Jackie Gleason was a fixture on early TV, in film, and on the Broadway stage. We remember Gleason’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
Jackie Gleason was a fixture on early TV, in film, and on the Broadway stage. A statue of him, in character as Ralph Kramden of “The Honeymooners,” greets visitors in New York City outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal, keeping up the legacy of New York’s most beloved bus driver. In his personal life, Gleason was an avid reader on paranormal topics, particularly UFOs, and supported the research of others in the field. Despite his affinity for flying saucers, however, Gleason was actually afraid to fly. Following an emergency landing early in his career, he chose to travel instead by train. We remember Gleason’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2014: Eli Wallach, U.S. character actor whose notable films include “The Magnificent Seven” and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” dies at 98.
Wallach was beloved for his movie work, including roles in “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” “The Misfits,” and dozens more. He also won fans with his portrayal of Mr. Freeze on TV’s 1960s “Batman” series, as well as other television appearances spanning 60 years, from “The Philco Television Playhouse” in 1949 to “Nurse Jackie” in 2009. Read more
2013: Alan Myers, U.S. musician known best as the drummer for the new wave band Devo from 1976 until 1986, dies of cancer at 58.
Casale described meeting and playing with Myers for the first time in 1976. After their first session ended, Casale – who had been facing away from Myers – turned around to see the drummer standing on one leg with his eyes closed, practicing the meditative Chinese martial art of tai chi, according to Myers’ obituary by The Associated Press. “I thought, ‘Man, this guy really is Devo. He fits right in,'” Casale said, adding that tai chi was one of the drummer’s greatest passions. “Some bands would be doing drugs and drinking. Alan would find quiet places backstage and do a full session of tai chi,” Casale said. Read more
2013: Puff Johnson, U.S. singer who opened for Michael Jackson on his 1997 European tour, dies of cervical cancer at 40.
2008: Ira Tucker, U.S. singer who was the lead vocalist with the influential gospel group the Dixie Hummingbirds, dies of heart disease at 83.
Among those influenced by the band were the Temptations, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and Al Green, according the National Endowment for the Arts, which honored the Hummingbirds in 2000. They became widely known to Top 40 radio listeners in 1973, when Paul Simon’s “Loves Me Like a Rock” reached No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard chart, according to Tucker’s obituary by The Associated Press. Besides singing backup with Simon, the Dixie Hummingbirds also produced their own version, which won a Grammy for best soul gospel performance. Read more
2005: Paul Winchell, U.S. ventriloquist and inventor who was popular in the 1950s and ’60s with his doll Jerry Mahoney, dies of natural causes at 82.
2000: David Tomlinson, English character actor well-known for his role as George Banks in “Mary Poppins” and as Peter Thorndyke in “The Love Bug,” dies after having a stroke at 83.
1997: Brian Keith, U.S. actor who appeared in many movies and television series including “The Parent Trap” and played Bill Davis on the 1960s sitcom “Family Affair,” dies at 75 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his Malibu, California, home.
Gleason’s career added up to much more than a single comedic role. Though “The Honeymooners” and his variety show were quite popular, Gleason also found success on Broadway, winning a Tony for his performance in the musical “Take Me Along.” And he could play more dramatic roles as well, earning praise for his work in films like “Nothing in Common” with Tom Hanks and “The Toy” opposite Richard Pryor. In 1961, he received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Minnesota Fats in the Paul Newman classic “The Hustler.” Read more
1984: Clarence Campbell, Canadian NHL Hall of Fame member who was president of the NHL from 1946 until 1977, dies at 78.
1973: Mary Carr, U.S. character actress who appeared in hundreds of movies including the role of Aunt Em in the silent-movie version of “The Wizard of Oz,” dies at 99.
1969: Frank King, U.S. cartoonist known for his comic strip “Gasoline Alley,” dies at 86.
1962: Lucile Watson, Canadian character actress whose movie appearances included “The Thin Man Goes Home,” dies after a heart attack at 83.
1935: Carlos Gardel, Argentine singer-songwriter, composer, and actor who was one of the most prominent figures in the history of tango, dies in a plane crash at 44.
1933: Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones, U.S. singer who performed opera and pop music and was the first African-American to sing at The Music Hall in New York City in 1892, dies at 65.
1908: Grover Cleveland, U.S. politician who served two nonconsecutive terms as the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, dies of a heart attack at 71.