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    Sad but True: Five Stars Who Passed Away on Christmas Day

    James Brown, Dean Martin, Eartha Kitt SNAP/ZUMA Press.; GAB Archive/Redferns

    A music legend. A Rat Pack leader. One of Batman's slinkiest foes.

    They're among the film, TV and music greats whom audiences have said goodbye to on Christmases past:

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    1. James Brown: The 73-year-old Godfather of Soul was set to do his thing at B.B. King's Manhattan nightclub on New Year's Eve 2006 when he was hospitalized with pneumonia. On Christmas Day, his manager Charles Bobbit reported, "[Brown] was having pain, but then the pain went away, and he told me, 'I'm going away tonight.'" And he did.  

    2. Dean Martin: Three days after the swingin' star succumbed to respiratory failure on Christmas 1995 at age 78, the Sands, the now-bygone casino where Martin cavorted with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., joined other Las Vegas landmarks in dimming its lights in his memory.  

    3. Eartha Kitt: In 1953, the nightclub star recorded "Santa Baby." Fifty-five years later, on Christmas Day 2008, the sexy yuletide crooner passed away. Kitt, who'd gone on to fame as Catwoman on TV's Batman, was 81.

    4. Charlie Chaplin: The silent-film giant died in his sleep on Christmas Day 1977. He was 88. "You can say he died of old age," Chaplin's family doctor said simply.

    5. Vic Chestnutt: The paralyzed singer-songwriter's singer-songwriter, whose works were covered by Madonna, R.E.M. and more, had endured a lifetime of pain when he overdosed on prescription muscle relaxants. After falling into a coma, Chestnutt died on Christmas Day 2009. He was 45.    

    Also noted: TV writer/producer Aron Abrams (King of the Hill); actress Joan Blondell (Public Enemy, Grease); Olympic filmmaker Bud Greenspan; and actor Denver Pyle (Dukes of Hazzard). 

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