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The Entertainers and Inspirations We Lost in September

Nathan is a film critic and aspiring author with a true passion for the film industry who hopes his writings will help launch his career.


When the people who inspire and entertain us pass away, it's like we've lost a member of our own family. These remarkable people will live on in our hearts and minds as we introduce the new generations to the legacies they left behind.


September 2, 1973 - J.R.R. Tolkien

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born to English parents who had moved to Bloemfontein in South Africa. John's father was a bank manager and had been promoted to head the Bloemfontein Bank. John only had one sibling, a brother named Hilary Arthur Reuel Tolkien.

As a young boy, John was bitten by a large baboon spider in the garden. He recovered just fine, but many speculated that this experience is what inspired him to use spiders in his books. At the age of three, John and his mother and brother traveled to England for a family visit. John's father was supposed to join them later on but he never did. He died of rheumatic fever. This left the family without any incoming money so John's mother took them to live with her parents. The family moved around a lot for several years but John enjoyed exploring all these new places.

John and Hilary were both homeschooled. John excelled in his studies, taking a great interest in botany and languages which led to him drawing landscapes and learning Latin.

John could read and write fluently by the age of four and ironically disliked things such as Treasure Island and The Pied Piper and didn't think too highly of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. He did, however, love the fantasy works of George MacDonald and Andrew Lang.

John's mother's family had been assisting them all financially but the funds were cut off when her Baptist family found out she was joining the Roman Catholic Church. In 1904, his mom died of acute diabetes and he and his brother were willed to the care of Father Francis Morgan. Father Morgan had the children attend St. Philip's School. John won a Foundation Scholarship and attended King Edward's School. While there, he had the privilege of being one of the cadets from the Officers Training Corps who helped line the route for the 1910 coronation parade of King George V. He was posted just outside the gates of Buckingham Palace.

In his early teens, John worked with his cousins in inventing languages such as Nevbosh and Naffarin. He learned Esperanto and composed a 16-page notebook of one of his early invented alphabets.

In 1911, John and three friends formed a sort-of-secret society called the TCBS, aka the Tea Club and Barrovian Society. All that really meant was that these four friends liked to get together at Barrow's Stores and drink tea and discuss things. Even after school was over, the friends stayed in touch. Through their meetings, John developed a strong dedication to writing poetry.

In October of 1911, John began studying at Exeter College, Oxford. He initially began studying Classics but changed in 1913 to English Language and Literature. He graduated in 1915 with first-class honours.

On January 8 of 1913, John travelled to Cheltenham to meet an old friend and courtship Edith. She met him on the platform. John declared he had loved her all these years and, after walking in the countryside and spending the day talking, she accepted his marriage proposal. Edith converted to Catholicism and the two married in 1916 at St. Mary Immaculate Roman Catholic Church. John had enlisted in the British Army in 1915 so after the wedding the two took up lodgings near his training camp. On June 5, 1916, John had to leave for France. He had finally been summoned to join the Great War (WWI).

Because of the postal censorship at the time, John developed a code of dots so that Edith could track his movements and know where he was at all times. He even managed to write poetry as he was moved from place to place. Once finally joining his battalion on June 27, he found himself as commander of enlisted men who had been miners or weavers. In early July 1916, John took part in combat and was unable to get word out to Edith. Edith feared that any second someone would come knocking on the door to tell her he had been killed. In between battles he was able to send her more codes which gave her at least some relief.

In October of 1916, John and his battalion attacked Regina Trench. He came down with trench fever, a disease carried by lice. He was removed from active service and sent to England on November 8, 1916. John was saddened to learn many of his school friends had been killed during battle. John alternated between hospitals and garrison duties and had been deemed medically unfit for active duty.

It was during his recovery stage that he began to work on The Book of Lost Tales. He never truly completed this work. Throughout 1917 and 18, his illness kept recurring but he had recovered enough to do home service at different camps. During this period, Edith bore their first child John Francis Reuel Tolkien. The couple eventually went on to have three more children: Michael Hilary Reuel Tolkien, Christopher John Reuel Tolkien, and Priscilla Mary Anne Reuel Tolkien.

In 1918, John was stationed at Kingston. There, he and Edith went walking in the woods and Edith began dancing for him in a clearing. This act inspired John to write Beren and Luthien.

In 1920, John was finally sent home and left the army. He took a job at the Oxford English Dictionary where he worked mainly on the history and etymology of words of Germanic origin. He later became the youngest professor at the University of Leeds. In 1925 he returned to Oxford as a Professor of Anglo-Saxon.

John at last wrote the works which would make his name live on forever: The Hobbit and the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings.

When WWII broke out, John was asked to be a codebreaker but before they could confirm his position they told him his services were not needed. He wrote the third volume of The Lord of the Rings and translated several books into various languages.

Edith Tolkien died on November 29, 1971. John had the name Luthien engraved on her tombstone. He died 21 months later on September 2, 1973 from a bleeding ulcer and a chest infection. On his gravestone, his family had the name Beren engraved.

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September 9, 1997 - Burgess Meredith

Burgess Meredith had a good early life. He was a normal kid, born to a Methodist mom and a physician father. He attended Hoosac School in Cleveland, Ohio and attended Amherst College, graduating in 1931.

Before he graduated though, he became a member of Eva Le Gallienne's Civic Repertory Theatre company in New York City in 1929. He made his Broadway debut in a 1930 production of Romeo and Juliet and was a star in Winterset in 1935 which was his film debut.

After leaving Amherst, he became a reporter for the Stamford Advocate. He juggled his job as a reporter and continued Broadway performances. Burgess went on to serve in the United States Air Force during WWII, reaching the rank of Captain.

After the war ended, he returned to film, honoring the soldiers in The Story of GI Joe and he also returned to the stage in 1946 in The Playboy of the Western World. Burgess slowed down the Broadway work and began focusing more on cinema. He was, however, blacklisted for a whole decade as a result of the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities naming him an "unfriendly witness". He still remained involved in stage work and radio.

Burgess made his big return in 1962 in Advise and Consent. He continued to work with director Otto Preminger for several films afterwards. He also started making television appearances on popular shows as The Twilight Zone, Rawhide, The Wild Wild West, Bonanza, and Daniel Boone. Burgess also guest starred on the 1966 show Batman as The Penguin. His role was so well-received that the writers always had a Penguin-centric script ready for whenever Burgess was available.

The 70s and 80s were considerably good for Burgess. First he accepted the role as trainer Mickey Goldmill in the Oscar-winning film Rocky which landed him a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Then in 1977 he won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor for the television film Tail Gunner Joe. Burgess returned for Rocky II and Rocky III and returned briefly for a flashback in Rocky V.

In 1994, Burgess published his autobiography So Far, So Good. In the book he confessed he suffered from violent mood swings caused by cyclothymia, which is a form of bipolar disorder.

Throughout his life, he was married four times. His first wife committed suicide after their divorce. His next two wives were both actresses, one of which suffered a miscarriage. His final marriage lasted 46 years and brought two children into their lives. Burgess died on September 9, 1997 due to Alzheimer's Disease. Best friend Adam West spoke at his memorial service.


September 20, 1863 - Jacob Grimm

Jacob Grimm and his brother Wilhelm were born a year apart. Their father Philip was a lawyer but died when the boys were very young, leaving them and their mother with very little financial means.Their mother became a "lady of the chamber" to the Landgravine of Hesse. What that basically means is she was a secretary and companion to the ruler of Hesse. The job helped her support and educate her children. Jacob and Wilhelm were both sent to a public school at Kassel in 1798. Jacob continued on to the University of Marburg where he studied law.

Jacob had a general thirst for knowledge and all he really wanted for himself was to have a position in life. He wanted to be respectable and admired. His studies also awoke a love for historical and antiquarian investigation. Jacob left Kassel to study in Paris for nearly a whole year. In the end of 1805, Jacob returned to Kassel and in 1806 he took a position in the war office with a tiny salary.

In 1808, after his mother's death, Jacob was given the title of superintendent of the private library of the King of Westphalia. Jacob's salary was increased to 4000 francs. After the expulsion of Napoleon Bonaparte, Jacob was given the duty to demand restitution of books. Jacob eventually ended up at the Kassel Library where brother WIlhelm also found a job. The brothers were once again reunited.

The brothers moved to Gottingen in 1817 where Jacob received the title of Professor and Librarian and Wilhelm got the job of Under-Librarian. Jacob lectured on all kinds of subjects including grammar and diplomatics.

Jacob published many Language and Grammar books and even a Grimm's Law book which explained the German sound shift which was a major turning point in linguistics. Perhaps what the Brothers Grimm are most well-known for, however, is their fascination with poetry, ballads, and folklore. The brothers traveled Germany, gathering all manner of folktales from villagers and books and then wrote them down. They compiled these folktales, along with a Grimm twist, and published them as the two-volume German Legends and also Children's and Household Tales. Today, we know these books as the Grimm Fairy Tales. The two even wrote a book on German mythology, tracing these myths and superstitions back to their roots.

Jacob continued to work in law, linguistics, and politics for the rest of his life. He died at the age of 78 from an unknown disease.


September 26, 2008 - Paul Newman

Paul was born to a fairly religious family. His father was a Jew and his mother practiced Christian Science. Paul referred to himself as a Jew but wasn't particularly religious himself as an adult.

Paul showed an early interest in theater, performing as the court jester in a school play of Robin Hood. At age 10, he performed at the Cleveland Play House. He graduated from Shaker Heights High School in 1943 and, although he attended, he dropped out of college and enlisted and served in the Navy during WWII in the Pacific Theater. Initially he had enrolled in Yale for their pilot program but was dropped due to his colorblindness.

Paul went through boot camp and was trained as a radioman and rear gunner. Colorblind or not, the Navy taught him how to fly. He was sent to Hawaii where he trained replacement combat pilots and airmen with a special emphasis on carrier landings. He was assigned as a radioman-gunner on the USS Bunker Hill shortly before the Battle of Okinawa. The pilot of his aircraft had an ear infection, keeping them grounded and unable to fly to their assigned ship. Days later, a kamikaze attack killed most of the men on the ship.

After the war ended, Paul completed his Bachelor of Arts in drama and economics at Kenyon College.He later attended the Yale School of Drama for one year before moving to New York City to study under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio.

In 1953, Paul made his Broadway debut in Picnic and also appeared in The Desperate Hours. In 1959 he appeared alongside Geraldine Page in the stage play Sweet Bird of Youth. Three years later, he and Page reunited for the film version. From here, Paul entered into the television world.

He made a few TV appearances but his first major role was the made-for-TV movie Our Town opposite Frank Sinatra. This led to his first Hollywood film The Silver Chalice. He went on to star with Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof which gained him a ton of praise, recognition, and an Academy Award nomination. In 1958, he won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival for The Long, Hot Summer.

From there, Paul's career soared. He was given one major film after another and even became friends with Robert Redford, with whom he'd perform in several films together.

Paul founded "Newman's Own", a line of food products that started with salad dressing and expanded to other foods such as pasta sauce, lemonade, and popcorn. Paul established that all funds, after taxes, would be donated to charity. His company has donated over $400 million to charities.

It seems Paul had an interest in almost everything and racing was no exception. He raced for the first time in 1972 at the Thomas International Speedway and was a frequent competitor at the Sports Car Club of America, winning four national championships.

In June 2008, Paul made public that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was receiving treatment. He died in September of the same year.


September 30, 1955 - James Dean

James Dean was born an only child. After his father Winton left the farming industry to become a dental technician, the family moved to California. James was enrolled in Brentwood Public School but was transferred soon after to McKinley Elementary. James was very close to his mother and was devastated when she died of uterine cancer when he was nine. James was sent to live with his aunt Ortense and uncle Marcus in Indiana.

James became friends with a Methodist pastor who introduced him to bullfighting, auto racing, and theater. Later in life, James confided in Elizabeth Taylor that he was sexually abused by the pastor.

Overall in school, he was an excellent student and participated in various sports. After graduating High School, James moved back to California, finally getting away from the horrible minister. He enrolled in Santa Monica College, majoring in pre-law. He transferred to UCLA for one semester and changed his major to drama. His father wouldn't have anything to do with him after that point.

While at UCLA, James was handpicked out of 350 students to portray Malcolm in Macbeth. In 1951, he dropped out of UCLA to pursue a full-time acting career.

James Dean's first acting job was a Pepsi-Cola commercial. He portrayed John the Beloved Disciple in an Easter television program titled Hill Number One. He took a few TV appearances and worked as a parking lot attendant while struggling to find jobs. He worked hard, finally being admitted into the Actors Studio to study under Lee Strasberg.

James' first role in The Immoralist led to calls from Hollywood. He had three major films in his life and they were East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant.

In 1954, James wanted to develop an auto racing career. He bought several cars and took classes on professional racing, finishing first many times. He began entering real competitions.

On September 30, 1955, James was supplied with a Porsche straight from the factory which he nicknamed "Little Bastard". The car's mechanic encouraged James to drive from LA to Salinas in order to "break it in". He was ticketed for speeding once but apparently that wasn't enough of a warning.

Ahead in an intersection, a car was turning and James was unable to stop in time. He slammed into the turning vehicle's driver side, causing James's car to bounce on the pavement to the other side of the highway. He was trapped in the car, sustaining multiple injuries and a broken neck. A passerby with nursing experience stopped to help. She detected a weak pulse but by the time his body had arrived at the hospital he was dead. 600 mourners and 2400 fans showed up to his funeral. He was buried in Park Cemetary in Fairmount, Indiana.

Other Notable Deaths

September 1

  • 1557 - Jacques Cartier
  • 1967 - James Dunn
  • 1977 - Ethel Waters
  • 1979 - Doris Kenyon
  • 1981 - Ann Harding
  • 1986 - Murray Hamilton
  • 2013 - Tommy Morrison
  • 2015 - Dean Jones
  • 2016 - Jon Polito
  • 2017 - Novella Nelson

September 2

  • 1962 - William Wilkerson
  • 1979 - Felix Aylmer
  • 1982 - Jay Novello
  • 1994 - Ray Castle
  • 2005 - Bob Denver

September 3

  • 1954 - Eugene Pallette
  • 1980 - Barbara O'Neill
  • 1982 - Michael Thoma
  • 1984 - Duncan Renaldo
  • 1991 - Frank Capra
  • 1994 - James Aubrey
  • 2012 - Michael Clarke Duncan

September 4

  • 2006 - Steve Irwin
  • 2014 - Joan Rivers

September 5

  • 1877 - Crazy Horse
  • 1988 - Gert Froebe
  • 1992 - Irving Allen Lee
  • 1997 - Mother Theresa
  • 2015 - Setsuko Hara
  • 2016 - Hugh O'Brian

September 6

  • 1952 - Gertrude Lawrence
  • 1959 - Edmund Gwenn
  • 1963 - Margarita Sierra
  • 1966 - Margaret Sanger
  • 1990 - Tom Fogerty
  • 1998 - Akira Kurosawa
  • 2008 - Anita Page
  • 2015 - Martin Milner

September 7

  • 1978 - Keith Moon
  • 1994 - Terence Young
  • 2015 - Dickie Moore

September 8

  • 1949 - Richard Strauss
  • 2017 - Don Williams

September 9

  • 1989 - Tim Hovey
  • 2003 - Edward Teller

September 10

  • 1961 - Leo Carrillo
  • 1976 - Dalton Trumbo
  • 2007 - Jane Wyman
  • 2011 - Cliff Robertson
  • 2014 - Richard Kiel

September 11

  • 1956 - Billy Bishop
  • 1959 - Paul Douglas
  • 1987 - Lorne Greene
  • 1994 - Jessica Tandy
  • 2001 - Todd Beamer
  • 2001 Victims of WTC Attacks
  • 2003 - John Ritter

September 12

  • 1986 - Frank Nelson
  • 1992 - Anthony Perkins
  • 1993 - Harold Innocent
  • 1993 - Raymond Burr
  • 2003 - Johnny Cash

September 13

  • 1996 - Tupac Shakur
  • 2017 - Frank Vincent

September 14

  • 1851 - James Fenimore Cooper
  • 1901 - President William McKinley
  • 1974 - Barbara Jo Allen
  • 1982 - Grace Kelly
  • 1984 - Janet Gaynor
  • 1991 - Julie Bovasso
  • 2009 - Patrick Swayze

September 15

  • 1938 - Thomas Wolfe
  • 1979 - Tommy Leonotti
  • 1981 - Sara Haden
  • 1991 - John Hoyt
  • 2004 - Johnny Ramone
  • 2007 - Brett Somers
  • 2008 - Richard Wright

September 16

  • 1973 - Frederick Meyer
  • 1994 - Jack Dodson
  • 2002 - James Gregory
  • 2009 - Mary Travers
  • 2016 - Edward Albee

September 17

  • 1858 - Dred Scott
  • 1984 - Richard Basehart
  • 1997 - Red Skelton

September 18

  • 1949 - Frank Morgan
  • 1970 - Jimi Hendrix
  • 2012 - Steve Sobel

September 19

  • 1881 - President James Garfield
  • 1944 - Guy Gibson
  • 1973 - Bobby Gilbert
  • 1974 - Eve March
  • 1995 - Orville Redenbacher

September 20

  • 1988 - Roy Kinnear
  • 2016 - Curtis Hanson

September 21

  • 1974 - Jacqueline Susann
  • 1974 - Walter Brennan
  • 1987 - Ruth Attaway
  • 1988 - Christine Norden

September 22

  • 1959 - Jane Winton
  • 1996 - Dorothy Lamour
  • 1999 - George C. Scott

September 23

  • 1939 - Sigmund Freud

September 24

  • 1948 - Warren Williams
  • 1975 - Clive Morton
  • 1991 - Dr. Seuss

September 25

  • 1978 - Claire Adams
  • 1980 - John Bonham
  • 1987 - Mary Astor
  • 2012 - Andy Williams

September 26

  • 1820 - Daniel Boone
  • 1973 - Anna Magnani
  • 2010 - Gloria Stuart
  • 2012 - Johnny Lewis

September 28

  • 1891 - Herman Melville
  • 1942 - Eva Thatcher
  • 1953 - Edwin Hubble
  • 1991 - Miles Davis
  • 2017 - Hugh Hefner

September 29

  • 1988 - Charles Addams
  • 1993 - Gordon Douglas

September 30

  • 1965 - Edward Elmer Smith
  • 1985 - Simone Signoret


Such extraordinary people enter and leave our lives in a moment's notice. It's difficult to deal with the passings but the important thing is that their memory lives on in our hearts. They may entertain, they may inspire, but one way or another, they all leave a mark on our minds and hearts that remains through our own lifetimes.

© 2017 Nathan Jasper


Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on October 03, 2017:

You've certainly done your homework here. I did love James Dean. He was such a talented man.

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