Many actors and actresses will work their whole lives trying to get a prominent role on a television series. Once it happens, those stars generally hope that the role will last as long as possible. Sadly, there have been many stars since the introduction of television that have received roles on notable series only to have those roles cut short as a result of tragic deaths. Join Facts Verse as we take a look at 1950s actors who died during production of their TV show.
The first star we’ll be taking a look at in this video is Richard Hart; who was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on April 14, 1915. Both Richard’s father and grandfather had been lawyers; though Richard took up an interest in English and psychology during his education. After attending college at Brown University and receiving his degree. Richard worked for a short period of time for a silver company by the name of Gorham. It was during his time working at Gorham that Richard started daydreaming of becoming an actor.
Though his thoughts about becoming a big star initially started out as mere fantasies; a gig performing at a summer stock theater in his home state made Richard decide to move out to New York City and try his hand at stardom for real. Richard married at the time, and he and his wife had a child. Richard’s wife and son accompanied him to New York City. But his wife soon decided that city life wasn’t for her. Soon after his arrival in New York City, Richard’s wife divorced him and took their son back to Rhode Island.
In December of 1943, Richard made his Broadway debut. The debut came thanks to a role in a production by the name of Pillar to Post. He went on to perform in a number of other popular shows on Broadway, including Dark of the Moon. During his time performing in the latter show that Richard met the woman that would become his second wife. This woman was actress Louise Valery. Around this same time, Richard caught the attention of MGM. Starting in 1947, Richard began appearing in motion pictures.
Richard’s film debut came in 1947’s Desire Me, in which he appeared alongside Robert Mitchum. He subsequently appeared alongside Lana Turner in 1947’s Green Dolphin Street, and Barbara Stanwyck in 1948’s B.F.’s Daughter.
In 1949, a negative experience loaned out to another studio for the film Reign of Terror caused Richard to ask MGM to let him out of his contract. Following this, Richard moved back to New York City and became better known for his performances on television. In 1950, Richard became the first actor ever to portray that character of Ellery Queen on television. Thanks to his titular role on the series The Adventures of Ellery Queen. Sadly, the actor passed away during the production of the series. Richard died in 1951, with his cause of death being a coronary occlusion.
Barton Yarborough was a star that had an incredibly unique introduction to show business. When he’s the only a boy, Barton ran away from his Texas home to begin working in the arena of vaudeville. Given Barton’s predilection for performing starting at a young age. It’s not long before the young man found his way onto the radio, and then the television. Barton’s introduction to radio work came in the 1920s. In 1932, he started a long-running gig on the radio drama One Man’s Family that would last until his death.
Besides Barton’s role on One Man’s Family, other notable radio programs that the actor appeared on included I Love a Mystery and Dragnet. As a result of Barton’s voice roles on these popular series; he ended up being given roles in their inevitable live-action counterparts. I Love a Mystery was adapted into a series of films, which Barton starred in during the mid-1940s. Several years later, the radio series Dragnet was adapted into a classic television series.
The Dragnet television series premiered in 1951. Although Barton Yarborough had given the opportunity to reprise his radio role for the television adaptation; he only got the chance to film two episodes of the series before tragically passing away. Besides his work in the entertainment industry; Barton married two times over the course of his life, and had one child.
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The next star we’ll be taking a look at is Hattie McDaniel, who most audience members will recognize best for her memorable turn in the classic 1939 film Gone with the Wind. Hattie played the character of Mammy in the classic film, though she had played many similar roles in prior features over the course of the preceding 1930s. Her first notable roles were in 1934’s Judge Priest and 1935’s Alice Adams.
While Hattie McDaniel had appeared in several pictures prior to the release of Gone with the Wind; it was that picture that ended up making the actress a household name. The actress became the first African-American star ever to win an Academy Award as a result of her appearance in the film. Though her win sadly hampered by the fact that the ceremony during which she given the award happened segregated. Sadly, following Hattie’s memorable appearance in Gone with the Wind, most of the actress’s later work was in the medium of television instead of film.
In 1947, Hattie began voicing the titular lead role on the radio series Beulah. That radio series adapted into a live-action television series in the early 1950s, though Hattie sadly passed away during the show’s production.
Nana Bryant was an actress that was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 23, 1988. Over the course of her career, she became known for her roles in such notable features as 1936’s Theodora Goes Wild, 1945’s Brewster’s Millions, and 1950’s Harvey. At the time of her death on Christmas Eve of 1955, Nana had a gig on the 1950s series Our Miss Brooks.
Fred Allen was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1894. For education, Fred Allen attended Boston University. Fred began appearing on Broadway during his adulthood; with some of the actor’s notable roles being in the productions The Greenwich Village Follies and The Passing Show of 1922. Besides Fred’s work on Broadway during the early years of his career; the actor also became a prominent voice on the radio. Entering into the 1950s, Fred began acting less on the stage and more on the screen. He became the host of The Colgate Comedy Hour in 1950; but sadly had to end this gig early as a result of his failing health. The beloved comedian went on to pass away shortly afterwards.
When Charles King was only a teenager, he made a small appearance in the classic silent film The Birth of a Nation. This was the start of a prominent career in entertainment for the actor; who went on to appear in many, many films before his death several years later. The roles that Charles became best known for over the course of his career were in Westerns. Predominantly those produced by low-rent production company PRC Pictures during the 1940s.
Over the course of Charles’ career, the actor got to share the screen with such stars as John Wayne and Buster Crabbe. His reliable appearances in Westerns eventually got Charles a gig on the long-running television series Gunsmoke, but he sadly passed away during his work on the show. Charles’ death came in 1957, with his cause of death being cirrhosis.
George Cleveland was an actor who made his debut in the 1934 picture Mystery Liner before going on to appear in well over 100 films over the course of his career. Despite George’s immensely prolific resume, the star’s most memorable role remains that of Gramps on the 1954 series Lassie. Sadly, George passed away during production of the series, causing his role to come to an end a bit early.
John Hamilton was an actor who made a name for himself on Broadway before making the transition over to film starting in the 1930s. While John reliable player in films over the course of his career, his most prominent role didn’t come until he was cast in the 1952 television series Adventures of Superman. On the series, John cast in the role of newspaper editor Perry White. Several years later, John passed away as a result of a heart attack.
In addition to John Hamilton, who played Perry White on 1952’s Adventures of Superman, we’ll also be taking a look at the man who played the superhero himself! George Reeves was the actor who was tasked with playing the character of Superman on that classic television series, and he passed away soon after receiving the part. George’s big break in the entertainment industry came when he was cast as the character of Stuart Tarleton in Gone with the Wind. A few years later, he was the lead actor in 1943’s So Proudly We Hail! This role was set to turn George into a big star, but World War II sadly interrupted things. George went overseas to serve, causing him to lose all of his career momentum.
Upon returning to America from the war, George floundered in the entertainment industry as a result of his lost career momentum before finally receiving his second big break in the form of his aforementioned role on The Adventures of Superman. Sadly, George’s success in the role of Superman wasn’t enough to make him happy, and he killed himself.
While most actors hope that their television roles will last forever, there have been many actors whose roles have been cut short as a result of tragic deaths. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that the actor who played Superman on the 1952 series Adventures of Superman committed suicide, and that Gone with the Wind’s Hattie McDaniel had to receive her historical Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress at a segregated ceremony? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!