Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jean Arthur

Jean Arthur was born Gladys Georgianna Greene on October 17, 1900 to Johanna Augusta Nelson and Hubert Sidney Greene.

During World War I, Jean Arthur worked as a stenographer on Bond Street in lower Manhatten.

Discovered by Fox Film Studios while she was doing commercial modeling in New York City in the early 1920s, Jean Arthur debuted in the silent film Cameo Kirby (1923) directed by John Ford.

Between 1923 and 1929 she would appear in more than 40 silent films including Spring Fever (1923), The Drug Store Cowboy (1925), The Mad Racer (1926), Lightening Bill (1926), and The Broken Gate (1927).

In 1929, she would appear in her first talkie The Canary Murder Case starring William Powell as Philo Vance.

From 1929 to 1935, she would appear in such films as The Greene Murder Case (1929), The Lawyer's Secret (1931), The Defense Rests (1934), The Whole Towns Talking (1935) and The Public Menance (1935).

Jean Arthur's big break came in 1936 when she was cast in Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town starring Gary Cooper. Jean was now a household name.

Jean Arthur would go on to star in The Ex Mrs. Bradford (1936), You Can't Take it With You (1938), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Arizona (1940), The Devil and Miss Jones (1941), The Talk of the Town (1942), The More the Merrier (1943) and The Impatient Years (1944).

Jean quit movies at the height of her career in 1944, she would appear in only two more films for Oscar winning directors Billy Wilder in A Foreign Affair (1948) and George Stevens in Shane (1953).

Jean also had a successful career on Broadway starring in Peter Pan, Foreign Affairs, The Curtain Rises, The Man Who Reclaimed His Head, The Bridge of Torozko, Twenty Five Dollars an Hour, and Count Me In.

In 1954, she was to star as Joan or Arc in George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan but left the play after a nervous breakdown and battles with director Harold Clurman.

In 1966, the extremely reclusive Arthur tentatively returned to show business, playing Patricia Marshall, an attorney in her own television sitcom, The Jean Arthur Show. However, the show was cancelled mid season after only twelve episodes.

In 1967, she was coaxed back to Broadway to appear as a midwestern spinster who falls in with a group of hippies in the play The Freaking Out of Stephanie Blake.

Now officially retired from acting, Jean Arthur taught drama first at Vassar College and then the North Carolina School of the Arts. Her students at Vassar included the young Meryl Streep.

While living in North Carolina she made front page news by being arrested and jailed for trespassing on a neighbor's property to console a dog she felt was being mistreated. An animal lover her entire life, Jean Arthur said she trusted them more than people.

During her 30 year film career she would appear in more than 90 movies.

Jean Arthur was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for The More The Merrier (1943) and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for motion pictures.

Jean Arthur was married twice and had no children. Her first marriage to Julian Anker in 1928 was annulled after one day. She next married producer Frank Ross Jr. in 1932 and they divorced in 1949.

Jean Arthur died from heart failure at the age of 90 on June 19, 1991.

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