The Eulogizer: Emmy-winning TV producer, a classical pianist, actress turned rebbetzin


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories, and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at Read previous columns here.

Emmy-winning TV producer of ‘The Fugitive,’ other shows

Alan Armer, a television producer whose career stretched from the medium’s earliest days to its classic, pre-cable era in the early 1970s, died Dec. 5 at 88. His shows included “The Untouchables,” “The Fugitive” and “The Invaders.”

In a 2008 interview for a TV archive, Armer recalled that he applied a formula from “The Untouchables” to “The Fugitive,” “where the framework for the series would be the fugitive running from the law and there would be a human-dimensional story about the characters the fugitive would become involved with. That’s really what made the series work."

Back at home in Los Angeles after World War II, where he was an announcer for Armed Forces Radio in India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Armer wrote, directed and acted in commercials for an advertising agency. His early TV shows were "My Friend Flicka," "Broken Arrow" and "Man Without a Gun" in the 1950s, which then led him to “The Untouchables,” a classic show starring Robert Stack as the FBI’s Elliot Ness during Prohibition. Controversy over its violence and portrayal of Italian Americans dogged the show.

Following “The Untouchables” was “The Fugitive,” one of TV’s all-time classics, in which a physician on the run for the murder of his wife must find the real killer, the “one-armed man,” to exonerate himself. Armer, also the show’s head writer, received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his work. In 1993, “TV Guide” named “The Fugitive” the best dramatic TV series of the 1960s. The show’s finale was the most-watched TV show at that time and held that record for 13 years.

Armer left TV producing, pleading burnout, and became a highly regarded professor of screenwriting and communications at California State Northridge, which he later endowed with a $1 million screening room.

In a touching and humorous death notice, Armer’s children wrote that “Our dad’s life was a rich montage of background music by Frank Sinatra and The Kingston Trio, capturing a man teaching passionately to his students, listening patiently to his son trying to get out of his curfew, oozing pride watching his grandson score a basket during a game, savoring each bite of apple pie a la mode, starting a conversation with any beautiful woman in the room, and kissing the hand of his daughter while he lay dying in bed. … Dad, it’s a wrap. We will miss your sweet smile, your corny jokes and how you talked lovingly about your beautiful family. Final Long Shot: Alan riding off into the sunset … Fade Out.”

Highly regarded classical pianist, music scholar

Jacob Lateiner, a classical pianist who came of age during a fertile period for American pianists after World War II and also became legendary for his scholarship and teaching skills, died Dec. 12 at 82.

Lateiner was a soloist with the New York and Berlin philharmonics, the Boston and Chicago symphonies, and the Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras, among others. His collection of recordings, lamented as too few, and most of which are out of print, included a series for RCA Victor esteemed by critics and collectors that includes Beethoven’s Piano Trio Opus 1, No. 1, with violinist Jascha Heifetz and the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, which won a Grammy Award in 1965. This video includes a soundtrack of Lateiner playing Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto.

Pianist Bruce Brubaker remembered Lateiner in this lovely passage: "In a sense, Jacob Lateiner does not give piano lessons. The piano is a tool for him. … Jacob aims to be neutral. Part Socratic (or Talmudic?) questioner, part Freudian analyst (to the exactly punctual end of each session), Jacob allows his students their own paths and destinations. He is catalyst, guide, and dowser. And when his students do make music through the piano, Jacob bears witness.”

The New York Times said Lateiner “was known in particular for his technical virtuosity, the beauty and flexibility of his tone and a deep musical understanding that was rooted in his fealty to the composer’s original intent.”

Lateiner was born in Havana in 1928 to Jewish parents who had come from Poland and was known in Cuba as a child prodigy, performing at age 7 with the Havana Orchestra. He performed Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra at 16, and made his New York recital debut at Carnegie Hall four years later.

Along with his acknowledged mastery of Beethoven, Lateiner was a champion of 20th century music. Among other pieces he supported, Lateiner commissioned Elliott Carter’s Piano Concerto, which he premiered in 1967 with the Boston Symphony. A “festschrift” published in 2000, ”Pianist, Scholar, Connoisseur,” celebrated Lateiner as he turned 70.

Actress turned San Francisco rebbetzin

Brooklyn native Ruth White was a budding actress on Broadway in the 1930s when she met and later married Polish-born Rabbi Saul White, who spent nearly 50 years as the spiritual leader at Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco. According to j, the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, Ruth White played a “behind-the-scenes role” as her husband “became a towering figure in the Bay Area Jewish community.” Ruth White died Dec. 5 at age 97.

Her son, David, rabbi at Congregation B’nai Israel in Vallejo, Calif., said “She subsumed her whole life for him, and was a true partner to him.”

According to the death notice written by her children, White wrote many theatrical productions at her husband’s synagogue, perhaps trying to live up to a review by writer Irwin Shaw, a college classmate, who once wrote that her performance in a college production was "the high point of the play."

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