North in a mid-1950s publicity photo
|Born||Dawn Shirley Crang (later Bethel)
January 17, 1932
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||November 4, 2005
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Complications following surgery|
|Occupation||Actress, singer, dancer|
|Spouse(s)||Fred Bessire (1948–1953; divorced)
John "Bud" Freeman (1955–1956; divorced)
Dr. Gerhardt Sommer (1958–1963; divorced)
Phillip Alan Norman (2003–2005; her death)
Dawn Shirley Crang Bethel (January 17, 1932 – November 4, 2005), known as Sheree North, was an American film and television actress, dancer, and singer. North rose to prominence as Twentieth Century-Fox's alternative to Marilyn Monroe, upon signing with the studio in 1954.
She starred in How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955) and The Lieutenant Wore Skirts (1956); however, the studio soon lost interest in promoting her and assigned her roles in B-movies. After her release from Fox in 1958, North's film career declined. During the 1960s and 70s, she appeared in several television guest spots, including Gunsmoke, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. In the 90s, she appeared in two episodes of Seinfeld. She also appeared in several Broadway productions throughout her career. North died of complications from surgery in November 2005.
North was born as Dawn Shirley Crang in Los Angeles, California, on January 17, 1932, the daughter of June Shoard and Richard Crang; following her mother's remarriage to Edward Bethel, she became known as Dawn Shirley Bethel. She began dancing in USO shows during World War II at age ten. At fifteen, she married Fred Bessire; she had a child at sixteen. She continued dancing in clubs under the stage name Shirley Mae Bessire.
North made her film debut as one of the many club members in Excuse My Dust (1951). She was then spotted by a choreographer performing at the Macayo Club in Santa Monica, and was cast as a chorus girl in the 1953 film Here Come the Girls, starring Bob Hope. Around that time, she adopted the stage name Sheree North. She would then make her Broadway debut in the musical Hazel Flagg, for which she won a Theatre World Award. She reprised her role in the film version, Living It Up (1954), starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. In early 1954, she appeared in a live TV version of Cole Porter's Anything Goes on The Colgate Comedy Hour with Ethel Merman, Frank Sinatra and Bert Lahr.
In 1954, North signed a four-year contract with Twentieth Century-Fox. The studio had big plans for her, hoping to mold her as a replacement for the studio's leading female star, Marilyn Monroe. Fox tested North for two of their upcoming productions, The Girl in Pink Tights and There's No Business Like Show Business–two films that had been offered to Monroe–while North was wearing Monroe's own studio wardrobe. After her screen tests, however, North wasn't cast in either film.
In March 1954, North had a brush with scandal when it was revealed that she had earlier danced in a bikini in an 8 mm erotic film. Fox capitalized on the publicity as the studio previously had with Monroe's nude calendar posing in 1952.
The following year North won the lead role opposite Betty Grable in How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955), a role that was rejected by Marilyn Monroe. Media attention resulted in North's appearing on the cover of Life magazine with the cover line "Sheree North Takes Over From Marilyn Monroe". Film historians, then and now, cite North's electrically-charged dancing to "Shake, Rattle and Roll," as the film's most memorable scene.
North received mixed reviews for her performance in How to Be Very, Very Popular; nevertheless, Fox tried to improve North's screen image. The studio secured her guest appearances on some well-known television series, including What's My Line? and Shower of Stars among others.
In 1956, North was cast opposite Tom Ewell in the Technicolor comedy film The Lieutenant Wore Skirts. Telling the story of a man's adventures after his wife is drafted, the film is often compared with 1955's The Seven Year Itch. Receiving mixed critical acclaim, the film was a box office success. North's career shot to greater heights, and she became a more important contract player on the Fox lot.
North would next have a supporting role in The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956), a big-budgeted musical, opposite Gordon MacRae, Dan Dailey, and Ernest Borgnine. The film earned good reviews and moderate success, but North soon found herself forgotten by Fox after the studio signed blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield to a contract and starting focusing on promoting her instead of North.
In 1958, North had supporting roles in the war-time drama In Love and War with Robert Wagner and Dana Wynter, and in the musical comedy Mardi Gras, with Pat Boone and Tommy Sands. Both films drew only mild critical acclaim, and were only moderately successful at the box office.
After North's contract with Fox ended in 1958, she continued to act in movies, while frequently having guest spots on television shows such as Gunsmoke, The Virginian, Breaking Point, and Ben Casey. In the 1960s she returned to Broadway in the Harold Rome musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale, which featured Elliott Gould and introduced Barbra Streisand.
North's next role was the lead in the low-budget science-fiction film Destination Inner Space in 1966. The film was barely released to theaters, in 1966, and has rarely been seen since. In 1969, she appeared in The Trouble with Girls starring Elvis Presley.
Some of her other notable performances were in Don Siegel's Charley Varrick (1973) and another crime film, The Outfit (also 1973). She appeared briefly as John Wayne's long-lost love in the actor's final film, The Shootist (1976). She had supporting roles in two Charles Bronson movies, Breakout (also starring Robert Duvall and Randy Quaid) in 1975 and Telefon (featuring Donald Pleasence and Lee Remick) in 1977. In 1980, she played Marilyn Monroe's mother in the made-for-TV film Marilyn: The Untold Story.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, North appeared in guest spots on Hawaii Five-O, The Streets of San Francisco, Matlock, Magnum, P.I., The Mary Tyler Moore Show—in which she played Lou Grant's girlfriend—and The Golden Girls, in which she played Blanche Devereaux's sister, Virginia, in two episodes.
In 1983, she appeared in the ensemble cast of the Steven Bochco series Bay City Blues, starring Michael Nouri, Dennis Franz, Pat Corley, and Sharon Stone. The hour-long drama series aired eight episodes.
North was married four times and had two children. In 1948, at age 16, she married Fred Bessire, a draftsman, with whom she had a daughter, Dawn (born April 1949). The marriage ended in 1953. In 1955, she married television writer Bud Freeman, and the marriage ended a year later. Her third marriage was to psychologist Gerhardt Sommer, with whom she had another daughter, Erica Eve. The marriage with Sommer ended in divorce in 1963.
- Hazel Flagg (February 11, 1953 – September 19, 1953)
- I Can Get It for You Wholesale (March 22, 1962 – December 8, 1962)
- The Glass Menagerie (Laguna-Moulton Playhouse – January 3, 2000)
- Excuse My Dust (1951) (uncredited)
- Here Come the Girls (1953) (uncredited)
- Living It Up (1954)
- The Girl in Pink Tights (1954) (uncompleted)
- How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955)
- The Lieutenant Wore Skirts (1956)
- The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956)
- The Way to the Gold (1957)
- No Down Payment (1957)
- In Love and War (1958)
- Mardi Gras (1958)
- Destination Inner Space (1966)
- Madigan (1968)
- The Gypsy Moths (1969)
- The Trouble with Girls (1969)
- Lawman (1971)
- The Organization (1971)
- Charley Varrick (1973)
- The Outfit (1973)
- Breakout (1975)
- Survival (1976)
- The Shootist (1976)
- Telefon (1977)
- Rabbit Test (1978)
- Only Once in a Lifetime (1979)
- Maniac Cop (1988)
- Cold Dog Soup (1990)
- Defenseless (1991)
- Susan's Plan (1998)
- The Bing Crosby Show (as herself, CBS, January 3, 1954)
- The Colgate Comedy Hour (one episode, 1954)
- Shower of Stars (one episode, 1954)
- What's My Line? (as herself, one episode, 1955)
- Playhouse 90 (one episode, 1957)
- The Witness (one episode, 1961)
- The Untouchables (one episode, 1963)
- Gunsmoke (one episode, 1963)
- The Eleventh Hour (one episode, 1963)
- Breaking Point (two episodes, 1963)
- The Great Adventure (one episode, 1964)
- Ben Casey (two episodes, 1963–1964)
- The Greatest Show on Earth (one episode, 1964)
- Burke's Law (three episodes, 1963–1965)
- The Loner (one episode, 1965)
- The Virginian (two episodes, 1964–1966)
- Run for Your Life (one episode, 1966)
- The Big Valley (one episode, 1966)
- The Iron Horse (one episode, 1966)
- Code Name: Heraclitus (1967)
- Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre (three episodes, 1965–1967)
- The Fugitive (two episodes, 1965–1967)
- Mannix (one episode, 1968)
- Here Come the Brides (one episode, 1968)
- Then Came Bronson (one episode, 1969)
- My Friend Tony (one episode, 1969)
- The Name of the Game (one episode, 1970)
- The Most Deadly Game (one episode, 1970)
- The Interns (one episode, 1971)
- Vanished (1971)
- The Smith Family (one episode, 1971)
- Alias Smith and Jones (one episode, 1972)
- Rolling Man (1972)
- Cannon (one episode, 1972)
- Jigsaw (one episode, 1972)
- Trouble Comes to Town (1973)
- McMillan & Wife (one episode, 1973)
- Snatched (1973)
- Kung Fu (one episode, 1973)
- Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law (one episode, 1973)
- Hawkins (one episode, 1973)
- The Streets of San Francisco (one episode, 1973)
- Maneater (1973)
- Key West (1973)
- Hec Ramsey (one episode, 1974)
- Winter Kill (1974)
- Kojak (two episodes, 1974)
- Hawaii Five-O (one episode, 1974)
- Barnaby Jones (one episode, 1974)
- Wide World Mystery (one episode, 1974)
- The Whirlwind (1974)
- Movin' On (two episodes, 1974)
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show (two episodes, 1974–1975)
- A Shadow in the Streets (1975)
- Breakout (1975)
- Medical Center (three episodes, 1971–1975)
- Big Eddie (1975)
- Marcus Welby, M.D. (one episode, 1976)
- Most Wanted (1976)
- Family (one episode, 1976)
- Baretta (one episode, 1977)
- Fantasy Island (one episode, 1977)
- Future Cop (one episode, 1977)
- Westside Medical (two episodes, 1977)
- Hallmark Hall of Fame (one episode, 1977)
- The Night They Took Miss Beautiful (1977)
- A Real American Hero (1978)
- Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill (1979)
- Women in White (1979)
- Portrait of a Stripper aka The Secret Life of Susie Hanson (1979)
- Archie Bunker's Place (two episodes, 1979)
- A Christmas for Boomer (1979)
- Marilyn: The Untold Story (1980)
- I'm a Big Girl Now (1980)
- Legs (1983)
- Bay City Blues (four episodes, 1983)
- Magnum, P.I. (one episode, 1984)
- Scorned and Swindled (1984)
- Trapper John, M.D. (one episode, 1985)
- ABC Afterschool Special (one episode, 1986)
- Matlock (two episodes, 1986)
- Murder, She Wrote (one episode, 1987)
- Jake Spanner, Private Eye (1989)
- Freddy's Nightmares (one episode, 1989)
- Hunter (one episode, 1989)
- The Golden Girls (two episodes, 1985–1989)
- Dead on the Money (1991)
- Seinfeld (two episodes, 1995–1998)
Awards and honors
- Won: For performance in Hazel Flagg (1953)
- Nominated: Outstanding Lead Actress for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series, Marcus Welby, M.D. episode "How Do You Know What Hurts Me?" (1976)
- Nominated: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Archie Bunker's Place (1980)
- Sheree North Obituary
- Theatre World 2005–2006
- "Sheree North". FilmBug.Com. Retrieved August 12, 2011.
- Hayward, Anthony (2005-11-22). "Obituary: Sheree North". Independent, The (London). Retrieved 2011-01-08.
- "Anything Goes! on DVD". Television Academy Foundation's Archive of American Television.
- Brown, Gene (1995). Movie Time: A Chronology of Hollywood and the Movie Industry from Its Beginnings to the Present (paperbackISBN 0-02-860429-6.). New York: MacMillan. p. 222.
- Sheree North at Variety.com
- Oliver, Myrna (2005-11-05). "Sheree North; blond bombshell recast career with character roles". The Boston Globe.
- Sheree North at Filmreference.com
- Sheree North at the Internet Movie Database
- Sheree North at the Internet Broadway Database
- Sheree North at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Sheree North Tiger dance at YouTube