April 25, 2004

Harry Babbitt,

90, who sang in his warm, high-baritone voice with the Kay Kyser big band on such hits as "The White Cliffs of Dover," died April 9 at a nursing home in Aliso Viejo, Calif.

Dubbed "Handsome Harry" by Mr. Kyser, he sang on several hits, including "Three Little Fishies," "On A Slow Boat to China," "(Lights Out) 'Til Reveille," "He Wears a Pair of Silver Wings," "Jingle, Jangle, Jingle" and "The Umbrella Man." His high voice was later used on a solo recording of "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth." He was even responsible for the laugh on "Woody Woodpecker," Mr. Kyser's 1948 hit novelty tune.

Mr. Babbitt also appeared in seven movies that starred Mr. Kyser and was featured on Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge a popular comedy-musical radio quiz show on NBC. Babbitt retired from show business in 1964 and started a successful career in real estate.

After Mr. Kyser died in 1985, he obtained rights to the band's name and catalog and toured the country with a new band. He stopped performing in the mid-1990s.

Jose Giovanni,

80, a French-born director, screenwriter and author who had a string of crime movie hits, died yesterday of a brain hemorrhage.

A member of the French resistance during World War II, he worked as a diver, lumberjack, coal miner and mountain guide. His alleged links with a postwar criminal gang earned him a death sentence, but he was pardoned.

He launched his movie industry career in the late 1950s, scripting Du rififi chez les femmes (The Riff Raff Girls) for the director Alex Joffe in 1959. A year later, he adapted his jailbreak novel Le Trou (The Hole) based on his own attempted escape from a Paris prison. His directing career took off in the early 1970s when he turned his novel La Scoumoune (The Hitman) into a 1972 melodrama.

Thomas Barrett III,

75, who co-founded and built the classic car Barrett-Jackson Auction Co., died Tuesday of a heart attack in Phoenix, Ariz.

The Barrett-Jackson auction began in 1971 in Scottsdale, Ariz., with the pairing of Barrett and fellow classic-car collector Russell Jackson. The auction has showcased thousands of million-dollar vintage cars over the years and drew the attention of Hollywood celebrities.

Mr. Barrett searched the garages of the world to add to his collection and came to acquire the vehicles of both the celebrated and feared in history. Along with a Duesenberg owned by actor Clark Gable, he tracked down a staff car of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and two of Adolf Hitler's parade cars.

John DiJanni,

94, former principal violist for New York City's Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico, died Tuesday in Santa Fe.

In 1931, his father, the principal violist at the Metropolitan Opera, got him a job there as an extra. Five years later, the younger musician bested his father in auditions for the position. He held that position until 1975, when he moved to Santa Fe.

From 1960 to 1964 during the summers, when the Met was not in session, he played with the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra at the invitation of the late John Crosby, then general director.

Peter Prescott,

68, an award-winning book critic who wrote for Newsweek magazine for two decades, died Friday in New York City of liver disease complicated by diabetes.

Mr. Prescott, who won the George Polk Award for criticism in 1978, worked for nine years as an editor at E.P. Dutton before reviewing books for Women's Wear Daily, Look and Newsweek.

He wrote a memoir of his freshman year at Harvard and A World of Our Own: Notes on Life and Learning in a Boys' Preparatory School (1970) based on his experiences at Choate Rosemary Hall, a prestigious preparatory high school in Wallingford, Conn.

Norton Mockridge,

88, a jack-of-all-trades New York newspaper man, humorist, columnist and author, died April 18 in San Antonio of pneumonia.

As a columnist, first for The World-Telegram & Sun from 1963 to 1966 and then nationally syndicated by Scripps-Howard Newspapers and United Feature Syndicate from 1966 to 1980, he wrote about everything from murder to malapropisms.

"I see a human story in virtually everything that happens, and I think it's because I've done so many things myself," he wrote in Editor & Publisher in 1963, listing jobs such as semi-pro football player, advertising salesman and film critic. He was the host of a daily radio show on WCBS in 1963 and 1964 and on the CBS Radio Network from 1964 to 1970.

Leo C. O'Neill, 64,

who guided Standard & Poor's as it expanded from an American bond rating firm into an international concern whose opinion could be critical to the terms on which companies and governments could borrow money, died Tuesday in New York City of complications from cancer.

His death came less than a month after his illness forced him to step down as chief executive of S&P, which is a division of the McGraw-Hill Cos.

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