Obituaries

Jim V. Blevins; Movie Popcorn Executive

Jim V. Blevins, 87, concession stand popcorn entrepreneur. Blevins capitalized on the boom in movie theaters in postwar America by marketing a variety of corn that produced fluffier, tastier popcorn to movie theaters and grocery stores. He was operating a Nashville food brokerage business when he noticed that suppliers had caught up to the growing demand for popcorn in theaters. In 1945 he founded the Blevins Popcorn Co., promising theater owners that his popcorn would give them more volume per ounce of corn. He later branched out from the concession stand business to sell his Pops-Rite brand in stores for home popping. In 1952, he introduced popcorn to Japanese baseball fans, creating an enterprise he later sold to Frito-Lay. In 1948, as a promotional gimmick, he ran the Presidential Popcorn Poll, decorating half his popcorn boxes with the Republican Party mascot, the elephant, and the other half with the Democrats' donkey. Moviegoers bought their popcorn according to their political preference, and Blevins tallied the results of his sales to predict the winner. His poll was one of the few national samples to predict Harry Truman's victory that year. Blevins sold the company in 1961, but the poll continued. Company officials retired it in 1972, saying that the costs of obtaining an extensive sample outweighed the benefits expected by theaters and other popcorn retailers. On Monday in Nashville.

Faith Domergue; Film Star Contracted by Howard Hughes

Faith Domergue, 74, a sultry brunet who starred in low-budget action and science fiction films of the 1940s and '50s. Born in New Orleans, Domergue moved to California with her family when she was 6. She was 15 when Howard Hughes noticed her on the Warner Bros. roster of actors and signed her with RKO. Called the "champion mystery woman among Hollywood players" by Times film writer Edwin Schallert in 1950, Domergue was given a big publicity buildup and kept under contract by Hughes for a decade before he gave her a starring role. He finally cast her in the lead of "Vendetta," a 1950 release about a girl sworn to avenge a murder. Other films she made in that era included "Where Danger Lives," "Cult of the Cobra," "It Came From Beneath the Sea" and "This Island Earth." She retired in the late 1950s but returned to the screen in the 1960s and '70s, largely in supporting roles in such films as "Track of Thunder," "Legacy of Blood" and "House of Seven Corpses." She was married twice, in 1947 to Argentine director Hugo Fregonese and, after that marriage ended in divorce, in 1963 to businessman Paola Cossa, who maintained homes in Switzerland and Spain. She moved to Santa Barbara after Cossa's death in 1992. Domergue is survived by two children, Diana and John Fregonese, and two grandchildren. On April 4 of cancer in Santa Barbara.

James D. McCawley; Linguistic Innovator and Author

James D. McCawley, 61, iconoclastic linguist and author of a popular guide to Chinese menus. McCawley, a University of Chicago linguist, was one of the first in his field to challenge the theories of Noam Chomsky, a giant of modern linguistics who emphasized the rules of sentence formation. McCawley, an immigrant from Glasgow who could speak 11 languages, including Mandarin, attacked the Chomsky school. He and several colleagues developed a new theory called generative semantics, which asserted that the study of grammar should include the study of logic and meaning. Their work in the 1960s set off the first serious revolt against Chomskyan orthodoxy. But McCawley's intellect was not confined to the ivory tower; a self-described Chinese food freak, he was a connoisseur of Chinese cuisine and sought out Chinese restaurants wherever he went. He discovered that the clientele of Chinese restaurants dined in parallel, and unequal, universes: One group could read the Chinese side of the menu, and the other consisted of unfortunates who were forced to make their selections from the more limited English side of the menu. Desperate for respect from Chinese waiters and for the more unusual dishes that were unavailable because their names were not translated, he began to devise a simple system for reading Chinese characters by separating the parts of complex characters and counting the number of strokes. The result was "The Eater's Guide to Chinese Characters," published in 1984 by the University of Chicago Press. Reviewers said McCawley's guidebook, complete with glossary, required effort to apply but worked, unlocking the mysteries of dishes such as "Barbarian Eggplant" and "Ants on a Tree." A prolific author of scholarly papers and books such as "Adverbs, Vowels and Other Objects of Wonder," McCawley said he believed his menu guide would "contribute to the well-being of far more people than any of the linguistics books I've written." On Saturday of a heart attack on the campus of the University of Chicago.

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