James Dean died in an automobile accident on September 30, 1955, when his Porsche 550 Spyder broadsided a Ford Tudor that had veered into his lane. The other driver, 23 year old Donald Turnupseed, suffered only minor injuries. Dean was rushed to Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. He was only 24 years old. He is buried in Park Cemetery in Fairmount, Indiana. Dean was posthumously nominated for an Academy Award for Giant (1956) which was released after his death. He had also been nominated for his very first feature film, East of Eden (1955). Although he made only three films, and his film career only lasted for about a year before it was cut short by his early death, James Dean has become a Hollywood Icon and has a fan following that rivals such Hollywood legends as Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne.
On January 23, 2005, longtime "Tonight Show" host Johnny Carson died of emphysema at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 79 years old. Carson had often smoked cigarettes on-air during the early days of the "Tonight Show," but even after he dropped the habit on TV, he remained a heavy smoker. Carson made his debut as host of the "Tonight Show" in October of 1962 and was an immediate hit with audiences. His opening monologues were often brilliant, and even when they weren't Johnny had a way of making the audience laugh with a self-deprecating look. The show also featured skits in which Carson portrayed such memorable characters as Art Fern, Aunt Flabby, and Carnac the Magnificent. By the 1980s, Johnny Carson was the highest-paid performer on television, reportedly making $5 million from his "Tonight Show" duties alone. During his tenure on the show, Carson won 6 Emmy Awards, and in 1987 he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. He also hosted the Academy Awards five times during the 1970s and 1980s. On May 22, 1992, Johnny Carson finally retired, passing the "Tonight Show" to frequent guest host Jay Leno. Although, at the time, he hinted that he might return with some other project, Johnny Carson chose to spend the next 13 years in full retirement. Just days before his death, however, it was reported that he still kept up with current events and sometimes sent jokes to longtime friend and fellow talk-show host David Letterman who occasionally used the material in his monologues.
Audrey Hepburn died of colon cancer in Tolochenaz, Switzerland on January 20, 1993. She was 63 years old and had spent her final years as a goodwill ambassador and spokesperson for the UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund), touring Africa and South America to raise awareness of the plight of hungry children. A five-time Oscar nominee and winner of the 1953 Academy Award for Best Actress, Audrey Hepburn will always be remembered for such films as Roman Holiday (1953), Sabrina (1954), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), My Fair Lady (1964), and Wait Until Dark (1967).
On February 21, 1965, while delivering a speech in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom to a crowd of about 400 people, Malcolm X was shot in the chest and killed by a group of armed assassins. Three members of the Nation of Islam, an organization Malcolm X had once belonged to, were arrested and convicted of first-degree murder. Although in 1964, one year before his death, Malcolm X returned from a pilgrimage to Mecca, proclaiming his new-found belief that blacks and whites could live in brotherhood, he is still remembered as a charismatic advocate of black separatism who rejected Martin Luther King, Jr's methods of non-violent protest.
On July 27, 2003, legendary comedian Bob Hope died of pneumonia at his home in Toluca Lake, California, where he had lived since 1937. He was 100 years old. When asked on his deathbed where he wanted to be buried, he reportedly told his wife, "Surprise me." She chose to have him interred in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles. Bob Hope got his first taste of show business in 1915 when he won a Charlie Chaplin imitation contest. From that humble beginning, he would go on to perform in almost every medium, from the vaudeville circuit to the Broadway stage, from radio to television to movies. His career really took off when he appeared in a popular series of "Road" movies with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour which included, among others, Road to Singapore (1940), Road to Morocco (1942), and Road to Rio (1947). All in all, he appeared in more than 75 movies, more than 475 television programs, and more than a thousand radio programs, but despite those remarkable figures, Bob Hope is perhaps best known for entertaining U.S. troops during wartime. His USO career spanned six decades and multiple wars including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the 1991 Persian Gulf War. During that time he headlined nearly 60 tours and performed for millions of servicemen. Dubbed "Mr. Entertainment" and "The King of Comedy," Bob Hope has FOUR stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame -- a motion picture star, a radio star, a TV star, and a live theatre special plaque.
On August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, died from injuries suffered during an automobile accident in Paris. The accident occurred after she and her companion, Dodi Al Fayed, left the Ritz Hotel in Paris. Pursued by several photographers, the princess' Mercedes entered a tunnel under the Place de l'Alma at high speeds and, apparently struck a pillar--then smashed into a wall. As Princess Diana and her companions lay injured inside the wreckage, the photographers who had pursued her continued to take pictures. Mr. Al Fayed and the chauffeur, Henri Paul, died at the scene, but the princess and her bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, survived the crash and were rushed by ambulance to Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital. Unfortunately, Trevor Rees-Jones, the only occupant of the car who was wearing a safety belt, would also be the only one to survive. For two hours, surgeons worked on the princess, but in the end they were unable to save her life. Blood tests later showed that the chauffeur was intoxicated at the time of the accident and had also taken prescription drugs. But the accuracy of these blood tests has been hotly disputed by the families of both the chauffeur and Mr. Al Fayed who suggest that the tests were tampered with as they also show enough carbon monoxide in the chauffeur's system to have prevented him from even walking. Further fueling conspiracy theories is the fact that a French investigation two years after the crash concluded that the princess' car had collided with a white Fiat Uno while in the tunnel. The driver of that vehicle has never come forward, nor has the vehicle been found. Approximately 3 million mourners attended Princess Diana's funeral at Westminster Abbey on September 6, 1997, and more than one million bouquets were left at her London home.
In November, 1946, legendary baseball player Babe Ruth was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his neck. Although he had the growth surgically removed and even underwent radiation therapy -- then an experimental approach to fighting cancer -- Ruth's health gradually deteriorated as a result of remnants of the cancer that doctors could not remove. He died on August 16, 1948, at the age of 53, and was buried in the Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven in Hawthorne, New York. More than 100,000 fans attended a memorial at Yankee Stadium and a funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. One of the greatest baseball players of all time, Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs during his major league career, a record that stood until 1974, when Hank Aaron surpassed it. He also led the Yankees to seven pennants, and his exploits in Yankee Stadium were the stuff of legends, prompting generations of fans to refer to Yankee Stadium as "the house that Ruth built."
On June 11, 1979, legendary actor John Wayne (Marion Michael Morrison) died of stomach cancer. He was 72 years old. His cancer is sometimes traced back to The Conqueror, a film he shot in 1955 about 100 miles downwind of a Nevada nuclear-weapons test site. Of the 220 people who worked on the film, 91 had contracted cancer by the early 1980s and 46 had died of it, including Wayne, along with fellow stars Agnes Moorehead and Susan Hayward. However, it should also be noted that his death from cancer may just as likely have the result of years of chain smoking. One of the most popular actors in the history of American film, John Wayne appeared in such classics as Stagecoach (1939), Red River (1949), Rio Grande (1950), The Quiet Man (1952), The Alamo (1960), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and True Grit (1969) for which he won a Best Actor Oscar. Once, when asked how he wanted to be remembered, Wayne replied, "Feo, Fuerte y Formal" -- a Spanish proverb meaning "He was ugly, strong, and had dignity." He is buried at Pacific View Memorial Park in Newport Beach, California.
The famous magician and escape artist Harry Houdini (Ehrich Weiss) died on Halloween Day, 1926, in Detroit, Michigan, at the age of 52. The official cause of death was peritonitis caused by appendicitis. An urban legend persists that Houdini died from a blow to the stomach. He was famous for his remarkable physical condition and could easily withstand blows to his stomach, even from very strong men, by tensing his muscles. Just before his death, while performing in Canada, an overzealous young man wishing to test Houdini punched him several times in the stomach without giving him time to prepare. It is believed by some that these blows ruptured Houdini's appendix. While this may or may not be true, Houdini did not actually die from the ruptured appendix but rather from a bacterial infection related to the appendicitis. However, the discomfort caused by this attack may have masked the pain of the appendix and delayed Houdini from seeking medical treatment until it was too late. Another urban legend persists that Houdini died during a failed escape from the infamous Chinese Water Torture Cell. This misconception arose from a 1953 movie in which Tony Curtis played Houdini and which ended with the magician dying in just that fashion. The account, however, was entirely fictional. Houdini's funeral was held on November 4, 1926, and was attended by over 2,000 people. He was buried in the Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, New York.
On July 2, 1997, legendary actor Jimmy Stewart died at his Beverly Hills home of cardiac arrest. He was 89 years old. Reportedly, he was overdue to have the battery changed in his pacemaker at the time of his death, but had chosen not to undergo the procedure, preferring instead to let nature take its course -- presumably because he had never gotten over the death of his wife who had passed away in 1994 and longed to be with her again. One of the most beloved actors in the history of American film, Jimmy Stewart appeared in such films as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), The Philadelphia Story (1940), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Harvey (1950), Rear Window (1954), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). In 1980, he received the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award. He is buried next to his beloved wife Gloria in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.