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Hollywood icons gone too soon

Updated on January 17, 2016


Hollywood is littered with actors and actresses whose stars are steadily on the rise, but then tragically taken at what seems to be such a young age. More recently stars such as Heath Ledger and River Phoenix, both actors at the peak of their careers. One an Oscar winner, the other a rising star in Hollywood, taken so early in their lives. I've chose three of the biggest movie stars, that we often ask today, what would their careers have been like had they lived on?

The Sheik (Rudolph Valentino)

Born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina D'Antonguolla in Italy May 6th 1895, to a French mother and Italian father. His mother would over baby the young Rodolfo, he was said to be quite a troublesome youngster. His father died when he was only 11 years old.

Not a very bright student at school, he later enrolled at agricultural college, receiving a degree. Valentino lived in Paris for a short time in 1912, but soon returned to Italy, then went on to seek a new life in America. Arriving at Ellis Island.

His time in New York, left him mainly surviving on the streets doing odd jobs. During this time he met an heiress by the name of Blanca de Saulles, in unhappy marriage. After a scandal involving Blanca de Saulles, Valentino was released on bail.

Subsequent work included bit parts in small productions, which didn't really lead to much. While in San Francisco an actor by the name of Norman Kerry mentioned he could find work in the cinema.

He started his movie career playing heavies or villains, because of his darker complexion. His career didn't take off until the movie "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", this film took $1,000,000 at the box office.

Continuing to star in further movies such as "Camille", "The Conquering Power", another critically acclaimed film, Valentino went on to star in "The Sheik". This solidified his "Latin Lover" reputation. Valentino's film career made him a wealthy household name in the 1920s. "Charlie Chaplin" signed him up with his movie studio United Artists for $10,000 a week for three pictures a year, with a percentage of each movie on top.

His image was always under scrutiny, often pointing to whether he effeminate, dressing in fancy suits and they he treated women. Even though he had two previous marriages under his belt.

Suffering from an appendicitis and gastric ulcers in 1926 on 15th August, Valentino was taken into hospital for surgery. The surgery didn't go to plan and he ended up with peritonitis. August 23 a severe pleuritis relapse which developed very quickly in his left lung. At this particular point his doctors new he wouldn't last long, deciding to withhold the diagnosis from him. In the early hours of August 23 Valentino managed to talk with his doctors, before falling into a coma a dying a few hours later. He died at the age of 31.

His name stills livex on today in cinema history, with many museum's about his life in the movies.

James Dean
James Dean

The Rebel (James Dean)

An actor with such a short film career, James Dean would be the first actor to receive a posthumous Oscar, and the only actor to have received to posthumous nominations.

Born February 8 1931, in Indiana, and moving to California. Dean was particularly close to his mother who passed away from cancer when he was just 9 years old.

Father, Winton Dean, decided to send his son to live with his sister a Quaker in Fairmount, Indiana. Seeking solace with a local pastor, James was abused for two years by his pastor the Reverend James DeWeerd. His interests in car racing, bullfighting and the theater would start at this particular point.

His school and College years would prove his strong points as an athlete, and start his interest in drama. He took the decision to drop out of UCLA to follow his career in acting.

His early acting jobs would start in commercials, and small walk-on roles in movies. Moving to New York City in 1951 Dean's career started to pickup with small parts in a number of television series.

By 1953 Elia Kazan was look for an actor for his movie "East of Eden", based on the John Steinbeck's novel. "Marlon Brando" was originally the first on the casting list. Steinbeck met Dean and found him to be too complex and moody a person, but thought he would be perfect for the part in the movie.

His popularity would be sealed with teenagers at the time in "Rebel Without a Cause". Starring alongside "Natalie Wood" and "Dennis Hopper", the movie was directed by Nicholas Ray.

"Giant" would be his last movie in which he starred alongside "Elizabeth Taylor" and "Rock Hudson". Sadly before the film had even been edited properly Dean died.

There is no doubt James Dean lead a fast life, especially when it came to his love of fast cars. But unfortunately that would lead to his untimely demise.

He owned quite a few different cars: An MG TD; Porsche 356 Speedster which he traded in for a Porsche 550 Spyder; A Lotus Mk X. Just seven days before his death Dean decided to show actor "Alec Guinness" his Spyder, "Guinness" was said to have told him "If you get in that car, you will be found dead in it by this time next week".

Dean prepared his Porsche 550 Spyder on September 30 1955 for a race. While travelling west on US route 466 east of Chloame, in San Luis Obispo County, Dean's car had a head on collision with a black and white 1950 Ford Custom Tudor coupe, which was driven by 23 year old Cal Poly Student Donal Turnupseed. Dean died on arrival at the hospital at 5:59pm. It was said he died from his head striking the front grill resulting in a broken neck, and many fractures
to his legs, arms and jaw. The young driver Turn up seed survived the crash with a gash to his forehead and bruised nose.

James Dean's legacy still lives on today, in movies and music.

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe

The Misfit (Marilyn Monroe)

Born June 1st 1926 as Norma Jeanne Mortenson (later changed to Baker). Norma Jean's upbringing was an unhappy one. Her mother was mentally unstable, and passed Norma Jean onto foster parents. Norma Jean was taken by her mother Gladys and put into a military duffle bag shouting and screaming Marilyn's foster parent Ida went to grab the bag from Gladys, splitting the bag apart, leaving a weeping Norma Jean distraught, only to be pulled back into her foster parents house. By 1933 Gladys had bought a house for her Norma Jean to move into. Norma Jean's life would be plagued by these memories, ending in her mother being taken by force "screaming and laughing" loudly to the State Hospital in Norwalk.

Grace McKee, Gladys' best friend then became her guardian. Movie star "Jean Harlow" was a huge influence on Grace's life, so much so she would tell Norma Jean she would be a big movie star someday. Her time with Grace McKee didn't last long and she passed around various orphan and foster homes, before eventually arriving back with her mother Gladys in 1935. Many families wanted to adopt the very young Norma Jean but Gladys never signed the adoption papers. So Norma Jean went back to live with her mother, who was then married to Ervin Silliman Godard who tried continually to sexually assault her.

Norma Jean was then sent to live with aunt Olive Bruning's in Compton, California, where again Norma Jean was attacked by one of Olive's sons. Many writers and biographers have queried her behaviour later in life and have wondered whether the abuses she suffered in childhood and a mother who was clearly mentally ill were the catalysts.

By 1938 Norma Jean moved onto a happier point in her life, living with another of her aunts. Aunt Ana Lower, in Los Angeles. She would later say, this was the only place she felt really stable.

She moved back home again by 1942, because Aunt Ana suffered health problems. By 1945 Norma Jeane had become Norma Jean Dougherty marrying a neighbours son. Her husband Jim Dougherty worked as a Merchant Marine. While her husband was working Norma Jeane decided to work in the Munitions factory spraying airplane parts with fire retardant. She was soon spotted by a US Army Motion Picture Unit and had some photos taken.

She was advised to apply to modeling agencies for work. By this time she started to look into the work of "Jean Harlow" and "Lana Turner". She went from brunette to blonde.

Her modelling career had really taken off, bringing her to the attention of a 20th Century Fox executive.

Her career in movie's started at just $125 a week, with a name change Norma Jeane became Marilyn Monroe. By 1953 she was starring alongside "Jane Russell" in "Gentleman Prefer Blondes". Making the two stars into instant friends.

The dumb blonde she was so well known for came in the period between 1953-54. Cementing as the blonde bombshell.

She went on to star in movies such as The Seven Year Itch; Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; How to Marry a Millionaire; There's No Business Like Show Business; Bus Stop; The Prince and the Showgirl; Some Like it Hot (my favourite Marilyn movie); and The Misfits. To Name a few.

Marriages to Joe DiMaggio and then later on to writer Arthur Miller, her marriages and relationships with men were always unstable. By the 1960s Marilyn was in love with President Kennedy and wanted to marry him.

She never would marry JFK, this relationship sent her into a deeper depression, which ended with a visit from Robert Kennedy, the day of her death August 5th 1962.

A woman that clearly suffered mentally throughout her life, Marilyn Monroe spent a lot of her time under psychoanalysis.

© 2012 Helen Bolam


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    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

      I am a fan of all three of these artists. Voted up and interesting.