Marvin Hamlisch was blessed with perfect pitch and an infallible ear. "I heard sounds that other children didn't hear," he wrote in his autobiography.
He turned that skill into writing and arranging compulsively memorable songs that the world was unable to stop humming -- from the mournful "The Way We Were" to the jaunty theme from "The Sting."
Prolific and seeming without boundaries, Hamlisch, who died at 68 after a short illness, composed music for film heroes from James Bond and Woody Allen, for powerful singers such as Liza Minnelli and Aretha Franklin, and high-kicking dancers of the Tony-winning "A Chorus Line." To borrow one of his song titles, nobody did it better.
"He was a true musical genius, but above all that, he was a beautiful human being. I will truly miss him," said Barbra Streisand, who first met the composer in 1963 and sang his "The Way We Were" to a Grammy win in 1974. "It was his brilliantly quick mind, his generosity, and delicious sense of humor that made him a delight to be around."
Judith Crist, a blunt and popular film critic for the "Today" show, TV Guide and the New York Herald Tribune whose reviews were at times so harsh that director Otto Preminger labeled her "Judas Crist," has died. She was 90.
Starting in 1963, at the Tribune, Crist wrote about and discussed thousands of movies for millions of readers and viewers, and also covered theater and books.
She was the first woman to become a full-time critic at a major U.S. newspaper and was among the first reviewers of her time to gain a national following. Roger Ebert credited her with helping to make all film critics better known, including such contemporaries as The New Yorker's Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris of the Village Voice.
Crist had many friends in the business, from Bette Davis to "Cleopatra" director Joseph Mankiewicz. She ran a film festival for decades out of suburban Tarrytown, N.Y., with guests including Robert Redford, Paul Newman and Steven Spielberg. Woody Allen liked her well enough to give her a cameo in his 1980 drama "Stardust Memories," widely believed to have been based in part on Crist's Tarrytown gatherings.
Journalist and author Heidi Holland, who chronicled the rise of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe from freedom fighter to power-obsessed leader, has died in South Africa at 64. Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale said a gardener found Holland's body in her home in Melville, a suburb of Johannesburg, dead from an apparent suicide.
Albert Freeman Jr., the veteran actor who played Elijah Muhammad in Spike Lee's epic film, "Malcolm X," has died. He was 78.
He also received an Emmy nomination for his role as Malcolm X in the 1979 miniseries "Roots: The Next Generations." He won a best-actor Daytime Emmy that year for his work as Capt. Ed Hall on the soap opera "One Life to Live."
David Rakoff, an award-winning humorist whose cynical outlook on life and culture developed a loyal following of readers and radio listeners, has died after a long illness. He was 47.
Rakoff died after a long illness, Doubleday and Anchor Books announced.
Rakoff wrote for The New York Times, Newsweek and other publications and was a contributor to public radio's "This American Life." In October, his essay collection "Half Empty" won the Thurber Prize for American Humor. His other bestselling books are "Don't Get Too Comfortable" and "Fraud."
Carlo Rambaldi, a special effects master and three-time Oscar winner known as the father of "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," died Friday in southern Italy after a long illness, Italian news media reported. He was 86.
Rambaldi won visual effects Oscars for Steven Spielberg's 1982 blockbuster, Ridley Scott's film "Alien" in 1979, and John Guillermin's "King Kong" in 1976.
"Carlo Rambaldi was E.T.'s Geppetto," said Spielberg, referring to the fictional character who created Pinocchio. " All of us who marveled and wondered at his craft and artistry are deeply saddened by the news of his passing."
Mel Stuart, an award-winning documentarian who also directed "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," has died. He was 83.
That film was his response to a young reader of the Roald Dahl children's classic "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory": Stuart's daughter Madeline asked her dad to make a movie of the book she loved. Starring Wilder as Willy Wonka (and with 11-year-old Madeline in a cameo role as a student in a classroom scene), it became an enduring family favorite.
Phil Bernanke, a longtime pharmacist in Dillon, S.C., and father of the Federal Reserve chairman, has died. He was 85.
Veteran Hollywood publicist Dale Olson, who represented such Hollywood legends as Marilyn Monroe, Gene Kelly and Alfred Hitchcock, and such current A-listers as Clint Eastwood, Shirley MacClaine and Steven Spielberg, is dead at age 78.
John J. Phelan Jr., an unflappable Wall Street veteran and a former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange who helped assuage widespread fear during the October 1987 international stock market crisis and who was credited with advancing the use of computer technology by the Big Board in the 1980s, has died. He was 81.
Pyotr Fomenko, a renowned Russian stage director who founded one of Moscow's leading theaters, has died. He was 80.
Benjamin W. Heineman Sr., a Chicago- based corporate lawyer and businessman who helped modernize U.S. railways and advised President Lyndon B. Johnson, has died. He was 98.
A leading business and civic figure, Heineman was a trustee of the University of Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera. Avid art collectors, he and his wife, Natalie, gave their collection of contemporary studio glass, with an estimated value of $9.5 million, to the Corning Museum of Glass in New York in 2006. Natalie Heineman died in 2010.
R. Peter Straus, a New York media executive who served as director of the Voice of America in the late 1970s and who earlier led a court battle that resulted in the reapportionment of many state legislatures, has died of a heart ailment at his home in New York City. He was 89.
Sir Bernard Lovell, the radio astronomer who was one of the 20th-century's leaders in the age-old effort to understand the secrets of the heavens, has died A in the village of Swettenham, in the English county of Cheshire. He was 98.
Pete Pedersen, a longtime steward in California who was given the racing industry's highest honor, has died at the age of 92.
Santa Anita racing officials said in a statement Wednesday that Pedersen died over the weekend due to complications suffered from a recent fall at his home.
Robert Hughes, who brought a muscular, confrontational writing style to the genteel world of art criticism, and whose books and television programs on art and the history of his native Australia brought him a worldwide following, has died at a hospital in the Bronx. He was 74.
Marshall Tucker Band guitarist Stuart Swanlund has died. He was 54.
Publicist Don Murry Grubbs said the guitarist died in his sleep of natural causes Saturday at his Chicago home.
Swanlund joined the band in 1985 after it had split up and regrouped. He was the longest running member of the group except for founding member Doug Gray.
Ranking Trevor, a pioneer of rap reggae during the 1970s, has died in a traffic accident in Jamaica. He was 60.
British chemist Martin Fleischmann, who stunned the world by announcing that he had achieved nuclear fusion in a glass bottle, has died after a long illness. He was 85.
Fleischmann was one of the world's leading electrochemists when he and partner Stanley Pons proclaimed in 1989 that they had sparked fusion, the nuclear process that heats the sun, in an experiment at the University of Utah.
But when other scientists rushed to replicate the achievement, most failed, and "cold fusion" was quickly labeled junk science. Physicists accused Fleischmann of incompetence and fraud.
Fashion journalist Anna Piaggi, who provided inspiration for designer Karl Lagerfeld and was celebrated for her own eccentric style, has died at 81.
Prominent Jewish philanthropist Sami Rohr has died in South Florida.
The Bal Harbour man was closely involved with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Judaism and is said to have given at least $250 million to Jewish causes around the globe. He was also the namesake of a $100,000 annual prize for Jewish literature.
Mark O'Donnell, the Tony Award-winning writer behind such quirky and clever Broadway shows as "Hairspray and "Cry-Baby," has died at 58.
Jack Tantleff, O'Donnell's agent at the Paradigm agency, said the writer collapsed in the lobby of his apartment complex on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Maj. Ignacy Skowron, the last known Polish survivor of the opening battle of World War II, died on Sunday at the age of 97.
Peter Zwack, the honorary chairman of Zwack Unicum Nyrt., the family-controlled Hungarian distiller created in the 18th century, died at the age of 85 in Italy.
Zwack, who emigrated in 1947 to Italy and later to the United States, returned to Hungary in 1987, MTI said, two years before the end of four decades of communist rule. In 1991, he bought back the nationalized family business, which produces Unicum, the dark-brown bittersweet liqueur distilled from herbs.
Chavela Vargas, who defied gender stereotypes to become one of the most legendary singers in Mexico, has died at age 93.
John Keegan, a British military historian whose groundbreaking book "The Face of Battle" cast a fresh look at warfare, capturing the fears, anxiety and heroism of the front-line soldier, has died at his home in Kilmington, England. He was 78.