Brief Lives

Too soon gone. Alphabetically.
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1.
Aaliyah
Soundtrack, Boyhood
On January 16th 1979 the world was blessed with the birth of Aaliyah Dana Haughton in Brooklyn, New York. Aaliyah was raised by her father, mother and brother Rashad Haughton in Detroit. At age 9 she appeared on Star Search, the TV program and sang "My Funny Valentine", a song which her mother had sung years earlier...
 
2.
Nick Adams
Nick Adams, best known to audiences as Johnny Yuma of the TV series The Rebel, played leads and supporting parts in many films of the 1950s, often cast in the same "troubled young man" mold as his good friend, James Dean. He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Twilight of Honor He died in 1968 due to an overdose of drugs he was taking for a nervous disorder.
 
3.
Pier Angeli
Anna Maria Pierangeli was born June 19, 1932, in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy. Anna and her twin sister, Marisa Pavan, both had their eyes on become film stars, since that was one of the big Italian pastimes. Anna adopted her surname and split it in half, and it was as Pier Angeli that she would find fame...
 
4.
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...
 
5.
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...
 
6.
Ted Cassidy
Ted Cassidy was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and raised in Philippi, West Virginia. He was a well respected actor who portrayed many different characters during his film and television career. His most notable role was Lurch, the faithful butler on the television series The Addams Family. His most memorable dialogue as Lurch would be...
 
7.
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"...
 
8.
Jeff Chandler
Jeff was born in Brooklyn and attended Erasmus High School. After high school, he took a drama course and worked in stock companies for two years. His next role would be that of an officer in World War II. After he was discharged from the service, he became busy acting in radio drama's and comedies until he was signed by Universal...
 
9.
Montgomery Clift
Edward Montgomery Clift (nicknamed 'Monty' his entire life) was born on October 17, 1920 in Omaha, Nebraska, just after his twin sister Roberta and eighteen months after his brother Brooks Clift. He was the son of Ethel "Sunny" Anderson (Fogg) and William Brooks Clift. His father made a lot of money in banking but was quite poor during the depression...
 
10.
Nat 'King' Cole
Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Adams Coles at Montgomery, Alabama. He received music lessons from his mother and his family moved to Chicago when he was only five, where his father Edward James Coles was a minister at the True Light Baptist Church and later Pastor of the First Baptist Church. At 12 he was playing the church organ and at 14 he formed a 14 piece band called the Royal Dukes...
 
11.
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...
 
12.
Laird Cregar
Seemingly suave, cultivated actor by nature, definitely huge in both talent and girth, and capable of playing much older than he was, Hollywood of the early '40s tragically lost Laird Cregar before it could fully comprehend on how to best utilize his obvious gifts. He was born Samuel Laird Cregar in a well-to-do section of Philadelphia...
 
13.
Dorothy Dandridge
Actress, Carmen Jones
Dorothy Jean Dandridge was born on November 9, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Ruby Dandridge (née Ruby Jean Butler), an entertainer, and Cyril H. Dandridge, a cabinet maker and minister. Under the prodding of her mother, Dorothy and her sister Vivian Dandridge began performing publicly, usually in black Baptist churches throughout the country...
 
14.
Bobby Darin
Soundtrack, American Beauty
Bobby Darin was born Walden Robert Cassotto on May 14, 1936. Growing up in a rough section of the Bronx, New York, Bobby barely survived several serious bouts of rheumatic fever that left him with a damaged heart (which undoubtedly contributed to his early death). Bobby's ambition was to become a legend by the time he was 25...
 
15.
Brad Davis
Born in Florida in 1949, Brad Davis moved to Georgia after graduating from high school to pursue an acting career. From there, he moved to New York City, twice, to find work. By the early 1970s Davis was acting in off-Broadway plays while studying acting at the Academy of Dramatic Arts. His stage work...
 
16.
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...
 
17.
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...
 
18.
Françoise Dorléac
Actress, The Soft Skin
The radiant Francoise Dorleac is better remembered today as the elder, ill-fated sister of French film star Catherine Deneuve. The Paris-born actress, however, was actually the first to become a star and had quite a formidable career of her own in the 1960s until it was cut short. Born into a theatrical family in 1942 (her father was actor Maurice Dorléac)...
 
19.
Bobby Driscoll
Actor, Peter Pan
Bobby Driscoll was a natural-born actor. Discovered by chance at the age of five-and-a-half in a barber shop in Altadena, CA. and then convincing in anything he ever undertook on the movie screen and on television throughout his career spanning 17 years (1943-1960). Includes such notable movie screen appearances as The Sullivans...
 
20.
Dominique Dunne
Actress, Poltergeist
Dominique Dunne was born to a life of privilege in Santa Monica, California, the daughter of Ellen Beatriz (Griffin) Dunne and Dominick Dunne, a producer, actor, and writer. Actor Griffin Dunne is her brother. After her parents' divorce, she moved first to New York, and then to a posh home in Beverly Hills...
 
21.
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...
 
22.
John Garfield
John Garfield was born Jacob Julius Garfinkle on the Lower East Side of New York City, to Hannah Basia (Margolis) and David Garfinkle, who were Jewish immigrants from Zhytomyr (now in Ukraine). Jules was raised by his father, a clothes presser and part-time cantor, after his mother's death in 1920, when he was 7...
 
23.
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...
 
24.
John Gilbert
John Gilbert was born into a show-business family - his father was a comic with the Pringle Stock Company. By 1915 John was an extra with Thomas H. Ince's company and a lead player by 1917. In those days he was assistant director, actor or screenwriter. He also tried his hand at directing. By 1919 he was being noticed in films and getting better roles...
 
25.
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...
 
26.
Elizabeth Hartman
Elizabeth Hartman was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio. She was the middle of three children. She soon appeared in a play, "A Clearing in the Woods", in high school and, at that point, she knew she wanted to be an actress. After high school graduation, she was accepted at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh...
 
27.
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...
 
28.
Margaux Hemingway
Actress, Lipstick
The surname alone connoted fortune, wealth and creativity, but Portland-born Margaux Hemingway worked hard throughout her career to carve her own niche in the Hemingway saga. Raised in Ketchum, Idaho, Margaux worked various jobs in the Sun Valley area before traveling to New York City in the mid 1970's...
 
29.
Jon-Erik Hexum
Actor, Voyagers!
In the early 1980s, this ruggedly handsome young man of Norwegian parentage was seen as the "next big thing", and then suddenly he was dead from an accident via a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Hexum was born and raised in Tenafly, New Jersey, where he was a musically gifted student at school playing both the horn & the violin in the school orchestra...
 
30.
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...
 
31.
Billie Holiday
Soundtrack, Schindler's List
Billie Holiday was a true artist of her day and rose as a social phenomenon in the 1950s. Her soulful, unique singing voice and her ability to boldly turn any material that she confronted into her own music made her a superstar of her time. Today, Holiday is remembered for her masterpieces, creativity and vivacity...
 
32.
Judy Holliday
Rejected by the Yale Drama School, Judy began in the theater as a backstage operator for Orson Welles' Mercury Theater. She made her stage debut when she joined Betty Comden and Adolph Green in a cabaret group called the Revuers. Working their way up through the circuit, the group was hired by 20th Century Fox to appear in the film Greenwich Village...
 
33.
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...
 
34.
Steve Irwin
Steve Irwin was born in 1962 to parents Lyn and Bob Irwin, who were animal naturalists. He shared the love for animals all his life, stemming from being raised at the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park. There, he partook in daily duties of animal feeding and care. He quickly established himself with the Queenland's government on the process of the country's Crocodile Relocation Program...
 
35.
 
37.
Carole Landis
In 1935, after high school and a brief marriage in San Bernardino, California, Frances Ridste ran away to San Francisco to work as a nightclub dancer and band singer under the stage name Carole Landis. She got to Hollywood at age 17 in 1936 and got mostly extra work, but in 1937 she landed a contract with Warner Bros...
 
38.
Mario Lanza
Soundtrack, Zodiac
Mario Lanza's life, sadly, has all the markings of an epic Shakespearean tragedy. The story is truly incredible: a wild, incendiary Philadelphia kid who can sing better than Enrico Caruso sets out to become the greatest dramatic opera singer who ever lived, is detoured by MGM honcho Louis B. Mayer and vixen Hollywood...
 
39.
Heath Ledger
When hunky, twenty-year-old heart-throb Heath Ledger first came to the attention of the public in 1999, it was all too easy to tag him as a "pretty boy" and an actor of little depth. He spent several years trying desperately to sway this image, but this was a double-edged sword. His work comprised nineteen films...
 
40.
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...
 
41.
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...
 
42.
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...
 
43.
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...
 
44.
Maggie McNamara
Actress, The Cardinal
Maggie McNamara -- with her brown hair in a ponytail -- arrives in Rome in Three Coins in the Fountain expecting great things to happen. Petite and slender, she looks almost like a schoolgirl in her prim blue suit. She is bright and vivacious and goes for what she wants -- a proposal from "Prince Dino De Cessi" played by Louis Jourdan...
 
45.
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...
 
46.
Carmen Miranda
Soundtrack, Radio Days
Carmen Miranda was a young hatmaker before she was invited to display her singing talents at a music academy. That attempt proved successful and she went on to become a popular singer in clubs and on radio in Brazil. It was during this time that she developed the costume with the distinctive fruit hat from the traditional headdress seen on black women fruit sellers...
 
47.
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...
 
48.
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...
 
49.
Mabel Normand
Mabel Normand was one of the comedy greats of early film. In an era when women are deemed 'not funny enough' it seems film history has forgotten her contributions. Her films debuted the Keystone Cops, Charlie Chaplin's tramp and the pie in the face gag. She co-starred with both Chaplin and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in a series of shorts...
 
50.
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...
 
51.
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...
 
52.
Édith Piaf
When one thinks of Edith Piaf, one thinks of love, sorrow and music. One did not breathe without the other two. Born in Paris practically on the streets on December 19, 1915, she struggled from day one, the daughter of street performers. The mother, a singer, eventually abandoned both Edith and her father for a solo career...
 
53.
Dana Plato
Dana Michelle Plato was born in Maywood, California, on Saturday 7 November 1964. Her first excursion into the film world occurred when she was eleven in the television film Beyond the Bermuda Triangle. Dana never really made an impact on the TV screen until she landed the part of Kimberly Drummond in the TV hit sitcom Diff'rent Strokes from 1978-1984...
 
54.
Tyrone Power
Tyrone Power was one of the great romantic swashbuckling stars of the mid-twentieth century, and the third Tyrone Power of four in a famed acting dynasty reaching back to the eighteenth century. His great-grandfather was the first Tyrone Power (1795-1841), a famed Irish comedian. His father, known to historians as Tyrone Power Sr....
 
55.
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...
 
56.
Freddie Prinze
Freddie Prinze was born Frederick Karl Pruetzel in New York City, New York, to a Puerto Rican mother, Aurea Elena Ruiz, and a German immigrant father, Edward Karl Pruetzel. Freddie grew up in the Washington Heights section of New York City. As a chubby child, he was often bullied, but was quite creative and bright in his extracurricular activities (he was known to have handmade a ham radio...
 
57.
Christopher Reeve
Actor, Superman
Christopher D'Olier Reeve was born September 25, 1952, in New York City, to journalist Barbara Johnson (née Barbara Pitney Lamb) and writer/professor F.D. Reeve (Franklin D'Olier Reeve). He came from an upper-class family; his paternal grandfather was CEO of Prudential Financial, and one of his maternal great-grandfathers was Supreme Court justice Mahlon Pitney...
 
58.
George Reeves
George Reeves was born George Keefer Brewer in Woolstock, Iowa, to Helen Roberta (Lescher) and Donald C. Brewer. He was of German, English, and Scottish descent. Reeves was raised in Pasadena, California, and educated at Pasadena Junior College. He was a skilled amateur boxer and musician. He interned as an actor at the famed Pasadena Playhouse...
 
59.
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...
 
60.
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...
 
61.
Gail Russell
An angelically beautiful leading lady with a demure and melancholy screen persona which reflected a deeper sadness in her real life. She was born Elizabeth Russell in Chicago, Illinois, the second child of George and Gladys (Barnet) Russell. She was painfully, almost disabling shy as a child. When she was a teenager, her family moved to Los Angeles...
 
62.
Sabu
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...
 
63.
Rebecca Schaeffer
Rebecca began modeling at the age of 16, going off to New York on her own to begin her career. Four months later, she found herself in Japan, modeling there. Eventually, she landed her role on My Sister Sam, for which she is best known. In 1989, she became a spokesperson for Thursday's Child, a charity for at-risk teens...
 
64.
Romy Schneider
Actress, Sissi
Romy Schneider was born on 23 September 1938 in Vienna, Austria into a family of actors. Making her film debut at the age of 15, her breakthrough came two years later in the very popular trilogy Sissi. Her mother, supervising her daughter's career, immediately approved Romy's participation in Christine...
 
65.
Jean Seberg
Actress, Breathless
Jean Dorothy Seberg was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, to Dorothy Arline (Benson), a substitute teacher, and Edward Waldemar Seberg, a pharmacist. Her father was of Swedish descent and her mother was of English and German ancestry. One month before her eighteenth birthday, Jean landed the title role in Otto Preminger's Saint Joan after a much-publicized contest involving some 18,000 hopefuls...
 
66.
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...
 
67.
Dorothy Stratten
Actress, Galaxina
Dorothy Stratten's story was brief, glorious and tragic. She was born Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten on February 28, 1960 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She grew up in a rough neighborhood in Vancouver, but kept out of trouble and went through the motions of school. While not a beauty as a child...
 
68.
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...
 
69.
Rudolph Valentino
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...
 
70.
 
71.
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...