Celebrities Who Died Too Young

IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER, here is a list of celebrities with ties to the movie, television or the music industry that we lost way too soon.
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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...
James Dean
James Dean was an American actor. He is a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement, as expressed in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which he starred as troubled teenager Jim Stark. The other two roles that defined his stardom were loner Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955) and surly ranch hand Jett Rink in Giant (1956)...
Marilyn Monroe
Probably the most celebrated of all actresses, Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926, in 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...
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)...
Rudolph Valentino
Actor, The Eagle
Born in 1895 to a French mother and Italian father Rudolph Valentino grew up in Italy. His father died while he was young, and his mother spoiled him. He did poorly in school, and eventually ended up studying agriculture. After a stint in Paris he returned to Italy broke. Many times Valentino referenced something he did being the cause of being sent away...
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...
Natalie Wood
Natalie Wood was born on July 20, 1938, in San Francisco, California, as Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko. Her parents, Maria Stepanovna (Zudilova) and Nikolai Stepanovich Zakharenko, were Russian-born émigrés, of Ukrainian and Russian descent, who spoke barely comprehensible English; they changed the family name to Gurdin after becoming US citizens...
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in East Tupelo, Mississippi, to Gladys Presley (née Gladys Love Smith) and Vernon Presley (Vernon Elvis Presley). He had a twin brother who was stillborn. In September 1948, Elvis and his parents moved to Memphis, Tennessee where he attended Humes High School...
John Lennon
John Winston (later Ono) Lennon was born on October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, England, to Julia (Stanley) and Alfred Lennon, a merchant seaman. He was of Irish, and some Welsh and English, ancestry. In the mid-1950s, he formed his first band, The Quarrymen (after Quarry Bank High School, which he attended) who, with the addition of Paul McCartney and George Harrison, later became The Beatles...
Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger work comprised nineteen films, including 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), The Patriot (2000), A Knight's Tale (2001), Monster's Ball (2001), Ned Kelly (2003), The Brothers Grimm (2005), Lords of Dogtown (2005), Brokeback Mountain (2005), Casanova (2005), Candy (2006), I'm Not There (2007)...
Vivien Leigh
If a film were made of the life of Vivien Leigh, it would open in India just before World War I, where a successful British businessman could live like a prince. In the mountains above Calcutta, a little princess is born. Because of the outbreak of World War I, she is six years old the first time her parents take her to England...
John Candy
Actor, SCTV
Candy was one of Canada's greatest and funniest character actors. His well-known role as the big hearted buffoon earned him classics in Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains & Automobiles. His career has handed him some dry spells but Candy always rebounded. Born in Newmarket, Ontario, in the year 1950, Candy was the son of Evangeline (Aker) and Sidney James Candy...
John Ritter
Jonathan Southworth Ritter was born in Burbank, California, on September 17, 1948. He was the son of legendary country singer/actor Tex Ritter and his wife, actress Dorothy Fay. The couple married in 1941 and had their first child, Tom Ritter, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. John was destined to follow in his parents footsteps...
Michael Jackson
Thanks, This Is It
Michael Joseph Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana on August 29, 1958, and entertained audiences nearly his entire life. His father, Joe Jackson, had been a guitarist, but was forced to give up his musical ambitions following his marriage to Katherine Jackson (née Katherine Esther Scruse). Together...
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...
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...
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...
Carole Lombard
Born in Indiana, she was eight years old when her parents divorced, and her mother took her and her two older brothers to L.A. to start a new life. At age twelve she was spotted playing baseball in the street by director Allan Dwan who cast her as a tom-boy in "A Perfect Crime". Bitten by the movie bug...
Gary Coleman
Without a doubt Gary Coleman was THE child TV star of the late 1970s and early 1980s. A refreshingly confident little tyke with sparkling dark, saucer-like eyes and an ingratiating, take-on-anyone burst of personality, the boy charmed the pants right off of TV viewers the minute he was glimpsed in national commercials...
Raul Julia
Raul Julia was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Olga Arcelay, a mezzo-soprano singer, and Raúl Juliá, an electrical engineer. He graduated from Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola High School in San Juan. Here he studied the rigorous classical curriculum of the Jesuits and was always active in student dramatics...
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...
Natasha Richardson
Natasha Jane Richardson was born in Marylebone, London, England, to director and producer Tony Richardson and actress Vanessa Redgrave. She was the sister of actress Joely Richardson, the niece of actors Corin Redgrave and Lynn Redgrave, and the granddaughter of actors Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson...
Montgomery Clift
Montgomery Clift was an American film and stage actor. He is best remembered for roles in Red River (1948), The Heiress (1949), George Stevens's A Place in the Sun (1951), a Catholic priest in Alfred Hitchcock's I Confess (1952), soldiers in Fred Zinnemann's From Here to Eternity (1953) and Edward Dmytryk's...
Sharon Tate
Sharon's early life was one of constant moving as her father served in the military. When she lived in Italy, she was voted "Homecoming Queen" of her high school. After being an extra in a few Italian films, Sharon headed to Hollywood where she would again start as an extra. Her first big break came when she was cast as the shapely bank secretary...
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...
Phil Hartman
Phil Hartman was born Philip Edward Hartmann on September 24, 1948, in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. His surname was originally "Hartmann", but he later dropped the second "n". He was one of eight children of Doris Marguerite (Wardell) and Rupert Loebig Hartmann, a salesman. He was of German, Irish, and English descent...
Whitney Houston
Actress, The Bodyguard
Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born into a musical family on 9 August 1963, in Newark, New Jersey, the daughter of gospel star Cissy Houston, cousin of singing star Dionne Warwick and goddaughter of soul legend Aretha Franklin. She began singing in the choir at her church, The New Hope Baptist Church in Newark...
Keith Moon
Keith John Moon was born to working class parents in Wembley, London, England, on the 23rd August, 1946. At the age of 12, he had joined the Sea Cadet Corp and was given his first musical instrument, the bugle. He left school by 15 and was in his first band, The Beachcombers; this was around the summer of 1963...
Bernie Mac
Bernard Jeffrey McCollough was born in Chicago in 1957. He grew up in Chicago, in a rougher neighborhood than most others, with a large family living under one roof. This situation provided him with a great insight into his comedy, as his family, and the situations surrounding them would be what dominated his comedy...
Brandon De Wilde
Actor, Shane
Born into a theatrical family, he made a much-acclaimed Broadway debut at the age of nine in "The Member of the Wedding." He was the first child actor to win the Donaldson Award and went on to repeat his role in the film version directed by Fred Zinnemann in 1952. As the blonde, blue-eyed Joey who idolizes the strange gunman (Alan Ladd) in Shane...
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"...
Patrick Swayze
Patrick Wayne Swayze was born on August 18, 1952 in Houston, Texas, to Patsy Swayze (née Yvonne Helen Karnes), a choreographer, and Jesse Wayne Swayze, a chemical plant engineer draftsman. His mother owned a dance school in Houston, where Patrick was also a student. His father passed away in 1982...
Robin Williams
Robin McLaurin Williams was born on Saturday, July 21st, 1951, in Chicago, Illinois, a great-great-grandson of Mississippi Governor and Senator, Anselm J. McLaurin. His mother, Laurie McLaurin (née Janin), was a former model from Mississippi, and his father, Robert Fitzgerald Williams, was a Ford Motor Company executive from Indiana...
James Gandolfini
James Gandolfini was born in Westwood, New Jersey, to Santa (Penna), a high school lunchlady, and James Joseph Gandolfini, Sr., a bricklayer and head school janitor. His parents were both of Italian origin. Gandolfini began acting in the New York theater. His Broadway debut was in the 1992 revival of "A Streetcar Named Desire" with Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin...
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Actor, Capote
Film and stage actor and theater director Philip Seymour Hoffman was born in the Rochester, New York, suburb of Fairport on July 23, 1967. He was the son of Marilyn (Loucks), a lawyer and judge, and Gordon Stowell Hoffman, a Xerox employee, and was mostly of German, Irish, English and Dutch ancestry...
David Janssen
David Janssen was born David Harold Meyer in 1931 in Naponee, Nebraska, to Berniece Mae (Graf) and Harold Edward Meyer, a banker. He was of German, and some Swiss-German and Scottish-Irish, descent. David took the surname of his stepfather, Eugene Janssen. The Janssen family settled in Hollywood when he was a teenager and he attended Fairfax High School...
Paul Walker
Paul Walker was an American actor. Walker began his career guest-starring in several television shows such as The Young and the Restless and Touched by an Angel. Walker gained prominence with breakout roles in coming of age and teen films such as She's All That and Varsity Blues. In 2001, Walker gained...
Jimi Hendrix
Soundtrack, Almost Famous
Jimi Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942 in Seattle, Washington, to African-American parents Lucille (Jeter) and James Allen Hendrix. His mother named him John Allen Hendrix and raised him alone while his father, Al Hendrix, was off fighting in World War II. When his mother became sick from alcoholism...
Jim Morrison
Soundtrack, Cast Away
Jim Morrison was born on December 8, 1943 in Melbourne, Florida, to Clara Virginia (Clarke) and George Stephen Morrison, a U.S. Naval Officer who fought in World War II. Jim eventually became so estranged from his parents that he would later claim that they were dead. Not much is known about his early years...
Janis Joplin
Soundtrack, Watchmen
Janis Lyn Joplin was born at St. Mary's Hospital in the oil-refining town of Port Arthur, Texas, near the border with Louisiana. Her father was a cannery worker and her mother was a registrar for a business college. As an overweight teenager, she was a folk-music devotee (especially Odetta...
Kurt Cobain
Soundtrack, Moulin Rouge!
Kurt Cobain was born on February 20 1967, in Aberdeen, Washington. Kurt and his family lived in Hoquiam for the first few months of his life then later moved back to Aberdeen, where he had a happy childhood until his parents divorced. The divorce left Kurt's outlook on the world forever scarred. He became withdrawn and anti-social...
Wendie Jo Sperber
Though she was known best for drawing laughs as whiny, excitable characters throughout her raucous film and TV career, actress/comedienne Wendie Jo Sperber showed a brave, compassionate and humane side in the last years of her life. The Los Angeles-born performer developed a driving passion for acting in her teen years...
Buddy Holly
Soundtrack, Big Fish
Lou Costello
Lou Costello was born Louis Francis Cristillo in Paterson, New Jersey, to Helen (Rege) and Sebastiano Cristillo. His father was from Calabria, Italy, and his mother was an American of Italian, French, and Irish ancestry. Raised in Paterson, Costello dropped out of high school and headed west to break into the movies...
Humphrey Bogart
Actor, Casablanca
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was born in New York City, New York, to Maud Humphrey, a famed magazine illustrator and suffragette, and Belmont DeForest Bogart, a moderately wealthy surgeon (who was secretly addicted to opium). Bogart was educated at Trinity School, NYC, and was sent to Phillips Academy in Andover...
Curly Howard
Jerome "Curly" Howard, the rotund, bald Stooge with the high voice was the most popular member of The Three Stooges. His first stage experience was as a comedic conductor for the Orville Knapp Band in 1928. Curly joined The Three Stooges in 1932, replacing his brother Shemp Howard. He made more than...
Bruno Kirby
Native New Yorker and Italianate Bruno Kirby tended towards assertive, pushy, streetwise characters and was armed with a highly distinctive scratchy tenor voice that complemented his slim eyes and droopy puss and accentuated his deadpan comedic instincts on film and TV. The well-regarded character actor was born Bruno Giovanni Quidaciolu on April 28...
Mike Evans
Writer, Good Times
Clean cut and smoothly handsome as a youth, Mike Evans got on board the Norman Lear TV train in the early 1970s and took a straight ride to sitcom stardom in both a landmark comedy series and its black-oriented spin-off. Born Michael Jonas Evans in Salisbury, North Carolina, on November 3, 1949...
Soundtrack, Batman
Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Mattie Shaw, a jazz singer and social worker, and John L. Nelson, a lyricist and pianist. His father's stage name was "Prince Rogers". His parents were both from African-American families from Louisiana. They separated during his youth...