Jean Arthur Star of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Always Waited Weeks After The Premiere To See Her Own Films
I doubt that when the name Jean Arthur is mentioned to film buffs, the words sex symbol come to mind. That is why this publicity photo of Jean Arthur from the 1941 film The Devil and Miss Jones would surprise any fan of the star.
This type of photo (sans bathing suit) would have been more appropriate for Georgina Spelvin who 30 years later starred in an x-rated title take-off called The Devil In Miss Jones.
In this photograph Jean Arthur is looking very fit at age 41.
The star rarely gave interviews. When she did, a good amount of misinformation would be included courtesy of Miss Arthur. In 1923 after her first film she told the press she was 17-years-old, alluding that she was born in 1906. She told one interviewer in 1930 that her parents were Mr. and Mrs. King Arthur and she was born in New York City on October 17. Her favorite sports were basketball and ice skating.
In fact Jean Arthur was born Gladys Georgianna Greene on October 17, 1900 in Plattsburgh NY about 20 miles from the Canadian border. Her parents were Hubert and Johanna Greene. Jean Arthur’s favorite exercise was horseback riding.
She broke into films with a bit part in Cameo Kirby in 1923 with producer William Fox. For the next six years Arthur made dozens of silent films and began to get noticed by movie fans and directors. When talkies arrived in the late 1920s, Jean was able to make the transition. Jean’s distinctive throaty, nasal voice was as unique as her looks.
Atypical of Hollywood stars Jean Arthur disdained publicity, rarely went out on the town, loved reading books and lived modestly with her parents. Her companions were her dogs rather than the “Hollywood crowd.” Noise, confusion, crowds and glitter were her aversions according to a mid-1930s profile.
Jean Arthur made three films with director Frank Capra, Mr Deeds Goes To Town, You Can’t Take It With You and the classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with James Stewart in the title role.
After Mr. Smith was released, Jean told Lee Rogers, movie columnist of the Atlanta Constitution that she had not yet seen the completed picture. Jean then startled Rogers by admitting, ” I never see them until they play the neighborhood theaters because I feel I get a better audience reaction there.”
Jean Arthur was always longing to have a starring role where she was not the “stooge for a man,” Arthur told Rogers, “I’ve never had a great role.”
For someone who despised acting so much she kept making great films. But it took a toll on her. Supposedly Arthur would literally throw up due to terrific stage fright before appearing on the set. In 1938 Hollywood columnist Sheila Graham announced that Arthur had permanently retired from film-making due to “nervous exhaustion.”
Apparently well rested during 1938, Arthur returned to make ten films from 1938 through 1944.
After 1944, Jean Arthur made only two more films, both memorable, A Foreign Affair 1948 and the western classic Shane 1953. Arthur remained away from the entertainment field for the remainder of her life with two brief mid-1960s exceptions. There was one guest television appearance on Gunsmoke in 1965 and a short lived self-titled television series in 1966 that lasted 11 weeks.
Jean Arthur was married in 1932 to real estate man and future film producer Frank Ross Jr. The two divorced in 1949 and the union produced no children.
Jean Arthur died in Carmel, CA on June 19, 1991 at the age of 90.