Richard Pyror was dying and mentally incapacitated when his wife duped him into signing over the rights to his name ... so claims Pryor's son, who's trying to shut down a movie about his dad.
Richard Pryor Jr. has fired off a cease and desist letter to Jennifer Lee Pryor, demanding she stop production of the Lee Daniels directed biopic immediately.
TMZ obtained a copy of the letter in which Richard Jr. accuses Jennifer of using "illegal, fraudulent" activity to get the rights. The document isn't more specific about the alleged fraud.
Richard Jr.'s lawyer tells us her client believes Pryor was in poor mental and physical health when he signed over the rights in 2005. Pryor died in December of that year.
Jennifer has been battling Pryor's children over the film -- including who should play Pryor.
Richard Jr. is threatening legal action if the movie goes forward. We reached out to Jennifer for comment ... so far no word back.
Dead Husband's Will
Leaves Her Zilch
7/21/2014 12:45 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
"Deal or No Deal" model Katie Cleary just got a big fat dose of karma -- according to some of her dead husband's friends -- because she'll inherit NOTHING if the will stands.
TMZ got a copy of Andrew Stern''s will and the document is clear -- Andrew's parents are the sole beneficiaries of his $408,000 life savings.
TMZ broke the story ... Andrew killed himself at a shooting range last month ... the result of severe depression. Some of Andrew's friends say he was tormented by Katie and her gallivanting around the world with celebs like Leo DiCaprio. She says they had already split up and he was ok with it.
Andrew signed the will in 2007 ... 3 years before he married Katie.
Sources close to Katie tell us ... she believes Andrew drafted a new will after they were married, leaving her a big chunk of his assets. We're told she hasn't found the will yet but she's sure it exists.
Andrew filed for divorce 2 months before he committed suicide but it wasn't final so she was his wife at the time of death.
Dead at 86
7/19/2014 11:23 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Legendary actor James Garner -- star of "The Rockford Files" and "The Notebook" -- has died ... TMZ has learned.
Law enforcement sources tell us an ambulance was dispatched to the actor's home in Los Angeles around 8PM Saturday evening ... and he was found dead when they arrived on scene.
James died of natural causes.
Garner was one of the first actors to amass success in both television and film ... and he starred in a long list of classic films -- as well as a co-starring role in the '94 big screen version of "Maverick" starring Mel Gibson. Garner was the original Bret Maverick from 1957-1960 ... as well as the same character in a short lived '80s remake.
Garner, who was 86 years old, also played the older version of Ryan Gosling's character in "The Notebook."
'The Patriot' Star
Skye McCole Bartusiak
Dead at 21
7/19/2014 5:39 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
1:00 PM PST: Skye reportedly had been suffering from seizures and on Saturday morning her boyfriend came home and found her sitting up in bed in her parents converted garage. The family believes she had a seizure and choked to death.
Skye McCole Bartusiak -- who played Mel Gibson's daughter in the 2000 hit movie, "The Patriot" -- is dead.
We do not know the cause of death. We're told Skye died at her home in Texas Saturday.
Skye was only 7 when she starred opposite Mel in the historical war film.
Skye starred in only one other movie in recent years -- "Sick Boy." Other than that she had roles in various short films.
Sources say Skye struggled after doing "The Patriot" ... trying to establish a foot print in Hollywood, but it was largely a frustrating and unsuccessful experience.
We’re told police found her dead in the garage apartment behind her home around 9AM Saturday. Right now, no foul play is suspected and it’s being treated as a natural causes death -- pending autopsy results.
Law enforcement sources tells us ... there are no "obvious signs" she took her own life ... however, our sources say toxicology reports could change their operating theory.
Casey Kasem Body
7/18/2014 12:05 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Casey Kasem has been dead for more than a month .... yet he's not been buried and now we've learned his body is missing.
Fingers now point in the direction of Casey's widow, Jean. Family sources say Jean took the body from a funeral home the day before a judge ordered her to keep it there so an autopsy could be performed.
The autopsy is crucial to an ongoing criminal investigation targeting Jean. The Santa Monica PD is looking into elder abuse allegations ... that Jean took Casey on a wild, week-long multi-state car ride which caused him to develop bed sores that got infected and contributed to his death.
Jean and Casey's children have been at war for years.
As for where the body is ... no one but Jean seems to know, and no one can find her either. It's interesting ... Jean listed Jerusalem as her address on Casey's death certificate.
Casey's daughter Kerri believes Jean is out of the country.
We reached out to Jean's people. So far no word back.
'30 Rock' & B'way Star Dies At 89
7/17/2014 10:15 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Broadway actress Elaine Stritch -- who also starred in movies and TV shows including "30 Rock" -- has died at her home in Birmingham, Michigan. She was 89 years old.
Stritch had a 70-year career in show business. Her one-woman show, "Elaine Stritch at Liberty" earned her a Tony award in 2001 -- but most recently she played Alec Baldwin's mother on "30 Rock." She won an Emmy for that role.
Some of her biggest Broadway productions include Noel Coward's "Sail Away" -- and Stephen Sondheim's "Company." Elaine was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1995.
She had been battling diabetes, but her cause of death has not been disclosed yet.
Dead at 62
7/12/2014 7:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
The last surviving original member of legendary punk rock group "The Ramones" is dead.
Tommy Ramone -- the group's drummer on the first 3 albums -- died Friday at his home in Queens, New York. He'd been in a hospice following bile duct cancer treatments ... according to Variety.
Tommy stopped drumming for the band in '84 -- he was replaced by Marky Ramone -- but still worked with the Ramones throughout the years. Tommy is credited for writing most of "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and "Blitzkrieg Bop."
Lead singer Joey Ramone died in 2001 of lymphoma, a drug overdose killed guitar player Dee Dee Ramone in 2002 ... and Johnny Ramone passed away in 2004 from prostate cancer.
The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
'Harry Potter' Actor
Dies Hiking in Death Valley
7/11/2014 8:50 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
2:10 P.M. PDT -- Inyo County officials tell us ... an autopsy was performed and the cause of death is heat stroke.
One of the villains from the "Harry Potter" movies -- British actor Dave Legeno -- died while hiking in Death Valley ... TMZ has learned.
Legeno's body was found by a pair of hikers on Sunday in an area so remote ... a CHP helicopter had to be called in to remove it.
50-year-old Legeno played the werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the 'Potter' movies. He was also in "Snatch."
The Inyo County Sheriff's Department (in CA) tells TMZ it appears Legeno died of heat related issues ... and may have been dead for 3-4 days before his body was discovered. Summer temps in Death Valley are known to go over 120 degrees.
We're told the coroner still has Legeno's body while his family makes plans.
He has a daughter in her 20s.
Dave was also a pretty successful MMA fighter in the UK ... with a professional record of 4-3.
'Glee' Star Becca Tobin
Boyfriend Found Dead in Philly Hotel
7/10/2014 9:44 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
1:56 P.M. PDT -- The coroner's office tells us ... an autopsy did NOT reveal the cause of death.
'Glee' star Becca Tobin's boyfriend Matt Bendik was found dead Thursday in a Philadelphia hotel ... TMZ has learned … and the circumstances surrounding his death are mysterious.
Sources close to the couple tell us Bendik -- a 35-year-old nightclub owner -- was in Philly on a business trip. We're told Tobin was not in Philly when he died.
A hotel maid found Bendik's body Thursday at around 1 PM. Law enforcement sources say the housekeeper found the body on the bed, face down.
Police are calling it a "sudden death" and they do not believe foul play was involved. They also say there's no evidence of suicide. And no weapons were found.
We're told no drugs or drug paraphernalia were found in the room. We know the detective's incident report makes no mention of medications in the room. And the report makes no mention of alcohol.
Bendik was last seen by a manager at a club in Philly, just before midnight Wednesday.
Bendik ran several major clubs around the country, but especially in Los Angeles … where he was the Director of Operations at DBA Nightclub. He also was a co-owner of AV Nightclub.
We're told Bendik was not known as a partier, and friends are shocked and devastated by his sudden death.
Calls to Tobin's reps have not been returned.
One eerie twist -- Sunday will mark one year since the death of Cory Monteith … who died in a Vancouver hotel room from a drug overdose.
DBA posted a tribute to Matt outside of the club.
Shortly before Matt went out Wednesday night, he posted a pic of Becca -- calling her out as his #WCW (woman crush Wednesday).
Original Voice Actor
Richard Jones Dies at 87
7/8/2014 10:30 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
The first man who brought Pinocchio to life on the big screen has died -- Richard Percy Jones passed away at home in Northridge, CA.
Jones died Monday night ... apparently of natural causes.
As a kid, he was chosen by Walt Disney to provide the voice of the boy puppet for the 1940 animated flick, "Pinocchio." Jones was also a skilled rodeo rider -- appearing in a bunch of B-movies and TV shows. He also had bit roles in the "Our Gang" films.
Jones retired from acting in the 1960s... to go into real estate and banking. He's survived by his wife and 4 kids.
Hi-Five Singer Russell Neal
Charged with Murder
7/4/2014 7:30 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Hi-Five singer Russell Neal's wife was killed after being stabbed multiple times and he's now been charged with murder.
Cops say Catherine Martinez died from blunt force trauma and stab wounds.
The victim was a hot, 24-year-old fitness model. She was also an aspiring boxer who went by the name Brasilia.
The 40-year-old singer went to the police station Wednesday and told cops his wife was dead in their apartment and he needed a lawyer.
The couple has 2 kids. Law enforcement sources say there were no witnesses to the murder so it appears the children were not in the apartment when their mom was killed.
Neal is currently in custody on $100K bond.
'Gold Rush' Star James Harness
Dead at 57
7/3/2014 2:53 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
4:00 PM PDT: Harness' kids say James died a week ago, after suffering a stroke a week before. They say the funeral will be held in Oregon Saturday.
James Harness, star of Discovery's "Gold Rush," is dead.
Harness -- who lived in Oregon -- had serious medical issues, including back injuries from a car accident that crippled him with pain.
He also had a serious addiction problem with pain pills, which triggered problems on the show. We're told he wasn't showing up for work and became so unreliable he was fired during season 2.
We do not know the cause of death or where he was when he died.
Harness was divorced and had a son and a daughter. He was 57.
Dead at 67
After Battle With Cancer
6/29/2014 5:01 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
"Designing Women" star Meshach Taylor died Saturday night ... after a long battle with cancer.
Taylor's family says he passed away at his home in California while surrounded by loved ones.
Meshach is best known for the role of Anthony Bouvier on the popular late 80's show ... and he was nominated for an Emmy in 1989.
Taylor also famously portrayed Hollywood Montrose in the '87 cult classic flick "Mannequin" -- and had a TON of roles on hit T.V. shows ... like "Hannah Montana", "The Drew Carey Show" and "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide."