Tributes: The Stars We've Lost
He was a movie director who amassed hit after hit with films like Working Girl, The Birdcage and The Graduate. But the Berlin-born Nichols – who in 1939 as an 8-year-old escaped Nazi Germany for New York with his Jewish family – was equally prolific on Broadway, where he scored nine Tonys for such shows as Angels in America and Death of a Salesman. Besides theater honors, the director, who was married to ABC newswoman Diane Sawyer, had the rare distinction of winning Oscar, Emmy and Grammy awards, too. His six-decade show-biz career began with a successful sketch-comedy collaboration with Elaine May but he eventually gave up performing for directing. Meryl Streep, who starred in Nichols's 1983 movie Silkwood and his 2001 Central Park production of the Chekhov play, The Seagull, said in a statement after his Nov. 20 death: "An inspiration and joy to know, a director who cried when he laughed, a friend without whom, well, we can't imagine our world, an indelible irreplaceable man."
OSCAR DE LA RENTA
Hillary Clinton, Sarah Jessica Parker and Amal Clooney were among the dedicated muses of de la Renta, who carved out a legacy in the fashion industry by shaping the wardrobes of socialites, Hollywood stars and first ladies alike. His path to New York's Seventh Avenue began when he left his native Dominican Republic at age 18 to study painting in Spain, but he was soon sidetracked by fashion after designing a dress for the U.S. Ambassador to Spain's daughter. He helped define American style for four decades before his death on Oct. 20 at age 82. "While our hearts are broken by the idea of life without Oscar, he is still very much with us," two of his company's executives, Alex Bolen and Eliza Bolen, said in a statement.
Launched by a Harper's Bazaar cover when she was just 19, Bacall went on to have a legendary career (and a legendary love life, too) in Hollywood. The screen siren first starred in 1944's To Have and Have Not, where she met the love of her life Humphrey Bogart, whom she was married to for 12 years before his death in 1957. Later, she earned Tony awards for her work in the Broadway musicals Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). Privately she earned notoriety for an affair with Frank Sinatra before marrying second husband, actor Jason Robards. In 2010, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts amp Sciences honored Bacall with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The screen legend died Aug. 12 at age 89.
The world was shocked when news broke that Williams, 63, died in a suicide on Aug. 11 after battling severe depression and receiving a Parkinson's disease diagnosis. The actor, as known for his iconic, comedic roles in movies like Mrs. Doubtfire as his dramatic work in Good Will Hunting (for which he won an Oscar), got his start in comedy, and came into mainstream fame with the TV series Mork & Mindy. Williams, most recently seen on CBS's The Crazy Ones, had checked himself into rehab in early July to "focus on his commitment" to sobriety, according to his rep. He is survived by his wife Susan and three children.
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." The words of author, poet and activist Angelou – who died on May 28 at the age of 86 – certainly rang true as the world remembered an extraordinary woman who touched many (including countless famous friends) with her warmth and wisdom, expressed through her award-winning books and oft-quoted speeches.
"It's fun to see the ideas in your head. Because it all starts in your mind," Scott told The Daily Beast in 2009. The girlfriend of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, the model-turned-designer made innumerable statements on runways and red carpets alike before she was found dead March 17 of an apparent suicide at age 49.
PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN
Though he completed rehab in spring 2013, the acclaimed actor, 46, was found dead of an apparent drug overdose in his New York City apartment on Feb. 2. Academy Award winner Hoffman was a father of three and known for his work in such movies as Doubt, Boogie Nights, Capote and, most recently, The Hunger Games franchise. In addition to daughters Tallulah and Willa and son Cooper, he's survived by his longtime partner, Mimi O'Donnell.
When the first Fast & Furious film arrived in theaters in 2001, it was the blue-eyed star's portrayal of undercover police officer Brian O'Conner that helped drive the franchise to blockbuster success. More than a decade later, Walker, 40, was working on the seventh installment of the street-racing action series before he died Nov. 30 when a car he was in crashed and exploded in Santa Clarita, Calif. "Thank you for keeping his family and friends in your prayers during this very difficult time," read a post on his official Facebook page.
"I don't want kids to think it's okay to drop out of school and get high, and they'll be famous actors, too," Cory Monteith once said about being a troubled role model who first entered rehab more than 10 years ago at age 19. In 2013, the adored Glee star with the swoon-worthy voice and boyish good looks again sought treatment for substance abuse. Just months later, on July 13, Monteith was found dead at 31 in a Vancouver hotel room. "Have no words," Monteith's costar Dot-Marie Jones Tweeted. "My heart is broken."
Known most famously for his role as mobster Tony Soprano on the HBO smash The Sopranos, James Gandolfini was "a great talent," HBO execs said in a statement following the actor's shocking death on June 19 at age 51. "He touched so many of us over the years with his humor, his warmth and his humility." Gandolfini, who also appeared in Zero Dark Thirty, The Mexican and All the King's Men, died of an apparent heart attack while in Sicily for the Taormina Film Fest.
Few people have, or ever will, live the life Nelson Mandela did. Until his death on Dec. 5 at the age of 95, he was a fearless but beloved warrior, never once stopping his fight for what he felt was right – a country united, not divided, on the topic of race relations. His activism landed him in prison; he spent 18 years on the secluded Robben Island before moving to a Cape Town jail for an additional nine years. Freed at age 71 in 1990, he went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize and become South Africa's first black president, making famous friends along the way. He was survived by his third wife, Graça Machel, and several adult children.
A 50-year career came to an end on Dec. 14, when the 81-year-old acclaimed Irish actor died in London following a long illness. From 1962's Lawrence of Arabia to more recent roles such as voicing the starchy food critic in Disney-Pixar's Ratatouille, the eight-time Oscar nominee shined throughout the decades in an array of stellar roles. The star came to fame in films like Becket (with Richard Burton) and The Lion in Winter (with Katharine Hepburn), and later in two comeback movies in the '80s: The Stunt Man, playing a dictatorial movie director, and My Favorite Year, as a washed-up matinee idol. O'Toole received an honorary Oscar in 2003, before announcing his retirement in July 2012. "It is time for me to chuck in the sponge," is how he put it as he bid his profession "a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell."
A three-time Oscar nominee known worldwide for her performance in The Sound of Music, Eleanor Parker died at age 91 on Dec. 9. The Ohio native landed her first role at 19, a bit part in They Died with Their Boots On, before moving on to 1950's Caged, plus films with screen legends such as Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Frank Sinatra and Clark Gable. When news of Parker's death broke, Sound of Music costar Christopher Plummer said in a statement that she "was and is one of the most beautiful ladies I have ever known, both as a person and as a beauty … I was sure she was enchanted and would live forever."
An Oscar winner for Hitchcock's 1941 film Suspicion, 96-year-old Fontaine, one of the last survivors of Hollywood's Golden Age, died on Dec. 15 at her northern California home. Born Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland in Tokyo to British parents, Fontaine's early roles included 1939's all-star The Women. She went on to star in other well-known movies, including Jane Eyre with Orson Welles (1943), Rebecca with Laurence Olivier (1940), Ivanhoe with Robert Taylor (1952), and Island in the Sun with Harry Belafonte (1957). But equally famous was Fontaine's longstanding feud with her surviving older sister, actress Olivia de Havilland, 97 (Fontaine also had two children from her four marriages, all of which ended in divorce). In a 1978 PEOPLE interview, Fontaine spoke of her rivalry with her sister. "Olivia has always said I was first at everything – I got married first, got an Academy Award first, had a child first. If I die, she'll be furious, because again I'll have got there first!"
Roger Ebert's thumb came to be the very symbol of movie criticism: up for good, down for – quite simply – don't bother. It was a gesture created with cohost and rival Gene Siskel for their groundbreaking, syndicated TV show Siskel amp Ebert at the Movies. But at his heart, Ebert was a newspaperman, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times until his death April 4 at age 70. "I don't think of this as a job," Ebert once told PEOPLE. "I think of it as a vocation." Beset by multiple cancers over the last decade, the popular writer – who, in 1975 became the first film reviewer to win a Pulitzer Prize – continued watching and reviewing movies in honest, witty prose until the end.
The first woman to serve as Britain's prime minister, Thatcher ruled the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 with a conservative hand. An economic reformer, she is credited with privatizing Britain's nationalized industries, which saved once-failing companies like British Airways. The strong-willed, hard-driving Thatcher also led the country to victory in the Falklands war and was instrumental in negotiating a Cold War truce between the U.S. and Soviet Union in the 1980s. When she was 34, the wife and mother of two won a seat in Parliament, which launched her often-controversial political career. Noting that she came from a humble background – her father was a small-town grocer – President Barack Obama said, after her death on April 8 at age 87 from a stroke, that Thatcher "stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can't be shattered."
As part of the kid rap duo, Kris Kross, Kelly bounced into the music world with the 1992 hit "Jump." He and fellow rapper Chris Smith were discovered at age 13 by music producer Jermaine Dupri in an Atlanta shopping mall, and soon after recorded the album Totally Krossed Out, which went platinum. The pair – who wore their clothes backward as a gimmick – opened for Michael Jackson on his Dangerous World Tour later that year. Though the artist, nicknamed Mac Daddy, continued to make music, he was never able to repeat the success of his debut album. Kelly, 34, died May 1 from a possible drug overdose in Atlanta.
DR. JOYCE BROTHERS
Before there was Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, there was Dr. Brothers. A fixture on TV and radio in the '60s, '70s and '80s, the psychologist offered pragmatic advice on sex, family and relationships in a calm, nonjudgmental tone to the delight – and relief – of millions. Dr. Brothers, who passed away May 13 at age 85 in Ft. Lee, N.J., got her first taste of the TV spotlight in 1955 as a winning game-show contestant on The $64,000 Question. The talk-therapy pioneer would go on to host syndicated talk shows and radio call-in programs, write books and newspaper columns and even make guest appearances (usually as herself) on such recent TV shows as Entourage and The Simpsons.
Archie Bunker often called his wife a "dingbat," and though Edith Bunker was daft, she was also, as portrayed by Stapleton on the 1970s TV show All in the Family, the show's heart. The three-time Emmy winner imbued the character with kindness and compassion, which balanced out the persona of her narrow-minded, bigoted husband. She also dealt with dramatic story lines, such as menopause, sexual assault and breast cancer, as skillfully as she did the comedic bits. She left the show after eight years in 1979 and continued to work in TV and theater. Upon hearing of Stapleton's May 31 death at age 90 in New York City, comedienne Roseanne Barr Tweeted, "RIP Jean Stapleton, a great actor whose range was unbelievable, deep and majestic."
Amnesia. Illicit affairs. Near-death experiences. In her 40-year run as matriarch Katherine Chancellor on the daytime drama The Young and the Restless, Cooper turned typical soap-opera plots into must-watch-daily TV. She joined the show in 1973, and through the years her character married six times, was involved in a nasty child-custody battle and had a decades-long rivalry with a woman whom she later mistakenly thought was her daughter. In 1984, Cooper made TV history when she and her YampR character had the first on-screen face-lift. Two months before she died on May 8 at 84, the two-time Emmy winner told Entertainment Weekly, "I never wanted to be a movie star. I always wanted to be an actress, one of the best. And I am."
Combining athleticism and beauty, Williams was the renowned synchronized swimmer of MGM movies from the '40s and '50s. Poised to go to the 1940 Olympics with the U.S. swim team, the young teen instead performed in the San Francisco World's Fair after the games were canceled due to the outbreak of World War II. There, she was discovered by MGM talent scouts.
From 1944 to 1955, Williams starred in numerous water-fantasy movies for the studio, all done in Technicolor. The swimming star made such a splash with MGM that it built her a $250,000 swimming pool with underwater windows, colored fountains and hydraulic lifts on the studio lot, according to the New York Times. After Williams, who died at age 91 on June 6, retired from show business in the early 1960s, she launched a new, lucrative career in – what else? – bathing suits and swimming pools.
During a career that spanned more than 50 years, the multiple Grammy winner recorded more than 150 albums and had dozens of number one hits, including "She Thinks I Still Care" and "White Lightning." Born in Saratoga, Texas, in 1931, Jones got his start singing at local venues for $17.50 a week. By 1956 he was performing at the Grand Ole Opry. But as the baritone's career took off, so did his personal crises, which included a serious drinking and drug problem, three divorces (one from fellow country crooner Tammy Wynette) and bankruptcy. In 1983 after marrying fourth wife, Nancy, whom he credits with helping turn his life around, "Possum" entered rehab for alcohol and drug abuse and eventually got his career back on track. The country legend, 81, died April 26 in Nashville after a brief hospitalization.
The dress started out as a practical work outfit and ended up launching a multimillion business. "Since I spent my days squeezing fruit, I was always covered with juice," recalled Pulitzer, who sold fresh citrus from the back of her station wagon in 1960. "So I designed myself a cotton shift in colors that matched the fruit." Customers noticed and, before long, she was selling the orange-yellow-green print shifts too. Her designs became a favorite of socialites and the preppy set first in her native Florida, then reached national prominence. She passed away, at age 81 on April 7 in Palm Beach, Florida.
Walt Disney cast 12-year-old Funicello in 1955's The Mickey Mouse Club after discovering her at dance-school recital. When the popular brunette left the TV series a few years later, she parlayed her girl-next-door image into starring roles in teen beach-romp movies with Frankie Avalon. In 1987, while filming another beach movie with Avalon – they were cast as parents by then –, Funicello started experiencing symptoms that were later diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. She was in an MS coma for years and finally succumbed from complications of the disease at age 70 on April 8.
Getting laughs came easily for the comedic film and TV actor. Whether in character as sassy grandma Maude Frickert, as a treasure-chaser in the comedy classic It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World or as Robin Williams's foil on the '80s sitcom Mork & Mindy, Winters touched audiences' funny bones for more than six decades. After Winters – the voice of Papa Smurf in 2011's Smurfs movie and its 2013 sequel – died from natural causes April 11 at age 87, his costar Williams lovingly summed up his friend and mentor: "He was a rebel without a pause."
There may never have been a Big Bird or Elmo if it weren't for Henson. She and her future husband, Jim Henson, met in a puppetry class at the University of Maryland in the mid-1950s and together created Kermit the Frog and other forebears of the Muppets. Henson later played a key role in hiring many of the puppeteers and writers who developed the lovable furry characters and debuted on Sesame Street in 1969. The TV pioneer passed away from cancer at age 78 on April 2; Jim Henson, from whom she separated in 1986, died in 1990.
While still a teen, McCready moved to Nashville from Fort Myers, Fla., to start a singing career. Her debut album, Ten Thousand Angels, sold more than two million copies and McCready was named female vocalist of the year at the 1996 Academy of Country Music Awards. Despite those early successes, McCready's personal problems – drug and alcohol abuse, loss of her two young children to foster care and several suicide attempts – overshadowed her career. Her relationships with men were filled with strife as well. In January, the singer's longtime boyfriend, David Wilson, killed himself; a month later, on Feb. 17, McCready, 37, died from what authorizes said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound at her Heber Springs, Ark., home.
Playing a divorced single mom of teen daughters on the groundbreaking sitcom One Day at a Time from 1975 to 1984 made Franklin a star. Her character, Ann Romano, was a fiercely independent woman facing issues like sexual harassment and menopause, which few TV shows had tackled before. "I know it's just a television show, and I don't think that I am changing the way the world is structured," Franklin told the Washington Post in 1980, but "sometimes we strike chords that do make people think a bit." When she succumbed to complications of pancreatic cancer on March 1 at age 69, her One Day daughter, Valerie Bertinelli, called the veteran actress, "a second mother to me…one of the most important women in my life."
This three-term mayor of New York City was famous for asking his constituents, "How'm I doin'?" Shrewd, brash and with a personality as colorful as his beloved Big Apple, Koch presided over New York from 1978 to 1989, an epic period when the city's turmoils included near bankruptcy, the outbreak of AIDS and widespread racial violence. After he left office, the Bronx-born Koch, affectionately nicknamed Hizzoner, stayed in the public eye, with jobs that included television judge, radio talk-show host and movie reviewer. Ironically, a documentary about the outspoken Democrat's life, Koch, opened in New York on Feb. 1, the very day the 88-year-old died from congestive heart failure.
Hugh Hefner's trusted secretary for over 40 years, O'Connor was a legend inside the Playboy Mansion, where she was considered a friend, house mother and confidante to the "bunnies" who lived there. TV viewers got to know O'Connor when she appeared on the reality series The Girls Next Door, which depicted life inside the famous Holmby Hills, Calif., estate. "She was an amazing person who helped me through so much," said Kendra Wilkinson, star of Kendra, which also featured the secretary. Shortly after the four-times-married O'Connor, 84, passed away on Jan. 27 following a brief illness, Hefner tweeted, "We loved her more than words could say."
DEAR ABBY (PAULINE PHILLIPS)
Newspaper readers across the country could ask Phillips – better known as the syndicated columnist Dear Abby – about anything, from bad breath to birth control. When she penned her first advice column in 1956, the Sioux City, Iowa, native strayed from the genteel tone used by other columnists of the day; instead, she used a voice that got straight to the point, with equal parts wisdom and wisecracks. In one column, a newlywed, concerned that his wife often walked around their home in the buff, asked Dear Abby what she thought of this behavior. Her reply: "It's O.K. with me. But tell her to put on an apron when she's frying bacon." Phillips died on Jan. 16 at age 94 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.
She was the Beyoncé of the 1950s – a beautiful pop singer with a solid string of hits, which included "Tennessee Waltz" and "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?" Though her songs sold millions, Page – who died at 85 on Jan. 1 in Encinitas, Calif., had some detractors. ''My music was called plastic, antiseptic, placid," she told the New York Times. "It was only five or so years after the war...a simpler time. The music was simpler, too.'' She won her first and only Grammy in 1999 for the album Live at Carnegie Hall, a collection of songs from her five decades in the music business.
With a White House reporting career stretching across nine presidencies, from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama, Helen Thomas was known for her unflagging persistence and determination when pursuing a story. Over the years, that same tenacity helped her break ground for women journalists. She was among the first female reporters to jump from covering lifestyle stories like First Lady teas and hairstyles to covering hard news, such as Richard Nixon's groundbreaking trip to China in 1972. Two years later, the Kentucky native became the White House bureau chief for United Press International, the first female to ever serve in that position for a wire service. Another claim to fame: during White House press conferences, it became customary for Thomas, who passed away on July 20 at 92, to officially deliver the closing line, "Thank you, Mr. President."
When he played Det. Joe Fontana for two seasons on Law & Order, Dennis Farina gave the role authenticity: Before becoming an actor at age 37, he had been a police officer Chicago's burglary division for 18 years. With his tough-guy looks, he often played a cop or gangster; his movie credits include Thief, Saving Private Ryan, Get Shorty and Midnight Run. Farina passed away at 69 on July 22 in Scottsdale, Ariz., from a blood clot in his lung.
Though she'd had an extensive musical-comedy career in the New York theater, Eileen Brennan, who died from bladder cancer on July 28, was best known for her funny turns in movies and on TV. She played a tough Army captain who tormented Goldie Hawn in the 1980 comedy Private Benjamin, for which she was nominated for an Oscar, and a daffy Mrs. Peacock in 1985's Clue. Brennan picked up an Emmy for playing her Private Benjamin character in the TV version and turned in Emmy-nominated performances guest-starring on classic sitcoms such as Newhart and Will & Grace. After hearing of her costar's death, Hawn eulogized the 80-year-old star in a Tweet: “We have lost my old friend Eileen Brennan. No one ever made me laugh more! Now I cry. Please keep singing darling on high. Rest.”