for a second opinion.
--By Richard Corliss

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