Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, award-winning novelist and screenwriter, dies at 85

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Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, a German-born novelist whose fiction was set largely in India and who gained her greatest acclaim as a two-time Academy Award-winning screenwriter with the Merchant-Ivory filmmaking team, died April 3 at her home in New York City. She was 85.

She had a pulmonary disorder, said James Ivory, the film director who had worked with Jhabvala since the early 1960s.

Jhabvala’s life took many unusual turns, beginning with her exile to England from her childhood home in Germany, but none was more surprising than her journey into the world of filmmaking.

After moving to New Delhi with her Indian-born husband in the 1950s, Jhabvala (pronounced JAHB-vah-lah) wrote a series of novels and short stories set in her new homeland. In 1961, she received a phone call asking if she would write a screenplay of her novel “The Householder.”

The call came from Ismail Merchant, a young producer from India who was making his first feature film. The director was Ivory, an American who had previously made only documentaries. Jhabvala accepted the project, despite knowing almost nothing about screenwriting, and the film was produced in 1963.

Merchant, Ivory and Jhabvala formed what would become one of the most enduring creative teams in moviemaking history.

Together for more than 40 years, until Merchant’s death in 2005, the trio made more than 20 films, including several genteel dramas based on the novels of Henry James and E.M. Forster. Jhabvala won Oscars in 1987 and 1993 for her screenplays of “A Room With a View” and “Howards End,” both adapted from Edwardian-era novels by Forster.

‘Duck Dynasty’ stars swap jokes, greet fans

METAIRIE, La. — Phil Robertson, one of the shaggy-bearded stars of the hit reality TV series “Duck Dynasty,” used to get mistaken for a homeless man. He said he was even singled out once at an airport for a security search and wands went “places my woman hasn’t been in years.”

These days, though, the patriarch of a family of duck hunters-turned-millionaires is more likely to get stopped by strangers who want autographs or pictures.

“When you look like this, there’s no hat and glasses that can cover it up,” Phil’s son Willie said, drawing laughs from his family of co-stars. “I’m certainly more recognizable. I can tell you that.”

Last Saturday, more than 500 fans showed up at an autograph session with the family. The Robertsons cracked jokes about their celebrity status and signed books, T-shirts, shoes and even some hunting rifles for fans in their home state of Louisiana.

The show, which airs on A&E, follows the family and its business, Duck Commander, which specializes in handmade duck calls and other bird hunting gear. But the Robertsons are easily distracted from their work and amuse the audience with their humorous adventures.

The show premiered in 2012 and is in its third season, drawing about 8 million viewers a week.

Fifth man sues Kevin Clash, former voice of Elmo

A fifth man has filed a lawsuit against Kevin Clash, the former voice of Elmo on “Sesame Street,” making sex abuse allegations similar to those of four other plaintiffs.

Kevin Kiadii, now 25, of New York, alleges that he was 16 when he and Clash engaged in sexual contact after meeting on a gay phone chat line. According to the lawsuit, Clash initiated contact with Kiadii on the chat line in 2004, invited him to his New York apartment and sent a luxury car service to pick Kiadii up in Brooklyn.

“Upon his arrival, Kevin Clash gave Kiadii alcohol and groomed him with attention and affection,” the lawsuit says.

The sex was consensual, the lawsuit says, but “as a 16-year-old child, Kiadii was not emotionally or psychologically prepared for a sexual relationship with a grown man in his forties.”

Kiadii’s lawsuit was filed in New York and seeks undisclosed damages. The age of consent in New York is 17.

Kiadii is represented by Miami attorney Jeff Herman, who also represents the four others who have filed lawsuits against Clash since November. Last month, Sheldon Stephens, the first man to allege that Clash had an underage relationship with him, filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania.

Clash, 52, has previously denied all allegations repeatedly through his attorney. Michael G. Berger of New York did not reply to an email Tuesday. Berger has called the previous cases “meritless” and has asked a New York judge to throw out the lawsuits.

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