Dying Your Way to the Top

Clint Eastwood, member of the frequent-dier program.

This week's best piece of obscure movie scholarship comes from Premiere.com: Which movie stars die the most on screen? Clint Eastwood (pictured) should be on this list, but isn't. Is it because in so many of his films (i.e., "Unforgiven," "Million Dollar Baby") he vanishes without our really knowing whether he's disappeared or dead?

During the so-called golden age of Hollywood,  stars didn't die until the fade-out, usually because s/he was the antihero (Cagney at the end of "The Roaring Twenties" and "White Heat") or victim of disease (Bette Davis in "Dark Victory," Gary Cooper in "Pride of the Yankees"). This changed in 1950 with "Sunset Boulevard," in which William Holden plays the antihero who narrates the story that opens with his character floating dead in a Hollywood swimming pool. In 1960, one of the many shockers on "Psycho" was that Alfred Hitchcock killed off his leading lady, Janet Leigh, early on in the film. Before then, filmmakers didn't want to squander  their most precious asset, the star.

Other examples of stars who die frequently? Besides Bette Davis, her modern reincarnation, Susan Sarandon ("Joe," "Stepmom", "Bernard and Doris," "Igby Goes Down") comes to mind. Do you think actors who die a lot on screen have a martyr complex? Which frequent-diers can you think of?