deaths of random celebrities between 1960 and 1969. Homicides
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
- January 1: Margaret Sullavan, suicide by overdose. Hollywood star of the 1930s and 1940s, and theater actress until the 1950s. Nominated for an Academy Award for Three Comrades in 1939, but best remembered for her lead role opposite James Stewart in The Shop Around the Corner. Was married to, among others, actor Henry Fonda (for two months) and director William Wyler (for sixteen months). Toward the end of her life Sullavan was going deaf and was greatly troubled by the mental illness of two of her three children. Her third offspring was actress Brooke Hayward, who wrote Haywire, an autobiography about her childhood, which was turned into a 1980 TV movie starring Lee Remick as Sullavan. Took her life by an overdose of barbiturates at age 49.
- January 4: Albert Camus, road accident. Existentialist novelist and philosopher, author of The Stranger, The Plague and The Fall. Won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957. Was in the car with Michel Gallimard, nephew of publisher Gaston Gallimard, on the way to Paris when the car swerved off the road and crashed into a tree. Camus greatly disliked cars and wanted to ride to Paris by train, but was convinced by Gallimard to drive with him. The train ticket was later found in his pocket. Gallimard died from his wounds several days later, Camus was killed instantly. He was 46 years old.
- January 25: Diana Barrymore, suicide. Failed film and stage actress, and noted alcoholic. Daughter of John Barrymore, a world-famous drunk himself, and niece of Lionel and Ethel Barrymore. Married three times, to various hangers-on and wifebeaters. Supposed inspiration for the Georgia Lorrison character in The Bad and the Beautiful, played by Lana Turner. Published memoir Too Much, Too Soon in 1957, filmed in 1958 with Dorothy Malone as Diana and Errol Flynn as her father. Killed herself two years later, at age 38.
- Unknown date: Knut Jensen, overdose / head trauma. Danish Olympic cyclist, collapsed from sunstroke during the 1960 Rome Olympics and fatally injured his head. His death was later partially attributed to the ingestion of amphetamines.
- June 17: Jeff Chandler, blood poisoning. Hollywood star of the 1950s and early 1960s, best known for his roles in Westerns, as well as war and action movies. Nominated for an Academy Award in 1951 for his supporting role as Cochise in Broken Arrow. Chandler died as a result of malpractice during spinal surgery. He was 42 years old.
- July 2: Ernest Hemingway, suicide. Nobel Prize-winning author of The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, etc. Grandfather of actresses Mariel and Margaux Hemingway, the latter of whom also committed suicide in 1996. According to the IMDb, when he committed suicide he was ill with high blood pressure, chronic alcoholism, heart problems, liver failure, skin problems (following an air plane crash), depression and insomnia. Prior to his death Hemingway spent a year in a hospital receiving electric shocks to treat his depression. Took his life using his favorite shotgun three weeks before his 62nd birthday.
- August 26: Gail Russell, alcohol induced heart attack. Movie star of the 1940s and 1950s, best known for Night Has a Thousand Eyes and Seven Men from Now. Russell's career was plagued by her drinking problems. Increasingly unpopular with studio bosses during the early 1950s because of her drinking and a DUI arrest, Russell found herself reduced to supporting roles and low-profile productions. She acted in only five movies during the 1950s, with a five-year break between 1951 and 1956. After the commercial failure of The Silent Call in 1961 Russell was found dead in her Brentwood apartment, surrounded by liquor bottles. She was 36 years old.
- January 13: Ernie Kovacs, road accident. Innovative and highly influential TV comedian of the early and mid 1950s. Later appeared in supporting roles in Hollywood productions, most notably in Bell Book and Candle and Our Man in Havana. Died in a car crash in West Los Angeles, supposedly losing control of the steering wheel while trying to light a cigar, 10 days before his 43rd birthday.
- April 15: Clara Blandick, suicide. Supporting film actress from the 1910s to the 1950s, best remembered as Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz. Suffering from arthritis and partial blindness during her late years, Blandick committed suicide by ingesting sleeping pills and tying a plastic bag over her head. She was 81 years old.
- August 5: Marilyn Monroe, overdose. Uhm, you know, Marilyn Monroe. During her last days Monroe was fired from the production of Something's Got to Give, directed by George Cukor. The film ended up as a Doris Day vehicle directed by Michael Gordon titled Move Over, Darling. She was found in her home dead from a barbiturate overdose, a possible suicide, at age 36.
- September 14: William Lindsay Gresham, suicide. Fiction and non-fiction writer who specialized in magic, freak shows and carnivals, most famous for noir novel Nightmare Alley and Harry Houdini biography Houdini: The Man Who Walked Through Walls. In 1947 Alley was adapted into a cult film noir starring Tyrone Power. Joy Gresham, Gresham's second wife (out of three), became famous in her own right when she moved to England to escape Gresham's abuse and ended up falling in love and marrying writer C.S. Lewis, whose own writing was miles away the freaks and geeks of William Gresham. Their story (minus William) was dramatized in the play and movie Shadowlands (Anthony Hopkins as Lewis, Debra Winger as Joy Gresham). In 1962 William Gresham discovered he had cancer of the tongue and proceeded to kill himself in a New York City hotel room, where he registered as Asa Kimball, a character in one of his novels. Gresham was 43 years old.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- April 30: Richard Fariña, road accident. Writer, singer/songwriter, political activist. Most famous for semi-autobiographical novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me, which became an obscure 1971 Bruce Davison movie. Husband of Joan Baez's sister Mimi Baez Fariña and close friend of Thomas Pynchon, who dedicated Gravity's Rainbow to his memory. One of the subjects of "Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina, and Richard Farina" by David Hajdu. Died in a motorcycle accident on the day of his wife's 21st birthday at the age of 29.
- July 18: Bobby Fuller, suicide / apparent homicide. Singer and
songwriter, frontman of highly influential The Bobby Fuller Four. Had only
hit with I Fought the Law in 1965. The next few singles were unsucessful
and five months after Law's release Fuller's body was found severely beaten
and covered in gasoline in his mother's Oldsmobile parked in front of his
apartment. Fuller was apparently forcibly made to inhale and swallow the
gasoline, but the Los Angeles coroner still attributed his death to
suicide. Fuller was 22 years old.
- July 23: Montgomery Clift, heart attack. Film star from the late 1940s
to the 1960s, one of the first and best Method actors to be imported to
Hollywood. Four-time Academy Award nominee, for The Search, A Place in
the Sun, From Here to Eternity and his supporting role in Judgment at
Nuremberg (also see Judy Garland). Subject of at least two songs, Right Profile by The Clash and Monty Got a Raw Deal by R.E.M. Clift was
a drug addict, an alcoholic and a closet homosexual, which caused much guilt
and depression on his part. In 1956 he had a near-fatal car accident, which
scarred and partially paralyzed his face, ruining his good looks. After that
he was mostly restricted to supporting parts, although he did have one of his
best roles in 1960's Wild River. He became increasingly dependent on drugs
and booze, which had an extremely negative effect on the amount and quality
of roles he was offered during the 1960s. Clift died of what the autopsy
determined to be an "occlusive coronary artery disease" at his home at the
age of 45.
- July 25: Frank O'Hara, accident. American poet and art critic of the
1950s and 1960s. Died after being hit by a sand buggy while on vacation
on Fire Island in New York. He was 40 years old.
- August 3: Lenny Bruce, overdose. Controversial and seminal stand up
comedian of the 1950s and 1960s. Subject of 1974 movie Lenny, directed
by Bob Fosse and starring Dustin Hoffman. Plagued throughout his career
by numerous arrests and trials on obscenity charges. Found guilty in New
York City in 1964 and spent several months in jail. During his final year
Bruce was broke, depressed and practically unable to perform, as both he and
his potential employers (comedy club owners) were systematically harassed by
the authorities. He was found dead from a morphine overdose in the bathroom
of his home at age 40.
- September 28: Eric Fleming, drowning. Film and TV actor, star of Western
series Rawhide between 1959 and 1965. Fleming thought he was being upstaged
by his co-star Clint Eastwood and left Rawhide shortly before his death,
seeking other alternatives. While filming a TV pilot in Peru, Fleming
evacuated from a swamping canoe into the Huallaga river and drowned in
the turbulent water, just two days before he was supposed to marry his
girlfriend Lynne Garber. His body was not recovered until several days
later. Fleming was 41 years old.
January 21: Ann Sheridan, cancer. Hollywood star from the 1930s to the
1950s, best remembered for Angels With Dirty Faces, They Drive by Night
and Kings Row. Her popularity waned in the early 1950s and she moved on
to theater and television, starring in the early seasons of Another World
and the short-lived series Pistols 'n' Petticoats, while already suffering
from lung cancer. Sheridan died at age 41.
- February 6: Martine Carol, heart attack. Negligibly talented by hugely
popular French nudie cutie film star of the 1950s, finally eclipsed by
Brigitte Bardot. Was actually incredibly good in the title role of Max
Ophuls' masterpiece Lola Montes. Carol's career waned in the late 1950s
and she barely appeared on-screen in the last years of her life. Incidentally
Carol tried committing suicide 20 years earlier, at the age of 26, by jumping
off a bridge into the Seine river. Died of a heart attack at the age of 46.
- March 6: Nelson Eddy, stroke. Singer and actor, known for his several
movies with Jeanette MacDonald. The two were known as America's
Sweethearts, 60 years before John Cusack. After eight musicals with
MacDonald Eddy's career declined and he appeared mostly in concerts and
nightclubs for the rest of his life. In 1967 he suffered a fatal stroke while
singing on a Miami Beach stage. Eddy was 65 years old.
- April 13: Nicole Berger, road accident. French film and television
actress, best known for her role in François Truffaut's Shoot the Piano
Player. Also starred in Melvin Van Peebles' early feature The Story of a
Three-Day Pass. Killed at the age of 31 in a car accident near the town of
- May 8: Barbara Payton, heart and liver failure. Beautiful and spectacularly
untalented sexpot actress. Broke into the big time in the early 1950s,
with a role in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, but soon went nowhere after her
affair with actors Franchot Tone and Tom Neal hit the tabloids. In his
turn Neal hit Tone, sending him to the hospital with a smashed cheekbone, a
broken nose and a concussion. Payton married Tone, but left him after seven
weeks and returned to Neal, then to Tone again. She attempted suicide by
sleeping pills in 1952, but was saved by Tone. After the Tone-Neal brawl made
national headlines Payton was through in mainstream Hollywood, but could
still find work in B-movies and in England. However, after 1955 she never
again appeared onscreen. Meanwhile she was arrested for writing bad checks,
temporarily lost custody of her son and married a furniture salesman. They
divorced in the late 1950s and Payton turned to prostitution and alcohol.
She published a memoir, I Am Not Ashamed in 1963, while still turning
tricks and was at one time stabbed by a john. In April 1967 Payton moved in
with her parents in San Diego, and a month later her body was found by her
father in the bathroom of their house. She was dead of heart and liver
failure. Payton was 39 years old.
- June 26: Françoise Dorléac, road accident. French film actress and older
sister of Catherine Deneuve, with whom she starred in three films,
including Jacques Demy's fantastic The Young Girls of Rochefort. Also
starred in Roman Polanski's Cul-de-sac and was 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,
Christopher Komeda and Jack MacGowran). Killed in a car accident in the
city of Nice at the age of 25.
- June 29: Jayne Mansfield, road accident. Distinguished blonde bombshell
of the 1950s and 1960s, best remembered for her two films directed by
Frank Tashlin, The Girl Can't Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock
Hunter?. Never a major star, Mansfield grew even less popular as her type
lost favor with the public. Mansfield continued to star in cheap European and
American sexploitation movies, becoming the first established Hollywood
actress to appear nude onscreen (in 1963's Promises, Promises). Mansfield
was actually musically talented, playing both the piano and the violin, spoke
five languages and had an IQ of 163. Subject of 1980 TV movie, The Jayne
Mansfield Story, with Loni Anderson as Mansfield and Arnold
Schwarzenegger as her bodybuilder husband Mickey Hargitay. Killed with
her lawyer Sam Brody in a car accident while traveling between night club
engagements in Louisiana, when her car crashed into the back of a truck.
Her wig flew off during the accident, spawning rumors that she was actually
decapitated. Mansfield's accident was prominently featured in both J.G. Ballard's novel Crash and David Cronenberg's movie based on it. She was 34 years old
at the time of her death.
- August 9: Joe Orton, homicide. British author and playwright. Murdered by
his former mentor and current lover, Kenneth Halliwell, who was jealous of
Orton's artistic success and romantic conquests, while the older Halliwell
remained unpublished and unloved. Halliwell pounded Orton's head to death with a hammer, then killed himself with an overdose of sleeping pills.
Their story was depicted in 1987's film Prick Up Your Ears, starring Gary
Oldman as Orton and Alfred Molina as Halliwell. Orton was 34 years old,
Halliwell was 41.
- December 10: Otis Redding, plane crash. Soul singer and songwriter, whose
biggest hit, (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay, was recorded three days
prior to his death and was released posthumously. Killed in a plane crash
near Madison, Wisconsin, together with four members of the band The
Bar-Kays, then touring with Redding. Only trumpet player Ben Cauley survived
the crash. Redding was 26 years old.
- February 7: Nick Adams, overdose. Film and television actor. One of four
stars of Rebel Without a Cause to die of unnatural causes at a young age
(also see James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo). Dubbed some of
Dean's lines in Giant after Dean's death. Starred in reasonably popular
Western TV series The Rebel between 1959 and 1961, and nominated for an
Academy Award for his supporting role in 1963's Twilight of Honor.
Despite the nomination, Adams spent the rest of his life starring in
low-budget horror trash. Died in his home, as a result of a paraldehyde
overdose, a sedative he was taking under prescription. His death was ruled
accidental, although it is widely believed to be a suicide or a murder. No
means of ingestion were found in the house, and several valuable items were
also missing at the time of Adams' death. He was 36 years old.
- February 27: Frankie Lymon, overdose. Singer, considered to be the first
black teenage singing idol as frontman of Frankie and the Teenagers. Had
a huge hit in 1956 with Why Do Fools Fall in Love. The Teenagers broke up
in the late 1950s and after a stab at a solo career Lymon went into a
downward spiral. He became a heroin addict (arrested in 1966) and
eventually ended up as a lounge singer. Died from a heroin overdose in his
grandmother's apartment in New York City. He was 25 years old.
- March 30: Bobby Driscoll, heart failure as a result of drug abuse.
Child actor of the 1940s and 1950s, best known for his roles in
Disney's Song of the South and 1950's Treasure Island, as well as the
voice of Peter Pan in the 1953 animated feature. At age 12 won the Juvenile
Academy Award in 1950. Had trouble finding roles as a teenager and young
adult after Disney didn't renew his contract, last movie appearance was at
age 21. Driscoll started experimenting with marijuana at 17, then turned to
heroin. He spent some time in jail (Chino State) and became homeless. He
moved to New York and tried getting work in theatre, but had no luck. His
body was found in an abandoned tenement building in New York, dead of a
drug-related heart attack. His body could not be immediately identified and
he was buried as John Doe in Potter's Field. His identity was established
two years later using fingerprints taken by the New York police, when
Driscoll's mother enlisted Disney and the FBI to try and locate her son.
He was 31 years old at the time of his death.
- April 4: Martin Luther King, assassination. Yet another placeholder.
- May 5: Albert Dekker, accidental asphyxia / possible suicide. Film and
theater actor, and California State assemblyman. Star of Dr. Cyclops,
The Killers and The French Key. Appeared in The Wild Bunch shortly
before his death. Dekker was found hung from a shower rod, wearing woman's
lingerie, his torso covered in lipsticked obscenities, a dirty hypodermic
needle stuck into each arm. Nevertheless the death was ruled accidental, and
it is believed to be either a suicide, a homicide or auto-erotic
asphyxiation. Dekker was 62 years old.
- May 6: Rex Carlton, suicide. Writer and producer of B-movies from the
1940s to the 1960s. One of his masterpieces, The Brain That Wouldn't
Die, provided fodder for a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. Ran into
financial problems in the mid 1960s and shot himself in the head over it,
leaving a note. Carlton was 53 years old.
- June 6: Robert F. Kennedy, assassination. And another placeholder.
- October 30: Ramon Novarro, homicide. Mexican-born Hollywood leading man
of the silents and early talkies, famous for the silent Ben-Hur and Mata
Hari, co-starring with Greta Garbo. Novarro's career went bust in the early 1930s and he attempted
several unsuccessful comebacks, although his work during the silent era made
him wealthy enough to never have to work again. He had a wonderful supporting
role in 1949's The Big Steal and continued to make television appearances.
Novarro was actively homosexual well into his sixties and was murdered in
his home by two male hustlers, the brothers Paul and Tom Ferguson. The
Fergusons were after the fortune in cash they wrongly presumed Novarro kept
in his house. They tore the house apart, tortured and bludgeoned Novarro, and
left him tied up to choke on his own blood. He was 69 years old at the time
of his death.
- Unknown date: Al Mulock, suicide. Bit player in American and European
productions of the 1950s and 1960s. Appeared in Sergio Leone's The
Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West. Committed
suicide on the set of Once Upon a Time in the West by jumping out of his
hotel window. Mulock can still be seen in the movie, together with Woody
Strode and Jack Elam he is one of the assassins waiting for the train
carrying Harmonica (Charles Bronson) in the opening sequence.
- 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