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Jean Arthur Introduction
Jean Arthur (October 17, 1900 – June 19, 1991) was an American actress and a major film star of the 1930s and 1940s. She remains arguably the epitome of the female screwball comedy actress. As critic James Harvey wrote in his recounting of the era, "No one was more closely identified with the screwball comedy than Jean Arthur. So much was she part of it, so much was her star personality defined by it, that the screwball style itself seems almost unimaginable without her."(Jean) Arthur has been called "the quintessential comedic leading lady."
Jean is perhaps best known for her feature roles in three Frank Capra films: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), You Can't Take It With You (1938), and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), films that championed the everyday heroine. Her last performance was the memorable—and distinctly non–comedic—role as the rancher's wife in George Stevens' Shane (1953).
Early career: Fox Finds a Gem
Jean was discoverd by Fox Film Studios while she was doing commercial modeling in New York City in the early 1920s, Arthur debuted in the silent film Cameo Kirby (1923), directed by John Ford, and made a few low-budget silent westerns and short comedies. She was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1929, but she became stuck in ingénue roles. It was her distinctive, throaty voice – in addition to some stage training on Broadway in the early 1930s – that helped make her a star in the talkies.
Jean's Distinctive Voice
In 1935, at age 34, she starred opposite Edward G. Robinson in the gangster farce The Whole Town's Talking, also directed by Ford, and her popularity began to rise. By then, her hair, naturally brunette throughout the silent film portion of her career, was bleached blonde and would stay that way. Like Claudette Colbert, she was famous for maneuvering to be photographed and filmed almost exclusively from the left; both actresses felt that their left was their best side, and worked hard to keep it in the fore. In fact, producer Harry Cohn is reputed to have described Jean Arthur's imbalanced profile as "one side angel, the other side horse."
Breaking Into Superstardom
The turning point in Jean Arthur's career came when she was chosen by director Frank Capra to star in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Capra had spotted her in a daily rush from the film Whirlpool in 1934 and convinced Columbia Studios head Harry Cohn to sign her for his next film as a tough newspaperwoman who falls in love with a country bumpkin millionaire.
Jean would co-star in three celebrated 1930s Capra films: her role opposite Gary Cooper in 1936; Mr. Deeds Goes to Town would undeniably her a major star, while her fame was cemented with You Can't Take It With You (1938) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in 1939, both with James Stewart. She was re-teamed with Cooper, playing Calamity Jane in Cecil B. DeMille's The Plainsman (1936), and appeared as a working girl, her typical role, in Mitchell Leisen's 1937 screwball comedy Easy Living opposite Ray Milland.
In The Doghouse
Jean continued to star in films such as Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings in 1939, with love interest Cary Grant, 1942's The Talk of the Town, directed by George Stevens (also with Grant), and again for Stevens as a government clerk in 1943's The More the Merrier, for which Jean Arthur was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress (losing to Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette). As a result of being in the doghouse with studio boss Harry Cohn, her fee for The Talk of the Town (1942) was only $50,000 while her male co-stars Grant and Ronald Colman received upwards of $100,000 each. Arthur remained Columbia's top star until the mid-1940s, when she left the studio and Rita Hayworth took over as the studio's reigning queen. Stevens famously called her "one of the greatest comediennes the screen has ever seen", while Capra credited her as "my favorite actress".
Retirement from acting
Arthur "retired" when her contract with Columbia Pictures expired in 1944. She reportedly ran through the studio's streets, shouting "I'm free, I'm free!" For the next several years, she turned down virtually all film offers, the two exceptions being Billy Wilder's A Foreign Affair (1948), in which she played a congresswoman and rival of Marlene Dietrich, and as a homesteader's wife in the classic Western Shane (1953), which turned out to be the biggest box-office hit of her career. The latter was her final film, and the only color film she appeared in.
Marriage to Julian Anker was annulled after 1 day. After retiring from films she taught Drama at Vassar. Was a leading contender for the coveted role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. Allegedly took her stage name from two of her greatest heroes: Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) and King Arthur. Turned down Donna Reed's role in It's a Wonderful Life (1946) because she didn't want to work with James Stewart again.
Jean Arthur on the Web
Download The Talk of the Town For Ipod | Vina Ogden Actors: Cary Grant: Leopold Dilg – Joseph Jean Arthur: Miss Nora Shelley Ronald Colman: Professor Michael Lightcap Edgar Buchanan. Animal Life;. The Talk of the Town (1942) – Full cast and crew Director: George ...
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