What Might Have Been........

A list of actors and actresses who died way before their time, and leaving us with a special body of work and to wonder "what might have been..." if their careers had been longer.
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James Dean
James Byron Dean was born February 8, 1931 in Marion, Indiana, to Mildred Marie (Wilson) and Winton A. Dean, a farmer turned dental technician. His mother died when Dean was nine, and he was subsequently raised on a farm by his aunt and uncle in Fairmount, Indiana. After grade school, he moved to New York to pursue his dream of acting...
“ Killed in a 1955 car crash, Dean left us three important films: East of Eden, Rebel Without A Cause, and Giant. ” - aladdinsane85
River Phoenix
River Phoenix was born River Jude Bottom in Madras, Oregon. His mother, Arlyn (Dunetz), a Bronx-born secretary, and his father, John Bottom, a carpenter, met in California in 1968. They worked as itinerant fruit pickers, and later joined the Children of God religious group (John was originally Catholic...
“ In a career cut short by a fatal drug overdose, Phoenix is remembered for his appearances in the films Stand By Me and My Own Private Idaho. ” - aladdinsane85
John Cazale
John Cazale was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to an Irish-American mother, Cecilia (Holland), and an Italian-American father, John Cazale. Cazale only made five feature films in his career, all which many fans and critics alike call classics. But before his film debut, the short The American Way, he won numerous Obie Awards for his stage performances in "The Indian Wants the Bronx" and "The Line"...
“ On of the more impressive character actors of the 1970s, Cazale appeared in five films before he died of terminal lung cancer. All of these were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. ” - aladdinsane85
Marilyn Monroe
Probably the most celebrated of all actresses, Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926, in the charity ward of the Los Angeles General Hospital. Prior to her birth, Marilyn's father bought a motorcycle and headed north to San Francisco, abandoning the family in Los Angeles. Marilyn grew up not knowing for sure who her father really was...
“ The sex symbol of the 1950s, Monroe's acting career gave us numerous memorable performances, in the films Niagara, The Seven Year Itch, Some Like It Hot and The Misfits. A drug related suicide ended her film career at age 36. ” - aladdinsane85
Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger work comprised nineteen films, including 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot, A Knight's Tale, Monster's Ball, Ned Kelly, The Brothers Grimm, Lords of Dogtown, Brokeback Mountain, Casanova, Candy, I'm Not There., The Dark Knight and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He also produced and directed music videos and aspired to be a film director...
“ Won a posthumous Oscar for his performance in the Dark Knight, a just ending to a career cut short by an accidental drug overdose. ” - aladdinsane85
John Belushi
John Belushi was born in Chicago, Illinois, USA, on January 24, 1949, to Agnes Demetri (Samaras) and Adam Anastos Belushi, a restaurant owner. His father was an Albanian immigrant, from Qytezë, and his mother was also of Albanian descent. He grew up in Wheaton, where the family moved when he was six...
“ In a short career that contained many memorable Saturday Night Live characters and movie roles (the Blues Brothers, 1941, Animal House), Belushi died of a drug overdose in 1982. ” - aladdinsane85
Carole Lombard
Carole Lombard was born Jane Alice Peters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on October 6, 1908. Her parents divorced in 1916 and her mother took the family on a trip out West. While there they decided to settle down in the Los Angeles area. After being spotted playing baseball in the street with the neighborhood boys by a film director...
“ Actress in numerous films during the 1920s and 1930s, Lombard was also the wife of actor Clark Gable. She was killed in a 1942 plane crash in Nevada. ” - aladdinsane85
Brad Renfro
Brad Renfro was born on July 25, 1982 in Knoxville, Tennessee, to Angela Denise McCrory and Mark Renfro, a factory worker. He was discovered at age 10 by director Joel Schumacher and was cast in the motion picture The Client, which starred Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. Although this would be his zenith...
“ His appearances in the Client, Apt Pupil, and Ghost World showed an actor with unlimited promise, but substance abuse caused his death at age 25. ” - aladdinsane85
Jean Harlow
The dentist's daughter eloped at age 16 with a young businessman and wound up in Los Angeles where she found work as an extra and bit player (examples: Moran of the Marines and Liberty) and somewhat more prominently in Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy shorts (Double Whoopee, Bacon Grabbers)...
“ After her apperances in Hell's Angels and The Public Enemy, the sky was truly the limit for Jean Harlow, who died of renal failure at age 26. ” - aladdinsane85
Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee remains the greatest icon of martial arts cinema and a key figure of modern popular media. Had it not been for Bruce Lee and his movies in the early 1970s, it's arguable whether or not the martial arts film genre would have ever penetrated and influenced mainstream North American and European cinema and audiences the way it has over the past four decades...
“ Star of Enter the Dragon and noted martial arts preformer, Lee died of a cerebral edema in 1973 at age 32. ” - aladdinsane85
Judy Garland
One of the brightest, most tragic movie stars of Hollywood's Golden Era, Judy Garland was a much-loved character whose warmth and spirit, along with her rich and exuberant voice, kept theatre-goers entertained with an array of delightful musicals. She was born Frances Ethel Gumm on 10 June 1922 in Minnesota...
“ The star of the Wizard of Oz and A Star Is Born, Garland's film career and singing talent were silenced in 1969 via a barbituate overdose. ” - aladdinsane85
Chris Penn
Christopher Shannon Penn was born on October 10, 1965 in Los Angeles, California, the third son of actress Eileen Ryan (née Annucci) and director, actor, and writer Leo Penn. His siblings are musician Michael Penn and actor Sean Penn. His father was from a Lithuanian Jewish/Russian Jewish family, and his mother is of half Italian and half Irish descent...
“ The younger brother of Sean Penn and an actor with numerous screen appearances to his credit, Chris Penn died at age 40 of an enlarged heart. Audiences may know him best as Nice Guy Eddie in the Tarantino classic Reservoir Dogs. ” - aladdinsane85
“ The monologist and actor committed suicide by jumping in 2004. ” - aladdinsane85
Heather O'Rourke
Actress, Poltergeist
Heather Michele O'Rourke was born on December 27, 1975 in Santee, San Diego, California, to Kathleen, a seamstress, and Michael O'Rourke, a construction worker. She had German, Danish, English, and Irish ancestry. Heather entered American cinematic pop-culture before first grade. She was sitting alone in the MGM Commissary waiting for her mother when a stranger approached her asking her name...
“ The child star of the Poltergeist films died of intestinal stenosis at the age of 12 in 1988. ” - aladdinsane85
Lupe Velez
Lupe Velez was born on July 18, 1908, in San Luis de Potosi, Mexico, as Maria Guadalupe Villalobos Velez. She was sent to Texas at the age of 13 to live in a convent. She later admitted that she wasn't much of a student because she was so rambunctious. She had planned to become a champion roller-skater but that would change...
“ Called the "Mexican Spitfire", Velez appeared in numerous comedic films in the 1930s and early 40s. After finding that she was pregnant in 1944, she committed suicide via drug overdose. ” - aladdinsane85
Brittany Murphy
Brittany Murphy was born Brittany Anne Bertolotti on November 10, 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia, to Sharon Kathleen Murphy and Angelo Joseph Bertolotti. Her father's ancestry is Italian, and her mother is of Irish and Slovak descent. Her father moved the family back to Edison, New Jersey as a native New Yorker and to be closer to other siblings from previous marriages...
“ Murphy's performances in 8-Mile, Girl Interrupted and Uptown Girls garnered praise, and her death at age 32 from cardiac arrest was a sad end to an already promising career. ” - aladdinsane85
Chris Farley
Actor, Tommy Boy
Christopher Crosby Farley was born on February 15, 1964, in Madison, Wisconsin, to Mary Anne (Crosby) and Thomas Farley, who owned an oil company. Among his siblings are actors Kevin P. Farley and John Farley. He was of Irish heritage. Farley studied theatre and communications on Marquette University...
“ The SNL actor and star of Tommy Boy and Black Sheep died of heart failure brought on by drug and alcohol abuse. ” - aladdinsane85
Brandon Lee
Actor, The Crow
Born on February 1, 1965 to Bruce Lee (Martial Arts idol) and Linda Lee Cadwell. Brother to Shannon Lee. In 1970-71, they moved to Hong Kong where Brandon became fluent in Cantonese by the age of 8. He attended Boston's Art-Oriented Emerson College in Massachusetts. He studied Martial Arts and drama...
“ The star of the Crow (released after his death) was killed in a tragic on-set prop gun accident in 1993. He was the son of Bruce Lee, and like his father, died before his film career really took flight. ” - aladdinsane85
Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle
Roscoe Arbuckle, one of nine children, was the baby of the family who weighed a reported 16 pounds at birth. Born in Smith Center, Kansas, on March 24, 1887, his family moved to California when he was a year old. At age eight he appeared on the stage. His first part was with the Webster-Brown Stock Company...
“ One of the more memorable comedy actors of the silent era, Arbuckle became ensnared in one of Hollywood's first major scandals. His career floundered, and he died at age 46 in 1933, shortly after signing a feature film contract with Warner Brothers. ” - aladdinsane85
Karl Dane
Born Rasmus Karl Therkelsen Gottlieb in Copenhagen, Denmark, on October 12, 1886 the future Karl Dane had a rough childhood. His father was an alcoholic and spendthrift. At a young age his parents divorced. To escape his unhappy home he took a great interest in the arts, particularly puppeteering (something popular in Denmark at the time). Dane apprenticed as a machinist during his teenage years...
“ A member of the Arthur and Dane comedy team of the 1920s, Karl Dane also appeared in the WWI based Big Parade in 1925. He committed suicide via gunshot in 1934. ” - aladdinsane85
Inger Stevens
This enigmatic Stockholm-born beauty had everything going for her, including a rapidly rising film and TV career. Yet on April 30, 1970, at only 35, Inger Stevens would become another tragic Hollywood statistic -- added proof that fame and fortune do not always lead to happiness. Over time, a curious fascination...
“ This beautiful blonde actress starred opposite Clint Eastwood in Hang Em' High in 1968. She committed suicide two years later. ” - aladdinsane85
Nicole DeHuff
Nicole DeHuff was born on 6 January 1975 in Oklahoma. She began her acting studies at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon Acting Conservatory. Her first screen role was in the comedy hit Meet the Parents, in which she co-starred with Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller. Her character (Deborah Byrnes) was the sister whose wedding caused chaos for her family...
“ TV actress and Robert DeNiro's daughter in "Meet the Parents", DeHuff died of pneumonia in 2005 at the age of 30. ” - aladdinsane85
Jonathan Brandis
Born in Danbury, Connecticut, USA, to Greg and Mary, Jonathan Brandis began his career at age 5, acting in television commercials. He appeared in small parts in several films and TV shows before his first starring role in the 1990 film The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter. He starred in popular films such as Ladybugs and starred as Lucas Wolenczak in Steven Spielberg's television series SeaQuest 2032...
“ Young actor who appeared in the Stephen King miniseries "It" and "SeaQuest" and the "Neverending Story II" committed suicide by hanging in 2003 at age 27. ” - aladdinsane85
Tupac Shakur
Soundtrack, Django Unchained
Born in New York City, Tupac grew up primarily in Harlem. In 1984, his family moved to Baltimore, Maryland where he became good friends with Jada Pinkett Smith. His family moved again in 1988 to Oakland, California. His first breakthrough in music came in 1991 as a member of the group Digital Underground...
“ The rapper and actor was shot to death in 1996. He appeared opposite Micky Rourke in Bullet and with Tim Roth in Gridlock'd. ” - aladdinsane85
Sal Mineo
Salvatore (Sal) Mineo Jr. was born to Josephine and Sal Sr. (a casket maker), who emigrated to the U.S. from Sicily. His siblings were Michael, Victor and Sarina. Sal was thrown out of parochial school and, by age eight, was a member of a street gang in a tough Bronx neighborhood. His mother enrolled him in dancing school and...
“ His memorable performance as the ill-fated Plato opposite James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause is Mineo's most famous role. He was murdered in 1976 at the age of 37. ” - aladdinsane85