Filled Under: Gloria Jean
Gloria Jean is an American singer and actress who starred or co-starred in 26 feature films between 1939 and 1959. She also made radio, television, stage, and nightclub appearances. Gloria Jean was born Gloria Jean Schoonover on April 14, 1926, in Buffalo, New York. Her family moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania, where she sang on radio with Paul Whiteman’s band. In 1938 she won an audition from Universal Pictures movie producer Joe Pasternak. Jean signed a contract with Universal and was given the leading role in the 1939 feature “The Under-Pup”, and became instantly popular with moviegoers. She then co-starred with Bing Crosby in “If I Had My Way” (1940) and starred in the well-received “A Little Bit of Heaven”(1940). Probably her best known picture is her fourth, “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break” (1941) in which she co-starred with W. C. Fields. Gloria Jean then starred in a series of musicals in which she became one of Universal’s most prolific performers. Most were “hepcat” musicals, which were geared to the teenage crowd of that day, and Universal often used them to introduce new talent like Donald O’Connor, Peggy Ryan, Mel Tormé, and Marshall Thompson.
When Gloria’s Universal contract lapsed, she wanted to renew it but acting on what turned out to be bad advice from her agent, she opted to go on a tour of busy personal appearances across America and England. In 1946, she returned to Hollywood, but she found that she was no longer in high demand. She resumed her movie career in United Artists, Columbia Pictures, and Allied Artists productions, the most famous being a minor role “Copacabana” (1947) with Groucho Marx. The “Copacabana” role was supposed to reignite her career and did lead to a few more roles, but her career never reached the level of popularity it was at before she went on tour. Her final movie was with Jerry Lewis in “The Ladies Man” (1961), but most of her footage was cut from the final print, and she is barely noticeable among the extras. She retired from show business in 1963.
Gloria Jean was married in 1962 to Franco Cellini. It was a short lived marriage, but which happily produced a son. Gloria lived in California for some time with her sister, Bonnie, until Bonnie’s death in 2007. She now resides in Hawaii with her son and his family.