Donald O'Connor

Died September 27, 2003

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comic actor Donald O'Connor, who won lasting fame for an acrobatic dance number that saw him running up walls in the musical "Singin' in the Rain," died Saturday, according to a Web site devoted to his career.

O'Connor, 78, had been in declining health for several years and died of heart failure at a retirement home in Calabasas, California, according to TV station KABC.

O'Connor's career stretched 70 years from vaudeville song-and-dance to Hollywood movies and television. He was best known for "Make 'Em Laugh," a slapstick dance solo in "Singin' in the Rain."

That 1952 film, starring Gene Kelly (news) and Debbie Reynolds (news), remains one of the most beloved Hollywood musicals, defined by Kelly's rain-soaked title sequence and O'Connor's show-stopping backflips in "Make 'Em Laugh."

Critic Roger Ebert called the latter "one of the most amazing dance sequences ever filmed."

Picked by I.M. Balm.