Page last updated at 08:26 GMT, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The famous faces who died in 2009

Some of the key personalities from the worlds of film, television, music and the arts who passed away in 2009.

Click on the links below to read more about their lives and careers.


Golden Girls actress Bea Arthur died of cancer in April at the age of 86.

Bea Arthur

She played the on-screen daughter of Estelle Getty, who died last year, in the popular US sitcom.

Arthur was also famous for the show Maude, first creating the character in the comedy series All In The Family.

She won Emmy Awards for both The Golden Girls and Maude and also a Tony Award for the musical Mame.


Best known for starring in the 1970s television series Charlie's Angels, Farrah Fawcett passed away in June.

Farrah Fawcett

The 62-year-old's death was overshadowed by Michael Jackson, who died on the same day.

Fawcett, who was suffering from cancer, chronicled her battle in a TV documentary called Farrah's Story earlier this year.

Her Charlie's Angels co-star Jaclyn Smith said she had "courage, strength and faith".

Stephen Gately

The sudden death of singer Stephen Gately in October shocked and saddened Boyzone fans.

A post-mortem examination established the 33-year-old died of natural causes whilst on holiday in Spain.

Gately's bandmates, including Ronan Keating, paid an emotional tribute to the star at his funeral in Dublin.

After Gately's death it emerged he had recently made peace with his mother after a 10-year rift.


Jade Goody, who made her name on reality TV show Big Brother in 2002, died at the age of 27.

Jade Goody

Thousands of fans turned out for her funeral, which was held in Essex.

The mother-of-two died of cervical cancer and found out about her illness during an appearance on the Indian version of Big Brother.

It is thought the media coverage of her illness helped increase the number of women coming forward for cervical screenings.


In January artist and children's presenter Tony Hart died, aged 83.

Tony Hart

Hart had suffered from health problems for a number of years, including two strokes.

The affable host inspired children to paint and draw through shows like Vision On, Take Hart and Hartbeat for nearly 50 years before he retired in 2001.

Fellow artist Rolf Harris led tributes, calling Hart "a very gentle and talented guy".

Michael Jackson

There was a huge worldwide reaction to the unexpected death of singer Michael Jackson in June.

Aged 50, the singer's death was later ruled as homicide, which was primarily caused by a powerful anaesthetic.

His famous moonwalk and unique blend of soul, funk and rock made him the biggest pop act in the world.

Jackson was best known for his extensive catalogue of hits including Bad, Thriller and Man In The Mirror.


Coronation Street actress Maggie Jones, who played Blanche Hunt in the soap, died aged 75 in December.

Maggie Jones

Her character in the long-running series was best known for her sharp tongue and harsh put-downs.

William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow, said she was a "brilliant actress who had an "amazing dry wit".

She first appeared as the matriarchal figure 35 years ago.


Entertainer Danny La Rue died at the end of July aged 81. He had been ill with cancer.

Danny La Rue

The star made a career out of his vaudeville drag act, although he preferred to be known as "a comic in a frock".

During the 60s and 70s, he was one of the highest paid stars on television as well as carving a successful niche on the stage and in cabaret.

Strictly Come Dancing host Bruce Forsyth called him "a great comic with great timing".


Frank McCourt, author of best seller Angela's Ashes, died of cancer in a New York hospice in July.

Frank McCourt

The 78-year-old Irish-American writer had been suffering from meningitis and had recently been treated for skin cancer.

Angela's Ashes, a memoir of McCourt's childhood in Ireland, sold millions of copies and won the Pulitzer Prize.

His other works include 'Tis and Teacher Man, which both draw on his later life in New York.


Rumpole of the Bailey creator Sir John Mortimer passed away in January at the age of 85 after a long illness.

Sir John Mortimer

The dramatist and author began working as a barrister in the 1940s and had his first radio play broadcast in 1957.

His other well-known screen creations included obnoxious Conservative MP Leslie Titmuss, portrayed by actor David Threlfall.

Melvyn Bragg, a friend and neighbour of Sir John, said the writer had a "wonderful life, beginning and ending".


Days before Christmas the Clueless and 8 Mile actress Brittany Murphy died aged 32.

Brittany Murphy

An autopsy has been carried out but the cause of her death is not yet known.

Stars such as Ashton Kutcher and Alicia Silverstone paid tribute to the star.

Her husband, British screenwriter Simon Monjack, said she had been ill with laryngitis in the days before she died.


The world of rock music paid tribute to guitar pioneer Les Paul when he died in August.

Les Paul

Credited with developing one of the first solid-body electric guitars, the 94-year-old died from complications of pneumonia in New York.

The musician also created other influential recording innovations such as multi-track recording and overdubbing.

Slash described him as "an exceptionally brilliant man".

Wendy Richard

Former EastEnders actress Wendy Richard died in February at the age of 65.

The star, who played Pauline Fowler in the BBC One soap opera for 21 years, had been suffering from cancer.

Richard also starred in sitcoms Are You Being Served?, Dad's Army and Grace and Favour.

June Brown, who plays Dot Cotton on the show, said she "loved working with her" and called her a "very kind woman".

Natasha Richardson

Actress Natasha Richardson died in March at the age of 45 following a skiing accident in Canada.

The daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave and wife of actor Liam Neeson suffered severe head injuries and later passed away in a New York hospital.

Richardson starred in films and TV but won most acclaim for her stage work.

Oscar-winning film director Sam Mendes said Richardson was "one of a kind, a magnificent actress."

Mollie Sugden

Best known for starring in long-running sitcom Are You Being Served?, actress Mollie Sugden passed away in July.

The 86-year-old, who played Mrs Slocombe, died after a long illness.

Sugden found early TV success with comedy series Hugh and I in 1962 and in Coronation Street as the gossiping Nellie Harvey.

But it was The Liver Birds in the late 1960s and early 1970s that helped to propel her career.

Patrick Swayze

Hollywood star Patrick Swayze died aged 57 in September after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Despite his illness, the actor - best known for starring in Dirty Dancing and Ghost - continued to work, starring in US TV police drama The Beast.

Keanu Reeves, Swayze's co-star in Point Break, said he was "a beautiful person" and hailed his "passion and lust for life and his craft".

Swayze's big break, however, came at 31 alongside Rob Lowe and C Thomas Howell in The Outsiders.

John Updike

Renowned US novelist John Updike died at the age of 76 after suffering from lung cancer.

The writer, who passed away in January, won many top literary prizes, including Pulitzers for two volumes of his famous Rabbit series.

His first novel, The Poorhouse Fair, was published in 1959.

Atonement author Ian McEwan described Updike as "the greatest novelist writing in English at the time of his death".

Edward Woodward

In November veteran actor Edward Woodward died aged 79.

Woodward was most famous for his roles in cult 1973 horror film The Wicker Man alongside Sir Christopher Lee, and TV serials The Equalizer and Callan.

Sir Christopher described Woodward as "a very good friend and a splendid actor".

He had been ill for several months and passed away surrounded by members of his family.

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