40 Entertainers who died before the age of 40

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Rudolph Valentino
Actor, The Eagle
Hollywood's original Latin Lover, a term that was invented for Rudolph Valentino by Hollywood moguls. Alla Nazimova's friend,Natacha Rambova (nee Winifred Hudnut) became romantically involved with Rudy and they lived together in her bungalow, from 1921 (during the filming of Camille) until they eloped to Mexico 13 May...
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)...
Jean Harlow
Harlean Carpenter, who later became Jean Harlow, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 3, 1911. She was the daughter of a successful dentist and his wife. In 1927, at the age of 16, she ran away from home to marry a young businessman named Charles McGrew, who was 23. The couple pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles...
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)...
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...
Soundtrack, Boyhood
Talented. Beautiful. Modest. These three words described R&B singer-turned-actress Aaliyah perfectly. Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Diane (Hankerson) and Michael Haughton. Her uncle was music manager Barry Hankerson and her brother is director Rashad Haughton. Aaliyah was raised in Detroit...
Tupac Shakur
Soundtrack, Django Unchained
Notorious 25-year-old gangsta MC and actor Tupac Shakur was shot and killed before he had a chance to fulfill the promise of a successful career in both fields. He was born in New York City and his mother, Afeni Shakur, was a member of the Black Panther Party. Shakur spent much of his youth in Harlem...
Sharon Tate
Sharon Tate won the first of many beauty contests before her first birthday. Her looks, charm, and grace would be her passport into the acting world, initially as an extra in movie shot on location in Italy, where her army officer father was posted in the early 1960's. Commercials and modeling assignments followed...
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...
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...
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...
Brandon Lee
Actor, The Crow
Born in Oakland, California, USA, Brandon Lee spent the first eight years of his life in Hong Kong. By the time he was able to walk, he was already involved in learning about martial arts from his father, martial arts expert and famed actor Bruce Lee. After Bruce Lee's untimely death, Brandon...
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...
Carole Lombard
Carole Lombard, the 5' 2" beauty was a comedy hit during the 30s and 40s. Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on October 6, 1908 under the name of Jane Alice Peters. Young Jane Alice loved the Friday night movie night with her family and would perform the night before's show in the morning. Her mother and her father divorced in October of 1914...
Jayne Mansfield
One of the leading sex symbols of the 1950s and 1960s, film actress Jayne Mansfield was born Vera Jayne Palmer on April 19, 1933 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, to Vera J. and Herbert W. Palmer. Her parents were well-to-do, with her father a successful attorney in Phillipburg, New Jersey, where Jayne began her girlhood...
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...
Bobby Darin
Soundtrack, American Beauty
Walden Robert Cassotto, nicknamed "Bobby", was born in The Bronx, New York, in 1936. Severe rheumatic fever as a child scarred his heart and led to an overprotected and pampered childhood. He was the focal point of a family that fostered and encouraged his love of music. His music career started out with writing songs and taking demos around to different music producers...
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...
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...
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...
Amy Winehouse
Soundtrack, About Time
Amy Winehouse was a five-time Grammy Award-winning English singer-songwriter known for such hits as 'Rehab' and 'You Know I'm No Good' among her other works. She was born Amy Jade Winehouse, on September 14, 1983, in Enfield, London, England to a Jewish family with Russian ancestry on her mother's side...
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...
Marvin Gaye
Soundtrack, Se7en
Sam Cooke
Soundtrack, Hitch
Sam Cooke was born January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He was one of eight children of Charles Cook Sr., a Baptist minister. When Sam sang as a little boy in church, everyone made note that his voice had "something special". He sang in church and in local gospel choirs until a group called the Highway Q.C.'s asked him to sing with them at various venues...
Karen Carpenter
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Karen Carpenter moved with her family to Downey, California, in 1963. Karen's older brother, Richard Carpenter, decided to put together an instrumental trio with him on the piano, Karen on the drums and their friend Wes Jacobs on the bass and tuba. In a battle of the bands at the Hollywood Bowl in 1966...
George Gershwin
Soundtrack, L.A. Confidential
He was born Jacob Gershowitz, 26 September 1898, in Brooklyn, New York, of Russian-Jewish immigrants. As a boy he could play popular and classical works on his brother Ira's piano by ear. In 1913 he quit school to study music and began composing for Tin Pan Alley; by 1919 he had his first hit "Swanee" and his first Broadway show "La...
The Notorious B.I.G.
Soundtrack, Superbad
Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, was born in Brooklyn, New York, May 21, 1972. He was the son of Jamaican parents, Voletta Wallace, a pre-school teacher, and George Latore, a welder and small-time politician. He was raised in the poor Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant as the son of a preschool teacher...
Bob Marley
Bob Marley was born on February 6, 1945, in Nine Miles, Saint Ann, Jamaica, to Norval Marley and Cedella Booker. His father was a Jamaican of English descent. His mother was a black teenager. The couple planned to get married but Norval left Kingston before this could happen. Norval died in 1955, seeing his son only once...
Charlie Parker
Soundtrack, Se7en
Charles Christopher Parker Jr. was born on August 29, 1920, in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, to Charles Parker Sr. and his 18-year-old wife Addie. His father ran out on the family when Charlie was just a little boy. When he was 11 his mother bought him an alto saxophone for his birthday. By the time he was 15 Charlie was working as a musician in the flourishing Kansas City jazz scene...
Cass Elliot
Actress, Monterey Pop
Cass Elliot was born Ellen Naomi Cohen on September 19, 1941, in Baltimore, Maryland. She grew up in the Washington D.C. environs and in her senior year of high school, performed in a summer stock production of "The Boyfriend" at the Owings Mills Playhouse, where she played the French nurse who sings "It's Nicer...
Ritchie Valens
Soundtrack, Grease
Buddy Holly
Soundtrack, Big Fish
Hank Williams
Hank Williams was born in September 1923 in a small Alabama farming community about 70 miles south of Montgomery. His father was a railroad engineer who was also a victim of shell shock after a year of fighting in France in 1918 during World War I and spent many years in veterans hospitals. Hank's mother...
Patsy Cline
Soundtrack, The Departed
Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley on September 8, 1932 in Winchester, Virginia. Her brush with show business came at age four when she won a prize in an amateur tap dancing contest. By the time she entered grade school, her family was fully aware of her musical talent. On her eighth birthday...
Eddie Cochran
Soundtrack, Caddyshack
Eddie Cochran was born as Edward Raymond Cochran on October 3, 1938 in Albert Lea, Minnesota. When Eddie was 14, his parents moved to Bell Gardens, California where he began playing the guitar. In 1954, Eddie joined a local band with songwriter Hank Cochran where Eddie performed as the second vocalist...
Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes
Soundtrack, We're the Millers
Controversial, flamboyant, and spontaneous are probably the best words to describe Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. Born in Philadelphia, and raised throughout the world as the daughter of a U.S. Army serviceman, Lisa Lopes became one of the most important trendsetters in the 1990s music scene. After relocating to Atlanta during her young adult years...
Jean Vigo
Writer, L'Atalante
Jean Vigo had bad health since he was a child. Son of anarchist militant Miguel Almareyda, he also never really recovered from his father's mysterious death in jail when he was 12. Abandoned by his mother, he passed from boarding school to boarding school. Aged 23, through meetings with people involved in the movies...
Sabu Dastagir (or Selar Shaik Sabu, depending on your resource) was born on January 27, 1924, in the little town of Mysore, India, which is nestled in the jungles of Karapur. The son of an elephant driver (mahout) in service for the Maharajah of his town, the young stable boy learned responsibility early in life when...