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Film Director John Huston Dies

August 28, 1987 GMT

............................................................................. (AP) _ Director John Huston, who lived as hard and at times as dangerously as the characters in ″The Maltese Falcon,″ ″Prizzi’s Honor″ and other films which he created in a long and honored career, died today. He was 81.

Huston died in his sleep at a home he was renting during the filming of ″Mr. North,″ said Patty Raya, production coordinator for the movie.

″We will miss him a great deal,″ Stephen Haft, a producer, said in a telephone interview from the home. He said Huston’s longtime companion, Marcella Hernandez, was at the director’s side when he died.

Three of Huston’s children, Anjelica, Danny and Tony, gathered with friends and associates at the oceanside, ranch-style home called Sea Meadow. A man who identified himself as a family chauffeur kept people away from the house.

Huston, a long-time smoker, had been released last week from a hospital in Fall River, Mass., after three weeks for emergency treatment for pneumonia complicated by his long-time emphysema.

When he was hospitalized, he had been on his way to start filming a role in ″Mr. North,″ which is being directed by his son, Danny, and co-starring his daughter Anjelica. The movie is being filmed in nearby Newport.

He was forced to turn over the role to Robert Mitchum, but planned to remain as executive producer.

″I thought he was too tough to go because Sean (Connery) and I went to his deathbed several years ago to say good-bye. And the next thing I heard, was that he had made three movies. While living, I thought he was a legend and now he is,″ said actor Michael Caine, who worked with Huston in ″The Man Who Would Be King″ and ″Victory.″

During his half-century in film, Huston ventured deep into a jungle for ″The African Queen,″ pulled together misfits and outcasts for ″Under the Volcano,″ drank, caroused, befriended such mavericks as Ernest Hemingway and flourished in a Hollywood that cut most rebels down to size.

A half-dozen of his 40 feature films were considered classics, including ″The Asphalt Jungle,″ ″The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,″ and ″Key Largo.″

″He worked with the cast like a master conducting a symphony. He generated a feeling of love and loyalty. I had the same devastating feeling when my father died,″ ″Prizzi’s Honor″ co-star Robert Loggia said in a statement.

″The Sierra Madre has lost it’s treasure,″ said Mickey Rooney.

Orson Welles once said Huston was ″playing Mephistopheles to his own Faust.″ For his part, Huston, in his rich, deep voice, repeated his father’s advice: ″Don’t work at anything simply for money. Choose your profession as you would choose your wife: for love - and for money.″

The business was in his blood. He was the son of Walter Huston and the father of Anjelica Huston, and made film history by directing each of them in movies that won them Oscars. He won his own for writing and directing ″The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.″

When he wasn’t behind the camera, Huston was narrating commercials and documentaries, writing screenplays or acting - in perhaps his best-known role, he played the corrupt father in ″Chinatown.″

He rarely trimmed his pace, though he suffered in later years from emphysema that forced him to wear tubes leading to an oxygen tank. This summer, he completed his last film as director, the as-yet-unreleased ″The Dead,″ based on a James Joyce story and starring Anjelica. In order to get insurance, the producers, who included his son, Tony, had to have another director on standby.

″Recently I heard myself described as a living legend,″ he remarked upon receiving an award for his achievements in 1985. ″My doctors assure me that the first wintry blasts would almost certainly change my present status.″

John Marcellus Huston was born Aug. 5, 1906, in Nevada, Mo. His father was then a utility company engineer, his mother a traveling reporter. He made his stage debut at the age of 3, reciting ″Yankee Doodle Dandy,″ and spent much of his childhood shuttling back and forth between parents, who split up when he was 6.

He was a frail child, and at age 12 was placed in a sanitarium because of an enlarged heart and kidney problems. But he would sneak out at night to swim a creek and ride it over a waterfall, discovering a joy that banished fear.

″Action, and the most vivid possible use of the immediate present, were his personal salvation; they have remained lifelong habits,″ said a friend, writer James Agee.

After grade school, Huston became a boxer, then moved on to study painting. Huston worked briefly as a screenwriter, newpaper reporter and editor before joining Warner Bros. as a writer in 1935. There, he worked on such films as ″The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse,″ ″Juarez,″ ″High Sierra,″ and ″Sergeant York.″

He got his first directorial assignment in 1941 with ″The Maltese Falcon.″ He wrote the screenplay himself from Dashiell Hammett’s novel, and cast Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. It is considered one of the greatest films in the detective genre.

It also marked the start of an association with Bogart both off and on the screen. Bogart starred in ″The Treasure of Sierra Madre,″ for which Walter Huston won a supportig actor Oscar, and took the best actor Oscar for ″The African Queen.″

Not long after ″Falcon,″ Huston was called up to the Army Signal Corps, and spent the war making documentaries. One, ″The Battle of San Pietro,″ an uncompromising look at the fighting in Italy, is considered a masterpiece of its type.

″The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,″ one of the first American movies made entirely outside the United States, freed Huston from the Hollywood studios. Thereafter he made pictures all over the world, commanding upwards of $500,000 apiece.

Huston’s other directoral credits include ″Reflections in a Golden Eye,″ starring Marlon Brando; ″Beat the Devil″ with Bogart; ″Moulin Rouge,″ with Jose Ferrer; ″The Man Who Would Be King,″ with Sean Connery and Michael Caine; and ″The Misfits,″ with Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable in his last movie.

Huston in 1983 received the Life Achievement Award of the American Film Institute.

Huston’s pictures had no unifying theme.

″If there’s a pattern to my work it’s that I haven’t made any two pictures alike. I get bored too quickly. ...,″ he once said. ″I don’t stand for anything in particular.″

Indeed, two of the bigger pictures of his later years were the wildly opposing ″Annie″ and ″Prizzi’s Honor.″ The former was a musical based on a comic strip, the latter a black comedy about two professional killers who fall in love.

″Prizzi″ led to a best supporting actress honor for Anjelica Huston. It starred her lover, Jack Nicholson, who played opposite her father in ″Chinatown.″

Bogart once said the 6-foot, 2-inch Huston, with his brooding manner, craggy face and broken nose, ″has more color and is more photogenic than 90 percent of the actors in Hollywood.″ Obviously, other directors agreed.

Huston’s first acting role was as a Catholic bishop in ″The Cardinal.″ He played M in ″Casino Royale,″ and appeared in ″Battle for the Planet of the Apes,″ ″Winter Kills″ and ″The Wind and the Lion.″ He directed himself as Noah in ″The Bible,″ his biggest money-maker.

In his later years Huston made his home at Las Galetas, his villa south of Puerto Vallarta, which he discovered while filming ″Iguana.″ It was so remote it could only be reached by boat.

He become an expatriate in 1952, when he left a Hollywood gripped by what he called the ″moral rot″ of McCarthyism and moved to the land of his ancestors, Ireland.

In 1964, he became a citzen of Ireland, giving up his U.S. citizenship. He said he never regretted his decision.

Huston’s devotion to Havana cigarillos led to emphysema and frequent hospital stays. He also developed heart problems and was confined to a wheelchair and had to breathe through tubes.

Huston was married five times, to Dorothy Harvey, Lesley Black, Evelyn Keyes, Enrica Soma and Celeste Shane. All ended in divorce, except for his marriage to Miss Soma, who died after a long separation.

He had five children, Anjelica and Tony by Miss Soma; Danny by Zoe Sallis; and Allegra and Pablo, whom he adopted. He had befriended Pablo, a Mexican orphan, while filming ″The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.″

Producers working on the film said in a statement that Huston’s body would be returned to Los Angeles for burial.