Marjorie Lord, 97, star of the television series “Make Room for Daddy” and Los Angeles philanthropist, died of natural causes on Nov. 27 at her home in Beverly Hills.
The mother of actress Anne Archer had a string of Broadway and movie credits to her name. In two 1943 films — “Shantytown” and “Sherlock Holmes in Washington” — she appeared with her first husband, John Archer, who died in 1999.
But she was best known for her role as loyal wife to Danny Thomas’ character in “Make Room for Daddy,” which first aired in 1953. There, her gracious style was a counterweight to Thomas’ comedy. “She melted him, and in life, too, he was completely melted by her,” Anne Archer said.
Lord got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 and eventually returned to the stage. But it was her second act as a fundraiser and organizer for arts causes in Los Angeles that filled her later years. She volunteered to support the Joffrey Ballet, libraries, the Banning Museum in Wilmington, and the Music Center, which Henry Volk, her third husband, helped found and finance.
Lord was born July 26, 1918, in San Francisco to George and Lillian Wollenberg and danced ballet starting in early childhood. When her father, who worked in retail, was transferred to New York, she got a manager and became a teenage Broadway star, landing a role as an ingénue in “The Old Maid,” which ran four months.
Living on her own in a New York hotel for women, she doggedly pursued her career. When she shifted to film and television during Hollywood’s Golden Age, signing first with RKO and later with Universal, her grace and deep stage background set her apart, Archer said. “She had a radiant kind of lovely beauty; she was very feminine and had a sweetness about her,” she said.
Lord and Archer divorced after nine years, and she later married Randolph Hale, an actor and member of a prominent San Francisco retail family. They were married until his death nearly two decades later. Volk died in 2000. Lord self-published a memoir in 2005.
Lord raised her two children mostly on her own, Archer said. “She was the breadwinner. She had to be. … No man ever paid for anything for her.”
Archer made sure her mother attended her early theater performances. “She always gave the best notes.”
Besides her daughter, Lord is survived by a son, Gregg Archer of Los Angeles, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Amir Aczel, 65, a mathematician who launched a second career as a bestselling author, most notably of “Fermat’s Last Theorem,” about how an enduring enigma of mathematics was ultimately solved, died Nov. 26 in Nimes, France. The cause was cancer.
Aczel (pronounced ahk-ZELL) spent years as a professor in Alaska and Massachusetts and wrote textbooks on math and statistics before discovering a talent for explaining the world of science and numbers to ordinary readers. He first gained widespread acclaim in 1996 with “Fermat’s Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem.”
The problem had been one of the great unsolved mysteries of mathematics since about 1637, when a French jurist and amateur mathematician named Pierre de Fermat wrote an equation in the margin of a book, followed by the tantalizing words: “I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which, however, the margin is not large enough to contain.”
Fermat’s Last Theorem, as it became known, became the most persistent and baffling puzzle in the history of mathematics. For centuries, mathematicians searched for the ever-elusive solution to this problem: x(n) + y(n) could never equal z(n) if “n” was greater than 2.
In his book, Aczel fashioned a page-turning thriller of intellectual adventure that, in his words, “spans mathematical history from the dawn of civilization to our own time.” It wasn’t until the 1990s that Andrew Wiles, a British mathematician at Princeton, finally unlocked the mystery.
Aczel’s 147-page book was “a captivating volume,” New York Times critic Richard Bernstein wrote, “rooted in the pleasure of pure knowledge.”
Although some mathematicians considered “Fermat’s Last Theorem” simplistic, it spent months on bestseller lists and made Aczel something of an all-purpose explicator of scientific and mathematical phenomena.
In more than a dozen subsequent books, he analyzed the contributions of Einstein, Descartes and other scientists and mathematicians and demonstrated how statistics applied to everyday life — and to life beyond earth. In “Probability 1” (1998), Aczel calculated that the possibility of intelligent beings living elsewhere in the universe was 100 percent.
His 2004 book “Chance” weighed the odds on “gambling, love, the stock market and just about everything,” according to its subtitle.