Filled Under: Barbara Pepper
Barbara Pepper was born Marion Pepper in New York City on May 31, 1915. By age 16, against her parent’s wishes, she changed her name to Barbara and landed a show girl role in Florenz Ziegfeld’s Follies. There she met Lucille Ball and the two became lifelong friends. Barbara soon began work in radio and film, mainly in bit parts. Her first role was as a extra playing a slave girl, along with Lucille Ball, in “Roman Scandals” (1933). She had choice roles in a couple movies, “Our Daily Bread” (1934) and opposite Bert Wheeler as his love interest in “Mummy’s Boys” (1936). But stardom evaded her and she remained mostly in secondary roles. In 1943 Barbara married Craig Reynolds and gave birth to two sons over the next few years. In 1949, her husband Craig was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. By all accounts she was devastated. Overwhelmed with the death of her husband and the prospect of having to raise two sons by herself, Pepper became depressed and developed a chronic drinking problem. The once blue eyed platinum blonde stunner went downhill, her voice and looks became bloated and coarse and she could only muster small parts on film and television. Her friend Lucile Ball stepped in to help, giving Pepper several small roles on her show “I Love Lucy” from 1952-55. Pepper also appeared occasionally on Jack Benny’s show and also on the “Perry Mason” (1957 – 1963) series, playing small but colorful characters.
In the 60’s, she landed minor roles in a couple Jerry Lewis’s slapstick comedies. Pepper also had spots on several television series, including “Wagon Train”, “Petticoat Junction”, and “The Wide Country” among others. In 1965, she landed the role of Doris Ziffel, ‘mother’ of the television watching pig named ‘Arnold” on “Green Acres”. She recieved decent reviews and was fun as the cranky unkept Doris. But her health began to deteriorate rapidly and she was forced to give up her part in the show during the 1968-69 season. During her career, Barbara Pepper had roles in over 160 movies and television shows.
Barbara Pepper died on July 18, 1969, in Panorama City, California, aged 54, from a coronary thrombosis.