Many know the names of actors who died in airplane crashes (Audie Murphy, Vic Morrow), or in automobile accidents (James Dean), but which actors have died in fires? Here is a list of few of the Actors Who Died in Fires. Many died at home, others on the stage. Some are well known, others not so much.
Claude Burroughs was a young up and coming actor who had the misfortune of dying in a fire better-known than his short acting career. He died on December 5, 1876, in the tragic and devastating Brooklyn Theater fire. He was only 22 years old at the time. The fire started when a drop hanging came into contact with a border lamp. As the fire spread, the actors at first stayed in character, trying not to cause the audience to panic. Burroughs and another actor thought they had time to get their coats. They never escaped the building. Their mangled bodies were found together beneath the collapsed stage, burned and battered beyond recognition. He made his first appearance on the stage in 1865, in “Hamlet” alongside Edwin Booth, who was the older brother of a more famous Booth – John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln.
Robert Howard “Clifton” Young died on September 13, 1951, at the age of 33. He died in a hotel fire that started when he fell asleep while smoking. He was born Robert H. Young, and as Bobby Young he played “Bonedust” in nineteen Our Gang films from 1925 to 1931. His most notable films included School’s Out, Nora Prentiss, Pursued, Possessed, Dark Passage and Blood on the Moon.
Gloria Dickson was an American stage and screen actress of the 1930s and 1940s. Dickson died on April 10, 1945, during a fire at her Los Angeles home. She was 27 years old. The fire began when an unextinguished cigarette ignited an overstuffed chair on the main floor, while she slept upstairs. Her body, and that of her pet dog, were found in the bathroom, and it was assumed that she had attempted to escape through the bathroom window. She died from asphyxiation. Flames had seared her lungs, and her body had suffered first and second degree burns. Ms Dickson starred in over 20 Hollywood films, such as They Won’t Forget and They Made Me a Criminal.
On April 10, 1965, Hollywood actress Linda Darnell died in a house fire. She was 41 years old. The fire occurred at the house of her former secretary. She had been staying there, with friends, while preparing for a stage role. Her 1940 film, Star Dust, had played on television the night of the fire, and it was widely reported that Darnell had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette while watching it. Ms Darnell had appeared in over 30 films and several TV programs. She played the lead role in Forever Amber (1947), and received positive reviews for her work in Unfaithfully Yours (1948) and A Letter to Three Wives (1949).
Butterfly (Thelma) McQueen
On December 22, 1995, actress Butterfly (Thelma) McQueen, famous for many film roles, but especially for her portrayal of Prissy in Gone with the Wind, died from burns received in a fire in her Augusta, Georgia, apartment. She was 84 years old at the time of her death. She had been attempting to light a kerosene heater in her apartment when it malfunctioned and burst into flames. She was found by firefighters lying on the sidewalk outside with severe burns over 70 percent of her body. She was taken to the hospital but died shortly afterwards from her burns.
On October 10, 2002, actress Teresa Graves, who appeared in TV’s “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” and “Get Christie Love!,” died in a fire at her Los Angeles home. She was found unconscious inside the home, and was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. Fire officials suspected a faulty heater started the fire. She was 53 years old. Graves was best known for her title role as a police detective in the ABC series “Get Christie Love”. Graves was one of the first African American actresses to play a lead in a prime time TV show.
On Sunday, October 13, 2002, only days after the tragic death of Ms Graves, actor Dennis Patrick was also killed in a fire at his house, also in Los Angeles. The 84-year-old Patrick, who played Vaughn Leland in the hit soap Dallas, was found dead by firefighters, with the body of his dog Josh on the floor next to him. It took more than 50 firefighters 30 minutes to put out the fire, cause of death was smoke inhalation. Patrick was well known for his role in the TV show Dark Shadows. He logged over 1800 guest roles on TV programs during his four-decade career.
On February 7, 2009, veteran British/Australian actor Reg Evans and his partner, Angela Brunton, died in the 2009 Victorian bushfires. Also known as the Black Saturday bushfires, these were a series of bushfires that ignited or were burning across the Australian state of Victoria during extreme bushfire-weather conditions, resulting in Australia’s highest ever loss of life from a bushfire. Evans starred in many Australian TV series, as well as major motion pictures such as Mad Max, The Island and Gallipoli. His best-known role was as Keith Purvis in the TV series “Blue Healers.”
On December 12, 1976, noted TV and film actor Jack Cassidy died in a fire at his West Hollywood apartment. He was 49 years old. Cassidy had fallen asleep while smoking and the cigarette had set fire to the couch. The fire then spread throughout the apartment. His body was found on the floor as if he were trying to crawl to safety through sliding glass doors. He never made it. His body was burned and charred beyond recognition and had to be identified by dental remains, as well as Cassidy Family Signet rings on his hand. Official cause of death was ruled “extensive thermal burns of the body”.