Erté, the eccentric artist who produced works in the Art Deco style for 70 years, died at age 97 in Paris on April 21 after suffering from kidney problems. He worked until the final weeks of his life. The Russian-born artist moved to Paris in 1912 and coined the name Erté from the French pronunciation of the initials of his real name. Romain de Tirtoff. He became famous first as a fashion designer in the 1910s, and then as a music hall and opera set designer in the ’20s and 30s. In the ’60s he began making prints, and soon a whole new generation of collectors (including Martina Navratilova and Barbra Streisand) discovered Erté. In 1967 Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art helped revitalize Erté’s reputation by purchasing a large collection of his work. Thomas Hoving, then the director of the museum and now the editor of Connoisseur magazine, says, “Erté adhered to no formula and kept on producing and evolving until his death. He was vibrant, highly creative, prolific, trendsetting and superelectric.”
Paulette Goddard, who died at age 78 (or as old as 84, depending on the source) on April 23 at her home in Switzerland, following a short illness, is likely to be remembered as much for the one movie part she didn’t get as for the 40-plus parts she did. Goddard had all but signed for the highly coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara in 1939’s Gone with the Wind but lost the part, at the last minute, to Vivien Leigh. “She was a wonderful romantic, comic actress, though unfortunately she was also a neglected talent. If she had gotten Scarlett, it would have been much different for her.” says Peter Rainer, film critic for the Los Angeles Times. Goddard, who was born Marion Levy in Great Neck, N.Y., arrived in Hollywood in 1931, having already married and divorced umber magnate Edgar James. She soon captured the heart of Charlie Chaplin, co-starring with him in 1936’s Modern Times and taking him as her second husband, she claimed, in a secret at-sea ceremony the same year. In the ’40s, Goddard became a top star at Paramount, but her career petered out by the mid-’50s. She married twice more, first to actor Burgess Meredith (1944-50) and then. in 1958, to author Erich Maria (All Quiet on the Western Front) Remarque, who died in 1970.
Jazz great Dexter Gordon, 67, the tenor saxophonist who received an Oscar nomination in 1986 for his role as a battered jazzman in Round Midnight, died April 25 in Philadelphia from kidney failure. Beginning his professional career at 17, the Grammy-winning musician was known as one of the pioneering legends of be-bop. “Another chapter on the giants of jazz has closed,” says fellow tenor saxophonist and friend Johnny Griffin. After a successful comeback in 1978 following drug problems, Gordon continued to make records while turning to acting. His next film, Awakenings, starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, will be released this Christmas.
First Dick and Liz remarried, now it’s Richard and Flynn. A spokesman for Richard Pryor, 49 (above), confirmed that Pryor secretly remarried actress Flynn BeLaine, 26, at his Bel Air, Calif., home on April 1. That was less than a month after the comedian had a minor heart attack. Pryor first took Flynn as his bride—his fifth—in 1986. The couple, who have a son, Stephen, 5, and a daughter, Kelsey, 3, divorced in 1987. Perhaps Pryor has mellowed since. In a 1986 comedy routine he said, “My bedroom used to be mine. Now it’s TOYS ‘R’ Us.”