In Remembrance: Vivid Personalities of a Decade

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If their deaths came in the first decade of the 21st century, their lives helped define the 20th. They led nations, produced masterpieces, pushed the boundaries of science and entertained. And they did so in that seemingly distant time when the years began with 19.

In life we called them famous, renowned, celebrated; their deaths we call notable, because their names register. They people our collective memory. Some — those who destroy rather than build — we would like to forget. But most make us pause and think of the past and take account of what the world has lost.

It’s probably fitting that actors should best evoke a century. To hear the names of the stars of old who have vanished since 2000 (yes, officially the last year of the last century) is to receive final confirmation, if any were needed, that an era — particularly of the sort we tend to dip in gold in retrospect — is truly over. To think of Katharine Hepburn, Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, Alec Guinness, John Gielgud, Loretta Young, Jack Lemmon, Jennifer Jones, Jason Robards, Charlton Heston, Van Johnson, Glenn Ford, Deborah Kerr and Marlon Brando is to recall a very different world indeed.

They were largely royalty of the silver screen, of course, men and women who appeared to us at some remove, alighting from a mythical place called Hollywood. Their deaths carried an element of grandeur....

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