Tragic Actors Who Died in Fires and Stories Behind Them

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A list of 16 tragic actors who died in fires. Many died at home, others on the stage. Some are well known, others not so much. Some died in famous fires with hundreds of other people, others have died alone in the privacy of their own house.

Each tells a story, as they did when they were acting. Just these stories are all too real. So sad!

1. Clifton Young.

Clifton Young

Robert Howard “Clifton” Young died on September 13, 1951, at the age of 33. He died in a hotel fire that started when he fell asleep while smoking. He was born Robert H. Young, and as Bobby Young he played “Bonedust” in nineteen Our Gang films from 1925 to 1931.

His most notable films included School’s Out, Nora Prentiss, Pursued, Possessed, Dark Passage and Blood on the Moon. One of Young’s last films was the Roy Rogers western, Trail of Robin Hood, in which he played a sneering villain.

2. Gloria Dickson.

Gloria Dickson

Gloria Dickson was an American stage and screen actress of the 1930s and 1940s. Dickson died on April 10, 1945, during a fire at her Los Angeles home. She was 27 years old. The fire began when an unextinguished cigarette ignited an overstuffed chair on the main floor, while she slept upstairs. Her body, and that of her pet dog, were found in the bathroom, and it was assumed that she had attempted to escape through the bathroom window. She died from asphyxiation. Flames had seared her lungs, and her body had suffered first and second degree burns.

Ms Dickson starred in over 20 Hollywood films, such as They Won’t Forget and They Made Me a Criminal.

3. Linda Darnell.

 Linda Darnell

On April 10, 1965, Hollywood actress Linda Darnell died in a house fire. She was 41 years old. The fire occurred at the house of her former secretary. She had been staying there, with friends, while preparing for a stage role. Her 1940 film, Star Dust, had played on television the night of the fire, and it was widely reported that Darnell had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette while watching it, but there was no evidence this was true. One account claims Ms Darnell was burned over 90 percent of her body when she ran into a burning area trying to save her friend’s child, not knowing that the young girl had already escaped.

Ms Darnell had appeared in over 30 films and several TV programs. She played the lead role in Forever Amber (1947), and received positive reviews for her work in Unfaithfully Yours (1948) and A Letter to Three Wives (1949).

4. Butterfly (Thelma) McQueen.

Butterfly (Thelma) McQueen

On December 22, 1995, actress Butterfly (Thelma) McQueen, famous for many film roles, but especially for her portrayal of Prissy in Gone with the Wind, died from burns received in a fire in her Augusta, Georgia, apartment. She was 84 years old at the time of her death.

McQueen had been attempting to light a kerosene heater in her apartment when it malfunctioned and burst into flames. She was found by firefighters lying on the sidewalk outside with severe burns over 70 percent of her body. She was taken to the hospital but died shortly afterwards from her burns.

5. Claude Burroughs.

Claude Burroughs

Claude Burroughs was a young up and coming actor who had the misfortune of dying in a fire better-known than his short acting career. He died on December 5, 1876, in the tragic and devastating Brooklyn Theater fire. He was only 22 years old at the time. At least 278 people were killed in the fire, possibly more than 300.

In terms of lives lost, it is the third worst theater fire in US history, behind only the Cocoanut Grove and Iroquois theater fires. The fire started when a drop hanging came into contact with a border lamp. As the fire spread, the actors at first stayed in character, trying not to cause the audience to panic. When the flames spread and the audience members grew frightened, the actors on stage pleaded for calm, to no avail.

Burroughs and another actor thought they had time to get their coats (it was winter and cold outside). They never escaped the building. Their mangled bodies were found together beneath the collapsed stage, burned and battered beyond recognition. . At the time of his death he was playing Picard, the valet, in the play “The Two Orphans”. He made his first appearance on the stage in 1865, in “Hamlet” alongside Edwin Booth, who was the older brother of a more famous Booth – John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln.

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