10 Famous People Who Died Practically Penniless

We often associate the words fame and fortune with celebrities. We are lead to believe that when someone hits it big on the silver screen, in music or even in the literary world, they are set for life, but that isn't always the case. Sometimes, celebrities squander their fortunes and sometimes they didn't even make all that much to begin with. These celebrities sometimes go from being world-class stars to flat broke. For them, their Cinderella story of making it didn't have a happily ever after. The ten stars listed below went from A list to practically penniless. These stars somehow managed to garner fame but fell short when it came to raking in the big bucks. Below is a list of ten celebrities that died broke. Although we still might remember they’re names, when they left this world, they didn't have a dollar to it.

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10 Veronica Lake

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Veronica Lake was an American film, stage and television actress. She garnered fame from her roles in Sullivan’s Travels, I Wanted Wings and her films starring opposite Alan Ladd. Despite her success in the early 1940’s with both audiences and critics alike, her career began to decline in the late 1940’s. Lake suffered from a mental illness and alcoholism. Her struggles had a great affect on her career. In the 1950’s, she had only appeared in one film, and things didn't look any better in the coming years. In 1970, Lake released an autobiography and used the proceeds to make a low-budget horror film. This film would be Lake’s last appearance on screen. In 1973, Lake died from hepatitis and kidney failure at the age of 50,and she was penniless.

9 Bela Lugosi

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Bela Lugosi was an actor who was made famous by his portrayal of Count Dracula in the 1931 film. From then on, Lugosi became a seemingly constant presence in horror films. He appeared in movies such as The Black Cat, The Raven and Son of Frankenstein. Throughout his career, Lugosi tried to avoid typecasting but he was unsuccessful. Eventually, Lugosi found it harder and harder to find work. He became addicted to morphine and methadone and was married five times. Lugosi’s roles dwindled down to a couple low-budget films here and there, but it wasn't enough to keep the once popular actor afloat. Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16th, 1956 at the age of 73.

8 Hedy Lamarr


Actress Hedy Lamarr, who was once dubbed the “most beautiful girl in Europe,” gained fame after her starring role in the film, Ecstasy. The film featured the actress in full frontal nude, which caused a frenzy among audiences everywhere. Lamarr went on to star in a variety of films throughout the thirties, forties,and fifties. During this time, she was married and divorced six times, with each divorce taking a chunk out of her fortune. In 2000, Hedy Lamar died of natural causes. She is said to have left her family with nothing more than memories.

7 Gary Coleman

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6 Edgar Allan Poe


Edgar Allan Poe is known for being one of the most influential horror writers of all time. His works struck fear in the heart of all who read it, while securing him a place in literary stardom. Unfortunately, Poe’s long-term literary success wasn't enough to help him make ends meet. His less than friendly disposition made it difficult for him to keep a job and the publication of his wildly famous poem, The Raven, only made him a measly couple of bucks. When Poe died in 1849, he had almost nothing besides his name.

5 Joe Louis

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Joe Louis was a famous boxer who held the heavyweight boxing title from 1937 to 1949. Despite his successful boxing career, Louis wasn't able to rake in the big bucks. It’s estimated that Louis earned an estimated $4.6 million during his champion days but he only received around $800,000 of his earnings. The little money that he did receive went to family, friends, donations to the US army, and business decisions gone wrong. After having used up most of his money, Louis was forced to perform as a wrestler and work as a greeter at Caesars Palace Casino in Las Vegas. In 1981, Louis suffered a “physical breakdown,” and was placed in a psychiatric hospital for five months. On April 12, 1981 Louis died as a result of a cardiac arrest.

4 Sammy Davis Jr. 

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Sammy Davis Jr. was a well-known dancer, singer, actor, musician and impressionist. In the 1950’s, he became one of the world’s most popular stars and a member of Frank Sinatra’s ‘Rat Pack.’ Despite making an estimated $50 million over the course of his career, Davis couldn’t hang on to his fortune. His decline in wealth has been attributed to his weakened popularity in the late 60’s, his struggles with substance abuse, and living beyond his means. By the time Davis died in 1990, the star had repaccumulated over $15 million in debt.

3 Oscar Wilde

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Oscar Wilde was an Irish writer and poet who gained affluence from his world-renowned work, The Picture of Dorian Gray. While he was alive, Wilde was famous for his cutting wit and flamboyant dress. At the height of his fame, Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest, was being performed on the London stage, but Wilde was already on his way downhill. Wilde was sentenced to two years in jail during which he tried to re-ignite his literary success. Unfortunately, Wilde was unable to garner the fame he once had. He died alone and Penniless in a Paris hotel at the age of 46.

2 Judy Garland

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Judy Garland was an American actress and singer who was once dubbed, “the greatest entertainer who ever lived,” by Fred Astaire. She is mostly known for her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Garland manage to have over 40 years of success as an entertainer, but that wasn't enough to keep her financially stable. Garland battled with drugs and alcohol and went through five marriages and four divorces, all of which contributed to her mounting debt. By the time of her death on June 22, 1969, at the age of 47, Garland reportedly owed over $4 million.

1 Michael Jackson


Michael Jackson, who was once dubbed “The King of Pop,” became a dominating force in popular music in the 1980’s. His album, Thriller, is the best selling album of all time and his other albums rank among the world’s best-selling. Jackson is estimated to have earned about $750 million in his lifetime and an extra $400 million for concert appearances, merchandising and endorsements. However, Jackson fell into debt after spending millions more than he earned. By the time of his death in 2009, Jackson reportedly owed an estimated $500 million.

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