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August Coppola dies at 75; professor was father of Nicolas Cage and brother of Francis Ford Coppola

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August Coppola, a former literature professor who was the father of actor Nicolas Cage and brother of filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and actress Talia Shire, has died. He was 75.

Coppola died Tuesday in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack, Cage's publicist, Annett Wolf, said Thursday.


FOR THE RECORD:
August Coppola obituary: The obituary of former literature professor August Coppola in Friday's Section A said he is survived by a brother, Francis Ford Coppola; a sister, Talia Shire; three sons, Christopher Coppola, Marc Coppola and Nicolas Cage; and six grandchildren. He also is survived by his companion, Lorrie Tennant. —


Often described as flamboyant and eccentric, Coppola taught comparative literature at Cal State Long Beach in the 1960s and '70s and served as a trustee of the California State University system before moving to San Francisco State in 1984. He became dean of the School of Creative Arts there and was also professor of cinema until 1992.

In 1991, instead of leading a groundbreaking for a planned addition to San Francisco State's creative arts complex, Coppola hosted a "skybreaking" because, he said: "The idea is to look up, rather than down -- look up to the sky, the clouds, teach young people to dream."

"He was one of the most remarkable characters anybody's going to meet," Cage, who changed his name soon after beginning his acting career, said in an interview with Playboy magazine in 1996. "When I was a kid, the other kids were seeing Disney, and he was showing us movies like Fellini's 'Juliet of the Spirits.' This was before video, so he would take us to the art-house cinemas. I saw 'Citizen Kane,' and that's when I discovered Max Schreck and Nosferatu and Dr. Caligari, which gave me nightmares."

Coppola was born Feb. 16, 1934, in Hartford, Conn., the oldest child of Carmine Coppola, a composer and classically trained flutist, and his wife, Italia, a lyricist. The family moved often, depending on where Carmine's work took them, but the children were close and enjoyed going to movies together and reading books.

"He was a great older brother to me and always looked out for me," Francis Coppola, the award-winning director of "The Godfather" trilogy and "Apocalypse Now," said in an interview with the cinema journal Film Comment, "but in addition, he did very well in school and received many awards for writing and other things, and he was like the star of the family and I did most of what I did to imitate him."

August Coppola earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from UCLA, a master's in English from Hofstra University and a doctorate in comparative literature and interdisciplinary studies from Occidental College, then began teaching at Cal State Long Beach.

He and his wife, dancer Joy Vogelsang, had three sons, Christopher, Marc and Nicolas, before divorcing. Christopher became a film director and Marc a disc jockey.

In addition to his brother, sister and sons, Coppola's survivors include six grandchildren.

As an executive with his brother's American Zoetrope film studio, Coppola was involved in the revival of Abel Gance's 1927 silent film "Napoleon."

He also helped create the Tactile Dome, an interactive sensory exhibit at the Palace of Fine Arts' Exploratorium in San Francisco.

Coppola moved to Savannah, Ga., in the mid-'90s.

"Being active and relatively well-known in San Francisco, I needed to go to a place where I could hole up and write," he told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1999.

"To write, you can't be interrupted," he said. "It throws you off. It's like trying to make love and people keep walking in on you."

claire.noland@latimes.com

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