Died Today in History ›
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Published: 6 months ago
Philip Seymour Hoffman swept the awards circuit for his role in 2005's "Capote," walking away with an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, a SAG and almost two dozen more. It was a crowning performance in an outstanding career, one that included notable roles in "The Master," "Doubt," and "The Hunger Games" series. Hoffman was Tony-nominated for several Broadway performances and appeared on television shows including "Law & Order" and "Empire Falls." He was considered by many to be among the finest actors of his generation, gaining the respect of his peers and critics. We remember Hoffman's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2016: Bob Elliott, U.S. comedian and actor who was one-half of the popular comedy duo Bob and Ray, dies at 92.
2014: Philip Seymour Hoffman, U.S. actor whose notable roles included "Capote" and "Doubt," dies at 46.
From 1992's "Scent of a Woman" to 2013's "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," Hoffman made small roles seem larger and more important. He turned what could have been mindless blockbuster stints into fine acting jobs. He moved seamlessly among film, television, and the stage. His range was the stuff of legend, on display as he played a kind-hearted nurse in "Magnolia," an ailing and aging theater director in "Synecdoche, New York," and author Truman Capote, the title character in the movie that earned him an Academy Award for best actor. Read more
2014: Bunny Rugs, born William Clarke, Jamaican singer who led the reggae band Third World, dies at 65.
Clarke worked with the band Inner Circle and top reggae producer Lee "Scratch" Perry in Jamaica before joining Third World in 1976. The next year, the band released "96 Degrees in the Shade," one of its most popular albums, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. The group was signed to Island Records and had hits on British and U.S. charts, including "Now That We Found Love," "Always Around," and "Reggae Ambassador." He performed on all of Third World's records except the group's debut. Read more
2012: Dorothy Gilman, U.S. mystery writer known best for the "Mrs. Pollifax" series, dies at 88.
2008: Katoucha, Guinean model who was very popular in France and then became an activist, dies at 47.
The Guinean-born model told The Associated Press in 1994 that she ran away to Europe at 17 aiming to be a model. Her big break came when Jules-Francois Crahay, then the designer at Lanvin, spotted her in a lineup, according to her obituary by the AP. The label hired her as a fitting model. Her first catwalk modeling was for Thierry Mugler at the start of the 1980s. After quitting the runway, she turned to speaking out actively against female circumcision, describing her own experience at 9 in a book, "Katoucha, in My Flesh," which was published in 2007. Read more
2007: Eric von Schmidt, U.S. folk singer-songwriter who was very influential in the 1960s East Coast folk revival and had his songs covered by artists including Bob Dylan, dies at 75.
2007: Joe Hunter, U.S. pianist who was a member of the Motown session players known as the Funk Brothers, dies at 79.
2005: Max Schmeling, German boxer who was the world heavyweight champion from 1930 to 1932, dies at 99.
He became the first German – and European – heavyweight world champion when he beat Jack Sharkey June 12, 1930, in New York after the American was disqualified for a fourth-round low blow. Schmeling lost his title to Sharkey two years later on a disputed decision, but he came back June 19, 1936, to knock out the previously unbeaten Joe Louis in the 12th round – a feat that the Nazi regime trumpeted as a sign of "Aryan supremacy." Schmeling came into the fight as a 10-1 underdog, and his victory is considered one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. But, in a rematch June 22, 1938, at Yankee Stadium, Louis knocked Schmeling out in the first round to retain the world title. Read more
1997: Sanford Meisner, U.S. actor and acting teacher who developed the Meisner technique, whose students included Diane Keaton and Steve McQueen, dies at 91.
1996: Gene Kelly, U.S. actor, dancer and singer known for his popularity in movie musicals such as "Singing in the Rain," dies at 83.
Kelly's stunning talent and grace made him one of the greatest dancers of all time. He brought ballet to the masses and created unique and groundbreaking choreography – and all this started with a little boy who hated his dance lessons. When Kelly's mother enrolled 8-year-old Kelly and his older brother in dance classes, the two rebelled. "We didn't like it much and were continually involved in fistfights with the neighborhood boys who called us sissies," he later recalled. We can thank romance for bringing young Kelly back into the dance world. Read more
1995: Fred Perry, English tennis star who won eight grand slam titles during his career, dies at 85.
1995: Donald Pleasence, English actor who appeared as Dr. Loomis in "Halloween," dies at 75.
1994: Willie Mae Ford Smith, U.S. popular gospel singer-songwriter, dies at 89.
1994: John Littlejohn, Chicago blues guitarist and singer, dies at 62.
1992: Bert Parks, U.S. television personality who was the host of the "Miss America" telecast from 1955 to 1979, dies at 77.
In the glory days of the "Miss America" pageant, Parks was as much a part of the event as the 50-plus women who competed for the crown each year. Although Parks may not have been what Americans dreamed of as they awaited the next pageant, he was the constant in a sea of ever-changing contestants – the face of the pageant from 1955 to 1979. And the song he sang in tribute to the winner became legend. Read more
1987: Alistair MacLean, Scottish novelist who wrote popular thrillers such as "The Guns of Navarone," dies at 64.
1987: Alfred Lion, German-born U.S. record label owner who was a co-founder of Blue Note Records, which recorded many of the biggest names in jazz music during the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, dies at 78.
1981: Louise Lorraine, U.S. actress who played Jane in "The Adventures of Tarzan," dies at 76.
1979: Sid Vicious, English bassist who was a member of the iconic punk band the Sex Pistols, dies of a heroin overdose at 21.
Vicious, born John Simon Ritchie, "has been turned into punk's ultimate nihilistic icon," the Guardian newspaper said in 2009. Jon Savage, author of the punk history "England's Dreaming," noted the many ways that Vicious "has percolated through the culture: There are Sid dolls, thousands of photos on the internet, appearances in 'The Simpsons' and Gavin Turk's sculpture 'Pop.' Sid has become a romantic hero. Like James Dean, nobody really cares what he was like, because he took such a good picture and, according to the script, flamed out so spectacularly." Read more
1978: Wendy Barrie, U.S. actress who hosted one of TV's first talk shows, "The Wendy Barrie Show," dies at 65.
1969: Boris Karloff, English actor well-known for his portrayal of Frankenstein's monster in the movie "Frankenstein" and its sequels, dies at 81.
1918: John L. Sullivan, U.S. first heavyweight champion of gloved boxing and the last champion of bare-knuckle boxing, dies at 59.
1904: William C. Whitney, U.S. political leader and founder of the prominent Whitney family, dies at 62.