Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Gloria Jean, Actress (1926- )

Actress and former Scranton resident Gloria Jean (center) with Leon Errel and W.C. Fields in a publicity photo for 1941's Never Give A Sucker An Even Break. My deepest thanks to Gloria Jean's sister (and webmaster of her official site Bonnie Schoonover for giving me permission to use this photo in our blog.

Don McKeon recently emailed me again with the following:

"Gloria Jean, born in Scranton and who also lived in West Scranton. She went to Hollywood, and I remember seeing an old film in which she played opposite W.C Fields. Check it out if you can."

Gloria Jean (1926- ) is an actress from the Golden Age of Hollywood who made a successful transition from child star to adult roles in major Hollywood films. Though she was born in Buffalo, NY, she was raised in Scranton, PA and has been quoted that she has always considered Scranton her "hometown."

Jean performed in vaudeville houses, movie theaters, and radio shows throughout Scranton as a child. She was discovered by producer Joe Pasternak from Universal Pictures, then ventured to Hollywood in 1939 at the age of 13 to appear in her big-screen debut The Under-Pup, which had its premiere in Scranton. According to an article in the Scranton Weekly from 1993, Jean went on to make 39 movies, starring with such actors as Bing Crosby, W.C. Fields, Groucho Marx ("Coconuts"), the Andrew Sisters and Donald O' Connor. In addition, according to the same article, amoing Jean's classmates on the studio lot was Elizabeth Taylor. Perhaps her most famous role was as (curiously) Gloria Jean, the niece of W.C Fields in Never Give A Sucker An Even Break in 1941.In 1942 she starred with Old Forge native Allan Jones in When Johnny Comes Marching Home.

Following a small part in Jerry Lewis's The Ladies Man in 1961, Jean retired from the screen. According to the Internet Movie Database, she went to work for Redken (a cosmetics firm) shortly after, where she was employed until her retirement.

Gloria Jean's web site, whose webmaster is Gloria's sister Bonnie, contains an extensive biography on Gloria Jean and many articles from that period about her career. The site also offers DVD and VHS copies of most of Gloria Jean's films from her personal collection (many of which are not available anywhere else), as well as rare publicity stills and photographs, paper dolls and coloring books, and a 2-disc CD set of her rare recordings.

A critically acclaimed authorized biography titled Gloria Jean: A Little Bit of Heaven, written by Scott and Jan MacGillivray, was just published in October 2005. Copies of the book are available in both our library's circulating collection and in our Local History (non-circulating) Collection. To place a hold, click here.

Also available to borrow through the Lackawanna County Library System is the VHS for Never Give A Sucker An Even Break; to place a hold, click here.

In addition, there is a newspaper clippings file (AKA Local History Vertical File) for Gloria Jean in the Reference Department that includes newspaper articles on the star.

Thanks again to Don McKeon for providing me information for this entry.

Also, thank you to Bonnie Schoonover for information on the book Gloria Jean: A Little Bit of Heaven and for her permission to use the fantastic movie still in our blog.