Famous Last Wills and Testaments of Actors and Actresses

Some famous and bizarre last wills and testaments of actors and actreses including David Garrick and Marilyn Monroe.

Eleanor Gwyn British actress Died: 1687

Last Will: Nell Gwyn, or "E.G.," as she signed her "Last Request," made her will one month before her death. Addressed to the duke of Albans, one of the 2 illegitimate sons she had had as the mistress of Charles II, she itemized 14 requests, including a wish to be buried in the chancel of St. Martin's-in-the-fields, London. She also asked the duke to set aside pound 100 for geting debtors out of prison and another pound 20 annually "for the releasing of poore Debtors out of prison every Christmas Day."

David Garrick British actor Died: 1779

Last Will: The bequest gave Mrs. Garrick several options. She could elect to accept pound 1,000 outright, another pound 5,000 within 12 months, and pound 1,500 as an annual annuity. But the generous provisions were contingent upon several thought-provoking conditions. She had to continue to live in their chief place of residence at Hampton. She could not move permanently outside of England. And she had to give up her right to the income from her pound 10,000 dower settlement. If she did not agree--and he gave her 3 months to furnish a reply, in writing, to his executors--the alternative was to accept pound 1,000 annually, with all other legacies being canceled. To the British Museum, Garrick gave his collection of old English plays.

Sarah Siddons British actress Died: 1831

Last Will: During her lifetime, Siddons set up a trust fund of pound 5,500 to provide for her companion, Martha Wilkinson. The balance of her estate was divided into 3 equal shares, bequeathed to her daughter Cecelia, her son George, and the widow of her deceased son Henry. Jointly, to George and Cecelia, Siddons also gave her most prized possessions: "my inkstand made of the mulberry tree planted by the immortal Shakespear and also the gloves which were worn by him--." They had been given to her by David Garrick, actor and manager of the Drury Lane Theatre.

Conrad Cantzen

American actor

Died: 1945

Last Will: Remembering his "at liberty" days when he was down on his luck, Cantzen left $226,608.34 to establish a shoe fund ". . . for the people who can't buy shoes, even if they are not paid-up members of Equity. Many times I have been on my uppers, and the thinner the soles of my shoes were, the less courage I had to face the managers in looking for a job." The bequest dumbfounded Broadway, since Cantzen's panhandling along Broadway in his last years had indicated he was penniless. Today, any professional actor who qualifies can "do the shoe bit," beginning with a visit to the offices of Actors Equity in New York City.

W. C. Fields American comedian Died: 1946

Last Will: The portion of his estate that could be located was worth $700,000. Because of his secretiveness, and his desire to have cash available wherever he was in the world, Fields had opened some 200 bank accounts under fictitious names and he kept no record of the deposits or the banks. His safe-deposit box in a Berlin bank contained $50,000, deposited under another name, but this was lost when Berlin was bombed in W. W. II. His executors were able to find 45 of these bank accounts, but the remaining deposits--estimated at $600,000--were never found. Although he once said, "Anybody who hates children and dogs can't be all bad," Fields left instructions that there be established the "W. C. Fields College for orphan white boys and girls, where no religion of any sort is to be preached. Harmony is the purpose of this thought." He bequeathed to his wife, Harriet, $10,000, and to his son, Claude, $10,000. He left his mistress, Carlotta Monti, $25,000, plus his dictionary, 2 bottles of perfume, and a Cadillac. He left his brothers and sisters, and 9 friends, small sums, as well as his possessions ranging from file cabinets to 2 fly catchers.

Clark Gable

American movie actor

Died: 1960

Last Will: Gave his 1st wife, Josephine Dillon, title to the North Hollywood home at 12746 Landale, and all the rest to his last wife, Kathleen.

Marilyn Monroe

American movie actress

Died: 1962

Last Will: Left over $1 million, although the estate was later declared insolvent. She set up $100,000 in trust to provide $5,000 annually for her mother's care, gave $25,000 to close friends, and bequeathed her personal effects to her acting mentor, Lee Strasberg. To her psychiatrist, Dr. Marianne Kris, she willed the balance of the trust, after her mother's death, for her use in psychiatric work.

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