Died Today in History ›
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Published: 10 months ago
Clara Bow was the very first It Girl, the actress for whom the term was coined. One of the earliest movie stars and one of the most successful film actresses of the silent era, Bow brought moviegoers to theaters in droves by starring in films including "Mantrap," "Wings," and "It" – the film that generated her enduring nickname. When she transitioned to talkies, fans learned that she had a Brooklyn accent, and they stayed in love with her, for the short time she remained in the business. She retired in 1933, still in her 20s, and went down in history as an unmatchable star. We remember Bow's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2015: Denise Lor, U.S. actress and singer who was a featured artist on "The Garry Moore Show," dies at 86.
2013: Jay Robinson, U.S. actor known best for his role as Emperor Caligula in the movie "The Robe," dies at 83.
2013: A.C. Lyles, U.S. movie producer for Paramount Pictures known for producing Westerns in the 1950s and '60s, dies at 95.
As Paramount's ambassador of goodwill, Lyles appeared regularly in his later years at film festivals, colleges, and nostalgia conventions to talk about the studio's legacy and its current product, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. He also welcomed visiting notables to the studio and conducted tours of the Paramount lot, which he knew intimately. He worked well into his 90s, operating out of a suite once occupied by Fred Astaire and bedecked with scores of photographs of the many stars Lyles had been friends with. Read more
2012: Herbert Lom, Czech actor known best for his roles in "The Ladykillers" and the "Pink Panther" movies, dies at 95.
Lom had a handsomely lugubrious look that was suited to comedy, horror, and everything in between, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. It served him well over a six-decade career in which roles ranged from Napoleon Bonaparte – whom he played twice – to the Phantom of the Opera. The London-based star appeared in more than 100 films, including "Spartacus" and "El Cid," and acted alongside film greats including Charlton Heston and Kirk Douglas. But Lom was most famous for playing Charles Dreyfus, boss to Peter Sellers' befuddled Clouseau in the popular "Pink Panther" series, from "A Shot in the Dark" in 1964 to "Son of the Pink Panther" in 1993. Read more
2011: Johnny "Country" Mathis, U.S. country music singer-songwriter who had a top-20 country hit in 1963 with "Please Talk to My Heart," dies at 77.
2010: George Blanda, U.S. Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback who played in the NFL for four decades and remains the oldest person to play an NFL game at the age of 48, dies at 83.
It was a five-game stretch for Oakland in 1970 that is the lasting imprint from his career, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. As a 43-year-old, Blanda led the Raiders to four wins and one tie with late touchdown passes or field goals. Later that season, he became the oldest quarterback to play in a championship game, throwing two touchdown passes and kicking a field goal in Oakland's 27-17 loss to Baltimore in the AFC title game. His performance that season earned him The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. Read more
2009: William Safire, U.S. journalist and author who was a longtime political columnist for The New York Times, dies at 79.
Safire spent more than 30 years writing on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. In his "On Language" column in The New York Times Magazine and 15 books, Safire traced the origins of words and everyday phrases such as "straw-man," "under the bus," and "the proof is in the pudding." Safire penned more than 3,000 columns, aggressively defending civil liberties and Israel while tangling with political figures. Bill Clinton famously wanted to punch the curmudgeonly columnist in the nose after Safire called his wife "a congenital liar." Read more
2007: Dale Houston, U.S. singer who partnered with Grace Broussard to form the duo Dale & Grace, who had a hit song in 1963 with "I'm Leaving It Up to You," dies at 67.
2003: Donald O'Connor, U.S. dancer, singer, and actor who starred in the movies "Francis" and "Singin' in the Rain," dies at 78.
1998: Doak Walker, U.S. Pro Football Hall of Fame running back for the Detroit Lions who was a five-time All-Pro and won two NFL championships, dies at 71.
1992: Keith Prentice, U.S. actor known best for starring in the movie "The Boys in the Band," dies at 52.
1991: Oona O'Neill, U.S. actress who was the daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill and the longtime wife of actor Charlie Chaplin, dies at 66.
1986: Cliff Burton, U.S. musician known best as the bassist for the band Metallica, who performed on the band's first three studio albums, dies at 24 after the band's tour bus skids off a road in Sweden.
1985: Lloyd Nolan, U.S. actor who starred in the movie "Peyton Place" and had a regular role on the sitcom "Julia," dies at 83.
1981: Robert Montgomery, U.S. actor who was a star in the 1930s and '40s, starring in "Private Lives" and "Here Comes Mr. Jordan," and was the father of actress Elizabeth Montgomery, dies at 77.
1979: Jimmy McCulloch, Scottish guitarist known best as the lead guitarist in Paul McCartney's Wings, dies of a heroin overdose at 26.
1975: Mark Frechette, U.S. actor known best for his starring role in the Michelangelo Antonioni film "Zabriskie Point," dies in prison at 27.
1965: Clara Bow, U.S. film actress known as the It Girl, who was a star during the silent era and the early talkies, starring in "Wings" and "Mantrap," dies at 60.
There was more to "It" than looks. "It" was also about personality, vivaciousness, charm. An It Girl was somebody you – whether you were male or female – couldn't resist, and that irresistible quality came across when Bow was on screen. Bow loved playing to the camera and thus was well-suited to silent-film acting. "I hate talkies," she once said. "They're stiff and limiting. You lose a lot of your cuteness, because there's no chance for action, and action is the most important thing to me." Read more
1956: Babe Didrikson Zaharias, U.S. athlete who won two gold medals at the 1932 Olympics and won 10 major championships as a professional golfer, dies of cancer at 45.
In 1932, Zaharias competed in the Amateur Athletic Union Championships in the track and field team division … without any teammates. Her team of one was victorious, setting five world records in one day. Read more