Gloria Jean
Date of Birth
Apr 14, 1926
Birth Place:
Buffalo, NY

Biography

Born in Buffalo, New York, Gloria Jean was raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where her dad ran a music store. Jean's stagestruck mom put her daughter on the stage at the age of three as a singer; by the time she was five, Jean was headlining her own local radio program. Moving to New York with her family, Jean was trained for an operatic career. In 1939, Universal studios, searching for a possible successor to their juvenile singing star Deanna Durbin (and also seeking out a "threat" to hold over the temperamental Durbin's head), cast Jean in The Under-Pup, an inexpensive comedy-drama set in an Interlochen-style musical camp. The film was a hit, and Jean was signed to a Universal contract. Unfortunately, her career was not as carefully monitored as Deanna Durbin's; allegedly, the studio had problems dealing with Jean's mother, and surreptitiously punished her by sticking her daughter in second-rate roles. Outside of her starring vehicles, Jean was cast as W.C. Fields niece in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941) (Fields, who reportedly despised talented kids, was friendly and cooperate towards his young co-star), and found herself playing third banana to comics Olsen and Johnson in Ghost Catchers (1944). One of her few prestige assignments was a well-played dramatic role as a blind girl in the multistoried "A"-picture Flesh and Fantasy (1944). Unfortunately, her sequences were removed from the film; these were later issued separately, with mediocre new footage added, as the throwaway "B"-picture Destiny (1944). Dropped by Universal in 1945, Jean went on an unsuccessful concert tour, then co-starred with Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda in the disappointing 1948 musical Copacabana. She spent the rest of her career in bottom-of-the-bill programmers, with occasional worthwhile guest appearances on television. She left show business in 1959, accepting a job as a hostess in a posh Hollywood restaurant. Here she was spotted by Jerry Lewis, who stirred up publicity concerning his intention to give Jean a comeback role in his upcoming feature The Ladies' Man; alas, Jean is virtually invisible in the final release print of that film. Giving up performing for good, Gloria Jean spent her last working years as a receptionist for Redken Laboratories, a California cosmetics firm. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Provided by Rovi