Dorothy Gale, a pop culture icon made famous from 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. She and other memorable characters such as the scarecrow, the tin man and the lion are one of the reasons why the movie is an all-time classic. Perhaps another reason for its success however, is not so cheerful. Rumors circulating that a “munchkin” hung himself while the movie was in production, caused a lot of commotion and popularized the movie. Rumor has it that you can even see him hanging in the background of one of the shots, because the movie crew did not notice until after the movie was produced. To the disappointment of certain fans, these rumors turned out to be false: the movement in the background mistakenly thought to be a munchkin, was in actuality, a bird. However, just because one man did not hang himself on set, does not mean that other actors have not died on set. As technology advances, audiences expect more and more from their movies. Car chases, pyrotechnics, big falls, wire stunts, these are just a few examples technological advancements that could potentially go wrong. Sometimes, these effects do go wrong, and lives are lost. The more stunts that are required, the more room for error, the more deaths can occur. The following list contains 10 actors who died on set. These are not rumors, they actually happened. As the families of these actors can surely attest, the Wizard of Oz was correct when he stated, “a heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.”
10 Redd Foxx
Redd Foxx was a stand-up comedian and TV sitcom star. He was made famous by his leading role in Sanford and Son. He became less popular on sitcoms but maintained his stardom in stand-up comedy. After much hardship dealing with bankruptcy, things were finally starting to look up for Redd Foxx. He starred along side Eddie Murphy in Harlem Nights (1989), which brought him back into the movie scene. He also starred in the TV sitcom, The Royal Family, which he was unfortunately unable to see through. He died on October 11th, 1991, at the age of 68, due to a heart attack on set while filming for The Royal Family.
9 Art Scholl
Art Scholl was an acclaimed stunt pilot, who got footage for a wide variety of films including: The Great Waldo Pepper, Blue Thunder, and The Right Stuff. He died while filming for the famous movie Top Gun, on September 16th, 1985. While attempting to do an inverted flat spin (spinning upside down) his plane, a Pitts Special, crashed into the Pacific Ocean. His last words were “I’ve really got a problem.” His body was never found; all that was recovered from the accident was bits of his plane.
8 Owen Hart
Owen Hart was a wrestler, and who could argue that wrestling is not entertaining? Therefore, Hart could be considered an entertainer, and in the same league as actors, which, is why he is included in this list. He was a wrestler for the WWF, and died from a safety precaution malfunction during a publicity stunt in Kansas City’s Kemper Arena. He was supposed to enter into the ring by doing a stunt: dropping from the rafters while being in a safety harness. The safety latch was released causing Hart to fall 90 feet, his head landing on one of the arena’s turnbuckles. For a few moments, fans were oblivious that something went wrong and kept cheering while Hart lay dying in the arena. His horrifying fall was caught on camera.
7 Brandon Lee
Brandon Lee was the son of the famous martial artist Bruce Lee. He did not have the opportunity to be in many films as he died at the age of 28. However, he was most famous for his roles in Rapid Fire (1992), Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991) and The Crow (1994), the film in which he died. His tragic death was caused by a squib loaded prop gun: a dislodged bullet from a previous shot got stuck in the barrel and caused the blank cartridge to fire the bullet, killing Lee. He was scheduled to marry his fiancé, Eliza Hutton, only 17 days later, on April 17th, 1993.
6 Vic Morrow
Vic Morrow was never really a big hotshot actor. He did however, play in a lot of B-rated movies. His death came in the form of a horrific freak accident on July 23rd, 1982. He died on location for the filming of Twilight Zone; a movie based on the television series. Cameras were recording the scene, as a helicopter lost control due to pyrotechnic explosions. The helicopter crashed and crushed 6-year-old actor Renee Shin-Yi. The helicopter then began to topple over, and the blades sliced through Morrow and 7-year-old actor Myca Dinh. Morrow did not even have time to say the would-be ironic line “I’ll keep you safe, kids. I promise. Nothing will hurt you, I swear to God.”
5 Jon-Erik Hexum
Hexum’s death is a peculiar one, as it was allegedly caused by boredom. It was October 12th, 1984, Hexum had a particularly long day while filming for Cover Up: Pilot. Preparing the set was long and tedious so Hexum decided to amuse himself with a prop .44 magnum revolver. As Hexum put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger, wadding from inside the blank cartridge was fired at such a high velocity that it shattered his skull. Despite extensive surgery, there was nothing surgeons could do to save his life. Hexum brought the expression “being bored to death” to an entirely new level.
4 Christine Chubbuck
A worrisome new trend on YouTube and indeed, on the Internet, is watching real life deaths. One of those videos is that of American reporter Christine Chubbuck, who was depressed and more than discontented with the amount of violence and gore shown on the news. On the morning of July 15th, 1974, she showed up for work and stated “in keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts and in living color, you are going to see another first−attempted suicide.” Cameras were still rolling, airing live television, as Chubbuck took out a revolver and shot herself in the head.
3 Steve Irwin
Steve Irwin, also known as “The Crocodile Hunter,” was a conservationist and actor who made his debut into fame by producing stunts involving dangerous animals. According to cameraman Justin Lyons, Irwin was killed during the filming of an underwater documentary about the Great Barrier Reef. An eight-foot wide stingray appeared and stabbed Irwin in the heart “hundreds of times.” As the camera was still rolling there is actual footage of Irwin’s death. It was shown to his widow, Terri Irwin, but was never released to the public. He died at the age of 44, on September 4th, 2006. His last words were “I’m dying,” as he left Australia and the rest of the world in tears.
2 John Ritter
John Ritter was most well known for his role as “Jack Tripper” in the 1970’s sitcom Three’s Company. He was awarded with a Golden Globe and an Emmy for his hilarious performances. Other than Three’s Company, Ritter also starred as a guest star in other popular TV shows, such as: MASH, Hawaii Five-O and Ally McBeal. On September 11th, 2003, he suffered from a massive heart attack on stage while filming an episode for 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. He managed to hold on until brought to the hospital but died very shortly after, at the age of 54.
1 Martha Mansfield
This beautiful actress was the star of musical comedies featured in New York City. She began her acting debut in 1916, at the age of 17. She obtained her most famous role in 1920, as a second lead in John Barrymore’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The movie in which Mansfield would meet her death was The Warrens of Virginia. After filming a scene, Mansfield was taking a break relaxing in her car. As she was stepping out of her vehicle, someone carelessly threw a match, which landed on her dress. She was engulfed by flames and unable to put out the fire. She succumbed to her burns, at the youthful age of 24.
Sources: telegraph.co.uk, imdb.com, telegraph.co.uk, http://www.biography.com, biography.com, imdb.com, slate.com, imdb.com, imdb.com, independent.co.uk, latimes.com, movieaccidents.wordpress.com, biography.com, imdb.com