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Last Updated: Friday, 29 December 2006, 08:54 GMT
Entertainment obituaries: 2006
The BBC News website remembers some of the key personalities from the worlds of music, acting and the arts who passed away in 2006.

Click on the links below to read more about them.


Robert Altman
US director Robert Altman was known as a Hollywood pioneer, renowned for his improvisational style. Among his most notable films were MASH, The Player and Gosford Park.

Nominated for five Oscars, he never won a main prize but was handed an honorary lifetime achievement award in 2006.

One of his final projects was a stage production of Arthur Miller's Resurrection Blues at the Old Vic in London. He died in November at the age of 81.


Sir Malcolm Arnold
Sir Malcolm Arnold won an Oscar for composing the musical score to the Bridge on the River Kwai in 1958.

The British composer scored more than 130 films including Whistle Down the Wind and Hobson's Choice.

As well as films he also worked on ballets, symphonies and operas. He died in September aged 84.


Syd Barrett

Syd Barrett was one of the founding members of Pink Floyd, penning early hits such as See Emily Play and Arnold Layne.

But he struggled with fame and drugs and left the band in 1968 - before Floyd's iconic Dark Side of the Moon.

He became a virtual recluse, living with his mother in Cambridge, but his influence could be felt through artists from David Bowie to Blur. He died in July at the age of 60 from complications arising from diabetes.


Peter Benchley

Peter Benchley was responsible for scaring generations out of the sea with his book Jaws, which was turned into a hugely successful film franchise.

His book, which told of a great white shark terrorising a town off Long Island, sold more than 20 million copies.

He was keen environmentalist and had a fascination with the sea. He died in February at the age of 65 from a progressive lung illness.


Peter Boyle

Peter Boyle was the grumpy grandfather in Everybody Loves Raymond, a part which saw him pick up seven Emmy nominations.

His breakthrough role came playing the tap-dancing monster in Mel Brook's Young Frankenstein in 1974.

He was good friends with John Lennon, who acted as his best man at his wedding to wife Loraine.

He died from cancer at the age 71.


James Brown
"Godfather of Soul" James Brown was famous for a string of hits including I Got You (I Feel Good) and Living In America.

His influence on popular music was regarded as immense, transforming gospel music into rhythm and blues, and soul music into his own creation - known as funk - with its driving rhythms and insistent beat.

Brown, born in South Carolina, was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame 20 years after he entered its US equivalent.

The singer died on Christmas Day after being admitted to hospital suffering from severe pneumonia.


Desmond Decker
Singer Desmond Dekker's biggest hit was 1969's Israelites, which made him the first reggae musician to top the UK charts.

His fame began when he was still in his native Jamaica. He brought the Caribbean sound to London after his success with Israelites at a time when ska music was developing.

He continued to be a popular live performer with a loyal fanbase until his sudden death in May at the age of 64 from a heart attack.


Charlie Drake
Comedian Charlie Drake starred in a string of hit TV shows and films in the 1960s and 1970s, and had success with the novelty pop song My Boomerang Won't Come Back.

Drake, who was born in 1925 in Elephant and Castle, south London, had carried on working into his 70s.

He turned to straight acting in the 1980s, winning acclaim for his role as Touchstone in Shakespeare's As You Like It and an award for his part in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker.

He died on 24 December aged 81 following a long illness.


Glenn Ford

Glenn Ford was the archetypal Hollywood leading man, starring in movies for more than 50 years, with credits including Gilda, The Big Heat and Midway.

He resumed acting after recovering from injury during World War II, where he was a Marine, building an on-screen partnership with Rita Hayworth, and starring in films such as Superman and The Fast Gun Alive.

He suffered a series of strokes in the 1990s, and was found dead at his Beverly Hills home in August at the age of 90.


Alan Freeman

Influential DJ Alan "Fluff" Freeman was the voice of the hit parade in the UK for many years, having joined the BBC after arriving from his native Australia.

He was known for his catchphrases such as "not 'alf" and for his unique chart rundowns and passion for music.

In 1998 he was made an MBE. He carried on in radio until 2001 with his Radio 2 programme Their Greatest Bits. He died in November in the nursing home where he had lived for six years.


Steve Irwin

Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin was killed in September at the age of 44 after being struck in the chest by a stingray's barb while filming a documentary in Queensland in September.

Irwin was known for his enthusiasm for the environment and animals but was also criticised for interacting too closely and provoking the animals he was filming.

He built up a small zoo in Queensland to the premiere wildlife park in the country. Australian prime minister John Howard led the tributes at a memorial service attended by thousands of fans.


Rocio Jurado

Rocio Jurado was one of Spain's most famous singers, celebrated in both her home country and Latin America. She made more than 30 albums, blending flamenco with folk and romantic ballads.

She died at the age of 61 after a two-year battle against cancer of the pancreas.


Lebo Mathosa

Lebo Mathosa was one of South Africa's most popular and extravagant singers, blending hip hop with traditional rhythms.

Her influence crossed borders, winning her a Music of Black Origin (Mobo) nomination in the UK in 2004. She was also one of the performers at Nelson Mandela's 85th birthday party.

She was killed when the car she was travelling in overturned on a motorway near Johannesburg in October. She was 29.


Jack Palance

Though best known in his later years for his crusty comic turn in City Slickers - the film that won him his only Academy Award, which he celebrated by performing one-handed push-ups to the amazement of the Oscar audience - Jack Palance had a career in westerns and war movies behind him stretching back four decades.

Best known for his villainous roles, notably in 1953 classic Shane, this erstwhile professional boxer made a virtue of his craggy features and athletic build. Self-deprecating to the last, he dismissed most of his 100-plus movies as "garbage". He died at the age of 87 at his home in California.


Chris Penn

Actor Chris Penn was probably best know for playing Nice Guy Eddie in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.

Penn was 40 when he was found dead on 24 January from of a mixture of medications and an enlarged heart. His older brother, Sean Penn, said his death was largely down to his weight rather than drink or drugs, although morphine, Valium and marijuana were found in his system.


Lynne Perrie

Lynne Perry was forever associated with her role as the battleaxe Ivy Tilsley in Coronation Street, in which she starred for 23 years.

Her other notable role was as the mother in Ken Loach's Kes. She died following a stroke at the age of 75 in March.


Wilson Pickett

Alabama soul legend Wilson Pickett scored hits with Mustang Sally and In the Midnight Hour - songs that have endured decades after he first belted them out as a star of Atlantic Records.

He was credited with co-writing In the Midnight Hour, but authorship was disputed by Steve Cropper of Booker T and the MGs who said he had written it all. Pickett's other hits included 634-5789 and Funky Broadway.

His later life was overshadowed by brushes with the law, including a jail spell for drunk-driving. He died at the age of 64 of a heart attack in Virginia.


Gene Pitney

American singer Gene Pitney was touring in Wales when he was found dead in a hotel room in Cardiff at the age of 65. Natural causes were cited by a coroner.

He found fame with the Bacharach and David song 24 Hours from Tulsa, going on to forge a huge career as a crooner. He enjoyed a revival in the 1980s with Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart, a duet with Marc Almond.


Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

German soprano Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was one of the most admired singers of the 20th Century, performing at London's Royal Opera House, Milan's La Scala and the Vienna State Opera.

After giving up performing she gave vocal masterclasses around the world, with a fierce reputation.

She was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1992, having become a British citizen. She eventually made her home in Austria, where she died aged 90 in August.


Dame Muriel Spark

Dame Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which focused on the liberal views a teacher passes to her pupils, was considered a classic novel soon after it was published in 1962.

As well as writing novels, Dame Muriel was also an academic who wrote critical studies of Emily Bronte and Mary Shelley.

Born in Scotland, she moved to the US during the 1960s before making her home in Italy, where she died at the age of 88 in April.


Aaron Spelling

Aaron Spelling was responsible for producing some of the biggest TV hits of the past four decades, with bold, beautiful and rich his signature.

Among his repertoire were Dynasty, Charlie's Angels, Hart to Hart and Beverly Hills 90210. The Guinness Book of Records called him "the most prolific TV producer of all time", with more than 5,000 hours. He died in June at the age of 83 in Los Angeles.


Mickey Spillane

US crime writer Mickey Spillane created the tough private eye character Mike Hammer, featuring him in 12 of his novels. Violence and grit were spun through his more than 20 novels, attracting both fans and critics.

He briefly worked for the FBI, during which period he was shot twice and stabbed, giving him his inspiration to write his first book I, the Jury in 1947. He died at his home in South Carolina in July aged 88.


Jack Wild

British actor Jack Wild made his name playing the Artful Dodger in the 1968 film Oliver!, which gained him an Oscar nomination at the age of 16.

He went on to appear in the children's programme Pufnstuf but as he grew older he struggled to find acting roles. He was diagnosed with mouth cancer and had to have his voice box and tongue removed. He was 53 when died in March.


Charlie Williams

Charlie Williams is credited with being the first black comedian to make it big on British TV. A former professional footballer, he swapped to showbusiness first as a singer before moving into comedy.

He appeared on The Comedians TV show alongside Jim Bowen and Frank Carson, developing the catchphrase "me old flower". He went on to host the Golden Shot game show in the 1970s.

He developed Parkinson's Disease and died at the age of 78 in September.


Shelley Winters

Double Oscar-winner Shelley Winters was one of Hollywood's most charismatic leading ladies, famed for her roles in The Diary of Anne Frank and A Patch of Blue. She was equally known for playing the underwater swimming champion who died in disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure.

She hung out with some of showbiz's biggest names, sharing a room with Marilyn Monroe and enjoying romances with Errol Flynn and Clark Gable.

She died in January at the age of 85 after suffering a heart attack a few months earlier.

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