Celebrity Deathwatch – The Italian Job

It features some of the most iconic stunts committed to film. A theme tune by Quincy Jones. And where else could you find Noel Coward, Benny Hill and Michael Caine rubbing shoulders in the same cast list?

Time has been kind to ‘The Italian Job‘, raising it from a low-budget caper frollic, to a full-blown cult legend.

Sadly, the years have not been so forgiving to many of the actors and crew involved.

This is how they died …

Noel CowardMr. Bridger – Blue Harbor, Jamaica, 26 March 1973, aged 73. By the late 60s the Playboy of the West End World’s health was failing. Struggling with memory loss he relied heavily on his real-life partner Graham Payn, who played his right-hand man Keats in the film. Heart failure.

Benny HillProfessor Simon Peach  – Teddington, Middlesex, 20 April 1992, aged 68. Found dead, sitting in his favourite armchair, watching TV. Earned $5m at his peak, but never owned a car, and left all his money to his parents, who were already dead. Heart attack.

Raf ValloneAltabani – Rome, Italy, 31 October 2002, aged 86. Most popular male actor in Italy in the late 1940s and early 50s. Later played the Pope in Godfather III. Natural causes.

Tony BeckleyCamp Freddie – Los Angeles, CA, 18 April 1980, aged 52. Debuted in Orson Wells’ Chimes At Midnight.  Also appeared in Doctor Who ‘The Seeds of Doom’. Cancer.

Rossano BrazziBeckerman – Rome, Italy, 24 December 1994, aged 78. Once arrested for arms smuggling, but cleared. Neural virus.

Irene HandlMiss Peach – London, England, 29 November 1987, aged 85. Didn’t start acting until 36. While mostly playing mothers, cooks, and landladies, Irene was a supreme comic actress, who also wrote two successful novels. Natural causes.

John Le MesurierGovernor – Ramsgate, Kent, 15 November 1983, aged 71. Appeared in over 100 films. Once openly smoked an enormous joint at the BAFTAs. See earlier entryCirrhosis of the liver.

Fred EmneyBirkinshaw – Bognor Regis, England, 25 December 1980, aged 80. Unforgettable character actor and musical hall turn, who had a massive stage hit with ‘Blue for a Boy‘ in the early 1950s. Also worked as straight man to Pinky and Perky. Check him out flogging Texaco oil with James Hunt here. Heart attack.

Graham PaynKeats – Les Avants, Switzerland, 4 November 2005, aged 87. Graham was Noel Coward’s companion, although Coward once dismissed him as: ‘a born drifter … He sleeps and sleeps, and the days go by. I love him dearly and for ever, but this lack of drive in any direction is a bad augury for the future.’ However, after Coward’s death Payn devoted himself to administering his lover’s estate
Natural causes.

Peter CollinsonDirector – Los Angeles, CA, 16 December 1980, aged 44. When his parents divorced, the young Collinson was sent to the Actors’ Orphanage in Chertsey, Surrey, where he was he appeared in a number of plays, coming to the notice of the Orphanage’s President, a certain Noel Coward, who became his godfather. Cancer.

Troy Kennedy-MartinScreenwriter – Ditchling, England, 15 September 2009, aged 77. Best-known for the Italian Job, Kennedy-Martin also scripted Kelly’s Heroes, and the BBC conspiracy thriller Edge of Darkness. Apparently, he nicked the idea for The Italian Job from his brother Ian, who originally envisioned the robbery set in a London traffic jam. Ian went on to create The SweeneyLiver cancer.


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Writer & director.
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