Died December 20

Brittany Murphy believed from a young age that she was destined to be a star, and she devoted her life to performing. Before entering high school, she convinced her mother to move the family from the East Coast to Los Angeles to pursue her dream. Her work in "Clueless" turned her into a star, and she would go on to continued success as a voice actress on "King of the Hill." In addition to her screen work, Murphy found her way to Broadway and worked steadily as a studio vocalist, often unknown to the artists on whose albums she worked. We remember Murphy's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.

Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history including actor John Spencer.

2010: Steve Landesberg, U.S. actor and comedian who won three Emmy Award nominations for his police detective character on the sitcom "Barney Miller," dies of colon cancer at 74.

Steve Landesberg (Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment)His most successful role, according to his obituary by The Associated Press, was that of Arthur Dietrich on "Barney Miller," which was set in a New York City police station populated by oddballs and eccentrics. It aired from 1975 to 1982. Landesberg's Dietrich was noted for his endless knowledge and expertise on seemingly every obscure subject imaginable, coupled with a sometimes patronizing attitude. He once refused to wish a happy Thanksgiving to a fellow officer, explaining he was an agnostic and wouldn't know whom to thank. Read more

 

 

 

2009: Brittany Murphy, U.S. actress whose films include "Clueless," "8 Mile," and "Don't Say a Word," dies of pneumonia at 32.

When Murphy died, it was a shock, as is any sudden death of a young star. Many assumed that an overdose or anorexia led to her death. But as the details of her final days emerged, it became clear that Murphy wasn't the victim of fast living or Hollywood obsessions. She had been quite sick in the days before her death, with symptoms suggesting pneumonia and anemia. Read more

 

 

 

2001: Foster Brooks, U.S. actor and comedian who played a lovable drunk on TV shows and in his nightclub act, dies of heart failure at 89.

1999: Hank Snow, Canadian-born country singer whose No. 1 hits include "I'm Moving On," "I've Been Everywhere," and "Hello Love," dies of heart failure at 85.

Snow was born into crushing poverty, far from the stage lights and adoring crowds he came to know during his remarkable career as a songwriter and recording artist. Snow left home at age 12 to escape a physically and emotionally abusive stepfather and worked as a cabin boy on a fishing boat for four years, honing his musical and performing skills by playing for his shipmates. He got his first break in 1936 when he was hired to play his songs on a Halifax, Nova Scotia, radio station for $10 a week, according to his Los Angeles Times obituary. Read more

 

 

 

1998: Irene Hervey, U.S. actress whose films include "The Stranger's Return," "Cactus Flower," and "Play Misty for Me," dies of heart disease at 89.

1997: Dawn Steel, U.S. filmmaker and one of the first women to head a major Hollywood Film studio, dies of a brain tumor at 51.

1996: Carl Sagan, U.S. astronomer and author who popularized science in books and TV appearances, dies of pneumonia at 62.

Through all of it, his enormous scientific achievements and his popular public appearances, Sagan never lost the thing that made him so notable and so beloved – his sense of wonder. He wasn't just a scientist because he was brilliant and knew how to do the work; he was also a scientist because he thought science was so neat. Read more

 

 

 

1995: Madge Sinclair, Jamaican-born U.S. actress whose films included "Serpico," "Convoy," and "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," dies of leukemia at 57.

1994: Dean Rusk, U.S. secretary of state under two presidents, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, dies of heart failure at 85.

1991: Sam Rabin, English sculptor, educator, and Olympic bronze medalist in freestyle wrestling, dies at 88.

1991: Stephen Birnbaum, U.S. tourism writer and author of travel guides, dies of complications of leukemia at 54.

1991: Simone Beck, French culinary instructor and cookbook author who co-authored "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" with Julia Child and Louisette Bertholle, dies at 87.

1988: Max Robinson, U.S. broadcast journalist who became the first African-American network television anchor, dies at 49 of complications of AIDS.

1982: Arthur Rubinstein, Polish-born U.S. classical pianist whom The New York Times regarded as among the greatest pianists of the 20th century, dies in his sleep at 95.

1973: Bobby Darin, U.S. singer whose widely popular songs include "Splish Splash," "Dream Lover," "Mack the Knife," and "Beyond the Sea," dies at 37 following a heart operation.

When radio disc jockey Murray "the K" Kaufmann's mother suggested to him and Darin that there should be a song that starts with the line, "Splish splash, I was takin' a bath," Kaufmann bet Darin that he couldn't follow through and write the song. Twelve minutes later, Darin had created the song that would make him famous. Read more

 

 

 

1971: Roy O. Disney, U.S. business owner who co-founded Walt Disney Productions with his younger brother, Walt, dies at 78 after having a seizure.

1968: John Steinbeck, U.S. author and novelist who won the Pulitzer Prize for "The Grapes of Wrath," dies at 66.

Of all SteJohn Steinbeck (Wikimedia Commons/Nobel Foundation)inbeck's novels, "Of Mice and Men" may be the most enduring (although that's an almost impossible call to make). Read by generations of schoolchildren and challenged by generations of censors for its vulgarity and themes, it has made a mark on the American literature landscape that won't soon be erased. And it's unsurprising that it alone among Steinbeck's novels has seen three movie adaptations. Read more

 

 

 

1812: Sacagawea, Lemhi Shoshone woman who served as interpreter and guide for explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their expedition into the Western United States, dies of an unknown illness at 24.

Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history including actor John Spencer.