Brittany Murphy dies: The Latest, plus other celebrities who died in 2009

Brittany Murphy died in the morning hours of Dec. 20, 2010, after collapsing at her home. Murphy starred in such films as "Clueless", "8 Mile" and "Don't Say a Word". She was 32.
Liz Kelly
Monday, December 21, 2009; 2:00 PM

Brittany Murphy's family told Los Angeles officials the actress was ill with flu-like symptoms in the days before her death at age 32.

The 32-year-old star of films such as "Clueless" and "8 Mile" died Sunday morning after collapsing at her Hollywood Hills home. Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter says they will conduct an autopsy Monday to try to determine what killed the actress. Winter says the reported illness could be a contributing factor to her death, but that it will be weeks before a final determination is made.

Celebritologist Liz Kelly was online Monday, Dec. 21, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the latest developments out of Hollywood on Murphy's death, and other famous personalities who have died this year: A fond farewell: Celebs we lost in 2009.


Liz Kelly: Afternoon -- welcome everyone. I know our audience is a bit limited since many local D.C. folks are still snow bound today, but we'll make the best of it.

The rumors are of course swirling around the untimely death of Brittany Murphy -- she was rumored to variously be overly thin, suffer from a heart problem and have diabetes. Is any of this credible information? Dunno. At this point, the autopsy is -- according to -- underway. We'll hopefully know more once it's complete.

But Murphy is only the latest in a string of stars to pass on this year. Today we'll not only talk about Murphy, but memorialize the others we lost.


Natural Causes?: Seems as if she was a victim of the Hollywood pressure to be unnaturally thin. She looked very different in Clueless -- and not just her face.

Liz Kelly: Us Weekly has also noted Brittany's seeming unnatural thinness. And it certainly is a contrast from the healthy Brittany Murphy who surfaced in "Clueless" a decade ago.

But I'm more concerned about reports --

like this one from

-- that claim Murphy had been behaving erratically on set and even losing consciousness in the middle of takes.


Harrisburg, Pa.: When they were filming "Girl Interrupted" in Harrisburg, we were told some of the cast and crew were housed in the same apartment building where many locals live today. Of course, back then, even if anyone ever saw Brittany Murphy or Angelina Jolie in the elevators or in a restaurant, we wouldn't have known then who they were. So it is sad to us locals to learn of her passing. We are certain Harrisburg was one of many locales where she passed through, and I don't recall her even mentioning her brief stay (except the director stating Harrisburg was the place that then looked like Boston decades ago, without requiring any alterations, so we knew we were behind the rest of the nation and that Winona Ryder -- who did not stay with the others because she got a house to stay in -- hated Harrisburg). Yet, if anyone ever finds any comments or journal entries about what Brittany Murphy thought about Harrisburg --epecially those obnoxious neighbors in that apartment building -- we in Harrisburg would love to know about it. Thank you, Brittany Murphy, and we will miss her many talented performances.

Liz Kelly: Thanks for sharing, Harrisburg. "Girl, Interrupted" was touted as Angelina Jolie's movie -- what with the Oscar and all. But we forget how much the rest of the cast -- including Murphy -- contributed to making it a great movie.

Personally, I was a big fan of Murphy's character in "Clueless." She was funny and kind of a dork and skate-boarded. What's not to like?


Alexandria, Va.: So sad about Brittany Murphy. I particularly liked her in The Ramen Girl and Love and Other Disasters. I highly recommend to any who hasn't seen them. She seemed so down to earth, which is probably why it feels particularly tragic to me.

Any thoughts on the theories that anorexia may have contributed? I know there really isn't anything to support this officially (when has that ever stopped us?), but my Christmas wish would be that it would start some serious thought on the pressures put on women and the real harm that can result. Happy Holidays to you and all on Lizard Island.

Liz Kelly: I think it's very early to speculate about anorexia or any other specific cause. At least until the autopsy results are announced.

Anorexia is a horrible condition and there's no doubt that Hollywood puts pressure on women to maintain a certain image. But, as you say, we don't have any evidence at this point that links Murphy's death to anorexia -- or anything else.


Swine flu?: Had she recently traveled to Mexico?

Liz Kelly: Nope, though she had recently returned from Puerto Rico where she had been unceremoniously let go from filming the movie, "The Caller."

_______________________ A fond farewell: Celebs we lost in 2009 (Celebritology, Dec. 21)


Up north: What do you know about Brittany Murphy's husband? Rumors about his shady past have been floating around for a while.

Liz Kelly: Are you the guy who has been posting comments in ALL CAPS on the blog?

Here's what we know about Murphy's husband, Simon Monjack: He's a screenwriter with not much of note to his credit. He met Murphy when he was slated to direct her in the movie "The White Hotel."

There have been various reports about Murphy and Monjack marrying to keep his U.S. visa from expiring, but both have denied that to be the case.

The New York Daily News today did a "

Who is Simon Monjack

" piece -- which includes details about his alleged financial woes.


Girl Interrupted: Was supposed to be Wyonna Ryder's movie, but she was outclassed by Angelina Jolie and Brittany Murphy. Even Clea DuVall outclassed Wyonna.

Liz Kelly: That's the way the cookie crumbles. Winona's character came off as a bit dull compared to Angie and Brittany. She did a good job -- but her character wasn't what made that movie memorable.


Ohio: I also loved her character in Clueless. What to make of reports that make it sound like she had the flu?

Liz Kelly: I think any reports about causes are based on zero fact at this point.


Mt. Lebanon Pa.: Which are the best colleges in the U.S. to attend to earn a B.A. in Celebritology? And.. to become a Celebritologist, such as yourself, do you have to graduate from a professional school like doctors, engineers, and attorneys do? Finally, how many years does it take from beginning to final professional credential exams (engineers, attorneys, accountants) to be able to call oneself: a Celebritologist?

After all, we wouldn't want just anyone performing professional research, analysis, and commentary on something truly important as the lives (and deaths) of celebrities and the truly different universe they inhabit. Or once did as in your profile case today.

Thanks much. Fellow professional

Liz Kelly: Thanks for writing, Mt. Lebanon.

I did my undergrad at Virginia Tech in English. Rather than major in Celebritology, I thought a good grasp of the English language would stand me in good stead -- just think how well my finely-tuned brain can ingest an issue of Star magazine.


Big Bird weeps: Olivia from Sesame Street died last week.

Liz Kelly: Right you are. A moment, please, for "Sesame Street's" Alaina Reed.


Liz Kelly: Re: the flu symptoms:

According to the

latest from the AP

, Murphy was exhibiting flu-like symptoms in the days leading up to her death.

But what does that mean? Could it have been said that Anna Nicole Smith exhibited flu-like symptoms?


Hoping for snow in the midwest: I wondered about the report from the about Brittany. Do you think they meant that she actually lost consciousness or just lost focus? If the former, medical intervention should have been required.

Liz Kelly: This is the quote from the story:

"She'd go in and out of consciousness in the middle of takes."

Sounds like more than a loss of focus to me.


Baltimore, Md.: After reading the blog comments this morning, I, of course, had to google Murphy's husband, Simon Monjack. Whoa! Many unflattering things about him in terms of, shall we say, not meeting his financial obligations and also, at the end of November, being carried off a plane in a state of incoherence. Then TMZ reports that he didn't want an autopsy, which I don't think will be his choice to make. Unless the autopsy results are absolutely clear-cut, there are going to be some suspicions.

Liz Kelly: Nope, not his choice and, in fact, the autopsy is going on as we speak.


Arlington, Va.: I think we'll hear that she had a deadly cocktail of prescription drugs in her system, in addition to anorexia and possible H1N1. I was living overseas for several years, and have been shocked at how readily doctors hand out -- nay, push -- prescription drugs, without asking important questions and without giving much info on drug interactions and contraindications.

Liz Kelly: So it was a combination of the flu, anorexia and a drug cocktail? That would be a potent mix, for sure. But, again, it's early days yet.


Bethesda, Md. : I hadn't realized until yesterday that she did the voice of Luanne on King of the Hill. She must have had a nice ability to not take herself too seriously -- which I would imagine is pretty darned rare in Hollywood. RIP.

Liz Kelly: Righto. In fact, my pal Matthew Greenberg over at True/Slant wrote about her work as Luanne yesterday:

Brittany Murphy's best, and longest running, role


Ellicott City, Md.: When Ted Kennedy passed away this year he was hailed as the savior of the liberals. While he did many good things, he had Mary Jo Kopechne (not sure of spelling) and the many drinking stories with his friends and nephews, not limited to just the story of the rape and William Kennedy Smith. All this is leading to my Tiger Woods question. Will we all look the other way for the greater good of professional golf?

Liz Kelly: We live in a different era than the one which allowed Ted Kennedy to not be overshadowed by his transgressions.

Tiger can hardly make a move without another woman jumping out of the woodwork to claim an affair. And he's not doing much to disabuse us of any of their claims.

That said, I don't think this scandal is insurmountable. He's lost a few sponsors, sure. But the best thing Tiger could do is get back to golf. And not only get back, but kick butt.


Philadelphia, Pa.: Tiger who?

Liz Kelly: Seriously.

Also, gosselin who?


Annapolis, Md.: I'm not sure how to say this, but I don't like the automatic assumption that if a successful 32-year-old actress dies it must be because of drugs, eating disorders, or both. Thirty-two-year-olds die all the time from other causes. And it's hardly surprising that a 32-year-old woman feels more pressure to be thin than a 17-year-old (which is how old she was when she made "Clueless"). I know a lot of women who still have their baby fat as teenagers.

Of course I know that it all might turn out to be true. But can't we restrain ourselves long enough to let the autopsy tell us what really happened? There'll be time enough to cluck over drugs and weight issues later.

Liz Kelly: Agreed. But there had been some recent indications of instability in Murphy's life and that's why there's been some suspicion attached to the circumstances surrounding her death.

She was recently fired for being "erratic" on set and then her husband was hospitalized for arriving "incoherent" on a flight to LAX just a couple of weeks back.

And, as a public, I think we're all a little wary after the death of Heath Ledger last year.


Oscars: Am I right that the Academy Awards only includes academy members in their "In Memoriam" section? If so, I assume Ms. Murphy wasn't a member and won't be mentioned. It makes me wonder each year who else has passed that I knew their work but never heard of their passing.

Liz Kelly: Thanks for asking. I wasn't sure, so I asked Movies editor Jen Chaney who has been covering the Oscars for years. Here's what she said:

You need to be an active member of the Academy at time of death. People have lobbied to include other deceased folks and been turned down. And even Academy members don't always get included.

Picky bunch.


Fairfax, Va.: How did Michael Jackson's movie end up doing in this country? I believe it was predicted to do much better in other countries, where his legal woes wouldn't count so heavily against him.

Liz Kelly: According to IMDB, the current totals are:

Domestic gross: $71,844,424

Worldwide: $251,844,424


Philadelphia, Pa.: "Also, Gosselin who"?

Perfect retorte I laughed out loud!

Liz Kelly: I know. Who'da thunk it would be Brittany Murphy to put things in perspective?


Arlington, Va.: Liz, wwine flu is not a big thing in Puerto Rico, so I don't think that if she got it it was there, Puerto Rico has the same health codes has the rest of the USA because it's a territory and has to abide to the USA rules and shouldn't be compared to Mexico.

Liz Kelly: Agreed. I don't think the swine flu has turned out to be big anywhere. I was just saying that the only overseas travel I know Murphy made in the past little while was to Puerto Rico.


Minneapolis, Minn.: I think the speculation about Ms. Murphy is insane. We have no IDEA what happened! I do feel sad, though. Maybe just because she was only 32, but also because she did always seem so ... friendly all the time.

Liz Kelly: She was definitely vivacious and gave the impression of being a genuinely good soul.


Not celebrity death related: Stuck indoors this weekend had me watching Jersey Shore. I'm now certain we are headed for an apocalypse. Who are these people? How do they exist in the real world? Why can't I change the channel?

Liz Kelly: I'm a huge fan of reality TV and I can barely stand to watch that. I can't go five minutes without wanting to douse the place with disinfectant.


Ugh, 2009: John Hughes, Patrick Swayze, Brittany Murphy -- this year has been unkind to the formative movies of my youth. Is it Jan. 1 yet?

Liz Kelly: We definitely lost some heavy hitters this year. In case you missed it, I ran through a few of them today in the blog.


Lost: Can you post a link to the blog please? Thanks very much. Celebritology

Liz Kelly: Thanks Rocci!


Washington, D.C.: Celeb deaths in 2009: One that did not go much noticed here was the death of British actor Richard Todd. He died a few weeks ago at age 90. Never as famous here as he was in the U.K., but one strange fact from an obit I read bears repeating. Todd was a real life war hero --a paratrooper during the Normandy invasion. Years later, when The Longest Day, the star filled epic about the D-Day landing, was filmed, Todd was cast as a British commander. He had to play a scene against another actor who was playing...Richard Todd. I can't think of a circumstance remotely similar. 'Longest Day' actor was favored to portray Bond (Post, Dec. 5)

Liz Kelly: Thanks for sharing.


New York, N.Y.: Brittany Murphy had a lovely singing voice. EW says that she was thinking of putting out an album. I'm sorry we'll never get to hear it.

Her cover of Queen's Somebody To Love on the Happy Feet soundtrack is great.

Liz Kelly: She did have a lovely voice. She also sang on Paul Oakenfold's 2006 single "Faster Kill Pussycat.


Re: Tiger: Who are all of these branding "experts" that talk about his career being finished? I barely follow golf, and barely care about Tiger, but I guarantee you that no one will care when (if) he resumes his run toward the most majors championships record. I guess maybe he has dented his ability to collect endorsement deals. BOO-HOO, he'll only be pulling in $40 million per year or something instead of $100 million+.

Liz Kelly: Agreed -- if Tiger can regain his focus on golf and do what he's best at, well, that would go a long way to distract us from all the static.


Dorkus: "do you have to graduate from a professional school like doctors, engineers, and attorneys do?"

Is it wrong that I feel a bit insulted being lumped together with lawyers?

Liz Kelly: Careful. Informal polls show that at least 40 percent of the Celebritology audience is made up of lawyers.


Swine Flu: Honestly, it could have been it. I am 30 and swine flu almost killed me. I have no other health issues and ended up in the hospital for a week, unconscious for 2 days. Swine flu might not have been as big as predicted, but it had a big impact to a lot of people who got it. If she had diabetes and maybe some other stuff, I wouldn't be surprised if H1N1 contributed to her death.

Liz Kelly: Glad to hear you made it through. Again, it is early to speculate on what killed Brittany Murphy. At this point we have basically zero data to go on so we might be better served by remembering her life until we learn more, through official channels, about her death.


Quatch Cave: Is "schmetterlingtoo" German for "Lower case is for girly men"?

Liz Kelly: According to a quick google search "schmetterling" is German for butterfly. Kind of rolls off the tongue, eh?


Autopsy: Of course her husband didn't want her autopsied. No one wants a loved-one autopsied, especially now that CSI and Bones (and Oprah) have made sure we all know what an autopsy does to the body. That doesn't mean it's not necessary, but it's perfectly normal for relatives to resist.

Liz Kelly: Who can predict how one will react when faced with the death of a loved one. Me, I think I'd want to find a specific answer if my husband died unexpectedly.


Providence, R.I.: Every morning on my way to work I pass a billboard for a show at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. The billboard features a picture of Elvis, and another person. The other person is wearing a red jacket and the first time I saw it I couldn't tell if it was Liza Minelli or Michael Jackson. It wonder, for the rest of my ride in to the office, if Liza Minelli was dead. I believe she's still alive.

Liz Kelly: Liza Minnelli is indeed still alive. And kicking.


Minneapolis, Minn.: Celebrity deaths (especially the deaths of young celebrities) are probably the worst part of your job, but I wanted to thank you for your continually excellent coverage. You, more than any other celebrity news source, are able to provide prompt, balanced updates with grace and tact while avoiding even the most tempting speculation; I really do appreciate it.

Liz Kelly: Thank you so much for writing in. I appreciate you guys just as much. Hope you know that.


The Hills: Yes, those Hills. Apparently, parenthood is slowly chipping away my cynicism because instead of speculating about possible causes for Brittany Murphy's death, all I can think about is the parents who lost their dear little girl. My heart aches for the pain they must be feeling right now.

Liz Kelly: Brittany's family and friends are going to have a rough holiday season, no doubt about it. I'm sure they appreciate the well wishes -- and the respect of their privacy.


Qualifications: Surely you need an MFA to be a certified celebritologist? It could be in creative writing, film, or graphic arts (since some of the NSFW pix are graphic).

Liz Kelly: It's more of a secret society than a degree program.

That's all I'm permitted to say.


Sigh: This is a depressing topic to chat about. Got any links to cute kittie pics?

Liz Kelly: Wellll, just this video sent to me this morning by a friend.

Careful, though, it might make you laugh.


Liza Minnelli is indeed still alive. And kicking. : Whom?

Liz Kelly: If she had her druthers, I would assume David Gest would be a prime target.


Snow Hoping: Please eduacate me -- why wouldn't Brittany have been a member of the Academy? Is it a year-to-year thing or you have to make x number of movies or something?

Liz Kelly: From Wikipedia:

All members must be invited to join. Invitation comes from the Board of Governors. Membership eligibility may be achieved by a competitive nomination or a member may submit a name based on other significant contribution to the field of motion pictures.New membership proposals are considered annually. The Academy does not publicly disclose its membership, although past press releases have announced the names of those who have been invited to join.Academy membership is divided into 15 branches, representing different disciplines in motion pictures. Members may not belong to more than one branch. Members whose work does not fall within one of the branches may belong to a group known as "Members At Large."


Tinseltown: It is good to know Tila Tequilla is not pregnant. Also, in case people were wondering, Betty White also is not pregnant.

Liz Kelly: A Christmas miracle!


State College, Pa.: So strange -- I actually watched "Clueless" on Saturday night while wrapping presents. Brittany Murphey was such fun to watch in that movie -- loved the Jersey girl accent. I'm sorry about her death, and at such a young age, too.

Liz Kelly: Thanks for writing in.


Burbank, Calif.: Virginia Davis died in 2009. Why people don't remember her is because most people who knew when she was a big star are themselves dead. She was the original Disney star about 80 years ago. The original Disney cartoons were her body with animation around her.

Liz Kelly: Thank you.


Liz Kelly: Thanks for joining me today. I know this wasn't our usual gossip fest. Difficult to be glib when death is the topic at hand.

Stay tuned to and


for the latest celeb news.


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