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Jean Arthur

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GLADYS GEORGIANNA GREENE was born in Plattsburg, New York on October 17, 1900. After a brief career as a model and a few small parts on Broadway, she made her movie debut as Anne Playdell in John Ford's 1923 silent western CAMEO KIRBY and several years of bit parts and eventually a few leading roles in silent films were to follow.

It was the transition to sound that made Jean Arthur a star however, as she became famous after her performance in THE WHOLE TOWN'S TALKING (1935) for her sexy, husky, yet sometimes squeaky voice. In the 1930s and '40s, romantic comedies became her specialty and she most often played honest heroines and working girls opposite such leading men as Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper. Some of the most notable of these films were Frank Capra's social comedies, MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (1936) opposite Cooper, the Best Picture of 1938 YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU with Stewart, and MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939) again with Stewart. Other hits included ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939) with Cary Grant, George Stevens' THE TALK OF THE TOWN (1942) with Grant and Ronald Coleman, and THE MORE THE MERRIER (1943) for which she earned the only Oscar nomination of her career.

Arthur is reported to have had a chronic case of camera fright, so when her contract expired in 1944 she gladly retired from movies. She was persuaded to return for two more films however. In 1948 she played an Iowa congresswoman sent to study the morale of American troops in occupied Berlin in Billy Wilder's romantic comedy A FOREIGN AFFAIR, also starring Marlene Dietrich. Her final film performance was as a Wyoming homesteader in George Stevens' SHANE (1953).

In the 1960s and 70s, Arthur starred in her own television series, The Jean Arthur Show, and made a few appearances on Broadway. She also taught drama at Vassar College. Arthur died on June 19, 1991 in Carmel California.

Biographical information from Encyclopedia Britannica Online and Cinemania '95.

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