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Forever Young: Actors Who Died in Their Mid-Twenties

Forever young and beautiful actors and actresses who died between the age of 24 and 26.

James Dean (February 8, 1931 – September 30, 1955)

The infamous “you’re tearing me apart” scene from the movie “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955)

A charismatic American actor, James Dean epitomized youthful angst and whose status as a cultural icon is best embodied in his most cited role in “Rebel Without a Cause.” He died at age 24 when the Porsche 550 Spyder he was driving crashed with a car from the opposite direction on U.S. Highway 466 (later California State Route 46).

Jon-Erik Hexum (November 5, 1957 – October 18, 1984)

Scenes from the campy 1983 TV movie starring Jon-Erik Hexum and Joan Collins

Much to his displeasure, Jon-Erik Hexum was labeled as hunk and sex symbol after being cast in his breakthrough 1983 TV movie “Making of a Male Model.” Feeling bored in-between breaks on the set of the TV series “Cover Up, ” he was critically injured after he jokingly pulled the trigger of a blank-loaded prop gun pointed to his temple. The 26-year old actor was declared brain-dead and was taken off life support six days later.

Peg Entwistle (February 5, 1908 – September 16, 1932)

The only surviving film fottage of Peg Entwistle’s tragically short career in “Thirteen Women” (1932)

Between 1926 and 1932, Welsh-born Peg Entwistle acted in 10 Broadway plays including the 1927 smash hit “Tommy,” which was to be her longest-running play at 232 performances. After receiving poor reviews on her very first movie appearance in the RKO film “Thirteen Women,” she committed suicide by jumping off the “H” of the Hollywood sign, which was then read as “Hollywoodland.” She was only 24.

Françoise Dorléac (March 21, 1942 – June 26, 1967)

Francoise Dorleac and Donald Pleasance in Roman Polanski’s psychological thriller “Cul-de-Sac” (1966)

The elder sister of Catherine Deneuve, Françoise Dorléac hit stardom with films as François Truffaut’s melodrama “La Peau Douce” (1964) and Philippe de Broca’s spy spoof “L’homme de Rio” (1964). A month after finishing shooting her latest film “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort,” the 25-year old actress was burnt beyond recognition when the rented sport car she was driving hit a signpost, flipped over and burst into flames in Nice.

Jean Harlow (March 3, 1911 – June 7, 1937)

Jame Cagney meets Jean Harlow – Scene from “The Public Enemy” (1931)

Jean Harlow was an American actress, whose role in “Platinum Blonde” (1931) earned her the title as America’s sex symbol during the 1930s. She starred with every major leading men of the time including Clark Gable, James Cagney and Spencer Tracy. On May 29, 1937, she was immediately rushed to the hospital after collapsing while filming “Saratoga.” She was diagnosed with uremic poisoning that eventually took her life eight days later at age 26.

Sharon Tate (January 24, 1943 – August 9, 1969)

American model and actress, Sharon Tate started playing bit roles in television before making her mark in films “Eye of the Devil,” “The Fearless Vampire Killers” and “Valley of the Dolls,” where she got a Golden Globe Award nomination. Married to acclaimed director Roman Polanski in 1967, she was 26 years old and 8-1/2 months pregnant when she was brutally stabbed to death by followers of Charles Manson in her own home, along with four other people.

Brad Renfro (July 25, 1982 – January 15, 2008)

Starring opposite Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Renfro was introduced in the film adaptation of John Grisham novel “The Client,” which became one of the top grossing films of 1994. His other notable film credits included “Sleepers” (1996) and “Apt Pupil” (1998). He was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment after reportedly spending an evening drinking with friends. Officially ruled as accidental, his death at age 25 was ascribed to heroin overdose.

Barbara Yung Meiling (May 7, 1959 – May 14, 1985)

Barbara Yung Meiling was a Chinese television actress in Hongkong, whose role in the TVB swordplay series “The Legend of the Condor Heroes” made her a household name in many Asian countries. She was found unconscious in her apartment due to gas inhalation by a fellow actor, who rushed her to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead on arrival. It was rumored the 25-year-old actress may have committed suicide due to depression over a failed relationship.

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User Comments
  1. Unofre Pili

    On February 27, 2009 at 3:04 am

    That’s pretty sad bro, I think Rico Yan can make the list.

  2. Sakuragi

    On February 27, 2009 at 4:06 am

    Dying young is the curse of hollywood.


    On February 27, 2009 at 5:28 am

    That’s pretty sad. It’s pity to die at so young.

  4. jewelsofmine

    On February 27, 2009 at 9:31 am

    How sad, however it is so true. Well written!

  5. Betty Carew

    On February 27, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Very interesting article and such a loss.

  6. Majic

    On February 27, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    I don’t know about the rest but James Dean was definitely “immortalized” by his death

  7. goodselfme

    On February 27, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Very well composed with admiration for these “selected” ones. Thank you

  8. rutherfranc

    On February 27, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    this is turning into a very interesting series.. will be waiting for the next installment from you..

  9. Mark Gordon Brown

    On February 27, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    would they have been such the icons they are, if they had not died young?

  10. Brenda Nelson

    On February 27, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Well dang it all.. dial up wont let me watch the videos.. and that one about the Making of a Male Model might have been educational!


    On March 2, 2009 at 11:55 am

    It is very sad that not everyone makes it to old age.

  12. S Air

    On March 22, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    How very sad.

  13. J

    On September 30, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    And don’t forget the beautiful Michelle Thomas who played in the sitcoms “The Cosby Show” and “Family Matters.” She passed away at the age of 29 in December 1998. She had a rare form of stomach cancer.

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