Jean, Gloria (1926—)

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Jean, Gloria (1926—)

American actress and singer . Born Gloria Jean Schoonover, in Buffalo, New York, on April 14, 1926; the youngest of the four daughters of Ferman Schoonover (a music store owner) and Eleanor Schoonover; married, 1962–66; children: one son, Angelo.


The Under-Pup (1939); If I Had My Way (1940); A Little Bit of Heaven (1940); Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941); What's Cookin'? (1942); Get Hep to Love (1942); When Johnny Comes Marching Home (1943); It Comes Up Love (1943); Mister Big (1943); Moonlight in Vermont (1943); Follow the Boys (1944); Pardon My Rhythm (1944); Ghost Catchers (1944); The Reckless Age (1944); Destiny (1944); I'll Remember April (1945); River Gang (1945); Easy to Look At (1945); Copacabana (1947); I Surrender Dear (1948); An Old-Fashioned Girl (1949); Manhattan Angel (1949); There's a Girl in My Heart (1950); Air Strike (1955); The Ladies' Man (1961); The Madcaps (1961).

Gloria Jean was born Gloria Jean Schoonover in Buffalo, New York, in 1926 but raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where her family settled when she was a baby. She made her singing debut at age three (billed as Baby Schoonover) and by age five had her own radio program in Scranton. In 1939, after Joe Pasternak heard her sing, she was signed by Universal Pictures with hopes that she would succeed megastar Deanna Durbin , who was getting too old for teenage roles. Jean's first film, The Under-Pup (1939), a story about a poor girl who wins a vacation to summer camp with a group of rich girls, was promising. Variety praised Jean's poise, winsome personality, and remarkable screen presence. "She also has vocal ability which is demonstrated briefly in several sequences. Gloria Jean is well qualified for starring responsibilities in the future." Her next film, If I Had My Way (1940), with Bing Crosby, gave her more opportunity to show off her soprano

voice and was probably the most popular of her movies. Well on her way with her third effort, W.C. Fields' Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941), Jean also made guest appearances on a number of radio shows and sang at President Franklin D. Roosevelt's birthday party in 1940.

Beginning in 1942, Gloria Jean was paired with Donald O'Connor in a series of low-budget musicals that began with What's Cookin'? (1942) and ended with Moonlight in Vermont (1943). By now, Universal was losing interest in their promising star, and she closed out her contract with mediocre roles. In 1945, she embarked on a lengthy personal appearance tour, returning to the screen in Copacabana (1947), in which she was pretty much upstaged by Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda . A second lead in There's a Girl in My Heart (1949) led to a six-year hiatus from movies.

During the 1950s, she undertook another tour of the United States, but it ended badly when her appearance at the London Casino was so poorly received that she broke down on stage. Returning to Hollywood, she made a few television appearances and starred in the low-budget programmer Air Strike (1955) and the little-seen comedy The Madcaps (1962). Jean then retired from films and took a job as a hostess in a restaurant. In 1965, she began work as a receptionist in a cosmetics firm in Van Nuys and, aside from an occasional television appearance, has since remained pretty much out of the public eye.


Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

Lamparski, Richard. Whatever Became of…? 4th series. NY: Crown, 1973.

Parish, James Robert, and Michael R. Pitts. Hollywood Songsters. NY: Garland, 1990.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts