Gifted performers among most notable deaths of 2014

By Karen Butler  |  Dec. 26, 2014 at 7:31 AM
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NEW YORK, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- The arts and entertainment world lost dozens of esteemed trailblazers who passed away in 2014.

The long list of obituaries includes Maya Angelou, Lauren Bacall, Sid Caesar, James Garner, Mike Nichols, Mickey Rooney, Pete Seeger, Elaine Stritch, Shirley Temple Black and Eli Wallach.

But it was the shocking deaths of Robin Williams, Diem Brown, Peaches Geldof, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Pena, Harold Ramis, Joan Rivers, L'Wren Scott and Misty Upham that captured some of the year's most intense media attention.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead Feb. 2, lying on the bathroom floor of his Manhattan apartment. Officials deemed his death an accident due to acute mixed drug intoxication. The Oscar-winning actor and a recovering drug addict, who relapsed after about 20 years of sobriety, left behind a longtime partner and three young children, as well as a body of work that includes The Master, the Hunger Games film franchise, Capote, Boogie Nights and Twister. He was 46.

Comic actor, director and writer Harold Ramis died Feb. 24 in Chicago after a long battle with autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis. He was 69. He wrote the screenplay for the 1978 comedy Animal House, then went on to write hit comedies starring Bill Murray, including Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day. Ramis also acted in and served as producer on Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II. His death finally put to rest speculation he and Murray would reunite on-screen with Dan Aykroyd for a third Ghostbusters flick. An all-female reboot of the franchise is in the works.

The body of fashion designer L'Wren Scott was discovered March 17 by her assistant, hanging from a scarf tied to a doorknob in her Manhattan apartment. The 47-year-old stunner was famous for dressing the likes of Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams, Christina Hendricks and Penelope Cruz for red-carpet events. She also had been rock star Mick Jagger's girlfriend since 2001.

Model, journalist and TV personality Peaches Geldof died of a heroin overdose April 7 at her home in southeast England. She was the 25-year-old daughter of Irish rocker Bob Geldof and Welsh TV host Paula Yates, who died in 2000 of a heroin overdose at age 41. Peaches Geldof is survived by her husband and two toddler sons.

Robin Williams, the Oscar-winning star of Good Will Hunting and arguably one of the funniest men in the world, hung himself Aug. 11 in his San Francisco-area home. He was 63. In addition to his legendary stand-up comedy and film-acting careers, Williams also starred in the TV sitcoms Mork & Mindy and The Crazy Ones. He, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg hosted a series of Comic Relief television specials, which raised money for the homeless, as well. The cherished entertainer, who had battled depression for most of his life, had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease shortly before his death.

Known as well for her quest to look young as she was for her unapologetic sense of humor, standup comedienne and Fashion Police panelist Joan Rivers died Sept. 4 of a therapeutic complication during a routine medical procedure. Her daughter hired a law firm in October to investigate the death as she reportedly plans to sue the clinic where the vivacious 81-year-old was being treated when she fell into a coma. She was taken off life support days later.

La Bamba and Modern Family actress Elizabeth Pena died of a heart attack Oct. 14 in Los Angeles, while suffering cirrhosis of the liver and acute gastrointestinal bleeding. Just 55 when she passed away, she had an enviable resume that included appearances in the films Jacob's Ladder and Rush Hour, and a starring role in the 1980s sitcom I Married Dora. The body of 32-year-old Native American actress Misty Upham was discovered Oct. 16 at the bottom of a wooded embankment near the White River in Auburn, Wash. She died of blunt force injury to the head and torso Oct. 5, the day her family said she disappeared. The circumstances of her death remain under investigation, however officials have said there is no evidence of foul play. Upham's star had been on the rise at the time of her death with memorable roles in the acclaimed films Django Unchained and August: Osage County. Although her relatives said she had a history of mental illness, they have maintained she would not have committed suicide.

The Real World family mourned the losses of alumni Diem Brown and Ryan Knight this year. Brown died Nov .14 at age 34 after a long battle with cancer. She was the star of the reality shows Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Fresh Meat, The Duel, The Gauntlet III, The Duel 2, The Ruins and Battle of the Exes. She was originally diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2003, beat it, then relapsed in 2012. Brown discovered she had colon cancer in August, and the disease spread to her liver and lymph nodes. She chronicled her experiences in a blog for People, and remained optimistic about her future. Two weeks after her death, her fellow Real World veteran Knight was found dead at a friend's house in Wisconsin, reportedly after a night of heavy drinking. An autopsy performed on his body proved inconclusive, however Knight's family said he had been complaining about stomach problems in the days leading up to his death.

Heartfelt goodbyes were also said this year to a trio of titans from Hollywood's Golden Age of the 1930s and '40s.

One of the most famous child stars of all time, Shirley Temple Black, died Feb. 10 at her home in Woodside, Calif. She was 85. From 1935 to 1939, Temple was the most popular movie star in America, and more photos were snapped of her than of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She retired from acting at age 22 after starring in 23 motion pictures and winning an Honorary Oscar at age 6. Her film credits include Bright Eyes, Heidi, Little Miss Marker and The Little Princess. Following her marriage to Charles Alden Black in 1950, she began raising funds for the Republican Party and eventually served as U.S. ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976. Black went on to become President George H. W. Bush's ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989 and was on the job during the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.

Mickey Rooney died of natural causes April 6 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 93. His career in show business spanned nine decades and included 16 Andy Hardy movies and numerous collaborations with Judy Garland. He also shared the screen with Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet, Spencer Tracy in Boys Town and Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum. He won an Emmy, two Golden Globes and an Honorary Oscar, married eight women, including actress Ava Gardner, and fathered nine children. Later in life, he became a vocal advocate against elder abuse.

Lauran Bacall died Aug. 12 following a massive stroke. She was 89. The actress was married to film legend Humphrey Bogart from 1945 until his death in 1957. Their big-screen collaborations include the classics To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage and Key Largo. She also appeared in the movies How to Marry a Millionaire and Designing Woman. She earned an Oscar nod for her performance in 1996's The Mirror Has Two Faces and was presented with a lifetime achievement Academy Award in 2009. She is survived by her three children -- two from her marriage to Bogart and one from her marriage to her ex-husband, actor Jason Robards, who died in 2000.

Two stars best known for their work in the 1950's, '60s and '70s also passed away this year.

Eli Wallach died of natural causes June 24 at age 98. In 1951, Wallach won a Tony Award for his performance in Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo. He went on to star in popular movies like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, The Magnificent Seven and The Godfather: Part III.

Maverick and The Rockford Files star James Garner died at age 86 of natural causes July 19 at his home in Los Angeles. His film credits incude The Americanization of Emily, The Great Escape, Support Your Local Sheriff, Victor/Victoria, Murphy's Romance, My Fellow Americans and The Notebook. He also co-starred in the 2000s TV sitcom Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

The publishing world celebrated the lives and mourned the deaths of actress, civil rights activist and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings author Maya Angelou, who died May 28 at age 86; as well as her fellow literary lioness P.D. James, who wrote Children of Men and Death Comes to Pemberley, and died Nov. 27 at 94.

Folk singer-songwriter Pete Seeger, who wrote "If I Had a Hammer," "Turn! Turn! Turn!" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" died Jan. 27. He was 94. Seeger became a fixture on nationwide radio in the 1940s and had a string of hit records in the early 1950s as a member of the Weavers folk music quartet. Members of the Weavers were blacklisted during the McCarthy Era. In the 1960s, Seeger re-emerged as a prominent singer of protest music in support of international disarmament, civil rights and environmental causes. He was one of the folk singers who popularized the spiritual "We Shall Overcome" during the 1960s civil rights movement.

Other luminaries who left died n 2014 include radio icon Casey Kasem; filmmakers Richard Attenborough and Mike Nichols; comedy legends Roberto Gomez Bolanos, David Brenner, Sid Caesar, John Pinnette and Elaine Stritch; classic sitcom stars Russell Johnson and Ann B. Davis; fashion giant Oscar De La Renta; authors Norman Bridwell and Mark Strand; musicians Phil Everly, Bobby Keys, Tommy Ramone and Bobby Womack; actors Bob Hoskins, James Rebhorn and Maximilain Schell; actresses Ruby Dee and Juanita Moore; and producer Saul Zaentz.

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