Are there any celebrities you didn’t know had died? Usually, when a major celebrity dies their death becomes a major news story. For days on end, we’ll hear about the circumstances of their death as well as the achievements during their lives.
We feel for celebrities even if we never met them – and most of us will likely never meet our favorite actors and actresses!
But we feel a connection to them because of their work. They’ve entertained us for years. Due to the immortality of film and television, they’ll continue to entertain us even after their passing.
But which great celebrities passed away without much media coverage? There have been quite a few over the years who have entertained us and whom we should never forget.
If there was an award for the most successful actor of all time, it should go to John Cazale. He was born on August 12, 1935 in Massachusetts. He studied Drama at Oberlin College and later at Boston University.
He began his career working in small plays. These included plays such as J.B., The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window and The Indian Wants the Bronx. In the latter play, he acted alongside a fellow newcomer named Al Pacino.
The two of them would eventually act together in three films. In the 1960s, John Cazale only had experience with a short film called The American Way.
However, his big break came in the 1970s when he was cast as Fredo Corleone in The Godfather alongside his idol Marlon Brando and longtime friend Al Pacino. The film was a huge hit and John Cazale showed his incredible depth as the vulnerable member of the notorious Corleone family. In The Godfather Part II, he reprised the role and showed us his full range as an actor.
His other roles included co-starring once again with Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon. He also starred alongside Gene Hackman in The Conversation and his final film role was in The Deer Hunter.
What did all these films have in common? They are all considered to be among the greatest films ever made. They are also considered to be masterpieces of American cinema and all were nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award!
John Cazale died in 1978 at the age of 42 from lung cancer, never getting to watch his performance in his final film. While his film career only consisted of 5 films, they were all great films and his performances in them are unforgettable.
Remember the Police Academy films? These were among the best comedy films made during the 1980s. Among their ensemble casts was David Graf. He played Sergeant Eugene Tackleberry, who was notorious for overreacting to even the smallest of crimes!
His other film work included roles in Rules of Engagement, Guarding Tess, and The Brady Bunch Movie. He also worked on the silver screen, having a recurring role in The West Wing.
He sadly passed away at the age of 50 in 2001. While his death may be tragic, we’ll remember him from the laughs he gave us from the Police Academy films!
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One of the most memorable characters from the sitcom Happy Days was Joanie Cunningham played by young Erin Moran.
She started working on the show at age 13 in 1974 and continued working on the show until 1984. Later on, she and her co-star Scott Baio acted in a spinoff series called Joanie Loves Chachi.
While these two series brought her fame, she had a hard time finding regular work after they came to an end. She did find bit parts in shows such as Diagnosis Murder but could never find significant work.
This also brought her financial troubles. In 2012, she won a lawsuit as her likeness was used for Happy Days-related merchandise. She was awarded $60,000 for the lawsuit but managed to quickly spend all of it.
As she got older she eventually lost her house and had to move into a trailer home with her mother-in-law. However, she was eventually thrown out because she got into a brawl with her mother-in-law!
Erin Moran died at the age of 56 in 2017 from stage 4 cancer. This came after many years of depression and substance abuse. While her life ended in tragedy, we can remember the joy she gave us in Happy Days and in Joanie Loves Chachi…
Another actress who didn’t find much success after her initial work was Dana Plato. She was best known as playing Kimberly Drummond in the sitcom Diff’rent Strokes.
Like Erin Moran, her tragic life is a warning story for many child actors. While she found success with the show, she also developed a substance addiction. At age 14 she overdosed on Valium and starting at age 15, she began showing up drunk on set.
At age 18 she became pregnant, and her character was written off the show. Much of the remainder of her life consisted of problems with drug and alcohol abuse. She never managed to replicate the success of Diff’rent Strokes and appeared mostly in B-grade movies and a few erotic films.
She would later get arrested in Las Vegas for trying to rob a video store. She had a few romantic relationships and even a short marriage, but nothing fruitful. A day before her death, she appeared on The Howard Stern Show where she confessed to her problems with alcohol and substance abuse.
She was found dead in her sleep at the age of 34. Her cause of death was initially stated as an overdose on painkillers but was later ruled a suicide.
One of the best family sitcoms of all time was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And who could forget the wonderful Uncle Phil played by James Avery?
While Uncle Phil was the actors best known role, James Avery lived an incredible life. He was born in Suffolk, Virginia but grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He served in the Vietnam War as a member of the U.S. Navy.
Upon returning to the U.S., he moved to California and began writing television scripts for PBS. He also spent this time earning a degree in Drama and Literature from Thurgood Marshall College in 1976.
He began his acting career in the 1980s with bit parts in television shows such as Hill Street Blues, Brothers, Amen, FM, The Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team, and L.A. Law.
He also had roles in movies such as The Ladies Club, Three for the Road, and The Linguini Incident.
But his big break came as the lovable Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air which ran from 1990 to 1995. The character became one of the most memorable in American television history. TV Guide would later rank Uncle Phil as #34 in the 50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time!
Apart from Uncle Phil, James Avery was best known for his voice as Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He continued his career with bit parts in television shows and a slew of independent films including Hair Show, Who’s Your Caddy? and Wish I Was Here – which was his final film role.
He passed away on New Year’s Eve 2013 due to complications from an open-heart surgery. His Fresh Prince co-star Joseph Marcell said that James Avery was, “a marvelous man and a truly wonderful actor… He strove to present an Uncle Phil that everybody wishes was their uncle.”
If you grew up in the 1970s, you’ll remember Marcia Wallace from her role as Carol Kester in The Bob Newhart Show. Younger audiences will recognize her voice for the character of Edna Krabappel in The Simpsons.
She especially loved this latter role and stated that she didn’t want another actress replacing her upon her death. Her wish was honored, and Edna was killed off from the show after Marcia’s passing.
The bulk of her career involved making audiences laugh with her many appearances on classic variety and talk shows. These included appearances on The Merv Griffin Show, Match Game, Hollywood Squares, The $25,000 Pyramid, and Family Feud.
In later years, she also had bit parts in shows ranging from Murder She Wrote, Magnum P.I., A Different World, and Colombo.
She passed away in 2013 after complications from pneumonia at the age of 70. After her passing, The Simpsons producer Al Jean remarked that she “beloved by all at The Simpsons and we intend to retire her irreplaceable character.”
Marcia Wallace’s career was one that we’d all like to emulate, regardless of our industry. Throughout her life she made audiences laugh and she kept on working relentlessly. She’s a testament to the talent and perseverance that we admire in so many celebrities.
We can hope that though there was little coverage of her passing, that audiences will continue to enjoy her work for years to come!
Are you a fan of any of the actors and actresses mentioned in this video? Do you think that their deaths weren’t covered enough in the media? Or do you think that we spend too much time focusing on celebrity’s personal lives and should only focus on their careers?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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