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The Hollywood Book of Death: The Bizarre, Often Sordid, Passings of More than 125 American Movie and TV Idols, страница 1


The Hollywood Book of Death: The Bizarre, Often Sordid, Passings of More than 125 American Movie and TV Idols

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The Hollywood Book of Death: The Bizarre, Often Sordid, Passings of More than 125 American Movie and TV Idols

  Copyright © 2002 by Itzy. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the United States Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

  ISBN: 978-0-07-178476-4

  MHID: 0-07-178476-4

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  In memory of Kelly and Underdog—The Wonder Animals




  1 Accidental Deaths

  Nick Adams

  Sonny Bono

  Jeff Chandler

  Laird Cregar

  Linda Darnell

  James Dean

  Eric Fleming

  Janet Gaynor

  Buck Jones

  Grace Kelly

  Ernie Kovacs

  Brandon Lee

  Carole Lombard

  Jayne Mansfield

  Audie Murphy

  Rick (Ricky) Nelson

  Will Rogers

  Trinidad Silva Jr.

  2 Alcohol and Drugs

  John Barrymore

  John Belushi

  Montgomery Clift

  Bobby Driscoll

  Chris Farley

  W. C. Fields

  Judy Garland

  John Gilbert

  William Holden

  Veronica Lake

  Barbara La Marr

  Bela Lugosi

  River Phoenix

  Wallace Reid

  Gail Russell

  3 In Obscurity

  Jean Arthur

  Agnes Ayres

  Theda Bara

  Edwina Booth

  Clara Bow

  D. W. Griffith

  Hedy Lamarr

  Florence Lawrence

  Mary Pickford

  Martha Raye

  Norma Shearer

  4 Murders

  Dominique Dunne

  Phil Hartman

  Sal Mineo

  Dr. Haing S. Ngor

  Ramón Novarro

  Rebecca Schaeffer

  Tupac Shakur

  Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer

  Sharon Tate

  5 Natural Causes

  Bud Abbott

  Jim Backus

  Lucille Ball

  Suzan Ball

  Louise Beavers

  Amanda Blake

  William Boyd

  George Burns and

  Gracie Allen

  John Candy

  Lou Costello

  Joan Crawford

  Brad Davis

  Sammy Davis Jr.

  Marlene Dietrich

  Nelson Eddy

  Redd Foxx

  Clark Gable

  Greta Garbo

  John Garfield

  Betty Grable

  Edmund Gwenn

  Susan Hayward

  Rita Hayworth

  Audrey Hepburn

  Rock Hudson

  Madeline Kahn

  Michael Landon Liberace

  Maria Montez

  Warner Oland

  Anthony Perkins

  Susan Peters

  Tyrone Power

  Gilda Radner

  Kate Smith

  Lana Turner

  Rudolph Valentino

  Loretta Young

  Robert Young

  6 Puzzling Deaths

  Russ Columbo

  Bob Crane

  Albert Dekker

  Mario Lanza

  Bruce Lee

  Marilyn Monroe

  Elvis Presley

  George Reeves

  Jean Seberg

  Natalie Wood

  7 Suicides

  Pier Angeli

  Pedro Armendariz

  Don “Red” Barry

  Scotty Beckett

  Clara Blandick

  John Bowers

  Charles Boyer


  Dorothy Dandridge

  Peter Duel

  Peg Entwistle

  Richard Farnsworth

  Jon Hall

  Rusty Hamer

  Jon-Erik Hexum

  Carole Landis

  Dana Plato

  Freddie Prinze

  George Sanders

  Romy Schneider

  David Strickland

  Lupe Velez

  Hervé Villechaize

  Gig Young

  Appendix A

  Necrology of Notable Hollywood Actors and Directors

  Appendix B

  Where Notable Hollywood Actors and Directors Are Buried in the United States


  About the Author


  Academy of Dance on Film (Larry Billman), Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences: Margaret Herrick Library, Archive Photos (Kathy Lavelle), Ernest Cunningham, Michael Danahy (writer/producer of Mysteries
Scandals: “Sal Mineo”), Allan Ellenberger, Richard K. Hayes, Hollywood Film Archive (Richard Baer), Jani Klain, JC Archives (John Cocchi), Alvin H. Marill, Lee Mattson, Doug McClelland, Jim Meyer, Alfred L. Ortega, Photofest (Howard Mandelbaum, Rick Goeren, Harry Schultz), Michael R. Pitts, Brenda Scott Royce, Arleen Schwartz, André Soares, Dot Stenning, Allan Taylor (editorial consultant), Vincent Terrace.

  Special thanks to my agent, Stuart Bernstein, and to my editor, Matthew Carnicelli.


  When entertainers are at their professional peak and everyone is clamoring to see them perform, we are eager to learn everything there is to know (and then some) about these hot celebrities. The media willingly obliges by digging up details—minute or momentous—of where the future stars were born, how they grew up, what their likes and dislikes are, whom they have been or are married to, and what their children, if any, are like. No detail is too small for our consumption. Our way of paying homage is to learn as much as possible about the existence of these idols, both before and after they became “larger than life.”

  Even after show-business fame eventually passes, former notables frequently crop up in the news. This often occurs when some milestone has been reached, such as their attainment of old age, or when one of their old hit movies or TV series is being remade for a new generation, or they suddenly reappear for an unexpected career comeback. Usually, that is the last we hear of these former VIPs, who once meant so much to so many people. Then, abruptly, a news item (large or small) announces that the show-business veteran is dying or has passed away.

  If these former luminaries were famous enough in their heyday, or the manner of their death was unique, then it is likely that the media will cover the event. For a few days, they become prominent once again, as details of their professional and private lives are paraded forth as human interest stories. But if the celebrities in question have been out of the limelight for a long time, or if their previous fame was limited to a small group of enthusiasts, their deaths are generally only remarked upon in an industry trade paper, such as the Daily Variety or the Hollywood Reporter, and sometimes not even there.

  But wanting to learn more about the death of a movie or TV personality—including how the person died and where he or she is buried—is not just morbid fascination. This process provides closure to our once-devoted interest in their lives. As we would about family or friends, we have an interest in how these celebrities’ final days were spent, what their funerals were like, and where they are buried (or their ashes scattered). Acquiring such information may be idle curiosity, even of a morbid sort, by some people’s standards; but for others it is just something we want to know about someone who was important to us. Having enjoyed their creativity on the big or small screen, we want to ascertain when, where, and how they died so we can pay our own form of final respect to them. Perhaps knowing where they are buried gives us a way to say goodbye to persons who filled an important place in our lives. It might even provide inspiration for future trips to visit their gravesites in order to offer our personal respects.

  In The Hollywood Book of Death, my goal has been to provide you with birth, death, and burial site information for a great many American performers and directors who have passed away over the last century. For some of these notables, whose deaths were especially strange, sad, or even—unfortunately—brutal, I have provided individual mini-biographies. Each biography presents details about their time in the limelight, their private lives, and the way they coped with fame, so that you can remember how the stars of Hollywood lived, as well as how they died.

  Accidental Deaths

  Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California

  © 2001 by Albert L. Ortega

  Nick Adams

  [Nicholas Aloysius Adamshock]

  July 10, 1931–February 7, 1968

  Compact, blond Nick Adams was the quintessential movie fan, with a burning desire to become a movie star—no matter what. The restless son of immigrant parents from the Ukraine, he grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey. Later in life he would admit, “Movies were my life, you had to have an escape when you were living in a basement. I saw all the Cagney, Bogart, and Garfield pictures—the ones where a guy finally got a break. Odds against the world—that was my meat.”

  Not yet in his 20s, Nick hitchhiked to Los Angeles, where he initially had no luck in breaking into the film industry. Discouraged, he joined the Coast Guard in 1952. On weekend leaves he would return to Hollywood, where he finally talked his way into a role as a sailor in Mister Roberts (1955), engineering a 90-day leave to complete the part. For a brief assignment in the Western Strange Lady in Town (1955, with Greer Garson), he arranged a three-day pass.

  Nick Adams in Mission Mars (1968). Courtesy of JC Archives

  After his release from the service, the determined Nick gained a role in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), which starred his pal James Dean and Natalie Wood (who was his lover briefly). Nick’s big break occurred when he was cast as Andy Griffith’s bespectacled sidekick in the military comedy No Time for Sergeants (1958). Adams reached his show-business pinnacle as the star of the TV series The Rebel (1959–61), playing a crusading ex-Confederate officer in the old West. His next effort, Saints and Sinners, came and went in the 1962–63 TV season.

  Returning to movies, the determined Adams had a splashy role as an accused killer in Richard Chamberlain’s Twilight of Honor (1963). He then spent eight thousand dollars campaigning to receive an Academy Award for the showcase part. He was nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category that year, but lost the coveted prize. Nick’s career began to slide dramatically, and he was reduced to appearing in such trashy low-budget features as Frankenstein Meets the Giant Devil Fish (1967) and Mission Mars (1968).

  Offscreen, the overachieving Nick (noted for being a genuinely nice guy) became increasingly nervous about his wobbly career and his faltering marriage (he and his wife had separated after having two children). On the night of February 7, 1968, Nick was found dead in his West Los Angeles home—braced against the bedroom wall with his eyes wide open—by his lawyer, Evin Roder. The cause of death was given as an “accidental” overdose of paraldehyde, a sedative that Nick’s doctor had prescribed to calm his overactive nerves. He was buried in Berwick, Pennsylvania, not far from Nanticoke, the town where he was born. Nick Adams might well have been another victim of the curse that brought an early death to all the stars (including James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo) of Rebel Without a Cause.

  Sonny Bono

  [Salvatore Phillip Bono]

  February 16, 1935–January 5, 1998

  It was comedian Rodney Dangerfield who made famous the expression, “I don’t get no respect.” But in many ways, this was the story of Sonny Bono’s life. People tended to laugh at him, and he had to laugh too at the bizarre twists and turns of his life. Yet the shrewd Sonny had four different careers (pop musician, TV personality, restaurateur, politician) and he was successful at each of them. Behind those trademark bangs and diminutive figure, he just refused to fail, and was creative enough to reinvent himself constantly.

  He was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1935, the youngest child of Sicilian immigrants Santo and Jean Bono. The impoverished Bono clan moved to Los Angeles when Salvatore was seven. His mother operated a small dress shop, and his dad earned the minimum wage as a trucker. Eventually, his parents divorced, and this devastated the boy.

  At Inglewood High School, Sonny was not much for studies. He was far more interested in writing songs, even though he never learned to read music and only knew four chords on the piano. After dropping out of school, Sonny worked as a butcher’s boy, a waiter, and a delivery boy, all the while writing songs. He sent R & B artist Johnny Otis his song “Ecstasy,” and was thrilled to hear it played on the radio. He married waitress Donna Rankin in 1954; they would have one daughter, Christine. Determined to break into the music industry, Sonny forced himself to write a song a day. He eventually got a job at Specialt
y Records, the home of Sam Cooke and Little Richard. He even started his own record company, and when that flopped, he bounced back and became a record promoter.

  By the early 1960s, Sonny was divorced and working for Phil Spector at Philles Records. He was also singing background music for such groups as the Ronettes and the Righteous Brothers and, as always, writing a flow of songs. Everything changed in 1962 when he met the sloe-eyed, exotic Cherilyn LaPiere, who physically towered over him. At first they were platonic friends who decided to work together, sometimes performing as “Cesar & Cleo.” But eventually, a romance blossomed, and they were wed in Tijuana, Mexico, in October 1964. (That same year, a relationship with another woman led to the birth of Sonny’s illegitimate son, Sean.) Now billed as Sonny & Cher, the duo made a big breakthrough in 1965 with “I Got You, Babe,” which Bono had written for his wife.

  By the end of 1967, with such hits as “What Now, My Love” and “The Beat Goes On,” Sonny & Cher had sold more than 40 million records around the globe. For many fans, the duo’s modest hipness, along with their ever-changing mod wardrobes, made them a big fascination. Sonny and Cher were the undisputed king and queen of soft rock.

  Sonny, 11 years older than Cher, was publicized as the brains of the duo, and he wanted to be the mentor of his young wife. But mammoth success (along with their fantastic array of material possessions and living quarters) overwhelmed both of them. By 1967, when they made their film debut in the quickly dismissed Good Times, their careers were on the downswing. Wanting to have a showcase for Cher on camera, they helped finance Chastity (1969), which Sonny directed. It was a costly flop. The embarrassing movie shared the same name as their daughter, Chastity Bono, born on March 4, 1969.

  Nearly broke, Sonny and Cher took to the road, playing nightclubs across the country. The change of venue allowed them to develop their show-business act, which would become a hit on TV in the near future. The gimmick was having the sassy, savvy Cher put down her game but lame spouse—about anything from his height to his Italian accent to his singing capabilities. When he would retort, the barbs would bounce off the blasé acting Cher. Audiences loved it! The duo got their first TV series, The Sonny Cher Comedy Hour, in the summer of 1971, which led profitably to the show reappearing in late 1971 and lasting through 1974. Once again, they were back on top—and spending money as if there was an infinite supply of it.

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