Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

August 09, 2004

Paul N. "Red" Adair, 89, an oil field firefighter who was instrumental in capping Kuwaiti oil wells set ablaze by Iraq and was immortalized by John Wayne in a movie based on his life, died Saturday in Houston of natural causes, his daughter said.

Mr. Adair revolutionized the science of snuffing and controlling wells spewing high-pressure jets of oil and gas, using explosives, water cannons, bulldozers, drilling mud and concrete.

His daring and his reputation for having never met a blowout he couldn't cap earned him the nickname "Hellfighter." That inspired the title of the 1968 John Wayne movie based on his life, The Hellfighters.

He founded Red Adair Co. Inc. in 1959 and is credited with battling more than 2,000 land and offshore oil well fires, including the hundreds of wells set afire when the Iraqi army retreated from Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

He proudly spent his 76th birthday in Kuwait clad in his trademark red overalls, swinging valves into place atop out-of-control wells.

Mr. Adair, who retired in 1994 and sold his company, was instrumental in expediting the shipment of crucial supplies and equipment to Kuwait by testifying before the Gulf Pollution Task Force and meeting with then-President George H.W. Bush about the logistics of the firefighting operation.

Mr. Adair's teams were among the first of 27 teams from 16 countries that spent eight months capping 732 Kuwaiti wells. His expertise helped greatly shorten an operation that had been expected to last three to five years, saving millions of barrels of oil and stopping an intercontinental air pollution disaster.

Mr. Adair boasted that none of his employees ever suffered a serious injury fighting hundreds of dangerous well fires around the world.

Dimitris Papamichail, 70, an actor who began his career in Greek drama and gained fame portraying working-class characters in dozens of movies, died of a heart attack Sunday while vacationing at his summer home in Porto Heli in Peloponnesus, doctors said.

Born in Athens, Mr. Papamichail studied at the Drama School of the National Theater before making his first appearance at the ancient theater of Epidavros at age 21. He married actress Aliki Vougiouklaki, with whom he costarred in many films in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1997, Mr. Papamichail retired from the stage to teach drama at a new stage school founded by veteran actor Vasilis Diamantopoulos.

Geraldine Peroni, 51, a film editor who frequently worked with director Robert Altman and was nominated for an Academy Award for his 1992 film The Player, died Tuesday in New York.

Her death was ruled a suicide by the city medical examiner's office, but her family was disputing that finding.

Ms. Peroni worked on eight Altman films, beginning with Vincent & Theo in 1990. She also edited Short Cuts, Pret-a-Porter, Kansas City, Gingerbread Man, Dr. T and the Women and The Company.

"She made my work so easy," Mr. Altman told the Los Angeles Times. "She reads me better than anybody had ever read me, and, consequently, she did the work; I didn't have to."

Among Ms. Peroni's other editing or co-editing credits were The Safety of Objects, Jesus' Son and Cradle Will Rock.

Alexander Hammid, 96, a filmmaker whose body of work spanned the genesis of the experimental movement in Czechoslovakia, early anti-Nazi documentaries and soaring modern Imax spectacles, died July 26 at his home in New York.

Mr. Hammid, whose original name was Alexandr Hackenschmied, was born in Linz, then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. His fascination with cinema, particularly the work of experimenters like Germaine Dulac, Joris Ivens, Walter Ruttman, Man Ray and Luis Bunuel, was piqued while he was studying architecture and exploring photography in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

Influenced by the Bauhaus and constructivism, in 1930 he made his own experimental film, An Aimless Walk, its subjects desolate suburban streets and waterfronts, puzzling reflections and a man on a streetcar. He used a borrowed hand-held camera and scraps of raw film and had a budget of about $5.

His second work, The Prague Castle, used shifting camerawork to make the stones of the castle and its Gothic cathedral dance to music.

His "poetic camera lay dormant for some 10 years," he wrote, as he got caught up in the mill of utilitarian and commercial filmmaking, including a partnership with American independent producer and director Herbert Kline. Their political documentaries Crisis, named by the National Board of Review as one of the 10 best films of 1939, and Lights Out in Europe remain classic depictions of the rise of Nazism.

Mr. Hammid fled Czechoslovakia one month before Hitler's troops marched in, emigrating to Hollywood, where he teamed with Mr. Kline and filmed John Steinbeck's book Forgotten Village in Mexico.

In 1943, he married Elenora Deren, a dancer and poet, and together they made one of the first American avant-garde films, Meshes of the Afternoon, under their new names, Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid.

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