Buffalo, New York
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Gloria Jean Schoonover was born on April 14, 1926 in Buffalo, New York. Her family moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania shortly after that, and this is where Gloria spent the early part of her childhood. Her father owned a music store, while her mother, who had been a bareback rider in a circus, took care of Gloria and her three siblings. Gloria`s singing ability was discovered at a young age, and by age five she was singing in the Scranton area. At age twelve, Gloria was taken to an audition by Universal director Joe Pasternak, who was looking for a new child singer to star in a movie. Gloria won the audition over many other girls and she and her mother were soon on their way to Hollywood. Gloria`s first film, in 1939, was "The Under-Pup", a typical Little Miss Fix-it story. While filming, Gloria had to spend three hours per day in a classroom. Her classmates at the Universal school included Donald O`Connor and Elizabeth Taylor. Although Gloria had no acting experience, she took to her role well, impressing the studio and other workers. The movie, made in 1940, was a mild success, helped in part by a good review from New York Times critic Frank Nugent. Happy with their young coloratura soprano, Universal borrowed Bing Crosby from Paramount for her next picture: "If I Had My Way." The movie also had mild success. Her next movie, "A Little Bit of Heaven", was arguably Gloria`s best. Surrounded by veteran actors such as Eugene Pallette, C. Aubrey Smith, Bob Cummings, a young Robert Stack, and Nan Grey, Gloria sang her way into the hearts of moviegoers everywhere. In reality, Gloria was hired to make it easier for Universal to handle studio soprano star Deanna Durbin, who had a reputation for being hard to manage, and Durbin was naturally jealous of Gloria`s rising star. So to placate Durbin, Gloria wasn`t given major roles anymore. Her next picture,, "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break," with W.C. Fields in 1941, is the one in which she is most seen today. Fields was as irascible in real life as he was in his movies, and on many days, the studio had to shut down the set by mid afternoon because Fields had gotten too drunk to remember his lines. But he was always polite to Gloria and tried to mind his manners while she was around, and he even invited her and her mother over to his house for dinner one night. In 1942, Gloria made the transition from Miss Fix-It type pictures to those that would appeal to the teenagers. "What`s Cooking", "Get Hep to Love", "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", and "It Comes Up Love," were all shot in 1942. "Mr. Big," and "Moonlight in Vermont" followed in 1943. All of the above were stock B films which appealed to teenagers of the time. Gloria had a very minor part in the war picture, "Follow the Boys", in 1944. After that came a rather good picture "Follow My Rhythm" with Mel Torme, who became a close friend. Then, in "Ghost Catchers", she was teamed with popular comedians Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson, who were just as wild and crazy in real life as they were in their pictures. "Reckless Age" was next, the first movie in which Gloria played a more mature role. Gloria was to star in one of four episodes of the Julien Duvivier`s "Flesh and Fantasy," alongside such stars as Edward G. Robinson, Charles Boyer, and Barbara Stanwyck. But the movie was deemed to be too long, and Gloria`s segment was cut out. It ended up as the movie "Destiny", with much illogical content added to it so that the movie could stand on its own. Gloria`s acting as a blind girl was given rave reviews, but the movie itself lacked substance and never achieved any status. Gloria did three more films at Universal after that: "I`ll Remember April", "River Gang", and "Easy to Look at". At this point, she decided, upon the advice of her agent, to not renew her contract at Universal, opting instead to go on tour. The tour did not work out as well as expected, and Gloria returned to the Hollywood in 1947. But it was as though nobody knew her anymore. Universal informed her that they did not need her services. Groucho Marx got her a role in his picture "Copacabana", in which she got to sing one song. Two mediocre pictures, "I Surrender, Dear" and "Manhattan Angel", followed this. Then she appeared in "An Old Fashioned Girl," an excellent and underrated movie. The rather awful "There`s a Girl in My Heart" followed. Gloria went to Joe Pasternak, who was now with MGM, and who had been the director of many of her Universal musicals. But Pasternak said that he had too many singers already. She appeared in "Air Strike" with Richard Denning, but her part was cut out of the final release. While she appeared in guest spots on TV, this was not enough to pay the bills. At this point, a dispute with the IRS cost her most of her savings, so she was forced to find work. Jerry Lewis found her working as the hostess in a restaurant and gave her a part, at a good salary, in his upcoming picture "The Ladies` Man". In this picture, Gloria was supposed to sing a duet with Helen Traubel, among other songs, but it was cut out, and she was barely visible among the extras. Gloria married shortly after "The Ladies` Man", and while that marriage was brief, it did produce a son, Angelo. She appeared in a movie known as "The Madcaps", which was never released, and also is supposedly credited with a movie of some kind, "Tobo the Clown". She went to work for Redken (a cosmetics firm) shortly after, where she worked until her retirement. Gloria Jean is retired and lives in Canoga Park, California, where she`s said to be negotiating with book publishers for the story of her life. It would be an interesting story, indeed.
Full Name at Birth
Gloria Jean Schoonover
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Gloria Jean (born April 14, 1926) is an American actress and singer who starred or co-starred in 26 feature films between 1939 and 1959, as well as making numerous radio, television, stage, and nightclub appearances.
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