Celebrity deaths in 2021: From Christopher Plummer to Larry King, the full updated list of stars who'll never fade

2020 was a bad year for celebrity deaths, largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021, we've lost a few stalwarts already


                            Celebrity deaths in 2021: From Christopher Plummer to Larry King, the full updated list of stars who'll never fade
Celebrities who died in 2021 (Getty Images, Hammer Film Productions)

Death is never an easy thing to come to terms with, be it that of an acquaintance, friend, family member, or someone who has entertained you through the TV, in the movies, or through their music. This list may seem morbid to some, but its intention is that we may remember and mark the passing of those who brought so much joy to so many. Lest we forget.

Editor's note: This article will unfortunately be updated regularly

Mark Eden as Alan Bradley in a still from the ITV soap opera Coronation Street (ITV)

Mark Eden, 92

Date of death: January 1

How did he die? Complications related to Alzheimer's disease

Mark Eden is most famously known for playing the evil Alan Bradley on the long-running hit British soap opera 'Coronation Street'. Eden played the role for three years from 1986 to 1989 before Bradley was killed by a tram (a plaque was unveiled and all). He published an autobiography entitled 'Who's Going to Look at You?' in 2010. Eden married his 'Coronation Street' co-star, Sue Nicholls, in 1993, and they remained married until his death. Eden battled Alzheimer's disease in his later life and was admitted to hospital in November 2020. He died on January 1, 2021.

Seizō Fukumoto (right) seen here with Tom Cruise on the sets of Edward Zwick's 'The Last Samurai' (Warner Bros)

Seizō Fukumoto, 77

Date of death: January 1

How did he die? Lung cancer

Many of you will not have heard of Fukumoto, but may remember the Silent Samurai in the Tom Cruise-starrer, 'The Last Saumrai'. But Fukumoto was so much more than just that role in what was frankly a mediocre film. Fukumoto starred in hundreds of films and is one of Japan's most prolific actors, playing everything from samurai and ronin to police officials. 

Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan (Facebook)

Misty Morgan, 76

Date of death: January 1

How did she die? Cancer

Ever heard of 'Tennessee Bird Walk' and 'Humphrey the Camel'? Well if you have, then you've heard the voice of Misty Morgan who formed one-half of the country music duo with her husband Jack Blanchard. Misty was a pioneer in country music and the visionary behind the duo's unique sound for the genre, so much so that they were sometimes called the Sonny & Cher of country music. When 'Tennessee Bird Walk' rocketed to the top of the country charts in 1970, Misty became the first woman to co-produce a #1 hit. Morgan was hospitalized on Christmas Day 2020 and diagnosed with advanced cancer. She died on Jan 1, 2021. Her husband Jack was by her side.  

Barbara Shelley in a still from 'Dracula, Prince of Darkness' (Hammer Film Production)

Barbara Shelley, 88

Date of death: January 3

How did she die? Complications related to Covid-19 infection

If there was ever a pretty face of horror films in the late '50s and early '60s then it was British star Barbara Shelley. Even though she starred in hundreds of films across most genres, it was through her work in the spookier area of showbiz that she really made her mark. Shelley broke through into the horror genre with Hammer Film Production (where she was referred to as 'the Queen of Hammer') and starred opposite Christopher Lee in 1966's 'Dracula, Prince of Darkness'. She also starred in such cult classics as 'Village of the Damned' and 'Quatermass and the Pit'.

In December 2020, Shelley visited the hospital for a routine check-up and there she contracted Covid-19. She recovered from the infection but succumbed to underlying health issues on January 3, 2021.

Tanya Roberts (Getty Images)

Tanya Roberts, 65

Date of death: January 4

How did she die? Septicemia

Unfortunately, Tanya Roberts' death was largely overshadowed by the way the news was sent out into the world. Her partner, Lance O'Brien, announced her death on January 3, but later backtracked and revealed that she was alive and he had assumed she was dead after an 'end of life' visit with her. Roberts was officially declared dead on January 4 after a urinary tract infection turned in septicemia largely due to Roberts' history of Hepatitis C.

A sex symbol in the '70s and '80s, Roberts starred as Julie Rogers in the final season of 'Charlie's Angels', as well as in 'Sheena' and 'Beastmaster', before she went on to be a Bond girl in 1985's 'A View To a Kill'. She returned to the spotlight in 1998 when she played Midge Pinciotti on 'That '70s Show'. 

Gregory Sierra in a still from 'Barney Miller'. (Walt Disney TV)

Gregory Sierra, 83

Date of death: January 4

How did he die? Stomach and liver cancer

Sierra is best known for his roles as Julio Fuentes in 'Sanford and Son' and Detective Sergeant Chano Amengual in 'Barney Miller'. In 1984 he was added to the main cast for a little show called 'Miami Vice' but asked to be written off it because he didn't like living in Miami, and we all know how that show turned out. Nevertheless, Sierra appeared on a slew of famous TV shows and films and continued acting till 2018, where he starred in the experimental film 'The Other Side of the Wind'. That was to be his last film; Sierra died after a long fight with stomach and liver cancer on January 4.  

John Richardson with Raquel Welch in 'One Million Years B.C.' (Hammer Film Productions)

John Richardson, 86

Date of death: January 5

How did he die? Covid-19 

British actor John Richardson could have been Clint Eastwood, he could also have been Roger Moore. Like Barbara Shelley (see above), John Richardson got his big break in Hammer horror films before gaining a level of stardom when he starred opposite Raquel Welch in the huge 1966 hit 'One Million Years B.C.'. Then, taking the Clint Eastwood path, Richardson moved to Italy where he starred in a number of Spaghetti Westerns. In the late 1960s, Sean Connery quit the James Bond franchise and the role was up for grabs. Richardson threw his hat in the ring for 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' in 1969 but lost out to George Lazenby in what was to be arguably one of the best James Bond films, but also one of its least popular. Lazenby would never play James Bond again and would eventually be replaced by Roger Moore. Richardson continued to work extensively in Italy and starred in his last film 'Milner', a 1994 TV movie.

Director Michael Apted attends the "63 Up" screening during the 57th New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on October 5, 2019, in New York City (Getty Images)

Michael Apted, 79 

Date of death: January 7

How did he die? Undisclosed

From 'Coal Miner's Daughter' and 'Gorky Park' to 'Gorilla's In the Mist' and 'Nell', Michael Apted has been at the helm of some truly amazing films. Though best-known for directing the 1999 James Bond film 'The World Is Not Enough', Apted was nominated for numerous Golden Globe and Academy awards. He also served as the president of the Directors' Guild of America, from 2003 and 2009. One of Apted's sons Paul, a sound editor, died from colon cancer in 2014. Apted died at his home in Los Angeles on January 7.

Deezer D in a still from the hit TV series 'ER' (NBC)

Deezer D, 55

Date of death: January 7

How did he die? Possible cardiac arrest

Actor and rapper Deezer D is best known for his role as nurse Malik McGrath on 'ER'. Born Dearon Thompson, the actor was found unresponsive at his home in Los Angeles, according to TMZ. The same report stated that the actor underwent heart surgery in 2009 to replace his aorta and fix a heart valve. Deezer D starred in over 200 episodes of the hit medical drama from 1994 through to 2009. He also released three albums 'Delayed, But Not Denied' (2008), 'Unpredictable' (2002) and 'Living Up in a Down World' (1999).

Marion Ramsey in a still from 'Police Academy' (The Ladd Company)

Marion Ramsey, 73

Date of death: January 7

How did she die? Undisclosed

The 'Police Academy' franchise had more than its fair share of hilarious characters, but one of the funniest was Laverne Hooks, played by Marion Ramsey. Hooks' quiet epically understated demeanor blanketing a blinding rage was one of the best character arcs in the series. She also starred in the films 'Return to Babylon', 'Lavalantula' and '2 Lava 2 Lantula!' Her family said she died after a short illness. 

Ed Bruce (NBC/NBCU)

Ed Bruce, 81

Date of death: January 8

How did he die? Officially natural causes

Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson may have made 'Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys' famous as singers, but it was Ed Bruce who wrote it. He had his very own #1 with 'You're the Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had' in 1982. Bruce also starred alongside James Garner in the TV series 'Bret Maverick' (a reboot of the 1950s show 'Maverick'). Bruce received the Arkansas Country Music Award for "Lifetime Achievement" on June 3, 2018.

Steve Carver (right) and Chuck Norris on the sets of 'Lone Wolf McQuade' (Orion Pictures)

Steve Carver, 75

Date of death: January 8

How did he die? Covid-19

Steve Carver was a director and producer and a protege of Roger Corman. His big directing break came when he directed the hit, 'Big Bad Mama', in 1974 starring Angie Dickinson. But it was Carver's projects with Chuck Norris that put him on the map. 'An Eye for an Eye' and 'Lone Wolf McQuade' in the early-1980s were huge successes for both Carver and Norris but would eventually lead to a bitter lawsuit. Carver sued the creators of the TV series, 'Walker, Texas Ranger' (also starring Norris) stating that it was too similar to 'Lone Wolf McQuade', but he lost the case. Carver never managed to hit the heights of 'McQuade' in his later career and eventually became known as the 'go-to director' (a director called in to complete a film after the original director had been removed from the project). Carver died in Los Angeles from Covid-19 on January 8.  

Diana Millay in 'The Case of the Unwelcome Bride' (CBS)

Diana Millay, 85

Date of death: January 8

How did she die? Undisclosed

Diana Millay was known as 'Miss Emmy' for her extensive roles on primetime TV shows. She is best known for playing Laura Collins on 'Dark Shadows' and Kitty Styles on 'Secret Storm'. She was also a prolific author and has a number of books to her credit.

Publicty photo of musician/singer Jimmie Rodgers from a guest appearance on the television program Kraft Music Hall (NBC 1968)

Jimmie Rodgers 

Date of death: January 18

How did he die? Undisclosed

Jimmie Rodgers was an American pop singer whose biggest hit 'Honeycomb' raced to the top of the charts and stayed there for four weeks in 1957. He had a number of other hits --  like 'Kisses Sweeter than Wine', 'Oh-Oh, I'm Falling in Love Again' and 'Bo-Diddley' -- but none matched the success of 'Honeycomb'. In 1967, Rodgers was allegedly pulled over in Los Angeles by an off-duty police office for 'erratic driving'. A few hours later he was found injured in his car by a friend and taken to hospital with a fractured skull and other serious injuries. The policeman in question, Michael Duffy, claimed that he had indeed stopped Rodgers for 'erratic driving' and that Rodgers had fallen and hit his head during the stop. Duffy claimed he then called in two more police officers -- Raymond V Whisman and Ronald D Wagner -- to help put Duffy in his car; all three then left the scene. The doctors who treated Rodgers initially claimed that the injuries to his skull were consistent with a beating, but then changed their conclusion to agree with the police version that it could well have been caused in a fall.

Rodgers later sued the City of Los Angeles for $11 million, claiming that the three officers had beaten him, and while the LA County Attorney General rejected the claims, the three officers were suspended for two weeks for improper procedures in handling the case, specifically leaving the injured Rodgers alone in his car, according to the Spokesman-Review report in 1968. The LA Fire and Police Protective League then filed a counter-suit for $13 million against Rodgers for slander after he accused them of brutality. Neither suit went to trial but in 1973 Rodgers accepted a $200,000 settlement from the Los Angeles City Council. In his autobiography 'Me, the Mob, and the Music', singer Tommy James alleged that the head of Roulette Records, Morris Levy -- who had well-known ties to the Mafia -- had arranged the attack on Rodgers because the singer repeatedly demanded unpaid royalties he was due by the label. In 2010, Rodgers wrote and published his autobiography, 'Dancing on the Moon: The Jimmie Rodgers Story'.

Randy and Dolly Parton. (YouTube screenshot)

Randy Parton, 67

Date of death: January 21

How did he die? Cancer

Randy Parton was the younger brother of country music legend Dolly Parton. While his music career never came close to the stratospheric heights reached by his older sister, Randy's major claim to fame is the fact that he was the first person to record the song 'Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)'. Two years later, in 1984, that same song would be recorded by hit country group Alabama, and go on to become one of the most successful and popular songs of all-time. He also sang on the soundtrack for the film musical 'Rhinestone' starring Dolly and Sylvester Stallone. The movie is better known today as 'The One In Which Rocky Sings'. His last musical venture came in 2020 when he appeared on 'A Holly Dolly Christmas' alongside sisters Dolly and Heidi.

18veno (Instagram)

18veno, 19

Date of death: January 23

How did he die? Gunshot

18veno was a South Carolina rapper who was shot dead. 18veno's real name was Paul Harts, and after being influenced by the music of Gucci Mane, Jeezy, et al he started rapping. In 2020 18veno released a five-track R4z EP, as well as his debut project 'Pablo'.

Two men were arrested in connection to his shooting. Khalil Lahenra Robinson, 20, was arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter, while Christopher Lamont McCollough, 22, was arrested for drug-related charges that could be linked to the case. 

Actor Hal Holbrook attends the premiere of Disney's "Planes: Fire & Rescue" at the El Capitan Theatre on July 15, 2014, in Hollywood, California (Getty Images)

Hal Holbrook, 95

Date of death: January 23

How did he die? Undisclosed

Arguably one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood, Hal Holbrook graced the industry for nearly 55 years. Hal burst into the global consciousness when he played Deep Throat in the 1976 hit 'All The President's Men', although by then he was already well-known in America for his portrayal of Mark Twain in 'Mark Twain Tonight', a role he continued to play until 2005.

In 2007, Hal was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Sean Penn's 'Into the Wild' making him the oldest nominee in that category ever. Hal also starred in critically-acclaimed films such as 'Capricorn One', 'Wall Street', 'The Firm' and 'The Majestic', to name a few.

In 2003, President George W Bush bestowed upon Holbrook the National Humanities Medal for "charming audiences with the wit and wisdom of Mark Twain as Twain's outlook never fails to give Holbrook a good show to put on". 

CNN's Larry King during the election night results program at the NASDAQ building in Times Square November 2, 2004, in New York City (Getty Images)

Larry King, 87

Date of death: January 23

How did he die? Sepsis as a result of Covid-19 complications

If there was ever a King of broadcast TV, then his first name was Larry. The 'Larry King Live' show ruled the air for 25 years and 6,076 episodes. His interview method became the benchmark; a sort of Cronkite for Gen X. Over two-and-a-half decades King interviewed everyone from celebrities and presidents, to scientists and businessmen, in a manner always well-informed, probing but never rude, polite but never sycophantic, to the point but always interesting.

Though 'Larry King Live' took up a lot of his time, he did find the bandwidth to star in 24 films (often playing himself, such was his pivotal cultural relevance) and get married a whopping eight times (he married Playboy Bunny Alene Akins twice). The stature of his professional work was such that even a soap operatic, and often scandalous, personal life, never detracted from the man on the world's TV screens.  

On December 26, King was hospitalized with Covid-19. He died on January 23 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles. He left his $2 million estate to his five surviving children, although the will was contested by his seventh wife Shawn Southwick King.

Song Yoo-jung  (Song Yoo-jung/Instagram)

Song Yoo-jung, 26

Date of death: January 23

How did she die? Undisclosed

Song Yoo-jung was a South Korean actress best known for her roles in the series 'Golden Rainbow', 'Make A Wish' and 'School 2017'. Before she started acting, Song modeled for Estee Lauder, and Bodyshop. Initial South Korean news reports stated that Song killed herself but those reports were eventually changed to reflect an 'undisclosed' cause of death. 

Iron (Twitter)

Iron, 29

Date of death: January 24

How did he die? Undisclosed

Iron was the name of a controversial South Korean rapper whose real name was Jung Hun-cheol. He came into the limelight after reaching the semifinals Mnet's hip-hop audition program, 'Show Me the Money', in 2014. In 2016, he released his first and only album, 'Rock Bottom'. Iron was embroiled in a series of scandals from being convicted for smoking marijuana (he was given a suspended sentence) to being convicted of multiple counts of assault against his ex-girlfriend.

On January 25, Iron was found by a security guard lying in a pool of blood in the flowerbed of an apartment building. He was rushed to hospital but declared dead on arrival. The police ruled out foul play and homicide and his family declined permission to conduct a post-mortem.

Cloris Leachman shows off her Oscar for her performance in "The Last Picture Show" before attending the 75th Oscar presentations on March 23, 2003, in Brentwood, California. (Getty Images)

Cloris Leachman, 94

Date of death: January 27

How did she die? Natural causes

A career spanning 70 years; eight Primetime Emmy Awards; an Oscar; a British Academy Film Award; a Golden Globe Award; a Daytime Emmy Award: All that doesn't even come close to summing up the stellar career of Cloris Leachman. Leachman burst onto the scene in Peter Bogdanovich's seminal 'The Last Picture Show' and went on to star in numerous films right up to 2021, where she starred in the as-yet-unreleased 'Not To Forget'. Her television career was even more prolific as she starred in a diverse range of shows from 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' and 'The Fact of Life' to 'Raising Hope' and a superb cameo in 'Two-and-a-half Men'.

She died in her sleep at her home in Encinitas, California.

Hilton Valentine in an early publicity shot of the Animals taken at Newcastle Castle Keep probably in early 1964 (Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Hilton Valentine, 77 

Date of death: January 29

How did he die? Undisclosed

Hilton Valentine will be immortalized as the man who wrote the opening riff for The Animals' 'House of the Rising Sun', a song arguably as famous as any ever written. Valentine was one of the founding members of the band whose first avatar ended in 1966. Valentine had a mediocre music career after The Animals split, although he was inducted into the rock 'n' roll Hall of Fame along with the other members of the band in 1994.

Actor Dustin Diamond poses for a portrait during the 2007 Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2007, in Park City, Utah (Getty Images)

Dustin Diamond, 44

Date of death: February 1

How did he die? Lung cancer

Samuel 'Screech' Powers is one of the best-known characters on TV, and 'Saved By The Bell' one of the most-loved shows. Actor Dustin Diamond brought joy to millions across the world for his portrayal of the character over 82 episodes from 1989-93. After 'Saved By The Bell' ended Dustin appeared on several game and reality shows, but his fading star was infamously reignited when he released his own sex tape entitled 'Screeched – Saved by the Smell', although he later said the person in the video was not him but a stunt double.

In 2009, still trying to cash in on his 'Saved By The Bell' success, Dustin released a tell-all book called 'Behind The Bell' detailing the allegedly seedy underbelly of the show. Dustin backtracked during the fallout saying that the book had been ghostwritten and the writer had fabricated stories of sex and drug abuse. Dustin also tried his hand at pro wrestling appearing on Hulk Hogan's 'Celebrity Championship Wrestling'.

Dustin's personal life was no stranger to controversy. He declared bankruptcy in 2001 and was arrested for carrying a switchblade knife, which he was alleged to have pulled during a bar altercation in which a man was stabbed. On May 29, 2015, he was convicted of carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct. While he was cleared of recklessly endangering public safety, he was sentenced to four months in jail (of which he served three).

In early January 2021, Dustin was diagnosed with stage 4 small-cell lung carcinoma and died from complications related to the disease on Feb 1 in Cape Coral, Florida.

Actor Christopher Plummer, winner of the Best Supporting Actor Award for 'Beginners,' poses in the press room at the 84th Annual Academy Awards held at the Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Getty Images)

Christopher Plummer, 91

Date of death: February 5

How did he die? Blow to the head resulting from a fall

Christopher Plummer is true acting royalty. In nearly 70 years on the stage and screen, Plummer has starred in such classics as 'The Sound of Music', 'The Man Who Would Be King', and 'The Insider'. He won an Oscar for his role in 'The Beginners'; a Tony Award for 'Cyrano' and 'Barrymore'; a Primetime Emmy for 'The Moneychangers' and 'Madeline' and received numerous nominations.

But it was his role as John Paul Getty in Ridley Scott's 2017 film 'All The Money In The World' that really got everyone talking and earned him a third Oscar nomination. The reason his performance received so much attention was the fact that -- apart from it being superbly delivered -- Plummer was cast in the role AFTER the film had been completed. In 2017, Kevin Spacey -- who originally played Getty -- became embroiled in a sexual assault scandal that rocked Hollywood. Scott and Sony executives feared the film would tank at the box office with Spacey in it and decided to reshoot all Spacey's scenes with Plummer. Scott would later state that Plummer had been his original choice for Getty but he was forced to cast Spacey by studio execs who wanted a 'big name'. Given the short notice Plummer had, his excellent performance drew accolades across the board.

On February 5, Plummer died at his home in Weston, Connecticut. 

Chick Corea onstage during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony at Microsoft Theater on January 26, 2020, in Los Angeles, California (Getty Images)

Chick Corea, 79

Date of death: February 8

How did he die? Cancer

Born Armando Anthony Corea, 'Chick' is considered to be one of jazz's greatest pianists. Best known for standards like 'Spain', '500 Miles High' and 'Windows', Corea won 23 Grammy Awards and was nominated over 60 times. 

He did a lot to put fusion jazz on the map, his band Return to Forever was heavily influenced by Latin music, especially flamenco. Later in his career Corea explored classical music even composing a piano concerto. In 2004 he composed his first work without keyboards: his 'String Quartet No. 1'.

Corea, who was a Scientologist, died of cancer at his home in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. he had only recently been diagnosed. 

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