Gene Wilder was a comic acting genius. We remember Wilder’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
Gene Wilder was a comic acting genius. He had an ability to play a neurotic, sensitive character who was on the edge of hysteria. Wilder’s first big role was in the Mel Brooks movie “The Producers,” but he really burst onto the scene playing the title character in the classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Wilder became a favorite of Mel Brooks and played memorable characters in “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein.” He also partnered with Richard Pryor, and the two showed off great chemistry in movies such as “Silver Streak.” He married the brilliant comic actress Gilda Radner in 1984 and tragically lost her five years later to ovarian cancer. After she died, he co-founded Gilda’s Club, a support group to raise awareness of cancer. We remember Wilder’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2016: Gene Wilder, U.S. comic actor who played memorable roles in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Blazing Saddles,” dies at 83.
2015: Wayne Dyer, U.S. author whose self-help book “Your Erroneous Zones” has sold over 35 million copies, dies at 75.
The prolific author and avuncular public speaker counted such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra, and fellow self-help guru Tony Robbins among his friends, and tributes from them and others poured across the Internet. “The world has lost an incredible man,” said Ellen DeGeneres, who posted a photo on Twitter of Dyer officiating at her wedding to Portia de Rossi. Read more
2007: Richard Jewell, U.S. security guard who found a backpack containing three pipe bombs at Centennial Park at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and alerted authorities, who initially was labeled a hero and then became a suspect but was eventually exonerated, dies at 44.
Reporters from around the country set up camp outside Jewell’s mother’s apartment in the Atlanta area and his life was dissected for weeks by the media, noted his obituary by The Associated Press. He was never arrested or charged, although he was questioned and was a subject of search warrants. Eighty-eight days after the initial news report, U.S. Attorney Kent Alexander issued a statement saying Jewell “is not a target” of the bombing investigation and that the “unusual and intense publicity” surrounding him was “neither designed nor desired by the FBI, and in fact interfered with the investigation.” In 1997, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno expressed regret over the leak regarding Jewell. “I’m very sorry it happened,” she told reporters. “I think we owe him an apology.” Read more
2000: Shelagh Fraser, English actress known best for playing Luke Skywalker’s aunt Beru Lars in “Star Wars,” dies at 79.
1995: Frank Perry, U.S. director and screenwriter whose movies included “Diary of a Mad Housewife” and “Mommie Dearest,” dies of prostate cancer at 65.
1987: Lee Marvin, U.S. actor who won an Oscar for best actor for his role in “Cat Ballou” and starred in “The Dirty Dozen,” dies of a heart attack at 63.
Marvin started out on the big screen with a series of small soldier roles in war flicks, but it was a TV show that would be his real big break. As steely cop Frank Ballinger, Marvin made “M Squad” a hit … and “M Squad” made Marvin famous. After the success of “M Squad,” Marvin’s roles grew bigger and more interesting – such as his turn as the title character in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” Marvin didn’t star, but his role was prominent … and he had the box-office cachet of acting alongside John Wayne and James Stewart. Read more
1987: Archie Campbell, U.S. writer and actor known best as one of the stars of the TV show “Hee Haw,” dies of complications of a heart attack at 72.
1985: Evelyn Ankers, Chilean-born English actress known as the Queen of the Screamers who starred in “The Wolf Man” and “Son of Dracula,” dies of ovarian cancer at 67.
1983: Simon Oakland, U.S. actor who had a regular role on the television crime drama “Toma” and appeared in the movies “Psycho” and “West Side Story,” dies at 68.
Bergman’s notable achievements were many, but one of the greatest was her Academy awards record. She occupies a tiny niche, one that only three other actors share – she won three Oscars. Only Katharine Hepburn surpassed Bergman, Walter Brennan, Jack Nicholson, and Meryl Streep, with four Oscars. And Bergman was nominated for even more, keeping herself in the running for an Academy Award during almost every decade from her American breakthrough in the 1940s until her death. Read more
1982: Lehman Engel, U.S. composer and conductor of Broadway musicals, television, and film who won six Tony awards, dies of cancer at 71.
1981: Lowell Thomas, U.S. writer and broadcaster known best as the man who made Lawrence of Arabia famous, dies of a heart attack at 89.
1977: Jean Hagen, U.S. actress who starred in the movies “The Asphalt Jungle” and “Singin’ in the Rain” and on TV as the wife of Danny Thomas on the sitcom “Make Room for Daddy” the first three seasons of the series, dies of throat cancer at 54.
1976: Jimmy Reed, U.S. blues musician known for the hit songs “Big Boss Man” and “Bright Lights, Big City,” who greatly influenced groups such as the Rolling Stones, dies at 50.
1960: Alexander Gauge, English actor known best for playing Friar Tuck on the television series “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” dies at 46.