Fame without a diploma: Celebrities who didn't graduate from high school

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In 1988, singers Cyndi Lauper and Debbie Gibson received their diplomas from their respective high schools in New York. Cyndi's Richmond Hill High School in Queens and Debbie's Calhoun High School on Long Island paid homage to the pop stars who, in spite of their academic shortcomings, still went on to earn millions of dollars in the music business. While they were able to beat the odds and earn the adoration of fans around the world, they weren't the first stars to make it big without initially finishing high school. As we remember Cyndi and Debbie's academic achievement, DoYouRemember looks back at a few celebs who didn't graduate high school.

Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando On CBS
(Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Far from a model student during his enrollment at Libertyville High School in Illinois, Academy Award-winning actor Marlon Brando probably didn't help his cause when he rode a motorcycle through the hall.The stunt led to an immediate expulsion, but since he'd been held back a year for a variety of reasons, Brando didn't have any regrets.

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Al Pacino
1975, Al Pacino During Dog Day Afternoon
(Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

While for many aspiring artists being lucky enough to gain admittance to the famed New York City High School of Performing Arts is a dream come true, for Al Pacino that simply wasn't the case. He hated the classes, which is probably why he failed every one except English before deciding at age 17 to drop out and take his chances as a struggling actor. Obviously, things worked out just fine.

Walt Disney
Walt Disney, producer, USA - 1967
(Photo by Frankenberg/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Before he was the mastermind behind a mass-media corporation, Walt Disney was a disgruntled young man, who at age 16 penned a letter to his principal denouncing high school. Ever the patriotic youth, Disney tried to join the Navy shortly thereafter, but was rejected due to his age. However, his will to serve the world could not be denied, and he eventually forged some documents and was able to enlist in the Red Cross Ambulance Corps.

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe
(Photo by L. J. Willinger/Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

One of the greatest sex symbols of all time, Marilyn Monroe spent her years early years as Norma Jeane Baker,enrolled as a student at Van Nuys High School in California. After transferring to University High School in West Los Angeles, she dropped out at age 16 and entered into an arranged marriage with 21-year-old Jim Dougherty. Luckily for us, it didn't last.

Robert Downey, Jr.
Robert Downey Jr In 'The Gingerbread Man'
(Photo by Polygram Filmed Entertainment/Getty Images)

It's hard to believe that an actor as brilliant as Robert Downey, Jr., didn't graduate from high school, but it's true. In fact, Downey was so obsessed with following his dream of becoming a stage actor that at age 16 he walked out of Santa Monica High School and decided to head back to his native New York to make it happen. While there's no denying the benefits of a proper education, it's hard to question the Iron Man actor's choice to follow his heart.

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Drew Barrymore
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Gene Arias/NBCU Photo Bank

Unlike most of the other famous faces on this list, it's easy to understand why Drew didn't get an opportunity to finish school. Hollywood came calling at an extremely young age, when the seven-year-old was cast in her godfather Steven Spielberg's blockbuster hit E.T. Of course life wasn't all roses for Drew after she hit it big, as she battled alcohol and drug addiction and a string of really bad B-movies before making her triumphant return to the spotlight in the 1996 hit movie Scream.

Elton John
Elton John
(Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Elton's gift for composing musical masterpieces was recognized from an early age, when he was awarded a piano scholarship at age 11 to London's Royal Academy of Music. Unfortunately, his time there wasn't what he had hoped it would be, as he reportedly grew tired of having to play nothing but classical pieces. As a result it wasn't before long the the song man decided to exit the stage of the Academy in favor of playing rock 'n' roll at several London pubs.

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