Unusual, unnatural or untimely deaths of random celebrities between 1960 and 1969. Homicides, suicides, overdoses, accidents and any sort of death before the (arbitrarily chosen) age of 50. The focus is on actors, directors and other movie-related people, although singers, musicians, TV personalities, etc., are also included. If your favorite dead celebrity isn't listed, or if you have any info to contribute, please /msg me.

1960

1961

1962

1963

  • February 11: Sylvia Plath, suicide. American author and poet, most famous for her semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, which depicts her first suicide attempt while she was still a teenager. The Bell Jar was published initially under a pseudonym) a month before her death. She wrote her second most popular work, the book of poetry Ariel while living in a London flat after her husband, Ted Hughes, left her and moved out of their house. Lonely and depressed, Plath wrapped a towel around her head, turned on the kitchen oven and put her head into it. When she was found by her landlady, Plath was already dead. Ariel was published two years later, by her husband, who also buried Plath under a headstone stating her name as Sylvia Plath Hughes. She was 30 years old at the time of her death.

  • March 5: Patsy Cline, plane crash. Country & Western singer of the late 1950s and early 1960s, best known for her song Crazy. Had a close brush with death in 1961 when she and her brother were involved in a car crash in Madison, Tennessee. She was thrown through the windshield and her forehead was permanently scarred. Cline and several stars of the Grand Ole Opry died in the crash of a small charter plane near Camden, Tennessee. The song Sweet Dreams that she recorded a few days before her death became a posthumous hit. Cline was 30 years old.

  • November 22: John F. Kennedy, assassination. Read elsewhere about this one, this is just a place holder.

1964

  • January 29: Alan Ladd, overdose. Short, blonde and blue-eyed Hollywood actor of the 1940s and 1950s. Ladd first caught the public's attention with his supporting role in This Gun for Hire in 1942, starring Veronica Lake. Ladd and Lake starred in several more films during the next few years, but after that his roles became increasingly insignificant and his star waned. Although he will forever be identified with his 1940s thrillers, his best known role is still 1953's Shane. But Shane couldn't help to completely revive Ladd's career and he became more and more dependent on alcohol. In 1937 Ladd witnessed his mother's suicide by ant poison, 25 years later, in 1962, Ladd himself was found unconscious with a bullet in his chest. Two years after that Ladd was dead, from an overdose of sedatives combined with alcohol. According to Ladd's family this was not a suicide, and they demanded that a reference to it as such be removed from the DVD version of the movie Wonder Boys, in which the Tobey Maguire character recounts several noted Hollywood suicides. Ladd was 50 years old.

  • March 2: Marc Blitzstein, homicide. Songwriter, composer and writer, best known for the musical The Cradle Will Rock and his collaborations with Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Blitzstein was played by Hank Azaria in Tim Robbins' movie Cradle Will Rock. At the age of 58 the openly homosexual Blitzstein was robbed and beaten to death by three Portuguese sailors, one of whom he earlier tried to pick up in a bar, on the island of Martinique.

  • December 11: Sam Cooke, justifiable homicide. Influential singer and songwriter, member of The Soul Stirrers. In 1960 became the first black artist to be signed up by RCA. Shot and killed by Bertha Franklin, the manager of the Hacienda, a cheap hotel in Los Angeles. Cooke registered at the hotel with 22-year old Elisa Boyer and allegedly raped her. Boyer escaped and Cooke tried to break into Franklin's apartment while looking for her. Franklin shot Cooke three times, hitting him once, then beat him over the head with a broomstick. The jury ruled justifiable homicide, although details are sketchy and it is widely believed that Cooke was set up by Boyer and possibly Franklin, who were trying to rob him of several thousands dollars which he had on his person at the time. Only $100 were found among Cooke's belongings at the time of his death, Boyer lied profusely on the witness stand, was a well known prostitute, and there was no evidence of rape except her testimony. Go figure. Cooke was 33 years old.

1965

  • February 15: Nat King Cole, cancer. Singer, composer, pianist. Sometime actor and host of short-lived NBC variety show. Father of Natalie Cole, who had a posthumous duet with him in 1991. Died of lung cancer at age 45 -- Cole smoked three packs a day for most of his life -- after appearing in his most recognizable movie role, as one half of a two-man chorus in Cat Ballou.

  • February 21: Malcolm X, assassination. Prominent African American leader, civil rights activist and spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Was a criminal (pimp, drug dealer, thief) throughout his teens and twenties and was portrayed as such in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Converted to the Nation of Islam while serving a sentence of 10 years in Charleston prison in Boston. Played by Denzel Washington in Spike Lee's Malcolm X and by Mario Van Peebles in Michael Mann's Ali. A year after resigning from the Nation of Islam, converting to orthodox Islam, and forming his own religious organization X was shot sixteen times by three gunmen while publicly speaking at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. The killers turned out to be members of the Nation. X was 39 years old.

  • April 10: Linda Darnell, burns following a house fire. Movie star of the 1940s and 1950s, acted in adult roles since the age of 15. Darnell's most distinguished period was the late 1940s, with roles in Forever Amber, Unfaithfully Yours and A Letter to Three Wives, but she fell out of favor when her 20th Century Fox expired in 1952. She had trouble finding suitable roles and her career fizzled, which wasn't helped by the fact she was an alcoholic since her early twenties, when her first husband, cinematographer J. Peverell Marley made sure she always kept up with his drinking habit. Darnell was allegedly watching the movie Star Dust, one of her early successes, on late-night television in the house of her former secretary a few hours before the house caught fire. This is also somewhat ironic as Darnell had a highly developed case of pyrophobia (fear of fire), and with good reason, since she has been burned on several occasions during movie shoots and once during a car accident. Darnell was badly burned on over 90% of her body and died the next afternoon in Cook County Hospital, at age 41.

  • June 7: Judy Holliday, cancer. Actress, comedienne and singer of stage and screen. Won an Academy Award in 1951 for her performance in Born Yesterday, reprising her stage role, but was later typecast into oblivion as the archetypal 1950s dumb blonde. Holliday actually had an IQ of 172. She retreated to the theatre and recording LPs, returning to Hollywood only once to star in Bells Are Ringing with Dean Martin. Holliday died of breast cancer, her second bout with cancer after a mastectomy in 1960, three weeks before her 44th birthday.

  • June 15: Steve Cochran, lung infection. Hollywood heavy from the 1940s to the 1960s. Starred in numerous thrillers, and was a supporting actor in even more, but the one for the ages is probably Michelangelo Antonioni's early masterpiece Il Grido (The Outcry), in which he starred in 1957. According to James Ellroy had one of the largest members in Hollywood at the time. Died of lung infection (acute infectious edema) on his yacht in the Pacific Ocean off the coast off Guatemala, where he was headed to scout locations for a new film. His boat drifted into Port Champerico ten days later, with his three female assistants still on it and very much alive. Cochran was 48 years old.

  • August 6: Everett Sloane, suicide. Supporting actor and associate of Orson Welles. Sloane started out in radio, before joining Welles' Mercury Theater. Followed Welles to Hollywood in the early 1940s, when he memorably played Mr. Bernstein in Citizen Kane. He appeared in several other Welles productions, including The Lady from Shanghai, and did various film and television work, even providing the voice of Dick Tracy in over a hundred cartoons. Depressed over his impending blindness, Sloane killed himself at age 55.

  • September 8: Dorothy Dandridge, overdose, possible suicide. Actress and singer of the 1950s. Played by Halle Berry in HBO's Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. First black woman to receive a Best Actress Academy Award nomination, for 1954's Carmen Jones, and first to co-star with a white actor in a romantic context in 1957's Island in the Sun with James Mason. For all her achievements Dandridge found it almost impossible to find film roles, especially after the end of the 1950s, and had various romantic, financial and alcohol-related problems. She was severely depressed and was found dead of an overdose of alcohol and anti-depressants, the official cause of death being "accident, suicide, undetermined". Dandridge was 41 years old.

  • October 21: Marie McDonald, overdose. Blonde bombshell of the 1940s and 1950s, nicknamed The Body because of her big big bust. Had difficulty finding work for most of her career, presumably because she couldn't act. Arrested for DUI and hit and run driving, made up wild publicity stunts, "accidentally" overdosed on sleeping pills once before, during the late 1950s. Overdosed again on Seconal at her dressing table, this time fatally, although her death is ruled accidental. Her husband Donald F. Taylor killed himself with Seconal a few months after McDonald's death, in the same bedroom where she died. McDonald was 42 years old at the time of her death.

  • November 8: Dorothy Kilgallen, overdose / suspected suicide. Reporter and television personality. Achieved stardom of a sort during her 15-year run as a panelist on What's My Line, where she was the Simon Cowell of her day. Died under mysterious circumstances from a combination of alcohol and barbiturates at age 42, either an accident, suicide or an assassination related to her inquiry into the death of John F. Kennedy. The main piece of evidence is that she was only prescribed Seconal, but a combination of three different types of barbiturates was found in her bloodstream. Conspiracy theories abound.

1966

1967

1968

1969

  • March 18: Barbara Bates, suicide. Film actress, model and ballet dancer. Was Danny Kaye's romantic interest in The Inspector General and had a small but crucial role in the final scenes of All About Eve. Plagued by a history of depression, bad health and extreme mood shifts, including several suicide attempts. Virtually unemployable after the mid 1950s because of her unpredictable behavior. Widowed in 1967 and soon remarried, Bates was still depressed over the death of her first husband. She killed herself by carbon monoxide poisoning -- running the engine of her Volkswagen in a sealed garage -- only four months into her second marriage. She was 43 years old.

  • April 23: Christopher Komeda, road accident. Insanely talented Polish composer, frequent collaborator of Roman Polanski. Wrote the scores for most of Polanski's movies up to and including Rosemary's Baby. One of four separate incidents of celebrities connected with Polanski dying of unnatural causes during the late 1960s and early 1970s (also see Sharon Tate, Françoise Dorléac and Jack MacGowran). Injured in a car accident in Hollywood, underwent brain surgery but never regained consciousness. Komeda was flown to Warsaw, where he died, four days before his 39th birthday.

  • May 27: Jeffrey Hunter, head trauma. Film actor, co-starred with John Wayne in The Searchers and starred as Jesus Christ in King of Kings. Had trouble finding work after the early 1960s and acted mostly in European productions and on television. After a series of injuries during 1968 and 1969 -- exploding prop, accidental karate chop to the head, seizure -- Hunter was diagnosed with a displaced vertebra. He was discharged, but a few days later collapsed while climbing a flight of steps in his house, fatally injuring his head. He was 42 years old.

  • June 22: Judy Garland, overdose / possible suicide. Film actress and singer, star of The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, A Star is Born, etc. Won a Juvenile Academy Award in 1940 and was nominated for A Star is Born and a supporting role in Judgment at Nuremberg (also see Montgomery Clift). Allegedly the basis of the Neely O'Hara character in Jacqueline Susann's novel Valley of the Dolls. Addicted to barbiturates since the 1930s, when she was still a teenager and MGM doctors stuffed Garland full of them to keep her energy level high. This started backfiring in the late 1940s when she became increasingly undependable, and her extreme mood swings and suicidal tendencies made her undesirable by the same studio. Garland first attempted suicide in 1950 and was fired by MGM. Several comebacks, marriages, suicide attempts, as well as weight losses and gains, ensued and Garland's career fluctuated wildly for the rest of the 1950s and 1960s. In 1969 she was found dead in her London apartment, after a presumably accidental barbiturate overdose, although one can never be sure. Garland was 47 years old.

  • July 3: Brian Jones, drowning. Guitarist and co-founder of The Rolling Stones. Also sometimes played on the piano, harmonica, drums, saxophone, sitar, dulcimer, marimbas, harpsichord and African flute on the band's recordings. As the Stones became more focused on recording original songs around 1965-1966, Jones who always insisted on them remaining a blues cover band, lost his co-leadership of the band (with Mick Jagger) to Jagger and Keith Richards. Coincidentally in 1967 he also lost to Richards his model girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg. After that Jones became increasingly redundant in the band and finally quit in June 1969. He was replaced by Mick Taylor and a month later Jones was found dead in his pool, attributed by the coroner to "misadventure, drowning while under the influence of alcohol and drugs". Some believe that he was murdered by his friend Frank Thorogood and/or the workmen doing renovation work on his house. Jones was 27 years old.

  • August 9: Sharon Tate, homicide. Hollywood actress and wife of Roman Polanski. Acted in Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers, as well as Valley of the Dolls and The Wrecking Crew. One of four separate incidents of celebrities connected with Polanski dying of unnatural causes during the late 1960s and early 1970s (also see Christopher Komeda, Françoise Dorléac and Jack MacGowran). Was eight months pregnant with Polanski's baby when she was murdered at her home, together with four other people, by members of The Manson Family. Tate was 26 years old.

Compiled from sources too numerous to mention, except of course the IMDb and AllMovie.com

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