James Stewart (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Jimmy Stewart starred in many unforgettable films like Rear Window, Vertigo and It's a Wonderful Life. He was a five-time Oscar nominee, winning once and taking home a lifetime achievement award as well. He was noted for his distinctive voice and highly natural acting style, which lent realism to his portrayals of middle class America. He was also a brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, having served in World War II and the Vietnam War. We remember Stewart's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
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2013: Douglas Engelbart, U.S. engineer and inventor who created the computer mouse, dies after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at 88.
Back in the 1950s and '60s, when mainframes took up entire rooms and were fed data on punch cards, Engelbart already was envisioning a world in which people used computers to share ideas about solving problems, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. He said his work was all about "augmenting human intellect," but it boiled down to making computers easy to use. One of the biggest advances was the mouse, which he developed in the 1960s and patented in 1970. At the time, it was a wooden shell covering two metal wheels: an "X-Y position indicator for a display system." Read more
2012: Ben Davidson, U.S. NFL defensive end for the Oakland Raiders who was a three time All-Star and then became an actor, appearing on M*A*S*H and in the film Conan the Barbarian, dies at 72.
Davidson spent 11 years in pro football, starting with the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins in the NFL before joining the Raiders in the AFL in 1964. That's where the 6-foot-8 Davidson became famous, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. With his distinctive handlebar mustache, raspy voice and physical play, Davidson helped personify Al Davis' renegade Raiders of the 1960s. Read more
2008: Natasha Shneider, Russian musician and actress who was a founding member of the band Eleven, who toured with Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, dies of cancer at 52.
2007: Beverly Sills, U.S. operatic soprano known as the Queen of American Opera, dies of lung cancer at 78.
The coloratura soprano recorded 18 full-length operas, was featured on the covers of Time and Newsweek, and appeared on many of the world's greatest opera stages. She received four Emmys for her weekly television program, Lifestyles With Beverly Sills. Her autobiography, Bubbles: A Self-Portrait, was a best-seller. Read more
2006: Jan Murray, U.S. comedian and game show host who hosted the game show Dollar a Second, dies at 89.
2005: Norman Prescott, U.S. co-founder of Filmation Studios, which produced animated shows such as The Archie Show and The New Adventures of Superman, dies of natural causes at 78.
2005: Ernest Lehman, U.S. screenwriter who was nominated for six Academy Awards, whose movies included North by Northwest and West Side Story, dies after an extended illness at 89.
2002: Ray Brown, U.S. jazz double bassist who was a member of The Oscar Peterson Trio and also worked with Sarah Vaughan, dies at 75.
1999: Mario Puzo, U.S. author and screenwriter known for his novel The Godfather, dies of heart failure at 78.
1997: James Stewart, U.S. actor who was a Hollywood star and starred in classic movies such as It's a Wonderful Life and Rear Window, dies of a blood clot in the lung at 89.
When Stewart returned to the U.S. after World War II was over, he had some understandable trepidation about going back to his old job. He considered an aviation career as a backup. But after taking some time to reassess his career, he accepted his first role in five years – playing George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life. Though the film received mixed reviews on its release, movie history shows that Stewart's decision to return to Hollywood – while continuing to serve his country in the Reserves – was a good one. Read more
1995: Krissy Taylor, U.S. model who appeared on multiple magazine covers and was the sister of star model Niki Taylor, dies of a heart condition at 17.
1993: Fred Gwynne, U.S. actor known best for his role as Herman Munster on the classic sitcom The Munsters, dies of pancreatic cancer at 66.
Gwynne's biggest role was one that rendered him virtually unrecognizable. Wearing 50 pounds of padding, elevator shoes to add 4 inches to his already-considerable 6-foot-5 frame, full face makeup and a square wig, Gwynne became Herman Munster, the genial patriarch of TV's The Munsters. Another actor might resent being remembered primarily as a made-up monster, but not Gwynne. As he said of the character years later, " ... I might as well tell you the truth. I love old Herman Munster. Much as I try not to, I can't stop liking that fellow." Read more
1991: Lee Remick, U.S. actress who starred in A Face in the Crowd, Days of Wine and Roses and The Omen, dies of kidney and liver cancer at 55.
Based on a novel by a Michigan State Supreme Court Justice, Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder provided Remick's breakout role, where she played a woman whose (maybe) rape leads her husband to commit murder. The part fell to Remick only after Lana Turner was fired from the picture for insisting on providing her own high-fashion wardrobe, one not in keeping with the character of an Army wife. Anatomy of a Murder would be nominated for seven Academy Awards and prove a turning point in Remick's career. Read more
1990: Snooky Lanson, U.S. singer who was a co-star on the television show Your Hit Parade, dies at 76.
1989: Franklin J. Schaffner, U.S. director whose films include Planet of the Apes, Patton and Papillon, dies at 69.
1987: Michael Bennett, U.S. choreographer and director who won a Tony Award for his Pulitzer Prize-winning musical A Chorus Line, dies of AIDS-related lymphoma at 44.
1973: Chick Hafey, U.S. Major League Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder who played most of his career for the St. Louis Cardinals and had a career batting average of .317, dies at 70.
1973: Betty Grable, U.S. actress and singer who was a star in the 1940s and '50s, whose movies included Moon Over Miami and How To Marry a Millionaire, dies at 56.
Grable signed with Paramount Pictures and was given small, B-movie roles, appearing in more than 50 films throughout the 1930s. Notable among them was 1939's Million Dollar Legs, memorable not because it was a great film, but because its title presaged the day when Gable's legs would be insured with Lloyd’s of London for over $1 million. (In the film, the pricey legs belong not to Gable but to a racehorse). "There are two reasons I'm in show business," Gable once quipped, "and I'm standing on both of them." Read more
1973: George Macready, U.S. actor known best for his role as Martin Peyton on the prime-time TV soap opera Peyton Place, dies of emphysema at 73.
1964: Fireball Roberts, U.S. race car driver who was one of the pioneers of NASCAR, dies of injuries sustained in a crash during a race at 35.
1961: Ernest Hemingway, Nobel Prize-winning U.S. author and journalist whose influential novels included A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises, commits suicide at 61.
1566: Nostradamus, French apothecary and reputed seer whose prophecies are still popular today, dies at 62.
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