Gandolfini, O'Toole, Reed, Monteith, Walker Among Celebs Who Died In 2013
2013 was a year of surprising deaths and sad goodbyes in the entertainment world. James Gandolfini's death at 51 while vacationing in Rome stunned the world, Cory Monteith's drugs-related death at 31 made "Glee" fans mourn, and Paul Walker's death in a violent car crash at 40 puts the future of the "Fast & Furious" franchise in question.
James Gandolfini, the 51-year-old star of the HBO television show "The Sopranos" died of a heart attack while visiting Rome on vacation with his 13-year-old son, Michael, on June 19.
Gandolfini collapsed in the bathroom of his hotel room, and had been scheduled to attend the closing of the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily. His Manhattan funeral was attended by "Sopranos" co-stars Edie Falco, Vincent Pastore, Joe Pantoliano, Dominic Chianese, and Aida Turturro.
Gandolfini's portrayal of a New Jersey gangster, Tony Soprano, who ordered hits on his enemies and saw a therapist to talk about his insecurities, was the signature role of his career, winning him three Emmy Awards as best actor in a drama series. In 2009, he was nominated for a Tony Award for his Broadway role in "God of Carnage." The actor had been working on an upcoming HBO series, "Criminal Justice," and he also appeared in the Oscar-nominated "Zero Dark Thirty," a film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, as CIA head Leon Panetta. His romantic comedy "Enough Said," co-starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, was released posthumously to positive reviews, earning him a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award nomination for outstanding male actor in a supporting role. Apart from his son Michael with his first wife, who he divorced in 2002, Gandolfini is survived by his wife Deborah Lin and daughter Liliana, who was born in 2012.
Actor Peter O'Toole, who shot to international fame in the 1962 blockbuster movie "Lawrence of Arabia," died at age 81 in London after a long illness on December 15. O'Toole's striking good looks and charm sustained him through a stage and film career of more than 50 years that swung wildly between triumph and disaster. The son of an Irishman, O'Toole grew up in England. Years of heavy drinking and chain-smoking took their toll on his health.
Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine, one of the last of the leading ladies from Hollywood's Golden Age whose career was marked by a storied and bitter rivalry with her older sister, Olivia de Havilland, also died on December 15. Fontaine died in her sleep at her home in Carmel, California after having been in failing health. She was 96. Among her most memorable films was the Alfred Hitchcock thriller "Suspicion," co-starring Cary Grant, for which she won an Academy Award in 1942, beating out her sister in the competition. The honor gave Fontaine the distinction of being the only performer, actor or actress, ever to win an Academy Award for a starring role in one of Hitchcock's many movies.
31-year-old "Glee" star Cory Monteith was found dead on July 13 at a hotel in Vancouver, Canada, of an accidental drug and alcohol overdose. The actor, who played high school athlete turned glee club singer Finn Hudson in the Fox musical comedy, had struggled with substance abuse and had been in rehab in April. He was dating co-star Lea Michele at the time of his death.
Lou Reed, whose band the Velvet Underground became one of the most influential in rock by fusing art and music in collaboration with artist Andy Warhol in 1960s New York, died on October 27 at the age of 71. Reed died at a home he shared in Long Island, New York, with his wife Laurie Anderson following complications from a liver transplant he had earlier this year. An admitted hard drinker and drug user for many years, Reed underwent a liver transplant earlier this year at the Cleveland Mayo Clinic. While the Velvet Underground never achieved great commercial success, the band revolutionized rock in the 1960s and 70s with a mixture of thrashing guitar licks and smooth melodies sung by Reed or the sultry German model Nico, who briefly collaborated with the band at Warhol's insistence.
"Fast and Furious" star Paul Walker died in a fiery car crash on November 30, while a passenger in a Porsche sportscar driven by his friend, racecar driver Roger Rodas, who also died. The coroner said Walker's death resulted from traumatic and heat-related injuries. He had been attending a charity event for bringing aid to those affected by Typhoon Haiyan in The Philippines.
Walker became a symbol of street-racing and car culture in his role as law enforcement officer Brian O'Conner in the "Fast & Furious" series, which has grossed more than $2 billion at the global box office since its debut in 2001. At the time of his death, production was underway for "Fast & Furious 7," forcing Universal Studios to put filming on hold for an unspecified amount of time as it decides how to continue production without Walker, whose next film "Hours," about a father in grief during Hurricane Katrina, was released December 13. He also had notable roles in 1998's "Pleasantville" and 1999's "Varsity Blues."
Roger Ebert, who was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize and became an unlikely TV star while hosting a movie review show "Siskel & Ebert," died April 4th, two days after disclosing that his cancer of the thyroid and salivary glands had returned. He was 70 years old, and had lost his ability to speak and eat after surgeries in 2002 and 2003. After snagging a job as a sportswriter at the age of 15, then moved to the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967, and his film reviews appeared in more than 200 newspapers, and won him the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. But his most visible role was as one of the hosts of a popular television movie review show with Gene Siskel, a reviewer from the rival Chicago Tribune. The program began airing in the 1970s on a Chicago public television station earning the sometimes sparring pair fame for their "Two thumbs up!" seal of approval for movies. After Siskel died in 1999 at age 53 due to complications from surgery for a brain tumor, Ebert teamed with critic Richard Roeper for another movie review show, "Ebert & Roeper."
Actress Jean Stapleton, best known for her role in the groundbreaking 1970s television comedy "All in the Family," died at age 90 on May 31, of natural causes at her home in New York City. Her stint as the good-hearted housewife Edith Bunker, the long-suffering, unsophisticated but understanding wife of the reactionary and often racist Archie Bunker, played by the late Carroll O'Connor, earned her three Emmy Awards. Stapleton appeared in "All in the Family" from 1971 to 1979, and continued her role for a time in the 1979 spinoff show "Archie Bunker's Place."
Actor Conrad Bain, best known for his role on the 1970s and '80s television comedy "Diff'rent Strokes" died at age 89 of natural causes on January 14. He starred opposite the young Gary Coleman on the NBC sitcom as his adoptive father, Philip Drummond. The show ran for eight seasons, 1978-1986, on NBC, and went into wide re-run syndication around the world.
Actress Bonnie Franklin, best known for her starring role as a single, working mother on the hit CBS comedy "One Day at a Time," died on March 1st at age 69, of complications from pancreatic cancer. Franklin, a petite redhead, had acted on Broadway before being cast as the harried divorcee Ann Romano in "One Day at a Time," which debuted in December 1975 and ran for nine seasons on CBS.
Annette Funicello, America's girl next door who captured the innocence of the 1950s and 1960s as a Disney Mouseketeer and the star of beach party movies, died on April 8 at age 70, from complications of multiple sclerosis. Funicello caught the public eye as a 12-year-old in 1955 when she became one of the original members of Disney's "The Mickey Mouse Club," a trademark show of the clean-cut fifties. She went on to star in a series of beach movies in the 1960s including "Beach Party," "Bikini Beach" and the hit "Beach Blanket Bingo," released in 1965 and co-starring teen idol Frankie Avalon. In later life, she was remembered for her valiant fight against multiple sclerosis, a crippling disease of the nervous system that she developed in the late 1980s.
Comedian Jonathan Winters, whose manic, improvisational genius never seemed to take a rest, died at the age of 87 of natural causes on April 11 after a more than 50-year career in stand-up comedy, on television and in film. The burly, moon-faced Winters, a major influence on contemporary comedians like Robin Williams and Steve Martin, and had standout roles in 1960s comedy films "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and "The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming." He also made regular appearances on "The Tonight Show" with hosts Jack Paar and then Johnny Carson, "The Andy Williams Show" and his own TV variety shows, "The Jonathan Winters Show" and "The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters," in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Winters' outlandish riffing style and repertoire of madcap characters made him a leading stand-up performer in the late 1950s but the pressure of being on the road led to a mental breakdown in 1959. He spent time in mental hospitals and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Dennis Farina, the former Chicago cop turned film and television actor best known for his role as wise-cracking detective Joe Fontana on the hit NBC police drama "Law & Order," died after suffering complications from lung cancer, on July 22. Farina, who parlayed his experience as a police officer into a series of tough-guy roles in Hollywood, earned his first credited screen role in a bit part in the 1981 Michael Mann film "Thief" and went on to play mobsters in two more films - appearing as Jimmy Serrano in the 1988 comic action adventure "Midnight Run" and as Ray "Bones" Barboni in the 1995 gangster satire "Get Shorty."
Oscar-nominated Actress Eileen Brennan, died from bladder cancer on July 28 at age 80. Brennan earned a best supporting actress Oscar nomination in 1981 for her role as U.S. Army Captain Doreen Lewis in the comedy "Private Benjamin," starring alongside Goldie Hawn. She won an Emmy and Golden Globe in her reprisal of the character in the TV adaptation of the film, which aired from 1981 to 1983, and played a memorable role as Mrs. Peacock in the 1985 comedy film "Clue."
Actress Marcia Wallace, the voice of Edna Krabappel on the Fox show "The Simpsons" died at age 70 on October 25, and had survived breast cancer. Wallace won an Emmy for outstanding voice actress in 1992, for her character. She had played the chatty receptionist on the 1970s sitcom "The Bob Newhart Show." She also appeared on "The Merv Griffin Show" and game shows such as "Hollywood Squares" and "The $25,000 Pyramid."
American author Elmore Leonard, whose ear for gritty, realistic dialogue helped bring dozens of hard-bitten crooks, cops and cowboys to life in nearly 50 novels, died on August 20, several weeks after a stroke, at age 87. Leonard, who first wrote Westerns when he gave up his advertising agency job in the 1950s before moving on to crime and suspense books, had his commercial breakthrough in 1985 with the publication of "Glitz," and his following books, including "Get Shorty," "Out of Sight," "Killshot," "Bandits" and "Freaky Deaky," came out every year-and-a-half or so and were best-sellers. Hollywood had an affinity for Leonard's books, and more than 25 of his works were made into movies or television shows, beginning with Paul Newman in the 1967 film "Hombre." The Western story "3:10 to Yuma" and the novel "The Big Bounce" were each adapted for film twice.
Best-selling U.S. author Tom Clancy, who thrilled readers with vivid descriptions of soldiers and spies in novels including "The Hunt for Red October" and "Patriot Games," died at 66 on October 1, of undisclosed causes. His books, which closely tracked Americans' security fears, moving from Cold War face-offs to terrorist attacks and both fascinated readers with their high-stakes plots and enthralled military experts with their precise details, sold more than 100 million copies. Harrison Ford and actors Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck played Jack Ryan, one of Clancy's most famous characters, on the big screen.
American pianist Van Cliburn, who awed Russian audiences with his exquisite Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff concertos and won fame and fortune back home, died on February 27 after suffering from advanced bone cancer, at the age of 78. The lanky, blue-eyed Texan, who began taking piano lessons at the age of 3 and later trained at New York's prestigious Juilliard School, burst onto the world stage at the height of the Cold War and was the surprise winner of the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958.
Esther Williams, whose experiences as a young swimming champion led to a career of Hollywood "aqua-musicals" designed just for her, died on June 6th at the age of 91, due to natural causes. Williams, one of the biggest box-office stars of the 1940s and 1950s, became known as "Hollywood's Mermaid" and "The Queen of the Surf." Her aqua-musicals were escapist comedies in lush color, with lavish song and watery dance numbers and lots of footage of synchronized swimming. They were so popular that some credited her with a jump in the popularity of home swimming pools.
Ray Manzarek, a founding member and keyboardist of 1960s rock group The Doors, died on May 20 at age 74 following a battle with cancer. Singer Jim Morrison and then-UCLA film student Manzarek formed The Doors in 1965 after a chance meeting at Los Angeles' Venice Beach, and Manzarek's keyboard work would go on to be a touchstone of hits like "Break On Through to the Other Side" and "Light My Fire." The band, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, sold some 100 million records since its heyday with psychedelic-era classics such as 1971's "Riders on the Storm." Manzarek's electric organ was a defining aspect next to Morrison's booming voice in the band's blues- and jazz-influenced take on rock and roll. The band recorded a total of eight albums between 1967 and 1972. After the band's break up, Manzarek released two albums with the rock band "Nite City" in the late 1970s and six solo albums, most recently "Translucent Blues" in 2011 with blues-rock guitarist Roy Rogers.
George Jones, a classic country singer with a voice full of raw honky-tonk emotion and a life full of honky-tonk turmoil, died on April 26 at age 81, of natural causes. Jones, whose career spanned more than six decades and included hits such as "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and "Window Up Above." In November 2012, Jones embarked on a farewell tour after a career that produced his first top 10 record in 1955 with "Why Baby Why." The "Grand Tour" was to conclude in Nashville in November this year, where Jones was to be joined by some of the many stars who influenced him.
American pop singer Patti Page, whose 1950 hit "Tennessee Waltz" topped the charts for months, died after suffering congestive heart failure on January 1, at age 85. Nicknamed "The Singing' Rage," Page sold more than 100 million albums in her 67-year career, which included 1950s chart toppers "(How Much Is That) Doggie in the Window," "I Went to Your Wedding" and "All My Love (Bolero)."
Eleanor Parker, a Hollywood leading lady of the 1940s and 1950s and three-time Oscar nominee who starred alongside big names including Frank Sinatra and Kirk Douglas and later appeared as the baroness in the musical "The Sound of Music," died at age 91 on December 9th, of complications from pneumonia.