Jeans, Isabel (1891–1985)

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Jeans, Isabel (1891–1985)

English actress of stage and screen for more than 60 years. Born in London, England, on September 16, 1891; died in London on September 4, 1985; daughter of Frederick George Jeans and Esther (Matlock) Jeans; married Claude Rains (an actor), in 1913 (divorced 1920); married Gilbert Edward Wakefield (a playwright-screenwriter).

Selected theater:

made stage debut as Daffodil in Pinkie and the Fairies (His Majesty's Theater, London, December 1909); had first speaking role as Peggy Bannister in The Greatest Wish (Garrick Theater, London, March 1913); toured the U.S. with Granville Barker's company, playing Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Fanny in Fanny's First Play, and Mlle de la Carandière in The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife (1915–16); appeared as Celia in Volpone for the Phoenix Society (Lyric Hammersmith Theater, London, January 1921), Aspathia in The Maid's Tragedy (Lyric Hammersmith Theater, London, November 1921), the First Constantia in The Chances (Shaftesbury Theater, London, January 1922), Abigail in The Jew of Malta (Daly's Theater, London, November 1922), Cloe in The Faithful Shepherdess (Shaftesbury Theater, London, June 1923), and Margery Pinchwife in The Country Wife; appeared as Zélie de Chaumet in The Rat (Prince of Wales' Theater, London, June 1924), Amytis in The Road to Rome (Strand Theater, London, May 1928), Crystal Wetherby in The Man in Possession (Booth Theater, New York, November 1930), Leslie in Counsel's Opinion (Strand Theater, London, April 1931), Mrs. Wislack in On Approval (Strand Theater, London, April 1933), Victoria in Home and Beauty (Playhouse Theater, London, November 1942), Lady Utterwood in Heartbreak House (Cambridge, March 1943), Mrs. Erlynne in Lady Windermere's Fan (Haymarket Theater, London, August 1945), Mme. Arkadina in The Seagull (Lyric Hammersmith Theater, London, October 1949), Mrs. Allonby in A Woman of No Importance (Savoy Theater, London, February 1953), Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals (Haymarket Theater, London, June 1967), Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest (Haymarket Theater, London, February 1968), and Madame Desmortes in Ring Round the Moon (Haymarket Theater, London, October 1968).

Selected films:

The Profligate (UK, 1917); Tilly of Bloomsbury (UK, 1921); The Triumph of the Rat (UK, 1926); Downhill (UK, 1927); Easy Virtue (UK, 1928); Sally Bishop (UK, 1932); The Love Affair of the Dictator (Loves of a Dictator, UK, 1935); The Crouching Beast (UK, 1935); Tovarich (US, 1937); Fools for Scandal (US, 1938); Garden of the Moon (US, 1938); Secrets of an Actress (US, 1938); Youth Takes a Fling (US, 1938); Hard to Get (US, 1938); Good Girls Go to Paris (US, 1939); Man About Town (US, 1939); Suspicion (US, 1941); Great Day (UK, 1945); Gigi (US, 1958); A Breath of Scandal (US, 1960); Heavens Above! (UK, 1963); The Magic Christian (UK, 1969).

In a career that spanned 60 years, British actress Isabel Jeans was one of England's most versatile and hard-working stage personalities. Born in London in 1891, she made her stage debut in 1909 as Daffodil in Pinkie and the Fairies at His Majesty's Theater. During her early career, she toured the United States with Granville Barker's noted British company. She was also a member the Phoenix Society, a London group founded in 1919 and dedicated to reviving early English plays, many of which, aside from the works of Shakespeare, were seldom produced. For the Phoenix, Jeans appeared as Celia in Ben Jonson's Volpone (1921), Cloe in John Fletcher's The Faithful Shepherdess (1923), and Margery Pinchwife in William Wycherley'sThe Country Wife (1924). She also performed in modern works, including The Rat (1924), by Ivor Novello and Constance Collier , and The Road to Rome (1928), by Robert Sherwood. In 1931, she appeared as Leslie in Counsel's Opinion, written by her second husband Gilbert Wakefield. (An earlier marriage to actor Claude Rains had ended in divorce in 1920.)

Throughout her career, Jeans, who had a particular gift for high comedy, remained in demand for both classic and modern roles. As the years progressed, she made a graceful transition into character roles, including Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals (1967), and Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest (1968), one of her favorite roles. Her last stage appearance was as Madame Desmortes in Ring Round the Moon (1968).

Jeans had a sporadic film career, starring in 1917 with The Profligate. Her American film roles included that of Mrs. Newsham in Suspicion (1941) and Aunt Alicia in Gigi (1957). Jeans made her television debut in "The Confidential Clerk," in July 1955. The actress died in London in September 1985.