On Jacqueline Wells a.k.a. Julie Bishop a.k.a. Diane Duval: But What’s in a Name?

Actors are shape-shifters by definition. In the case of Jacqueline Brown (1914-2001) there were two levels to it: she changed her professional identity several times, from “Jacqueline Wells” to “Diane Duval” to “Julie Bishop.” On movie screens she was Jacqueline Wells for nearly 20 years (1923-1941). Diane Duval was her name when she performed in live theatre. And her screen name for the last decade and a half for her career (1941-1957) was Julie Bishop. I like the first two names, as well as her given name if it comes to that, IMMEASURABLY better than the last one. She chose it when she switched studios and they sought to revitalize her career, which was then associated with B pictures, and it had the same initials as her real name. But it is SO boring. It’s like one of the white bread pseudonymns studios gave fictionalized versions of real people in bio-pics (Ruby Keeler became “Julie Benson” in The Jolson Story, for example). What’s in a name, you ask? When it comes to branding, EVERYTHING! But I’m harping. I’ll stop. The convention has been to refer to her by the last, though worst, screen name in articles and so forth, though she’d used the Jacqueline Wells one for a longer period of time, and we will adhere to the convention despite the fact that the work of her we are most interested in was made under the earlier name.

For with the Wells handle in the early ’30s she had worked for Hal Roach, appearing in Pardon Us (1931), Any Old Port (1932) and The Bohemian Girl (1936) with Laurel and Hardy, as we as several Boyfriends and Charley Chase shorts. That’s what we’re going to gravitate to, right? She also had one of the main roles in Paramount’s Tillie and Gus (1933) with W.C. Fields and Alison Skipworth, and was voted a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1934. Prior to that, she had been a child actor of the silent era, starting in 1923 when she was nine years old. Her dozen or so silents include Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1923) with Gloria Swanson, the 1924 version of Captain Blood, DeMIlle’s The Golden Bed (1925) with Lillian Rich and Henry B. Walthall, The Homemaker (1925) with Alice Joyce, and Edna Ferber’s Classified (1925) with Corinne Griffith and Jack Mulhall.

Notable other early sound stuff included Tarzan the Fearless (1933) in which she played a Jane substitute to Buster Crabbe’s jungle man, and the horror classic The Black Cat (1934) with Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and David Manners. This led pretty organically to a series of forgotten B pictures at Columbia through the rest of the ’30s and the beginning of the ’40s.

Then came her reincarnation as Julie Bishop, and it did seem to goose her career somewhat. She was now a supporing player, but she was in some pretty major and well-remembered movies including the Gershwin bio-pic Rhapsody in Blue (1945), Cinderella Jones (1946), Murder in the Music Hall (1946), Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) and Westward the Women (1951). She co-starred with Bob Cummings on the short-lived TV sitcom My Hero (1952-53) and guest starred on The Bob Cummings Show in 1956. Her last screen credit was the 1957 western The Big Land with Alan Ladd, Virginia Mayo, and Edmond O’Brien.

Bishop’s daughter, Pamela Susan Shoop (b. 1948) was a profilific television actress from 1970 through 1996 and also appeared in the horror classics Empire of the Ants (1977) and Halloween II (1981).

For more on silent film and classic comedy please read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.