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Top 10 Rich People Who Died Penniless

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Spencer Sher

Script written by Spencer Sher

It would appear that the people on this list flew a little too close to the sun; and they paid dearly for it. From Bela Lugosi, to Marvin Gaye, to Corey Haim, these stars sadly passed without more than a penny to their name. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Rich People Who Died Penniless.

Special thanks to our user Watchmojyguy for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Rich+People+Who+Died+Penniless.

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Transcript
Script written by Spencer Sher



Top 10 Rich People Who Died Penniless


It would appear that the people on this list flew a little too close to the sun; and they paid dearly for it. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Rich People Who Died Penniless.

For this list, we’ll be taking a look at people who amassed incredible fortunes only to see them disappear later in life. Some of these people still had money at the time of their deaths, but we’re focusing on the fact that they made it to the top, only to fall back to the bottom.


#10: Bela Lugosi


When Bela Lugosi was born in 1882 in what is now Romania, no one could have predicted that he’d one day be scaring the bejesus out of cinemagoers the world over. As the titular character in 1931’s “Dracula,” Lugosi created an iconic character and achieved stardom. His talents allowed him to amass a tidy little fortune, but it wouldn’t last. Unfortunately for Lugosi, his utterly convincing performance as Dracula left him typecast as the horror movie villain. With work beginning to dry up, Lugosi became addicted to morphine and he eventuallydied of a heart attack in 1956. In the end, all he had was his legacy.


#9: Marvin Gaye


One of the most celebrated soul singers of the 20th century, Marvin Gaye left a mark on the entertainment industry that continues to be felt today, decades after his death. He rose to fame in the 1960s, and cemented that success in the early 70’s with the release of his albums “What’s Going On” and “Let’s Get It On.” Both of these were massive critical and commercial successes. However, two failed marriages, a drug addiction and various tax woes caused Gaye to lose much of the wealth he’d accrued during the 70’s. When Gaye died in 1984 he was reportedly up to his ears in debt.


#8: Corey Haim


We’ve seen it time and time again. A teenage actor achieves incredible fame and fortune only to lose it all later in life. A sad case in point: that of 80’s teen idol Corey Haim. The Canadian actor rose to fame thanks to films such as “Lucas” and “The Lost Boys” but picked up a horrible drug habit along the way. It got so bad that Haim filed for bankruptcy in 1997 and was reportedly $200,000 in debt. With the drug addiction came a host of medical issues that Haim attempted to pay for by selling his own hair online. When he died of pneumonia in 2010 he was completely broke.


#7: Mickey Rooney


Another child actor, albeit from a completely different era, Mickey Rooney enjoyed a lengthy career that spanned an incredible 88 years. One would assume that with decades of work under his belt that the actor would have been one of the richest in Hollywood at the time of his death. Alas, his inclusion on this list means that was not the case. While he won numerous awards throughout his career and appeared in more than 300 films, Rooney died with little to his name. In fact, when he passed in 2014, he was reportedly so strapped for cash that he could barely afford his own funeral.


#6: Gary Coleman


We don’t know about you, but we’re beginning to notice a pattern here, as Gary Coleman was yet another child actor who died penniless. Coleman rose to fame playing Arnold Jackson on the highly successful sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” from 1978 to 1986. During the show’s peak, Coleman was making $100,000 per episode. Unfortunately, much of it was being used to pay his advisory team, which included his parents as well as a number of different lawyers. He’d later sue his parents for misappropriating his finances to the tune of $1.3 million. But it didn’t help, as Coleman would eventually file for bankruptcy in 1999 and at the time of his death in 2010 he was essentially broke.


#5: Oscar Wilde


One of the most respected writers of the 19th century, Oscar Wilde penned some of the era’s greatest works, including the highly successful play The Importance of Being Earnest and the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. His status as one of the world’s preeminent writers firmly established, Wilde began to accrue considerable wealth from his various artistic endeavors. However, in 1895 Wilde was sentenced to two years in prison for gross indecency with men, which is a fancy way of saying he was a homosexual. Upon his release, Wilde had little wealth remaining and when he died in 1900 he had almost nothing to his name.


#4: Judy Garland


Even if you don’t recognize her name you’ll surely recognize her most famous role. Garland is best known for her portrayal of Dorothy in the seminal 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.” A Grammy- and Golden Globe-winning singer and actress, Garland was one of the most successful entertainers of her generation. However, she struggled with drug and alcohol addiction and was divorced four times, both of which contributed to her constant financial troubles. At the time of her death in 1969, Garland had lost most of the wealth she’d accrued during her lengthy and illustrious career in Hollywood.


#3: Sammy Davis Jr.


Jack-of-all-trades and one-time “Rat Pack” member Sammy Davis Jr. was one of the most recognizable stars on the face of the earth during the 1950’s and 60’s. His skills as a singer, dancer and actor earned him millions of dollars throughout his career. So why was he $7 million dollars in debt at the time of his death? Well for starters, his career hit the skids and he had a lavish lifestyle that simply couldn’t be maintained. Tack on two divorces and a serious substance abuse problem and you have a seriously unstable financial situation. That explains why at the time of his death in 1990 he owed the IRS millions of dollars.


#2: Michael Jackson


It’s scary to think that someone as successful as Michael Jackson could find themselves with such a tremendous amount of debt at the time of their demise. When the unofficial “King of Pop” died he was a mind-boggling $400 million dollars in debt. What makes this an infamously remarkable feat is that he is estimated to have earned more than a billion dollars throughout his illustrious career. While he wasn’t exactly broke when he passed – he still owned property and had plenty of cash on hand – he was being hounded by the IRS. After his death, the estate has continued to rake in an astounding amount of money – which still has to be taxed, of course.


Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:


Joe Louis


George Best


Veronica Lake


#1: Oskar Schindler


It is truly a shame that a man who risked his life to protect others from persecution during the Second World War died without so much as a penny to his name. Oskar Schindler’s exploits are the stuff of legend and were forever immortalized in the 1993 film “Schindler’s List”. A German industrialist, Schindler used his position to protect Jews who would have otherwise been sent to Nazi death camps. He spent millions of his own dollars to ensure that they would survive the war. Nowadays the descendants of “Schindler’s Jews” numbers more than 8000. Yet when he died in 1974, Schindler was broke, his enormous wealth lost in favor of humanity.
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