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OBITUARY Robert Lees.

IT WAS a terrible end for the old screenwriter, who had made people laugh again after the war,and would attract new admirers for his political integrity during the McCarthy era.

A crazed drug addict of 27, with straggly hair and a goatee beard, broke into the home of Robert Lees in Los Angeles and severed his head. This he carried into the house of a neighbour whom he stabbed to death. Lees was discovered by his friend, Helen Colton, 86.``It was like a movie,not real life,'' she said.

And there was some irony in that. For Lees had cut his teeth as a comedy writer with the big studios, before the House Committee on Un-AmericanActivities (HCUAA)discovered he had joined the Communist Party in 1939.

His name was removed from the credits of films, which had included scripts for the old vaudevillians Abbott and Costello, who were for a spell in the 1940s the hottest property in Hollywood.

After that,he wrote under pseudonyms for TV shows,notaby Alfred Hitchcock Presents,Daktari, Flipper,Land of the Giants, Lassie and Rawhide.

As the Great Depression gripped America,Lees, the son of a Jewish clothier, became a movie extra, appearing as the bell-boy in Grand Hotel (1932).

But comedy writing was his strength and he teamed up with Fred Rinaldo on scripts for shorts,before their big success on such films as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

Both Rinaldo and Lees were blacklisted by the HCUAA. Lees became a hotel maitre d'.But,in 1952,Paramount Pictures discovered one of their earlier scripts about paratroopers. It became the hit, Jumping Jacks (1952), starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Although his career had been a success,it was his unflinching and dignified stance during the McCarthy witch-hunts which won Lees most respect.

He was a prominent member for the group which opposed the awarding of a Lifetime's Achievement Oscar to Eli a Kazan, director of On The Waterfront and East of Eden, who had co-operated with the HCUAA investigations.

Lees was predeceased by his wife. They had a son and daughter.

Robert Lees, writer, born 1912; died June 13, 2004.
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Title Annotation:Comment
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 18, 2004
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