Fame, money, passion, adoration- they have everything-these twinkling stars of humanity. Yet tragedy follows them everywhere. It is not easy to live life under the harsh scrutiny of the spotlight. While they put on a brave face and smiled and laughed and waved from behind million dollar shades, little did we know that the tears were welling up behind those very shades. Living life large is not always the perfect dream we think it to be. It turns out, neither did they. Beautiful, charming and talented, they had the world falling at their feet. Yet their own world was coming crashing down around them. When they dressed perfectly for the red carpet and blew little kisses onto the crowd, never did they let on that the bright flame of their life would be suffused soon and that too at their own hands. We normal people tend to get depressed thinking that if we had more money, more friends, more means to achieve our dreams then perhaps we might be happier. Even then, taking your own life is an extreme decision that people take in the direst of dire circumstances. Then glamorous movie stars, who have all that one’s heart could desire and more, what would make them do something so drastic, so irrevocably final? While the answer will likely elude us, we can take a look at these tragedies and review and respect the brilliant lives that loved, laughed and lived….till they died.
10. Jiah Khan
In the later years to come, people will likely remember Jiah Khan more for her dramatic death than her short movie career. It is that likelihood that earns her a place on this list, because the other names here are so brilliant and iconic that in any other world she would not be finding her name attached with theirs. Not because she lacked talent, mind you. In fact being born to a Bollywood actress, acting is in her blood. She honed this talent further by taking singing, dancing and acting lessons from childhood. By the time she was sixteen, she was a trained opera singer, expert in six different forms of dance and an acting major in a reputed school in New York. She even had a film offer in her kitty which she declined, opting to face the camera two years later opposite the legend Amitabh Bachhan. Despite such a stellar start to her career, success was slow to come. In an industry rife with cutthroat competition and twisted notions of success, this is not necessarily a premonition of one’s true talent, especially not one who has worked as hard as Jiah Khan. Yet this frustration combined with the haplessness of a failed relationship lead her to take her own life. Given time, I am sure she would have been as illustrious as any one of the names on these list. Yet her tragedy is that she snatched that time away herself.
9. Lupe Velez
A Latin American actress, Lupe Velez was the first Mexican actress to achieve a high degree of success in Hollywood. She essayed classic sensual roles so perfectly that she was nicknamed, “The Hot Pepper” and “The Mexican Spitfire”. Not only did she work with some of the finest directors of the day such as Cecile B. Demille and D.W. Griffith, but also had roaring affairs with the hottest actors of that generation, namely Charlie Chaplin, Errol Flynn and Clark Gable. One of these men was Harald Maresch, with whose child she became pregnant. When he refused to marry her she committed suicide, preferring death than the shame of illegitimacy that would be the legacy of the unborn child.
8. Jonathan Brandis
The heartthrob of millions and the reigning teen idol of the nineties, why a superstar like Jonathan Brandis took his own life remains a mystery to this date. Though it was the sitcom SeaQuest that propelled him to superstardom, Brandis had been working since the age of five and was a seasoned actor by the time he was a teenager. He was so popular that he needed three bodyguards to protect him from the mobs of female fans thronging his sets. He seemed happy and his career was great. That all changed when he hanged himself on November 2003. Though he was rushed to the hospital, nothing could be done to save him. Even his closest friends had no clue as to why he took such a drastic step.
7. Divya Bharti
She made it big in three film industries while still a teenager. A superstar before she was eighteen even, Divya Bharti had legions of fans spread all over India. Having achieved commercial fame in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu cinema, she was also celebrated for her finely honed acting skills and dedication. Sick of being romantically linked by the media with every co-star she worked with, Bharti chose to marry movie producer Sajid Nadiadwala in 1992. On 5th April 1993, at the tender age of nineteen and just ten days after the release of her movie Kshatriya, she fell to her death from a five storey apartment building in Mumbai. Though rumours of suicide swirl around as the alleged reason for her suicide, there are many conspiracy theories that float around, suggesting a jealous husband, mafia involvement or quite simply an accident.
6. Spalding Grey
A brilliant comedian, actor and writer, Spalding Grey pioneered the genre of the minimalist autobiographical monologues in American pop culture. His most famous works, such as swimming to Cambodia, drew from his personal life experiences and was released to much critical acclaim and fanfare. His comedy mainly derived from his neurotises and his sharp wit. Yet behind the cape of laughter were startlingly brave and self-deprecating admissions that connected audiences with his work. He was bi-polar and struggled with depression and anxiety his whole life. In 2001 he was in a terrible car crash which paralyzed his left leg and injured his brain. Consequently, his depression became even deeper. He went missing in 2004. His body was recovered from the East River where the police concluded he had jumped off from a ferry.
5. Silk Smitha
Silk Smitha did a staggering 450 films over a career spanning seventeen years in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi and Kannada. Born as Vijaylakshmi Vadlapati in a poor rural family in Andhra Pradesh, she was only allowed to study till grade four and was married off while still a child. Her husband and in laws were very abusive and the young girl ran off to Chennai to live with an elderly aunt. She started working as extras in utterly low grade movies. A local movie director spotted potential in her and took her under his wing. His wife educated her. Soon her raw sex appeal was winning her roles in movies where her sensuality won her the name of Silk. Though later she tried to branch out and do movies that required her to act more than look good, in audience’s minds she was already typecast and no matter of effort would change that. Then she had ambitions to direct a movie. But that deal fell through and she suffered severe financial losses. This move, coupled with a declining movie career, increased her dependency on alcohol. In 1996, her body was recovered from her apartment in Chennai. Police said that a failed relationship was the final push in her sad life that prompted her to take her own life by poisoning herself.
4. Diana Barrymore
Part of the legendary Barrymore clan, who are considered Hollywood royalty, Diana Barrymore had a privileged but tumultuous start of life in this world. Born to the great American actor John Barrymore and his second wife poet Blanche Oelrichs, she was witness to her parent’s nasty marriage from her birth until the age of four when they divorced. Blanche’s personal bitterness made her keep Diana away from her father most of her life. She was sent to study in boarding schools in Europe where she was brought up by nannies and teachers, having little or no personal contact with either of her parents. While still a teenager, she decided to become an actress and even managed to secure positive criticism for her work both on stage and screen. But personal problems and drug and alcohol addiction soon took over the potential of a bright future in the stars. After barely three years in Hollywood and six films to her credit, this disaster ended her cinematic career. After various failed attempts in showbiz, bankruptcy and three failed marriages, she died on January 1960 after an overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills.
3. Hugh O Connor
The man who immortalized detective Lonnie Johnson on screen in the hit television drama Heat of the Night, evaded death heroically only to be consumed by it. Hugh Connor was the adopted son of actor Carroll O’Connor and his wife Nancy. At age sixteen he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. He successfully beat the cancer with the help of intensive chemotherapy and surgeries, but he became addicted to drugs in order to help ease his pain. Despite many attempts at recovery and stays at rehabilitation centres, he could not give up his addiction. In March 1995, he called his father to say that he was ending his life since he could not battle drug addiction anymore. It was also his third wedding anniversary that day.
2. Freddie Prinze
Father of the popular actor Freddie Prinze Junior, Freddie Prinze started his career as a comedian before he became an actor. Born Frederick Karl Pruetzel, He changed his name to Freddie Prinze because he wanted to become the prince of comedy. Despite achieving high success at a very young age, he became addicted to drugs and was frequently depressed. In January 1977, he spoke to his estranged wife on the phone for a long time and then took a gun and shot himself in the head. He was only twenty two years old.
1. Marilyn Monroe
The most high profile suicide of the last century, Marilyn Monroe’s death keeps every new generation of fans speculating as to what could have lead this spectacular star to end her life so abruptly. Hundreds of movies are made to this day depicting the depression behind her mask of gaiety and the dark truth behind the sparkling side of glamour. In the days leading up to her birth, Monroe’s father bought a motorcycle and took off, abandoning his family without a care in the world. Her childhood was tragic, being juggled from one foster home to another. As a young woman, Norma Jean Martinson cast aside that mouthful of a name and adopted Marilyn Monroe and embarked on a movie career that would uphold as America’s greatest sex symbol of all time. In the final years of her life, she drank heavily, was prone to depression and got hooked to drugs. Though she died from an overdose of barbiturates, many consider that her death was murder, not suicide. This conspiracy theory is further supported by the fact that she was romantically involved with the president John F Kennedy. Whatever the reason, Monroe is a pop cultural icon not just in America but in the world and her life and death are a source of enigma to those drawn towards her story.