This is an undated photo of actor/comedian Jimmy Durante in character. (AP Photo)
Jimmy Durante took musical talent, a way with a joke and an admirably large nose, and he turned them into comedy gold. "The Great Schnozzola" ruled the entertainment world for decades, from vaudeville to radio to movies to TV. One of the top entertainers of the 20th century, he was the voice of the narrator on the holiday classic Frosty the Snowman, a frequent host and guest on variety shows, a key player in the 1963 madcap comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and much more. We loved him for his signature songs including "Inka Dinka Doo" and his catchphrases. … Ha-cha-cha-chaaaaa! We remember his life today and the lives of other notable people who died on this day in history.
2012: Camilla Williams, U.S. operatic soprano who was the first African-American to receive a regular contract with the New York City Opera, dies at 92.
In her 1946 City Opera debut, Williams sang what would become her signature role, Cio-Cio-San, in Puccini's "Madama Butterfly." She displayed "a vividness and subtlety unmatched by any other artist who has assayed the part here in many a year," according to a New York Times review of the performance. She also appeared with the City Opera that season as Nedda, in Leon Cavallo's "Pagliacci." The following year she performed the role of Mimi in Puccini's "La Boheme," and in 1948 she sang the title role of Verdi's "Aida." Read more
2009: Hélio Gracie, Brazilian martial artist who along with his brother created the martial art of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, dies at 95.
2008: Raymond Jacobs, U.S. Marine who was in the first group of soldiers to raise the U.S. flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima, dies at 82.
Jacobs spent his later years working to prove that he was the radio operator photographed gazing up at the American flag as it was being raised by other Marines over Mount Suribachi Feb. 23, 1945. Newspaper accounts from the time show he was on the mountain during the initial raising of a smaller American flag, though he had returned to his unit by the time a more famous Associated Press photograph was taken of a flag-raising re-enactment later the same day. Read more
2005: Eric Griffiths, English guitarist who was an original member of John Lennon's first group, the Quarrymen, which eventually became the Beatles with a different lineup, dies at 64.
2002: Harold Russell, Canadian actor who was one of only two nonprofessional actors to win an Academy Award for his performance in The Best Years of Our Lives, dies at 88.
2002: Dick "Night Train" Lane, U.S. National Football League Hall of Fame defensive back who still holds the record for most interceptions in a season, dies at 74.
1999: Lili St. Cyr, prominent U.S. burlesque dancer, dies at 80.
1994: Nick Cravat, U.S. actor who appeared in many of his friend Burt Lancaster's films, dies at 82.
1992: Willie Dixon, U.S. blues singer who was highly influential in the Chicago blues sound with songs including "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Little Red Rooster," dies at 76.
1986: Leif Erickson, U.S. actor who appeared in Roustabout and The Carpetbaggers, dies at 74.
1984: Frances Goodrich, U.S. screenwriter who wrote with her husband Albert Hackett and whose movies include The Thin Man and Father of the Bride, dies at 94.
1980: Jimmy Durante, U.S. pianist, singer and actor who was one of the most popular entertainers in the 20th century and was known as "The Great Schnozzola," dies at 86.
1978: Tim McCoy, U.S. actor who was popular in early Western movies, dies at 86.
1977: Freddie Prinze, U.S. comedian and actor who was the star of the TV series Chico and the Man and was the father of actor Freddie Prinze Jr., commits suicide at 22.
Prinze's onstage success led to an appearance on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, where he was discovered by TV producer James Komack. Komack was creating a new show and thought Prinze would be perfect for one of the title roles – and so began Prinze’s three-year stint on what would be his final gig, Chico and the Man. Read more
1976: Jesse "Lone Cat" Fuller, U.S. blues musician known as the one-man band who wrote "San Francisco Bay Blues," which was covered by Eric Clapton and others, dies at 79.
1964: Alan Ladd, U.S. popular actor who had leading roles in This Gun for Hire and Shane, dies of an accidental overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills at 50.
Alan Ladd held a variety of odd jobs growing up –– picking fruit, delivering newspapers and sweeping floors. While making his way in Hollywood, he worked as a carpenter, radio actor, lifeguard and gas station attendant. But the job that eventually suited him most was playing bad guys in a new way –– winning instead of threatening: handsome, elegant, well-dressed and smooth talking. Read more
1963: Robert Frost, U.S. poet who was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed bards of the 20th century, dies at 88.
1933: Sara Teasdale, U.S. poet who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work, dies at 48.
1899: Alfred Sisley, French painter who was an important impressionist artist, dies at 59.