In Memorium: The Entertainers & Inspirations We Lost in March
There have been tons of people die throughout history, some great and some not and some just your average joe. In this article, I will be writing about the inspirations and entertainers who died in the month of March.
Dolores Costello - March 1, 1979
Maurice and Mae Costello had little Dolores Costello in 1905. Maurice began his film career in 1908 and would soon become the most popular matinee idol of that time. Dolores and her sister Helene had their screen debuts in 1911, both of them appearing in numerous films with their father. The sisters eventually found their own gig in 1924 in the Broadway show George White Sandals. This show is what caught the attention of Warner Bros who then signed Dolores and Helene. Working with Warner Bros. is also how Dolores met her future husband John Barrymore.
John and Dolores soon costarred in the film The Sea Beast. During their kissing scene, Dolores actually fainted in John's arms! Despite Mae Costello's disapproval, Dolores married John in 1928. They had two children, DeDe and John Drew Barrymore. Dolores took a break from her career to raise her children. Dolores, convinced by her sister Helene, divorced John in 1935 after 7 years of marriage because of John's excessive drinking.
After the divorce, Dolores returned to acting, gaining her career back even though she had been out of it for a while. She was, however, forced into early retirement because of her physical appearance having been damaged due to the harsh studio make-up used years ago which was now causing her skin on her cheeks to deteriorate. Dolores lived mostly in seclusion on her avocado farm, Fallbrook Ranch, where, sadly, most of the Barrymore and Costello family memorabilia was destroyed in a flood. Dolores passed away on March 1, 1979 due to emphysema.
Jackie Coogan - March 1, 1984
Jackie Coogan was born into a family of vaudevillains (people who perform burlesque-type song and dance acts). He was on the stage at 4 years of age and was touring with his family the next year. While performing on stage, he was spotted by Charlie Chaplin who immediately planned a movie for him and Jackie to star in together. Chaplin gave him a small role in A Day's Pleasure which proved Jackie definitely had a screen presence. But the big film that Chaplin had planned since the day he first saw Jackie on stage was The Kid, the story of a man who takes in a homeless child only to lose him to social services. The film proved to be very successful, launching Jackie's film career. Jackie still stayed loyal to his roots, however, and continued touring with his father as well as making films.
By 1923, Jackie became one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood. He joined with MGM and, by the age of 13, he had grown up and his career took a downward turn. His film career ended with 1930's Tom Sawyer and 1931's Huckleberry Finn.
In 1935, Jackie's father died and his mother married Arthur Bernstein who was also Jackie's business manager. Jackie requested that he receive the money he made as a child star but his mother and Arthur refused his request. Jackie filed a lawsuit for the $4 million he had earned. Under California law at the time, he had no rights to the money he made as a child and was only awarded $126,000. The public went into an uproar which led to the passing of the Coogan Act which set up a trust fund for any child actor in order to protect his earnings.
In 1937, Jackie married Betty Grable but the marriage only lasted 3 years. During WWII, he served in the Army and returned to Hollywood when the war was over. He was unable to restart his movie career and settled for work in B movies, mostly small parts. It wasn't until 1964 that he became loved once again in The Addams Family, playing as Uncle Fester. Jackie sadly passed away in 1984 of a heart attack.
Joe Besser - March 1, 1988
Joe Besser started out as a vaudeville just like Jackie Coogan did, only Joe wasn't born into it. Joe broke into films in the 1930s, frequently a guest star in Abbot & Costello's films and later appeared regularly in their 1950s situation comedy show.
It was in 1956 when Joe snagged the role for which he would be most remembered: he joined The Three Stooges. It didn't last long, however, as he quit the team after two years to care for his sick wife. After her death, he found work on The Joey Bishop Show and voiced Babu in the animated show Jeannie. Joe sadly died of heart failure on March 1, 1988.
Philip K. Dick - March 2, 1982
Philip Kindred Dick was born in 1928 along with his twin sister Jane, who died 8 weeks later due to an allergy from her mother's milk....allegedly. Philip's parents split up during his childhood and he moved with his mother to Berkeley, CA.
In 1952, Philip became a published author, his first sale being the short story Roog. Three years later, he published his first novel Solar Lottery. During the 50s and 60s, he wrote and sold nearly a hundred short stories and at least 24 novels, most of them sci-fi/fantasy. His award winning The Man in the High Castle is now a highly acclaimed TV show.
Philip's personal life, however, was extremely chaotic, being married five times and on top of that had issues with drug experimentation. His habits worsened and by the 70s he had slowed to a stop with his writing. He made a comeback in 1974 with the Campbell award-winning novel Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. 1974 proved to be a big year for Philip as he claimed to have been visited by God. The novels he wrote from then til the end of his life were all about the strange visitation, especially Valis which was about an extraterrestrial machine choosing to make contact with a schizophrenic, dug-addled sci-fi writer named Philip K. Dick. Was this actually an autobiography or was it inspired sci-fi? We may never know.
In 1982, he finally received financial stability when the producers of the film Blade Runner bought the rights to his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep on which the film is based. Shortly before the film released, Philip died of a heart attack. Had he lived, perhaps he would have enjoyed other films that were based on his works such as Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, and Next.
Randolph Scott - March 2, 1987
George Randolph Scott was raised in Charlotte, North Carolina in a wealthy family. After serving in the Army during WWI, he attended the Georgia Institute of Technology but, after being injured playing football, transferred to the University of North carolina and graduated with a degree in Textile Engineering/Manufacturing.
He discovered acting and moved to California where he met and auditioned for Howard Hughes. He lost that particular role but was hired to coach Gary Cooper on how to use a Virginian dialect. In return, Gary got him a small role in the film The Virginian. Paramount Pictures scouts saw him in a play and offered him a contract. Randolph met Cary Grant on the set of Hot Saturday and the two moved in together. They lived together until 1942 when Randolph married, and later divorced, wealthy heiress Marion DuPont in the 1930s.
He finally found leading roles in Paramount and found stardom with the Western genre in the late 1940s. He soon became one of the top box office stars of the 50s and also a critically important figure in the Western genre. Randolph retired after the film Ride the High Country as a multimillionaire, parly due to his smart investments. He died in 1987 due to heart and lung ailments.
Lou Costello - March 3, 1959
Born Louis Cristillo in New Jersey, Costello had a desire for movies even at a young age. He dropped out of high school and headed west to break into showbiz. He got a job at MGM as a carpenter. From there, he moved on to stuntman to vaudeville and finally to being a comic.
In 1931, while working in Brooklyn, his partner became ill and Bud Abbott filled in for him, thus began a long and beautiful friendship. The two formed their famous comedy team and worked burlesque, vaudeville, and movie houses. In 1938, they received national exposure through the Kate Smith Hour radio show and signed with Universal Pictures the next year. Their film debut was One Night in the Tropics which in turn landed them their own picture the very next year Buck Privates. It was a hit, grossing a then-record $10 million on a $180,000 budget.
The team split up in 1957 after 26 years of success. Both wound up broke after troubles with the IRS. Lou died in 1959 of a heart attack.
William Frawley - March 3, 1966
William Frawley started as a singer at St. Paul's Catholic Church and also played at the Burlington Opera House. He and his brother Paul did vaudeville abd Will soon joined pianist Franz Rath in an act that they took to San Francisco in 1910. Four years later he formed a comedy act with his new wife Edna Broedt, touring until they divorced in 1927.
Will moved on to Broadway and then, in 1932, moved on to Hollywood and joined with Paramount Pictures. By the time he joined I Love Lucy as Fred, he had performed in over 100 films. After I Love Lucy ended, he starred in My Three Sons. He was forced to retire due to poor health and collapsed of a heart attack in 1966 while walking along Hollywood Boulevard after having just watched a movie at the theater.
John Candy - March 4, 1944
John Candy found his passion for drama while attending a community college. In 1971, he made his debut on TV in an episode of Police Surgeon. Candy had some small roles in Canadian television but his big success came at the age of 27 when he became part of the comedy group Second City in Toronto. The group inspired the TV show SCTV where he performed alongside greats such as Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, and Harold Ramis.
Candy landed a role with Dan Aykroyd in the successful The Blues Brothers film. After playing in Stripes, Candy returned to Second City in SCTV Network. Candy finally landed his breakout role in Splash, a film that was a bigger hit than Stripes.
His career continued to bring good fortune with films such as Brewster's Millions, Spaceballs, and Planes, Trains, & Automobiles. After appearing in the smash-hit Home Alone, Candy's career fell into a bit of a slump which caused him to take on serious roles in JFK and Cool Runnings.
In 1994, Candy traveled to Mexico to film the spoof Wagons East. It was in Mexico where Candy had a heart attack and passed away.
Minnie Pearl - March 4, 1996
Minnie Pearl was actually born Sarah Colley and had studied drama in Belmont College in Nashville, TN. She intended to be a serious actress but created the Minnie Pearl character after touring with an Atlanta company. Minnie Pearl became her lif's work. Her first Grand Ol' Opry appearance was on the radio show and she then toured for 27 years.
Minnie was diagnosed with cancer in 1985 but recovered after a double mastectomy in 1985. She gave up performing in 1991 after a mild stroke and died in 1996 after yet another stroke.
John Belushi - March 5, 1982
John Belushi was a bit of a hellion growing up, but once he reached high school he became the All-American boy. He was co-captain of his football team and was elected Homecoming King in his Senior Year. He developed an interest in acting and put aside his plans of becoming a football coach to pursue a film career. Throughout the next few years, John performed in an improv group and in 1971 joined Second City where he performed on-stage comic performances alongside Harold Ramis and Joe Flaherty. He performed six nights a week, perfecting his unique comedic form.
In 1972, John joined National Lampoon's Lemmings on Broadway. The show was originally booked for a short 6 week run but turned into a 10 month run, opening to full crowds almost every time.The next year, John was hired as a writer for National Lampoon's Radio Hour which eventually became The National Lampoon Show in 1975. John worked on Saturday Night Live that same year and continued to do so for several years to come.
In 1978, he appeared in Goin' South which starred and was directed by Jack Nicholson. It was here that John Landis noticed him and cast him in National Lampoon's Animal House. John's character Bluto made the film a box-office hit and the year of 1978's top-grossing comedy.
In 1979, John quit SNL to work with Dan Aykroyd in a series of projects including The Blues Brothers. John's drug use was getting worse, however, which ultimately led to his death in 1982.
Stanley Kubrick - March 7, 1999
Stanley Kubrick was a smart man but had always done poorly in school. His father was desperate to find something that would interest his son so he turned him to chess. Stanley took to the game with a passion and became a skilled player. Through chess, he developed an eye to see things that others couldn't and also an incredible patience.
Stanley received a camera for his 13th birthday which led to him becoming an avid and skilled photographer. After selling a photograph to Look Magazine, Stan began to associate with other photographers for the magazine and at the age of 17 was offered a job as an apprentice. After years of photography with Look, Stanley and his friend Alexander Singer planned a move into film.
In 1950, Stanley used his savings to make the documentary Day of they Flight followed by several shorts. He attracted several investors and hustled chess games, saving up more money. With his new savings, he made Fear and Desire. The film itself received mixed reviews and the journey to making it was not favorable at all. His next two films finally caught Hollywood's attention and in 1957, Kubrick had the honor of directing Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory. Kubrick was even asked by Douglas himself to take over production of Spartacus.
His superior talent led to the possibility of directing Marlon Brando in One-Eyed Jacks but negotiations failed and Brando ended up directing the film himself. Stanley decided he had had enough of Hollywood and moved permanently to England. Stanley took a big risk by making Dr. Strangelove but it turned into a critically and commercially acclaimed success. He finally gained financial freedom to work on whatever he wanted.
After some minor films and shorts, he collaborated with sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke with the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Many critics hail the film as the best ever made and set the tone for many sci-fi films to follow. His A Clockwork Orange stirred up tons of controversy and Barry Lyndon finally gave Stanley the label of a perfectionist. He had high demands of his crew and cast and expected them to follow his rules and meet his expectations.
After The Shining received disapproval from author Stephen King, it took seven years for Stanley to bounce back with Full Metal Jacket. Stanley's final film was Eyes Wide Shut. He had began working on A.I.: Artificial Intelligence but suffered a fatal heart attack during production. Steven Spielberg, a close friend, finished the project in Stan's honor.
Corey Haim - March 10, 2010
Corey Haim broke into film in 1984 as a child actor. His first film was Firstborn, a drama about a young child caught in the middle of a family war. He received a Young Artist Award the next year for his role in A Time to Live. Lucas showed his acting abilities but even big-name Charlie Sheen couldn't save the film from flopping.
1987 proved to be the big year for Corey when he a good friend Corey Feldman teamed up in The Lost Boys. After that, though, his films proved to be more and more disappointing. He eventually died in 2010 due to pneumonia.
Peter Graves - March 14, 2010
As a young boy, Peter excelled in sports and music. His instrument of choice was the saxophone, which is a dificult instrument to master. By age 16, he became a radio announcer for WMIN in Minneapolis. He joined the Air Force during WWII and stayed there for two years.
After leaving the military, he studied drama at the University of Minnesota and headed to Hollywood after graduation. He made his film debut in Rogue River. A long career of relatively minor roles and B-movies followed. It wasn't until 1967 when he would rach fame with the TV series Mission: Impossible, which ran for 7 seasons and two comeback seasons in 1988 and '89 and also inspired 6 films featuring Tom Cruise.
He focused on smaller roles in movies in the late 70s while he starred in Fantasy Island then fell back on smaller roles once again. He had a small role in the hit show 7th Heaven and sadly died of a heart attack not long after the show ended.
Natasha Richardson - March 18, 2009
Natasha Richardson was born into a "film family". She was the daughter of producer Tony Richardson and actress Vanessa Redgrave. Trained at London's Central School of Speech and Drama, Natasha performed on stage rather extensively, mostly Shakespearian plays. In 1986, she won the London Drama Critics' Most Promising Newcomer Award for her performance as Nina in The Seagull which also starred her mother and Jonathan Pryce.
Natasha made her film debut in Gothic, which caught the attention of director Paul Schrader. Paul cast her in Patty Hearst. Natasha went on to become successful in such films as A Month in the Country and Fat Man and Little Boy.
In 1994, she married actor Liam Neeson and the following year co-starred with him in the film Nell. She continued balancing film and stage shows and garnered more awards for her vast array of performances.
Sadly, Natasha died of a serious head injury after a fall while skiing in Canada.
Elizabeth Taylor - March 23, 2011
Elizabeth Taylor was born in London to American parents, where she lived for seven years until 1939 when her parents decided it was best to move to America when it was obvious that a war was brewing. A family friend commented on how beautiful young Liz Taylor was and suggested she go for a screen test. The executives at Universal Pictures were impressed enough to sign her to a contract. Universal dropped her contract after one film, but was soon picked up by MGM Studios. In 1944, Elizabeth became a star after her role in National Velvet in which she played Velvet Brown. The film was a hit, grossing well over $4 million. This caused MGM to extend her contract, making her the Studios' top child star. She continued her success with Courage of Lassie and Life with Father and Little Women.
During the 50s, Liz appeared in one film after the other, all of them successes. Her first bomb, though, hit in 1957 with Raintree County. Despite what critics and the box office said, Taylor was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance.
Liz made a comeback the following year with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and was once again nominated for an Academy Award. One more Oscar nomination followed until 1960 when she finally won for her performance in Butterfield 8. Liz took a three year break and returned in 1963 in Cleopatra and nearly died during production due to a serious illness. The film was where she also met her fifth husband Richard Burton. She had a couple less-than-great films but made yet another comeback with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, for which she won her second Oscar. She continued a her long and successful career until 1997 when she was entered into a hospital for the removal of a brain tumor. She died 14 years later from congestive heart failure.
Richard Griffiths - March 28, 2013
Richard Griffiths built a reputation in radio and classical stage where he gave grand performances of Henry VIII in The Merry Wives if Windsor and Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream. He was born to deaf parents so he learned sign language at an early age. interestingly enough, he also taught himself how to perform dialects which allowed him the chance to perform ethnic portrayals.
He's best known for his period pieces such as Withnail & I, and King Ralph and also his comedic turn in Guarding Tess. He took a turn for the dark side of film with Sleepy Hollow and joined the fantasy world of Harry Potter.
Richard Griffiths sadly passed away in 2013 due to complications from heart surgery.
Brandon Lee - March 31, 1993
Brandon Lee was born to Martial Arts legend Bruce Lee and Linda Lee Cadwell. The Lee family moved to Hong Kong where Brandon spent the first 8 years of his life, becoming fluent in Cantonese and began learning Martial Arts from his father.
After Bruce's death in 1973, Brandon, his mother, and sister Shannon all moved to Los Angeles. He attended high school there and that's also where he found his acting ability and developed superior Martial Arts skills. He continued his education at Emerson College in Massachusetts, majoring in theatre. Lee took his acting work seriously, studying at Strasberg Academy. His first professional job was when he was 20 in the film Kung Fu: The Movie. He continued on to star in films such as Legacy of Rage, Rapid Fire, and Showdown in Little Tokyo.
Lee's best film, and sadly his last film, was The Crow, The film crew shot a scene in which they decided to use a gun without consent from the weapons coordinator who mysteriously had been sent home early that night. Michael Massee was handed the gun which was supposed to be full of blanks, however, a real bullet found its way in the barrel somehow. Brandon Lee was shot during filming and the crew didn't even notice until they realized Brandon wasn't getting back up when he should have. He was rushed to the hospital where doctors worked on hi for five hours but to no avail. The bullet had lodged into Brandon's spine. He was pronounced dead March 31, 1993, just 17 days before he was supposed to marry Eliza Hutton.
- Katharine Blake, March 1, 1991
- Terry Frost, March 1, 1993
- Bonnie Franklin, March 1, 2013
- Martha Wright, March 1, 2016
- Edith Craig, March 2, 1979
- Janear Hines, March 2, 1981
- Paul D. Zimmerman, March 2, 1993
- Mercedes McCambridge, March 2, 2004
- Jack Wild, March 2, 2006
- Alice Pearce, March 3, 1966
- Barbara Ruick, March 3, 1974
- Frank Wilcox, March 3, 1974
- Percy Marmont, March 3, 1977
- Lois Wilson, March 3, 1988
- Robert Beatty, March 3, 1992
- Sandy Dennis, March 3, 1992
- Ted Liss, March 3, 1992
- Anita Morris, March 3, 1994
- Torin Thatcher, March 4, 1981
- Arthur Babbit, March 4, 1992
- Horton Foote, March 4, 2009
- Patsy Cline, March 5, 1963
- Jay Silverheels, March 5, 1980
- Michael Sklar, March 5, 1984
- Ed Flanders, March 5, 1995
- William Hopper, March 6, 1970
- Charles Wagenheim, March 6, 1979
- Henry Wilcoxon, March 6, 1984
- Douglas Marland, March 6, 1993
- Dana Reeve, March 6, 2006
- Robert Livingston, March 7, 1988
- James "Cool Papa" Bell, March 7, 1991
- Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, March 8, 1973
- Henry Hull, March 8, 1977
- "Joltin'" Joe DiMaggio, March 8, 1999
- Olga Chekova, March 9, 1980
- Alan Badel, March 9, 1982
- Fernando Rey, March 9, 1994
- George Burns, March 9, 1996
- Brad Delp, March 9, 2007
- Ray Milland, March 10, 1986
- Robert James Waller, March 10, 2017
- David Carroll, March 11, 1992
- Richard Brooks, March 11, 1992
- Anne Frank, March 12, 1945
- Charlie "Bird" Parker, March 12, 1955
- Josephine Hull, March 12, 1957
- John Cazale, March 12, 1978
- Maurice Evans, March 12, 1989
- Robert Ludlum, March 12, 2001
- Adrienne Corri, March 13, 2016
- C.V. Wood Jr, March 14, 1992
- Ralph James, March 14, 1992
- Charles Harrelson, March 15, 2007
- Ron Silver, March 15, 2009
- Carroll Nye, March 17, 1974
- Grace Stafford, March 17, 1992
- Jack Arnold, March 17, 1992
- Helen Hayes, March 17, 1993
- Rick Aviles, March 17, 1995
- Gail Davis, March 17, 1997
- Peggy Wood, March 18, 1978
- Robin Harris, March 18, 1990
- Joe Santos, March 18, 2016
- Edward Platt, March 19, 1974
- Jeff Ward, March 19, 1993
- John Ireland, March 21, 1992
- Dack Rambo, March 21, 1994
- MacDonald Carey, March 21, 1994
- James Rebhorn, March 21, 2014
- Peter Brown, March 21, 2016
- Rita Gam, March 22, 2016
- Duncan Macrae, March 23, 1967
- Philip Bourneuf, March 23, 1979
- Queen Elizabeth I, March 24, 1603
- Jules Verne, March 24, 1905
- Alice Sapritch, March 24, 1990
- Ludwig Van Beethoven, March 26, 1827
- Eric Lynn "Eazy-E" Wright, March 26, 1995
- Randy Castillo, March 26, 2002
- Yuri Gagarin, March 27, 1968
- Ian Dury, March 27, 2000
- Billy Wilder, March 27, 2002
- Dudley Moore, March 27, 2002
- Warren Stevens, March 27, 2012
- Virginia Woolf, March 28, 1941
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, March 28, 1969
- Maria Trapp, March 28, 1987
- Patrick Troughton, March 28, 1987
- Hugh O'Connor - March 28, 1995
- Earl Scruggs, March 28, 2012
- James Noble, March 28, 2016
- Peggy Fortnum, March 28, 2016
- Rudy Bond, March 29, 1982
- Bernard Blier, March 29, 1989
- Paul Henried, March 29, 1992
- Bill Travers, March 29, 1994
- Eddie Ryder, March 29, 1997
- Patty Duke, March 29, 2016
- James Cagney, March 30, 1986
- Michael Jeter, March 30, 2003
- Dith Pran, March 30, 2008
- Kate O'Mara, March 30, 2014
- Charlotte Bronte, March 31, 1855
- Harry Ritz, March 31, 1996
- Douglas Wilmer, March 31, 2016
It doesn't seem fair that so many great people are taken from us so soon, but we can remember them for their accomplishments and spirited personalities. They will all certainly be missed.
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© 2017 Alec Zander