R.I.P. Gloria Jean

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Just got word that Gloria Jean (Schoonover) (b. 1926) passed away a couple of days ago (Thanks, Ted Wioncek of the W.C. Fields. fan club for the notification).  Uncanny to think of her passing away at age 92, when the screen has immortalized her as a teenager.

No, she’s not a mash-up of Laura Brannigan and Michael Jackson songs! As any classic comedy fan can tell you, Gloria Jean was a fresh-faced All American Girl under contract with Universal Studios in the late 30s and 40s.

She’d originally sung on radio with Paul Whiteman. Talent scouts found her and she was signed to a contract at age 12. One of her earliest notable films was If I Had My Way (1940) with Bing Crosby. The bulk of her output consisted of throwaway swing era musicals for young people, but comedy fans know these high points best:

* Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941) with W.C. Fields. She plays herself, mysteriously somehow the niece of “Uncle Bill” in easily his most surreal script.

Ghost Catchers (1944), with Olsen and Johnson, Leo Carrillo, Andy Devine, Walter Catlett, Morton Downey and Lon Chaney, Jr. 

Copacabana (1947) with Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda

* Her last starring film was Laffing Time (1959) with El Brendel and B movie western maven Edward Finney

and her last…

The Ladies Man (1961) with Jerry Lewis! (as an extra)

Here’s a dispatch from the lady herself! Go with God, Gloria Jean!

One comment

  1. Thank you for your post. In some ways she still was a teenager … one time my husband and I were visiting her and asked her where she’d like to have lunch. She said, “I want a Big Mac!” So we took her for a Big Mac, and she happily devoured it. She was around 90 then. She will be missed with sadness and remembered with joy.

    Like

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