Notable deaths of 2009


Some of Hollywood's best and brightest passed on in 2009. We've highlighted just 25 of those individuals who left behind distinctive legacies, followed by an alphabetical listing of many more we'll miss.

Michael Jackson, 50, the erstwhile King of Pop who went from child star to one of the world's biggest celebrities before his career was derailed by legal problems and personal issues. Jackson was preparing for a major comeback after years of tabloid headlines, booking 50 soldout "This Is It" concerts in London that were set to begin July 16. He had done a dress rehearsal at L.A.'s Staples Center on the eve of his death. Pronounced dead June 25 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles of heart failure.
Walter Cronkite, 92, called "the most trusted man in America" for his earnest and stalwart style as the anchorman of the "CBS Evening News" for nearly two decades. During a period of great national stress -- like the one brought on by the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963 -- Cronkite's demeanor soothed a nation whose sense of reality had been threatened. Died July 17 at his Manhattan home after a long illness.
Les Paul, 94, the pioneer in electric guitar sounds who was responsible for developing and lending his name to what many consider rock 'n' roll's definitive guitar. His career spanned from the jazz age through the new millennium. Every Monday for decades, he played two sets at a jazz club in New York. Died Aug. 13 from complications of pneumonia at White Plains Hospital in New York.
Don Hewitt, 86, the creator of landmark newsmagazine "60 Minutes" and a pioneer of many of TV's news reporting methods. He spent more than 50 years at CBS; the show earned more than $2 billion, according to estimates, and collected 73 Emmys. Died Aug. 19 of pancreatic cancer at his home in Bridgehampton, N.Y.
Farrah Fawcett, 62, the actress who catapulted to national fame in "Charlie's Angels" and became a swimsuit poster phenomenon and a presence in dorm rooms everywhere. The blonde-maned beauty later separated herself from her bathing-beauty persona with highly-charged, acclaimed performances, then shared her battle with cancer with the world. Died June 25, hours before Michael Jackson, at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica.
Karl Malden, 97, the Oscar-winning actor for "A Streetcar Named Desire" who was perhaps best known for his lead role on ABC series "The Streets of San Francisco." With his craggy face and bulbous nose, Malden projected a familiarity and fire that made him identifiable as an average guy who could rise to the occasion. He became a pitchman for American Express and served three terms as motion picture Academy president. Died July 1 of natural causes at home in Los Angeles.
John Hughes, 59, the Chicago-based filmmaker who redefined the teen movie in the '80s with his sympathetic comedies about the joys and heartbreak of high school life. With films like "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," all of which he wrote and directed, Hughes treated teens with respect. Died Aug. 6 of a heart attack suffered during a morning walk in Manhattan.
Ed McMahon, 86, the quintessential TV sidekick who created the trademark "Heeeeeeeere's Johnny!" when he introduced Johnny Carson for decades on NBC's "Tonight Show." The World War II fighter pilot also hosted the syndicated talent show "Star Search" from 1983-95 and served as a prominent commercials pitchman for American Family Publishers sweepstakes. Died June 23 of a multitude of health problems at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Patrick Swayze, 57, who soared to stardom as a heartthrob dancer in "Dirty Dancing" and ascended to romantic icon status as a deceased lover in "Ghost." After it was first reported in March 2008 that he was being treated for inoperable Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, he kept working and starred in "The Beast," an A&E drama series. Died Sept. 14 in Los Angeles.
Larry Gelbart, 81, the crafty writer who adapted Robert Altman's "M*A*S*H" into a literary TV classic and whose talented comedy stylings stretched from the days of radio to the big screen and cutting-edge cable shows. Gelbart won Emmys (for "M*A*S*H") and Tonys ("A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum") and earned Oscar noms for "Oh, God!" and "Tootsie." Died Sept. 11 of cancer at his Beverly Hills home.
Jennifer Jones, 90, the raven-haired actress who was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning in 1943 for her portrayal of a saintly nun in "The Song of Bernadette." Pushed by producer and later husband David O. Selznick, she also played a vixen who vamps rowdy cowboy Gregory Peck in "Duel in the Sun" and a Eurasian doctor who falls for Korean War correspondent William Holden in "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing." Died Dec. 17 of natural causes at her home in Malibu.
Roy E. Disney, 79, whose efforts to instill his will on the company co-founded by his father and uncle included the ousting of two CEOs and a renewed commitment to animation. He headed Disney's animation department, where a sometimes strained relationship with Jeffrey Katzenberg produced a string of hits that included "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King." Died Dec. 16 from stomach cancer at Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach, Calif.
Lee Solters, 89, the savvy public relations executive who represented everyone from Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Michael Jackson to Led Zeppelin and "My Fair Lady." In his career that spanned more than 70 years, he had a daily requirement for his publicists -- to turn in at least one "item" daily. Died May 18 at his home in West Hollywood.
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Army Archerd, 87, who for more than 50 years wrote a daily showbiz column for Variety that was a must-read in Hollywood. Archerd raised the quality of Hollywood journalism by writing a straightforward column filled with items he always checked out personally. Archerd also was known for his four-decade stint doing red-carpet interviews at the Oscars. Died Sept. 8 of a rare form of mesothelioma at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
Ricardo Montalban, 88, who became a household name for his performance as the wish-granting Mr. Roarke on ABC's "Fantasy Island." The actor also could play the most dastardly villain; witness his turn as the diabolical Khan in the "Star Trek" movie "The Wrath of Khan." His dignified intonation -- "rich Corinthian leather" with his regal rolling of the "R's" -- caught viewers' favor in Chrysler TV ads. Died Jan. 14 at his home in Los Angeles.
Soupy Sales, 83, the rubber-faced comedian whose anything-for-a-chuckle career was built on 20,000 pies to the face and 5,000 live TV appearances across a half-century. His greatest success came in New York with "The Soupy Sales Show" -- an ostensible children's show that had little to do with Captain Kangaroo. Died Oct. 22 at Calvary Hospice in the Bronx after a bout with many health problems.
Koko Taylor, 80, a sharecropper's daughter whose regal bearing and powerful voice earned her the sobriquet "Queen of the Blues." While she did not have widespread mainstream success, she was revered and beloved by blues aficionados and earned worldwide acclaim for songs including "Wang Dang Doodle." Died June 3 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago after complications from surgery.
Bea Arthur, 86, the actress whose acerbic wit and dry delivery delighted viewers on such long-running TV series as "Maude" and "The Golden Girls." Arthur won Emmys for her work in "All in the Family" spinoff "Maude" in 1977 and for "Golden Girls" in 1988. In all, she received 11 Emmy noms. Died April 25 of cancer at her Los Angeles home.
Nick Counter, 69, the longtime president of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers who was the Hollywood studios' lead labor negotiator. As AMPTP president for 27 years, he led 80 industrywide labor negotiations with industry guilds and unions and had a hand in negotiating some 300 major agreements before his March 31 retirement. Died Nov. 6 at West Hills Hospital in Los Angeles after collapsing at his home three days earlier.
Natasha Richardson, 45, who upheld her lineage as part of one of the great acting dynasties by establishing an eclectic career in film, TV and theater. A daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and Tony Richardson and the wife of Liam Neeson, the coolly elegant actress earned a Tony in 1998 for her performance in "Cabaret." Died March 18 in New York after suffering a head injury during a skiing lesson days earlier.
Harry Kalas, 73, the veteran Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster who punctuated home runs with his call of "Outta here!" Kalas lent his sonorous voice to everything from NFL Films to Chunky Soup commercials and Animal Planet's annual tongue-in-cheek Super Bowl competitor, the Puppy Bowl. Died April 13 after being found passed out in the broadcast booth before a game in Washington.
Maurice Jarre, 84, the Frenchman who wrote the hauntingly lovely "Lara's Theme" for "Dr. Zhivago" as well as the sweeping score for the epic "Lawrence of Arabia." He composed scores for more than 100 motion pictures and won three Academy Awards. Died March 28 at his home in Los Angeles.
Dom DeLuise, 75, the antic comedian whose chubby frame and daffy darting glances delighted audiences on stage, television and in the movies for five decades. DeLuise's roly-poly energy and high hysterics garnished several movies with his pal Burt Reynolds (like the "Cannonball Run" films) and writer-director Mel Brooks (like "Blazing Saddles"). Died May 4 at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica after a long illness.
David Carradine, 72, the actor best known for his portrayal of the peaceful Kwai Chang Caine in the ABC series "Kung Fu." His career roared back to life when he played the assassin-turned-victim in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" films. Was found hanging in the closet of his Bangkok hotel suite on June 4 and died from asphyxiation.
Brittany Murphy, 32, who got her start in the sleeper hit "Clueless" ae stage. Died July 8.

Bob May, 69, who spent 83 episodes of TV's "Lost in Space" inside the Robot character's prop costume. Died Jan. 18.

Billy Mays, 50, a burly, bearded TV pitchman whose boisterous hawking of products made him a pop-culture icon. Died June 28.

Jody McCrea, 74, an actor in movie and TV Westerns who was the son of film stars Joel McCrea and Frances Dee. Died April 4.

Patrick McGoohan, 80, an Emmy-winning actor who created and starred in the TV cult classic "The Prisoner." Died Jan. 13.

Dallas McKennon, 89, who provided the voices of Gumby, Archie Andrews and "Woody Woodpecker's" Buzz Buzzard. Died July 14.

Daniel Melnick, 77, the MGM and Columbia production head who also produced such films as "All That Jazz," "Altered States," "Straw Dogs" and "Network." Died Oct. 13.

George Michael, 70, whose syndicated show "The George Michael Sports Machine" earned dozens of Sports Emmys during its 24-year run. Died Dec. 24.

Steven Miessner, 48, the motion picture Academy's devoted "Keeper of the Oscars." Died July 29.

Skip Miller, 62, who helmed Motown and worked with artists including Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder and Roy Hargrove. Died Sept. 4.

Victor Mizzy, 93, a composer for TV and films best known for his themes to the 1960s sitcoms "Green Acres" and "The Addams Family." Died Oct. 17.

Richard Moore, 83, a cinematographer who co-founded Panavision in 1953. Died Aug. 16.

Yoshiro Muraki, 85, a production designer, art director and costume designer who worked on "Ran," "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and "Yojimbo" and often collaborated with director Akira Kurosawa. Died Oct. 26.

Gee Nicholl, 86, best known for her support of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Program. Died Jan. 6.

Dan O'Bannon, 63, the unassuming sci-fi screenwriter and quirky horror specialist behind the "Alien" film franchise. Died Dec. 17.

Tom O'Horgan, 84, the "Busby Berkeley of the acid set" who directed the hit Boradway musicals "Hair" and "Jesus Christ Superstar." Died Jan. 11.

Anne Nelson, 86, who turned a two-week temp job in 1945 into a 64-year career at CBS that made her the longest-tenured employee in company history. Died June 20.

Robert Pauley, 85, the president of the ABC Radio network from 1961-67 who hired Howard Cosell and hoped to establish a fourth TV network just for news. Died May 2.

Sultan Pepper, 47, an Emmy Award-winning comedy writer who worked on "The Ben Stiller Show" and "Mad TV." Died Oct. 20.

Billy Powell, 56, the keyboardist of Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1970 until his death on Jan. 28.

Harve Presnell, 75, a character actor in such films as "Saving Private Ryan" and "Fargo" who got his start in showbiz as a classical baritone. Died June 30.

John Quade, 71, a character actor best known for his role as the leader of the biker gang in the Clint Eastwood films "Every Which Way but Loose" and its sequel. Died Aug. 9.

Corky Randall, 80, a horse trainer who worked in Hollywood for a half-century on films including "The Black Stallion." Died April 20.

Jane Randolph, 94, who starred in the two "Cat People" film noir classics of the 1940s. Died May 4.

Kenny Rankin, 69, a singer-songwriter and musician whose song "Peaceful" was a hit for Helen Reddy. Died June 7.

Clint Ritchie, 70, best known for playing Clint Buchanan on the soap opera "One Life to Live" in parts of four decades. Died Jan. 31.

Ken Roberts, 99, a radio and TV announcer known for his work on the daytime soap operas "The Secret Storm," "Texas" and "Love of Life." Died June 19.

Oral Roberts, 91, a preacher who helped pioneer TV evangelism in the 1950s and used the power of the new medium to build a multimillion-dollar ministry. Died Dec. 15.

Mickey Ross, 89, an Emmy-winning comedy writer and producer who worked on "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons" and "Three's Company." Died May 26.

Steven Rothenberg, 50, Lionsgate's film releasing president and a distribution veteran known for his energetic work habits and broad knowledge of his field. Died July 16.

Charles H. Schneer, 88, a producer who collaborated with special-effects wizard Ray Harryhausen to make such fantasy films as "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" and "Jason and the Argonauts." Died Jan. 21.

Aaron Schroeder, 83, a songwriter, independent publisher and innovative record producer who wrote "It's Now or Never" for Elvis Presley. Died Dec. 2.

Budd Schulberg, 95, who won an Academy Award for the screenplay for "On the Waterfront" and penned the definitive portrait of a Hollywood hustler in his novel "What Makes Sammy Run?" Died Aug. 5.

Dan Seals, 61, who was England Dan in the pop duo England Dan and John Ford Coley and later had a successful country career. Died March 25.

Ron Silver, 62, who won a Tony as a take-no-prisoners Hollywood producer in David Mamet's "Speed-the-Plow." Died March 15.

Howard J. Smit, 98, a respected makeup artist who helped found IATSE Local 706 more than seven decades ago and led the campaign to recognize his craft with an Oscar each year. Died Aug. 1.

Blake Snyder, 51, a screenwriter and screenwriting teacher whose books encouraged a host of aspiring writers, producers and development executives to see the patterns in all successful movies. Died Aug. 4.

Arnold Stang, 91, an actor who appeared alongside Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra and was known for his nerdy looks and distinctive nasal voice. Died Dec. 20.

Gale Storm, 87, an actress and singer who became one of early television's biggest stars on "My Little Margie" and "The Gale Storm Show" after starring in numerous B movies opposite such stars as Roy Rogers, Eddie Albert and Jackie Cooper. She also had a run of hit singles from 1955-57. Died June 27.

Ned Tanen, 77, the former Universal Pictures and Paramount chairman who greenlighted a string of hits including "Top Gun" and "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial." Died Jan. 5.

Richard Todd, 90, who re-enacted his wartime exploits in the 1962 film "The Longest Day" and was Ian Fleming's choice to play James Bond. Died Dec. 3.

Harry Towers, 88, a film producer whose best-known movies include "The Face of Fu Manchu" and "Cry the Beloved Country." Died July 31.

Mary Travers, 72, one-third of the hugely popular 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Died Sept. 16.

Paul Wendkos, 84, the "Gidget" director who helmed more than 100 films and TV shows during a 50-year career. Died Nov. 12.

Michael Wiener, 71, the founder of the Infinity Broadcasting chain of radio stations. Died Aug. 2.

Kitty White, 86, a jazz vocalist who also who worked in films including "The Night of the Hunter" and "King Creole." Died Aug. 11.

James Whitmore, 87, a two-time Oscar nominee who played such American icons as Harry Truman, Will Rogers and Theodore Roosevelt. Died Feb. 6.

Collin Wilcox, 74, who played the white girl who accused a black man of raping her in the classic film "To Kill a Mockingbird." Died Oct. 14.

Joseph Wiseman, 91, who played the sinister scientist and title character of Dr. No in the first James Bond feature. Died Oct. 19.

Edward Woodward, 78, a prolific stage actor best known for his lead role in the 1973 cult classic "The Wicker Man." Died Nov. 16.

John Updike, 76, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventures in the postwar prime of the American empire. Died Jan. 27.

Otha Young, 66, a singer, songwriter and longtime musical partner of Grammy-winning country-pop artist Juice Newton. Died Aug. 6.

Howard Zieff, 81, a famed director of TV commercials in the 1960s who went on to specialize in Hollywood comedies like "Private Benjamin." Died Feb. 22.