John Berry, Director Who Helmed Fugard Work in NYC and on Film, Dead at 82

News   John Berry, Director Who Helmed Fugard Work in NYC and on Film, Dead at 82 John Berry, a film and stage director who performed with and assisted Orson Welles' during the time of Welles and John Houseman's Mercury Theatre, died Nov. 29 in Paris, The New York Times reported.

John Berry, a film and stage director who performed with and assisted Orson Welles' during the time of Welles and John Houseman's Mercury Theatre, died Nov. 29 in Paris, The New York Times reported.

Mr. Berry, who was 82, had recently completed work on his film version of Athol Fugard's Boesman and Lena, according to the Times. Mr. Berry staged a New York production of the play in 1970. The drama concerns a couple classified as Cape coloreds (neither black nor white) in apartheid South Africa.

Danny Glover and Angela Bassett star in the film, set for release in spring 2000.

The onetime stage actor, a Bronx native, made his stage debut as a child in vaudeville and appeared in Welles' Julius Caesar (1937) and became Welles assistant; The Times reported that John Houseman didn't think Mr. Berry could act, so he did not get the role of Marc Anthony.

Under Welles' direction, Mr. Berry appeared in Broadway's Native Son (1942). He toured with the play, about a black man who kills a white woman, and the seeds were sown for his interest in racial prejudice and works about people of color. He directed such films as "He Ran All the Way" (John Garfield's last picture, in 1951), "Cross My Heart" (1946), "Casbah" (1948) and "Tension" (1949), but was swept into anti-Communism hearings when he made of film about blacklisted Hollywood moviemakers who refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

He fled to Europe and scraped money where he could, The Times reported. He returned to the United States in 1964 and directed an Off-Broadway staging of Fugard's Blood Knot (about two brothers of different races). In 1970, he staged Fugard's Boesman and Lena with James Earl Jones and (in 1970-71) Lorraine Hansberry's Les Blancs, also with Jones.

He also staged the Broadway production of Romulus Linney's Love Suicide at Schofield Barracks (1971-72) and The Crucible for Lincoln Center.

He wrote and directed "Tamango" (1957) a French-made historical movie about the love of an African slave and a slave-ship captain, starring Dorothy Dandridge. Critic Leonard Maltin calls it "way ahead of its time, and ripe for rediscovery."

-- By Kenneth Jones