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Jean Arthur

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Also Known As: Gladys Georgianna Greene Died: June 19, 1991
Born: October 17, 1900 Cause of Death: heart ailment
Birth Place: Plattsburgh, New York, USA Profession: actor, model, teacher

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

After a brief time on the New York stage, Jean Arthur made her feature film debut in John Ford's "Cameo Kirby" (1923) and appeared as an ingenue in numerous low-budget silent westerns and comedy shorts. Arthur's smooth transition to sound was aided by her nasal voice, sometimes sexy, other times squeaky, and she won immense popularity in John Ford's "The Whole Town's Talking" (1935). A deft comedienne and prickly, sometimes tomboyish heroine, she hit her peak post-1935 playing a string of down-to-earth, independent types, often working women, and costarring in three celebrated Frank Capra films: "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (1936), "You Can't Take It with You" (1938) and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939).With her increased prestige, Arthur chose her later roles wisely, her last decade of work including Billy Wilder's superior romantic comedy "A Foreign Affair" (1948) and the George Stevens classics "The Talk of the Town" (1942), "The More the Merrier" (1943) and "Shane" (1953). The latter was her final film, made after a five year absence from the screen. Her acting work from the 1950s on was intermittent, somewhat curtailed by Arthur's longstanding shyness and discomfort about her chosen profession....

After a brief time on the New York stage, Jean Arthur made her feature film debut in John Ford's "Cameo Kirby" (1923) and appeared as an ingenue in numerous low-budget silent westerns and comedy shorts. Arthur's smooth transition to sound was aided by her nasal voice, sometimes sexy, other times squeaky, and she won immense popularity in John Ford's "The Whole Town's Talking" (1935). A deft comedienne and prickly, sometimes tomboyish heroine, she hit her peak post-1935 playing a string of down-to-earth, independent types, often working women, and costarring in three celebrated Frank Capra films: "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (1936), "You Can't Take It with You" (1938) and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939).

With her increased prestige, Arthur chose her later roles wisely, her last decade of work including Billy Wilder's superior romantic comedy "A Foreign Affair" (1948) and the George Stevens classics "The Talk of the Town" (1942), "The More the Merrier" (1943) and "Shane" (1953). The latter was her final film, made after a five year absence from the screen. Her acting work from the 1950s on was intermittent, somewhat curtailed by Arthur's longstanding shyness and discomfort about her chosen profession. She did occasional stage work (such as a charming turn as "Peter Pan"), a try at a TV series (the short-lived "The Jean Arthur Show" 1966), and much time teaching acting at the university level.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Shane (1953) Marian Starrett
2.
 A Foreign Affair (1948) Phoebe Frost
3.
 The Impatient Years (1944) Janie Anderson
4.
 A Lady Takes a Chance (1943) Mollie J. Truesdale
5.
 The More the Merrier (1943) Connie Milligan
6.
 The Talk of the Town (1942) Nora Shelley
7.
 The Devil and Miss Jones (1941) Mary [Jones]
8.
 Too Many Husbands (1940) Vicky [Cardew] Lowndes
9.
 Arizona (1940) Phoebe Titus
10.
 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) [Clarissa] Saunders
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Quit school to become a model which led to minor roles in the New York theater
1923:
Screen debut in short, "Somebody Lied"
1923:
Feature film debut in John Ford's "Cameo Kirby"
1928:
First leading film role in "Warming Up"
1932:
Dissatisfied with Hollywood career, returned to NY stage
1934:
Signed with Columbia Pictures and re-launched career
:
Achieved full-fledged star status with roles in "The Whole Town's Talking" (1935), "If You Could Only Cook" (1935), "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (1936), the latter her first of three films with director Frank Capra
1939:
Last film with Capra, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"
1942:
First film with director George Stevens, "The Talk of the Town"
1944:
Last film for four years, "The Impatient Years"
1948:
Returned to films to play a starring role opposite Marlene Dietrich and John Lund in Billy Wilder's "A Foreign Affair"
1950:
Returned to Broadway in Leonard Bernstein's "Peter Pan"
1953:
Again returned to films to star in her last, George Stevens' western "Shane", opposite Van Heflin and Alan Ladd
1966:
Starred as a lawyer on short-lived TV series, "The Jean Arthur Show"
:
Taught drama at Vassar and North Carolina School of the Arts from the late 1960s to 1973
1985:
Appeared as herself in the feature documentary, "George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

George Washington High School: -

Notes

"Never have I seen a performer plagued with such a chronic case of stage jitters . . . When the cameras stopped she'd run to her dressing room, lock herself in--and cry. . . . When called for another scene she would come out looking like a mop; walk aimlessly around muttering a torrent of non-sequitur excuses for not being ready. And it wasn't an act. Those weren't butterflies in her stomach. They were wasps. But push that neurotic girl forcibly, but gently, in front of the camera and turn on the lights--and that whining mop would magically blossom into a warm, lovely poised and confident actress." --Frank Capra in his memoir "The Name Above the Title"

"I guess I became an actress because I didn't want to be myself." --Jean Arthur in 1972, quoted in The New York Times, obituary, June 20, 1991.

"When pressed by Hollywood to choose a stage name, she selected one honoring two idols: Jeanne d'Arc and King Arthur." --Peter B Flint in Arthur's The New York Times obituary, June 20, 1991.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Julian Anker. Photographer. Married 1928; divorced.
companion:
David O Selznick. Producer.
husband:
Frank Ross. Singer, producer. Married in 1932; divorced in 1949.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Jean Arthur: A Bio-Bibliography" Greenwood Press
"Jean Arthur: The Actress Nobody Knows" Limelight Editions

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