Gloria DeHaven: From “Modern Times” to…Modern Times

Gloria DeHaven (1925-2016) was born into show business, the daughter of vaudeville, stage and screen veterans Carter DeHaven and Flora Parker. 

Carter DeHaven was assistant director on Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936), which led to his daughter’s casting as one of Paulette Goddard’s younger siblings. 1940-1955 were her peak movie years. Skilled at song and dance, musicals made up a large proportion of her output, including Thousands Cheer (1943), Broadway Rhythm (1944),Two Girls and a Sailor (1944), Step Lively (1944),Yes Sir That’s My Baby (1949), Three Little Words (1950), Summer Stock (1950), and So This Is Paris (1954). She also graced mysteries such as The Thin Man Goes Home (1944) and comedies like The Yellow Cab Man (1950) with Red Skelton. Her last picture of the studio era was The Girl Rush (1955) with Rosalind Russell.

In the early 1950s she began to work a lot on television, both as a singer on variety shows, and as a dramatic actress. Of the former she did The Ed Wynn Show, The Saturday Night Revue with Jack Carter, The Alan Young Show, The Red Buttons Show, The Red Skelton Hour, The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Milton Berle Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The George Gobel Show, The Arthur Murray Party, The Mickey Rooney Show, The Tonight Show Starring Jack Paar, Perry Como’s Kraft Music HallJackie Gleason: American Scene Magazine ,The David Frost Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Merv Griffin Show, and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Of the latter, she did guest shots on shows like The Rifleman, Wagon Train, Flipper, The Jimmy Stewart Show, Marcus Welby, M.D. Gunsmoke, Quincy M.E., B.J. and the Bear, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote, etc etc.

In 1974 DeHaven was a regular on the short-lived series Nakia, starring Robert Forster and Arthur Kennedy. She was also a regular on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1976-77) and Ryan’s Hope (1983-87). Banjo Hackett: Roamin’ Free (1976), Sharon: Portrait of a Mistress (1977). In 1979 she starred on the low-budget horror movie Bog. In 1990 she co-starred in a sitcom pilot with Doris Roberts, called The Ladies on Sweet Street.

The late ’90s saw a last spurt of activity. She appeared with Mickey Rooney in Outlaws: The Legend of O.B. Taggart (1995), with Jack Lemmon in Out to Sea (1997). A 2000 appearance on Touched by an Angel was her last acting job. Through 2008 she participated in several documentary shorts about the films she appeared in.

In addition to all this, throughout the decades she sang with bands in night clubs and on radio (Bob Crosby’s was one of them), and acted in regional an touring theatre. She was married four times; the first, from 1944-50, was fellow movie actor John Payne. Gloria DeHaven was 91 when she passed away in 2016.

To learn more about show biz history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic film, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.