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Ending 2013. Milestones: Famous figures; innocents in harm’s way …

  • December 29th, 2013
  • Posted by EU Australia

Peter O'TooleThe close of the year saw the death of the British actor Peter O’Toole in London; also that of the actress Joan Fontaine; and in other places, people not so well recognised, in the wrong place at the wrong time …


A Shakespearean performer, Peter O’Toole became celebrated for his film role as Lawrence of Arabia in 1962, and continued in films until 2006. He had a heyday of productions on historical or classic themes in the 1960s, with films including Beckett, The Lion in Winter, and Goodbye, Mr Chips. After several Academy Award nominations he was presented with an Honorary Oscar in 2003, which he declared very satisfactory. Known as a steady drinker he nevertheless lived to 81, though at the end he suffered through a long illness, dying on 14.12.13.

Rebecca filmJoan Fontaine performed on the stage and in radio, television and films, achieving major success as a heroine in Alfred Hitchcock films, beginning with Rebecca (1940) and shortly afterwards Suspicion, winning the 1941 Oscar for Best Actress for that film. From a British family who settled in California, she was the sister of the actress Olivia de Havilland. She died there of natural on 15.12.13 aged 97.


Riga supermarketSerious loss of life occurred in Europe, through accident or savage weather, with at year’s end the supermarket disaster in Riga bringing at least 54 deaths. In the early evening of 21.11.13 the roof of the store, from the Maxima chain, suddenly collapsed. Among those killed were three rescue workers who’d gone in to help, trapped by a second fall. As many as 40 others were got out of the rubble with injuries. Crowds began to gather as the night rescue went on, including many wanting to find loved ones alive. See Video, from Baltic News:   /goto/

Authorities promised a detailed investigation. Early suspicion focused on building work to construct a garden on the roof, with stacks of cobblestones and other materials.


Almost a ghastly sequel would occur in London on 18.12.13, with a ceiling collapse during a performance at London’s famous Apollo Theatre, in Shaftesbury Avenue. Dozens received injuries, though there were no deaths, when part of the balcony gave way. The event provoked calls for more refurbishment of West End theatres; and performances of the very successful play, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”, were put off until 4.1.14.

BBC News, London, Latvia store collapse: Deaths rise as Riga rescue continues, 22.11.13., (29.12.13).

Lyn Gardner, Lessons from the Apollo: we must kick theatres into the 21st century, The Guardian, Manchester, 23.12.13., (29.12.13).

Rayyan Sabet-Parry, VIDEO: Death toll rises, dozens injured after Riga shopping centre collapse. Baltic News, Riga, 22.11.13., (29.12.13).

Pictures  baltic news, wikipedia