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Gone But Not Forgotten Actresses Who Died Too Soon

Updated on July 22, 2016

Gone But Not Forgotten

This article offers up a listing of but a few actresses who died rather early in their careers or in life in general. Some of these ladies were veteran performers having acted in film, television and even stage and whose parting came too soon, career-wise as they still had so much to offer viewing audiences and fans alike. Others on the list were just getting their careers started when the final curtain came down. But, whether they be veteran or newbie, they all left us much too soon.

Obviously, a page this small can not list all of the actresses who fit into this category. If you can think of others, please feel free to list them in the guestbook.

Nancy Addison was Jillian Coleridge on Ryan's Hope

  • Born March 21, 1946 in New York City, NY.
  • Her acting career began in the play The Impossible Years co starring Hollywood veteran actor Tom Ewell.
  • Her first soap opera role was as Kit Vestid in 1969 on Guiding Light.
  • In 1975 she joined the soap Ryan's Hope as Jillian Coleridge. She stayed with the series for 13 years leaving in 1987 to work on other projects.
  • She worked in the three part mini-series The Dain Curse in 1978, co starring James Coburn.
  • Serves as Queen Azalea for XXXI for the North Carolina Azalea Festival in 1978.
  • Admitted to having seen Gone With the Wind 15 times and Wuthering Heights 12 times.
  • She was diagnosed with cancer of her adrenal gland and bronchial tubes in 1999 and died at age 56 on June 18, 2002.

Brenda Benet Days of Our Lives Villainess Lee Dumonde

  • Born Brenda Benet Nelson on August 14, 1945.
  • Lovely Brenda knew she wanted to be an actress from an early age. Her career started in 1964 and lasted for just 16 years. But during that time span she guest starred on many popular television series of the 60's and 70's.
  • She was fluent in five languages and played the flute and the violin.
  • Her most memorable role was as Lee DuMonde Carmichael Williams on the daytime soap Days of Our Lives, a role which she excelled at for three years beginning in 1979.
  • She was involved with the conservation organization Tree People. When her son died, she asked that instead of mourners sending flowers that they could plant trees. The people she worked with at NBC collectively donated enough money to the Tree People organization that it was able to plant 200 trees in Crestline (near Los Angeles) an area had been devastated by a fire. [1]
  • Brenda was married twice, the first marriage to actor Paul Peterson which lasted for three years. She then married actor Bill Bixby and together they had one son, Christopher who died at an early age in 1981. She went into a deep depression and never recovered. She committed suicide on April 7, 1982 at age 36.

Source:

[1] Beck, Marilyn. "Benet Mourned Young Son's Death." The Victoria Advocate 9 Apr. 1982: 8D. Print.

Capucine French Fashion Model and Actress

  • The lovely Capucine was a French fashion model and actress who is best remembered for her comedic turns in films like The Pink Panther and What's New Pussycat.
  • Born on January 6, 1928 as Germaine Hélène Irène Lefebvre, she changed her name to Capucine while working as a model in the French fashion houses.
  • Her debut as an actress came in 1949 in the French film Rendez-vous de Juillet and in 1957, while working as a model in New York City, she was spotted by producer Charles Feldman who brought her to Hollywood and had her learn English as well as take acting lessons.
  • In 1958 she signed a contract with Columbia and got a small part in the 1960 film Song Without End for which she won a Golden Globe nomination. She would then appear in six more films over the years including North to Alaska costarring John Wayne, Walk on the Wide Side in 1962 and the very popular The Pink Panther in 1963 with Peter Sellers and David Niven.
  • She would continue to make films in Europe right up until her death on March 17, 1990 at age 63. She committed suicide by jumping from her eighth-floor apartment in Lausanne, Switzerland. Those who knew her said she had suffered from illness and depression for quite some time before ending her life.

Linda Darnell Dies of Injuries Sustained in a House Fire

On the cover of October 1948 issue of Movieland magazine.
On the cover of October 1948 issue of Movieland magazine.
  • Born October 16, 1921 in Dallas Texas. Some sources state her birth year as 1923. Linda's tombstone gives her birth year as 1924.
  • Began acting in plays at age 12 and came to Hollywood in 1939 and acted in small roles in films. By age 17, she was considered washed up.
  • Got the part of Olga, a young peasant girl in the George Sanders film Summer Storm in 1944 which lead to bigger roles that established her as an actress of some merit; No Way Out, Forever Amber, A Letter to Three Wives.
  • In 1951, she announced she was leaving her home studio of Twentieth Century-Fox because she was dissatisfied with the roles offered her and believed becoming a free agent was the way to control her career and allow her to work in the kinds of roles that best suited her talents. (1)
  • Died in Chicago, Illinois from burns sustained in a house fire on April 10, 1965. She sustained burns over 80% of her body. She was 43 (some newspaper sources state she was 41) at the time of her death.

References:

(1) Heffernan, Harold. "Actress Gives Up $5,000 a Week." The Toledo Blade 25 Jan. 1951: 12. Print.

Sandy Dennis Oscar and Tony Award Winning Actress

  • Sandy's TV debut came in 1956 on the daytime soap The Guiding Light. In 1963, her big screen debut was in the 1961 film Splendor in the Grass.
  • But, it seemed as though the world of stage was to be her calling. She won two Tony Awards for her work in the 1963 play A Thousand Clowns and then in 1964 play Any Wednesday.
  • In 1966 she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in the film, Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf as Honey, the wife of George Segal's character.
  • She then went on to give wonderful performances in Up the Down Staircase (1967), The Fox (1967), Sweet November (1968) and The Out-of-Towners (1970).
  • During the 70's she did guest stints on a few popular TV series, worked on stage and did some work in films.
  • In the 80's, she worked in The Four Seasons (1981) and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982). In 1991, she played a leading role in the film The Indian Runner.
  • She died at age 54 on March 2, 1992 from ovarian cancer.

Christa Helm Was a Promising Newcomer in the World of Film and Television

  • Born Sandra Lynn Wohlfeil on November 11, 1949 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Christa was an up and coming actress whose career was cut short on February 12, 1977. While walking home from her agent's house, in West Hollywood, she was stabbed to death. Her death remains unsolved to this day, but there are some who believe she was killed by the same person who almost a year later, stabbed actor Sal Mineo to death in the same neighborhood. She was just 27 years old.
  • A few roles for her short career Let's Go For Broke (1974), Starsky and Hutch (1976), Wonder Woman (1976).

Jill Ireland Actress, Author and Wife of Charles Bronson

  • Jill's film career started with bit parts in films like Oh...Rosalinda (1955), Simon and Laura (1955) and Three Men in a Boat (1956).
  • In 1957, she married actor David McCallum and in the 60's, they moved to the US so he could star in the series The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. She would work with him in five episodes from the series. The couple divorced in 1967.
  • In 1968, she would marry Charles Bronson whom David had introduced her too some years before while starring together in the 1963 film The Great Escape.
    In 1970, she starred with Charles in the film Rider on the Rain. During the next 17 years, they would work together in 13 more films.
  • In 1984, Jill was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. She would write about her illness in two books and was working on a third at the time of her death on May 18, 1990 at age 54.
  • You might recall that Jill was Lelia Kalomi on This Side of Paradise, a Star Trek episode. She was the only woman that Mr. Spock loved!

Carolyn Jones Best Remembered as Morticia Addams?

Morticia feeds Cleopatra, her man eating plant.
Morticia feeds Cleopatra, her man eating plant.
  • Carolyn began her career in the 1950s after being spotted by a talent scout at the Pasendena Playhouse. She signed a contract with Paramount and made her film debut in the 1952 film, The Turning Point. She had roles in the films, The House of Wax with Vincent Price and The Big Heat. She also had roles in various TV series, too.
  • In 1958 she was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her work in the film The Bachelor Party and won a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer.
  • When the 60's rolled around she took on the role of Morticia Addams in the sitcom The Addams Family which brought her a Golden Globe nomination. She also took the role of Marsha, the Queen of Diamonds in the 60's campy series, Batman starring Adam West.
  • In the 70's, she played Queen Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons and Wonder Woman's mother on the series Wonder Woman.
  • Her final role was in 1981 as scheming Myrna Clegg on the daytime soap Capitol. While working on the show she as diagnosed with colon cancer and was able to complete only one season on the show. She died at age 53 on August 3, 1983.

Jayne Mansfield 1950's Blonde Bombshell and Rival to Marilyn Monroe

  • Jayne was born Vera Jayne Palmer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania on April 19, 1933. Her father died, three years later, in 1936 of a heart attack. To make ends meet, her mother, Vera became a school teacher and in 1939, she married Harry Lawrence Peers and the newly formed family moved to Dallas, Texas where Jayne graduated from Highland Park School in 1950, got married to high school sweetheart Paul Mansfield and gave birth to her first child in November of that year.
  • In 1954 she and her husband Paul moved to Los Angeles California where she studied Theater Arts at UCLA. While in California she auditioned for roles in The Seven Year Itch but nothing came of it. Her first acting assignment was on Lux Video Theater a series that ran on CBS. Her episode, An Angel Went AWOL, aired on October 21, 1954.
  • In 1955 she posed for Playboy magazine and began a long standing relationship with the magazine. Also, in 1955, she got a small role in the low budget film noir movie, The Female Jungle. This led to bit parts in a few other films of 1955, Pete Kelly's Blues, Hell on Frisco Bay and Illegal. Her husband, Paul would eventually file for divorce and seek sole custody of their daughter sighting that Jayne was a bad mother for having posed for Playboy. The couple officially divorced in 1958.
  • In 1955, she won the role of Rita Marlowe on Broadway in the successful play, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter. She also got a role in the film The Burglar which wouldn't be released until 1957 when she was at the height of her career.
  • In 1956 she signed a six year contract with 20th Century Fox which was sure they had found Marilyn Monroe's replacement. She was cast opposite Tom Ewell, who had worked with Marilyn in The Seven Year Itch, in the rock and role film, The Girl Can't Help It. It was one of that year's most successful films and inspired 20th Century Fox to buy the rights to the play Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and after 444 performances the play closed on Broadway and was soon to be made into a film starring Jayne.
  • Meanwhile she was cast in the film The Wayward Bus, a film based on the novel by John Steinbeck. She had a dramatic part and many believe this was one of her best films and in 1957 she won a Golden Globe as Best New Star beating out Natalie Wood and Carroll Baker.
  • She was cast in the Cary Grant film Kiss Them For Me in 1957, and didn't offer much to the movie except as some comedic relief. The female lead, opposite Grant was Suzy Kelly. She had been advised to not take the role, but feared that time out of the limelight would hinder her career and she wanted very much the chance to work with Grant.
  • In 1958, she was given the lead female role in the comedy western The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, filmed in England. This was the last really good film the she starred in, as the studio was hampered in giving her work because of her numerous pregnancies. Fox began to view her a non Hollywood star material and loaned her out to make films that were best described as low budget, such as The Challenge, Too Hot to Handle and It Happened it Athens which was filmed in 1960 and released in 1962. Fox at that time was experiencing financial troubles and hoped that by giving Jayne top billing in the film that it might score big at the box office. It didn't. Jayne's role was only that of a supporting player. Her film contract with Fox was dropped and that left her a free agent.
  • She would work in a few more films, The George Raft Story (1961) and a few foreign films in Italy and Germany.
  • In 1963, she hoped to jump start her career when she became the first mainstream actress to do nude scenes in the film Promises! Promises! costarring hubby Mickey Hargitay, Tommy Noonan and Marie McDonald. The film was banned in some cities and she invited a Playboy photographer onto the set to take photos which ran in an issue of Playboy magazine under the title of The Nudest Jayne Mansfield. The film had Jayne back in the Top Ten for attractions that year.
  • In 1966, she would star in Single Room Furnished and Las Vegas Hillbillies, two low budget films not worthy of her time. Her last film role was a cameo in the Walter Matthau comedy A Guide for the Married Man released in 1967.
  • Jayne was killed in a car accident June 29, 1967 at the age of 34. She is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania.

Elizabeth Montgomery Bewitched Us All

  • As the daughter of actor Robert Montgomery, Elizabeth's career started in the 1950s when she had a role on his show, Robert Montgomery Presents. Her film debut came in 1955 in the Gary Cooper film, The Court Marshall of Billy Mitchell.
  • When the 60's rolled around, she was cast as Samantha Stevens in the popular TV series Bewitched which ran for 8 years from 1964-72. The role won her five Emmy Award and four Golden Globe nominations.
  • After the series ended, there was no shortage of work for Elizabeth starring in a TV movies The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975) The Awakening Land (1978 TV mini series) Jennifer: A Woman's Story (1979) Belle Starr (1980) and more.
  • In the spring of 1995, she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, by the time the diagnosis had been made, it was too late for any kind of medical treatment. She passed away on May 18, 1995 at the age of 62.


Deborah Raffin Actress and Model

  • Deborah was born in Los Angeles, California on March 13, 1953.
  • Her mother was actress Trudy Marshall.
  • She began her career as a model who eventually transitioned into acting.
  • As a child she had no interest in becoming an actress but studied acting in order to help her overcome her shyness.
  • Raffin made her acting debut in the 1973 film 40 Carats as Trina Stanley, the daughter of Liv Ullmann's character Ann Stanley.
  • In 1975 she starred in Once Is Not Enough based on the novel of the same name by Jacqueline Susann. She refused to do nude scenes for the film. After that role, she complained that many of the roles she was offered were "simply insipid" and she had no interest in becoming just another sex symbol.
  • She dropped out of the limelight for five years and took acting lessons, played dinner clubs, and took roles on television in order to expand her range as an actress.
  • In 1980 she took the role of Lena Canada in the film Touched By Love. She was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress for the role, which also won her a nomination for a Razzie for Worst Actress for the same film.
  • She starred in two popular television mini-series, first the 1979 The Last Convertible and then in the 1988 Noble House.
  • In 1988 the actress and her husband/manager Michael Viner had to have a restraining order processed against actor Steven Inwood whom the couple said had threatened their lives. Inwood had dropped Viner as his manager about a year earlier. (Inwood and Raffin had worked together in the 1983 film Grizzly II: The Concert)
  • She played Julie Vale in the cult film Scanners II: The New Order in 1991.
  • Raffin, age 59, died of leukemia on November 21, 2012, at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. She had been diagnosed with the disease about a year before her death.


Gail Russell One of Hollywood's Most Beautiful Actresses

  • In 1942, Paramount took an interest in 18 year old Gail even though she had no experience as an actress and suffered from massive stage fright. They gave her an acting coach and within six months starred her in her first film, the 1943 Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour. She would go on to work in more movies during the mid 40s, with The Uninvited (1944) with Ray Milland being one of her most notable roles.
  • In 1949, she married actor Guy Madison, but sadly by 1950, alcoholism started to cause problems with her career. She began drinking on the set of The Uninvited as a way to deal with her shyness and stage fright. As time went on, her problems with alcohol all but ruined her career, her looks and her marriage to Madison as the couple divorced in 1954.
  • In 1956, she tried to make a career comeback working with Randolph Scott in Seven Men From Now.
  • Over the years, Gail had several runs in with the law caused by her alcoholism, hit and run charges, drunk driving, failure to appear in court. In 1957, she drove her convertible into a store front injuring several people.
  • On August 26, 1961, Gail was found dead in her Brentwood, California apartment. It was determined that she had died of natural causes, but most suspect it was severe liver damage from her years of heavy drinking. She was only 36 years old.

Romy Schneider Acclaimed Actress

  • Romy was an Austrian born actress who began her career in the 1950s. In 1955, she starred in the film trilogy Sissi, about the life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
  • In 1958, she moved to France where she starred in a number of critically acclaimed films.
  • In 1957, she was brought to the US by Walt Disney. Romy had hopes of getting a contract, but said that she and her mother talked about music and art with Disney, but never a contract. [1]
  • In the middle 60's she came to Hollywood and starred in films with Peter O'Toole and Jack Lemmon but by the 70's she was back in France making films.
  • Sadly, in 1981, her son David from her marriage to Harry Meyen died in a freak accident, he was only 14. Romy was devastated by his death and took to drinking heavily for a period of time.[2]
  • On May 29, 1982, Romy was found dead in her Paris apartment. At first speculation was that she had committed suicide. But, medical authorities ruled this out and declared her death was from cardiac arrest her heart having been weakened by a kidney operation she had had some months before. Romy was only 43 years old. [3]

Sources:

[1] Heffernan, Harold. "Filmland Takes Notice of Romy Schneider." The Deseret News and Telegram [Salt Lake City] 25 Oct. 1963: C7. Print.

[2] "Romy Schneider's Son Killed." The Daytona Beach Morning Journal 7 July 1981: 8B. Print

[3] "Heart Attack Kills Romy Schneider." The Ottawa Citizen 31 May 1982: 39. Print.

Inger Stevens Best Known as The Farmer's Daughter

  • Beautiful Inger was born in Stockholm, Sweden. Her mother deserted the family when she was young and her father, after the divorce, moved to New York and remarried. Inger and her two siblings were reunited with their father and his new wife, but the family life wasn't happy. She ran away from home and ended up as a dancer in a burlesque chorus line. Her father didn't approve and found her and brought her home.
  • After she graduated from high school, she worked as a model and began to study at the Actor's Studio. She eventually got roles in commercials and various TV series and her big break came when she co starred with Bing Crosby in the 1957 Man on Fire. Inger and Crosby had an affair during the filming. Inger was 22 and Crosby was 54 years old. The relationship didn't last long and Crosby married Katryn Grant much to Inger's disappointment.
  • More work followed and in 1963, she would star in her most memorable role, as Katrin "Katy" Holstrum in The Farmer's Daughter which ran on ABC from September 20, 1963 to April 22, 1966.
  • Following the cancellation of the series she worked in the big screen film A Guide For the Married Man, Hang 'Em High, and 5 Card Stud. In 1968, her television career was on the verge of being revived when she was cast in the Aaron Spelling series, The Most Deadly Game.
  • Sadly, Inger would be found unconscious on the kitchen floor of her home on the morning of April 30, 1970. Stevens died in the ambulance en route to the hospital. The official cause of death was listed as acute barbiturate poisoning. She was 35 years old.

Vera Ellen Actress and Dancer

Vera-Ellen lovely publicity photo for classic film White Christmas
Vera-Ellen lovely publicity photo for classic film White Christmas
  • Vera began dancing at age 10 and when she was 16 she entered and won a dancing contest which gave her the confidence to try to make a living as a dancer.
  • She made her Broadway debut at age 18 in the musical Very Warm for May. Shortly after that she became a Rockette and was spotted by Samuel Goodwyn who signed her to a contract and put her in her first film in 1945 with Danny Kaye, Wonder Man.
  • She would go on to work with Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Donald O'Connor. But, it was her work in the film White Christmas with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye that is often her most remembered work. She would make one more film, the 1957 movie Let's Be Happy.
  • After the death of her three month old daughter, Victoria Ellen, from SIDS in 1963, she retired from the public life.
  • Vera died of cancer at the age of 60 on August 30, 1981.

More Actresses Who Died Too Soon

Actress
Born
Died/Age
Dominique Dunne
November 23, 1959
November 4, 1982 (22)
Farrah Fawcett
February 2, 1947
June 25, 2009 (62)
Gloria Grahame
November 8, 1923
October 5, 1981 (57)
Joan Hackett
March 1, 1934
October 8, 1983 (49)
Jean Harlow
March 3, 1911
June 7, 1937 (26)
Elizabeth Hartman
December 23, 1943
June 10, 1987 (43)
Audrey Hepburn
May 4, 1929
January 20, 1993 (63)
Susan Hayward
June 30, 1917
March 14, 1975 (57)
Madeline Kahn
September 29, 1942
December 3, 1999 (57)
Carole Landis
January 1, 1919
July 5, 1948 (29)
Barbara Lang
March 2, 1928
July 22, 1982 (54)
Vivien Leigh
November 5, 1913
July 8, 1967 (53)
Marilyn Monroe
June 1, 1926
August 5, 1962 (36)
Heather O'Rourke
December 27, 1975
February 1, 1988 (12)
Dana Plato
November 7, 1964
May 8, 1999 (34)
Gilda Radner
June 28, 1946
May 20, 1989 (42)
Lee Remick
December 14, 1935
July 2, 1991 (55)
Sharon Tate
January 24, 1943
August 9, 1969 (26)

Please feel free to tell us about any actress that I have missed.

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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Glory,

      Great hub. Touching and very memorable. I was so right. You are a very talented writer. Jill Ireland was one of my all-time favorites.

      Keep up the fine work.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 2 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Nice tribute. So sad that so many of these amazing actresses died from cancer.

    • goatfury profile image

      Andrew Smith 2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      I like the use of the table module. That's neat, and something I'd like to incorporate soon. Elizabeth Montgomery might be a bit of a stretch, having made it to 62, but she was still really good in Bewitched (and, consequently, influenced at least a part of me growing up).

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