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60s Actors Who Died During Production

Do you love looking back at films and television shows from the 1960s? It was a great decade where we saw many 1960s actors and actresses become huge stars because of their work.

But it was also a sad decade in which there were many great actors who died during production. These actors were often in their prime and left us too early.

While this might seem like a grim subject for a video, it’s actually a great way to remind us to live our lives to the fullest and to pursue our dreams. If there’s one thing that all these stars had in common is that they excelled in their work.

Their lives are an inspiration for us all. Though they left us in the 1960s, their legacies live on today…

Ward Bond

Are you a fan of actor Ward Bond? He’s remembered as one of America’s best character actors – with experience in over 200 films as well as a prolific career in television.

With film, he was perhaps best known as Bert in It’s a Wonderful Life and Captain Clayton in The Searchers. He also appeared in other great films such as Gone With the Wind, Sergeant York, The Maltese Falcon, It Happened One Night and Rio Bravo.

In television, he was best known for his work on the Western television series Wagon Train. He played the lead role of the wagon master, Major Seth Adams. He was one of the favorite characters on the show as he was already a recognized face through his work in cinema.

Ward Bond died of a heart attack in 1960 in a hotel room. His character was written off the series without any explanation. Major Seth Adams was replaced by John McIntire as the new wagon master.

Ward Bond And Johny Horton

There’s an urban legend that the country singer Johnny Horton went to go visit Ward Bond at his hotel room on the day he died. The legend says that Johnny Horton wanted to know if Ward Bond could get him a role on Wagon Train. Johnny Horton died on the same day that Ward Bond did, though several hours earlier and the two gentlemen never actually met.

Though it’s been over 60 years since Ward Bond has left us, he remains known as one of America’s best character actors. His filmography includes some of the best films made in the United States and we expect Western fans to rediscover Wagon Train in the coming years…

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60s Actors: Joseph Kearns

Another great 60s actor who died during production was Joseph Kearns. He was best known for playing George Wilson, aka “Mr. Wilson,” on the television series Dennis The Menace.

Joseph Kearns began his entertainment career in vaudeville during his childhood. He was part of a vaudeville group that toured the country for over a year. He studied at the University of Utah and taught a course in theatrical make-up while he was a student.

After a brief stint trying to start a wool business, he decided to return to showbiz. He began his career as a radio performer in the 1930s. His film career began in 1951 with the film Hard, Fast, and Beautiful. He also voiced the character of Doorknob in the animated film Alice In Wonderland.

In television, he had recurring roles in shows such as The Jack Benny Program, I Love Lucy, Perry Mason, and Gunsmoke. His final role was as Mr. Wilson in Dennis The Menace and this was easily the role he’s most remembered for.

He tragically suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage on February 11, 1962. The next day was his 55th birthday and he sadly passed away five days after that. Mr. Wilson was eventually written off the show, with the explanation that the Wilsons had moved away…

60s Actors: Dick Powell

One of the most versatile actors of Hollywood’s Golden Age was Dick Powell. He began his career as a comedy performer and then became known as a serious actor. He was the first actor to portray Detective Philip Marlowe on the screen.

His work in film and television made him a major star. He eventually became the host of his own show, The Dick Powell Show. This was an anthology series that showcased many great comedic and dramatic stories.

The show was a big hit, but alas, it wasn’t meant to last under Dick Powell’s hosting. In 1962, Dick Powell confirmed rumors that he was suffering from cancer. He died a year later. The Dick Powell Show was renamed to The Dick Powell Theater and had a slew of different hosts.

To this day, Dick Powell is remembered for his relentless work ethic and his versatility. In his short career, he became known for great comedies such as Christmas In July – directed by Preston Sturges. He then became known for his work in serious films such as Murder, My Sweet.

Also, he worked as a director for films such as The Conquerer and The Hunters. He always found a way to reinvent himself and expand his talents. There’s something from his incredible career that we could all learn about…

60s Actors: Larry Keating

Larry Keating was first known for creating and hosting the show Professor Puzzlewit – a radio quiz program on KMJ radio. He later had a great film career and was recognized as a popular character actor.

In television, he became known initially for his work on The Hank McCune Show and The Geroge Burns and Gracie Allen Show.

But his best known work in television was as Roger Addison in the show Mister Ed. Larry Keating was diagnosed with leukemia while working on the third season of Mister Ed. He began work on the fourth season in 1963 and died after filming three episodes. His character was eventually written off the show…

60s Actors: John Larkin

John Larkin became a major star on radio, performing as Perry Mason. With television, he was best known as Mike Karr in the daytime series The Edge of Night.

He continued to work in television throughout his career. He appeared in shows such as Saints and Sinners, The Dick Powell Show, Gunsmoke, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. His final work was on the show Twelve O’Clock High.

He played Major General Wiley Crowe on the show. John Larkin died of a heart attack during the second series of Twelve O’Clock High. His character was written off the show…

John Larkin was that rare breed of entertainer who managed to become a star in multiple mediums. From radio, to daytime television, to mainstream television, he proved he was a man of many talents…

60s Actors: Henry Kulky

Henry Kulky began his career as a boxer, competing mostly throughout South America under the name Bomber Kulkavich.

He had a tough guy and rough image which is what led to his film and television career. He appeared in films such as Call Northside 777, Mighty Joe Young, New York Confidential, and Up Periscope.

His best known role was in the television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Chief Curley Jones. He died of a heart attack after the first season and his character was written out of the series…

60s Actress: Dorothy Kilgallen

One of the most unlikely stars of the 1960s was the journalist and game show panelist Dorothy Kilgallen.

As a journalist, she mostly focused on writing about show business news and celebrity gossip. But some of her most famous writings included writing about the assassination of President Kennedy, as well as the trial of physician Sam Sheppard who was charged with murdering his wife!

Apart from her work in journalism, she was known as one of the first panelists on the now-classic gameshow What’s My Line? She remained as a panelist on the show for 15 years.

Dorothy Kilgallen died in 1965 at the age of 52 from a combination of alcohol and barbiturates. To this day, there remains a rumor that she was murdered because she wanted to reveal a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy.

Perhaps we’ll never know the truth… Nevertheless, we can enjoy Dorothy Kilgallen’s work by reading her writings and catching her on reruns of What’s My Line?

Alice Pearce

Alice Pearce began her career performing live in nightclubs and later on stage. She reached a wider audience when she reprised her role in the film version of On The Town.

She then had regular roles in television shows such as Jamie and The Addams Family. But her best known work was as Gladys Kravitz in Bewitched. She died from ovarian cancer shortly after finishing work on the second season of the show. The character remained on the show and the role was reprised by actress Sandra Gould.

Ann Sheridan

Ann Sheridan began her film career at age 19 in the film Search for Beauty. After the success of the film, she was put under contract to play small bit parts in films produced by Paramount.

She continued to work with Paramount and then eventually graduated to working in films produced by Warner Brothers. She became well-known for her work in B-Pictures such as Alcatraz Island and She Loved a Fireman.

Eventually, she became known as the most popular “oomph” girl in America. This meant that she was the beautiful woman who men desired to be with.

In the 1960s, she began work on a Western sitcom called Pistols ‘n’ Petticoats. She had become ill during the filming of the show and died of esophageal cancer during the filming. She was 51 years old. She’s a great example of someone who began their career at a young age and never stopped working. She had the star power that most actors dream of, and very few manage to achieve…

60s Actors: Smiley Burnette

Smiley Burnette was a popular country music artist and comic performer – best known for his work alongside Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers. One of his best known roles was as Frog Millhouse – which he played in over 20 different films.

His film career included work in over 50 films and his television career began with the show Petticoat Junction – which was the show he was best known for. He died at the age of 56 after filming the fourth season of the show from leukemia.

Charles Bickford

Charles Bickford was a great American actor known for his work as a supporting actor. His film roles included work in major films such as The Farmer’s Daughter, A Star Is Born, The Big Country and The Days of Wine and Roses.

The latter two films were what he was best known for. He also had occasional work in television movies and also had a recurring role in the Western series The Virginian. He died from pneumonia at the age of 76 while The Virginian was in production. His character was written off the show.

Marion Lorne

Marion Lorne was a prolific actress known for her work on stage, in film, and in television. Her best known work was her role as Aunt Clara in Bewitched.

Her work in the show was so well-loved that after she died of a heart attack, the character was written off the show. Apart from her work in Bewitched, she also acted in films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train and Mike Nichols’ The Graduate.

She also had television appearances in The Ed Sullivan Show, Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall, and The Gary Moore Show.

Bea Benderet

Bea Benaderet was one of Hollywood’s most famous female comic performers. She started her career in radio and then worked as a voice actor in many popular Looney Toons cartoons.

Bea was so popular as a comic performer that she was the first choice for Ethel in I Love Lucy. She later became known for playing Betty Rubble in The Flintstones and Cousin Pearl in The Beverly Hillbillies.

She died at the age of 62 in 1968 during production of Petticoat Junction in  which she had a recurring role.

Barton Maclane

Barton MacLane began his acting career on stage and then began his film career in the late 1920s – appearing in The Marx Brother’s film The Cocoanuts. He later appeared in what are now classic American films including The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of Sierra Madre.

Barton was best known for his work as General Petersen in I Dream of Jeannie. He died of double pneumonia at the age of 66 while the TV show was still in production. His character was written out of the show…

One of the most popular leading men in Hollywood was Robert Taylor. He was best known for his incredible filmography which included roles in films such as Magnificent Obsession, A Yank at Oxford, Billy the Kid, Bataan, and The Night Walker.

In television, he was best known for his role in the show The Detectives. He died at the age of 57 while he was working as a host on the anthology series Death Valley Days. He was replaced by actor Dale Robertson.

Barbara Pepper

Last on our list was the great Barbara Pepper. She was an actress who worked on stage, film, radio, and television.

She was best known for her work as Doris Ziffel on Green Acres. Her film work included roles in My Fair Lady and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Her TV roles also included recurring roles on I Love Lucy, Petticoat Junction, and The Jack Benny Program.

She died at the age of 54 from coronary thrombosis during the production of Green Acres. Her character was recast with Fran Ryan taking over the role.

Are you a fan of any of these actors?

Do you think that their legacy continues to live on? Or do we need to promote their work more so that they’re never forgotten?

Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

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