Brandon de Wilde was a talented and popular American actor who rose to fame as a child star in the 1950s. He appeared in several acclaimed films, such as The Member of the Wedding, Shane, and Hud, and earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in Shane. He also had a successful career on Broadway and television, starring in his own sitcom Jamie and making guest appearances on shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Wagon Train. He was widely regarded as one of the most promising actors of his generation, with a bright future ahead of him.
However, his life and career were tragically cut short on July 6, 1972, when he died in a car accident at the age of 30. His death shocked and saddened his fans, friends, and colleagues, who remembered him as a charming, talented, and kind-hearted person. His death also left behind a legacy of unfinished projects, unfulfilled potential, and unanswered questions.
The Details of the Accident
According to IMDb, de Wilde was killed as the result of a traffic accident that occurred in the Denver suburb of Lakewood on the evening of July 6, 1972 at about 3:25 PM. He had been en route to visit his wife at a Denver hospital. He was driving a camper van, lost control and crashed into a parked construction truck on the side of the road, causing his camper to roll onto its side, pinning him in the wreckage of his vehicle for a while before being taken to St. Anthony Hospital where he died at 7:20 PM of multiple injuries including a broken back, neck, and leg. He was not wearing a seat belt.
De Wilde had been in the Denver area to co-star in the Elitch Theatre production of Butterflies Are Free, which ended July 1. He had also been working on a screenplay for a film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road, which he hoped to direct and star in. He had also been offered a role in The Godfather Part II by Francis Ford Coppola, but had turned it down due to scheduling conflicts.
The Impact of His Death
De Wilde’s death was mourned by many people in the entertainment industry and beyond. His former co-stars, such as Alan Ladd, Paul Newman, Angela Lansbury, Walter Brennan, and Sidney Poitier expressed their grief and admiration for him. His fans sent flowers, letters, and donations to various charities in his memory. His funeral was attended by hundreds of people, including celebrities like Roddy McDowall, Robert Redford, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Neil Young.
De Wilde’s death also left a void in the film industry, as he had been considered one of the most versatile and talented actors of his time. He had been able to transition from child roles to adult roles with ease and grace, and had shown a range of skills and genres. He had been praised for his naturalistic and nuanced performances, his charisma and charm, and his professionalism and dedication. He had also been interested in directing and producing his own projects, and had been involved in various social causes and movements.
De Wilde’s death also inspired some artistic tributes from his friends and admirers. Neil Young wrote and recorded a song called “Long May You Run” for his album with Stephen Stills in 1976, which was dedicated to de Wilde’s memory. The song references de Wilde’s camper van that he drove across the country with Young in 1971. Young also named his son Zeke after de Wilde’s middle name. Bob Dylan wrote a poem called “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie” for de Wilde’s funeral service, which he later recited on stage during his Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975. The poem compares de Wilde’s spirit to that of Woody Guthrie, the folk singer who influenced both Dylan and de Wilde.
The Legacy of Brandon de Wilde
Brandon de Wilde’s cause of death may have been an unfortunate accident, but it also marked the end of an era in American cinema. De Wilde was one of the last representatives of the golden age of Hollywood, when child stars were revered and respected for their talent and innocence. He was also one of the first actors to bridge the gap between the old Hollywood and the new Hollywood, when films became more realistic, experimental, and rebellious. He was able to adapt to both styles and genres with ease and skill.
De Wilde’s films remain classics that are still watched and enjoyed by many people today. His performances are still admired and studied by actors and critics alike. His influence can be seen in many actors who followed him, such as Leonardo DiCaprio , River Phoenix , Christian Bale , Jake Gyllenhaal , Ryan Gosling , Joseph Gordon-Levitt , Timothée Chalamet , and many others. His life and career are also the subject of several books, documentaries, and biopics, such as All Fall Down, The Brandon deWilde Story by Patrisha McLean, which was published in 2019.
Brandon de Wilde’s cause of death may have been tragic, but his life and legacy are inspiring. He was a remarkable actor who left a lasting impression on the world of cinema and culture. He was a beloved person who touched the hearts of many people with his kindness and generosity. He was a legend who will never be forgotten.