Lewis in 1959
December 27, 1916|
Spokane, Washington, U.S.
|Died||November 20, 1968
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||cancer|
|Spouse(s)||Elliott Lewis (m. 1943–58) (divorced)|
Cathy Lewis (December 27, 1916, Spokane, Washington–November 20, 1968) was an American actress remembered best for numerous radio appearances but also noted for making a number of film and television appearances in the last decade of her life.
According to Ron Lackmann's The Encyclopedia of American Radio, Lewis moved from Spokane to Chicago and found work on The First Nighter Program. Other accounts say she first hoped to make it as a singer. Eventually, Lewis moved to Hollywood, and had leading roles with the Pasadena Playhouse in productions of Stage Door, To Quito and Back, and Winterset, appearing with Robert Preston, Victor Mature, Dana Andrews, and Victor Jory. Then came a year's tour with Alexander Woollcott's company in The Man Who Came to Dinner and with Noël Coward's Bitter Sweet.
She met and married radio actor/writer/director Elliott Lewis (they shared the common surname) in 1943. Both Lewises were staples of vintage American radio; radio historians Gerald Nachman and John Dunning have written of their numerous, genre-spanning works in comedy and drama (they were, for example, regulars among what was known as Hollywood's Radio Row group of performers, appearing often---together and separately---on such programs as The Whistler), especially their co-creation of the respected anthology series On Stage and their stewardship (with Elliott Lewis directing and both of the couple acting) of the venerable mystery series Suspense.
But while her husband would often be remembered most for his comic role in The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show (as bumbling buddy Frankie Remley), she would be most identified as the sensibly droll Jane Stacy rooming with scatterbrained Irma Peterson (Marie Wilson) in the 1947–54 radio and television comedy My Friend Irma.
Films and television
In 1940, she had her first screen credit in an episode of the Crime Does Not Pay film series. Most of her film work in the 1940s was in uncredited bit parts, although she was the female lead with Harry Langdon in Double Trouble (1941). She recreated her My Friend Irma role on television for the show's first season before the cameras. However, she did not appear in the two movie adaptations, My Friend Irma (best known for the film debuts of Martin and Lewis) and My Friend Irma Goes West.
She had a supporting role in The Party Crashers (1958), a film now noted as the final screen appearances of troubled legend Frances Farmer and former child star Bobby Driscoll. That same year, Cathy and Elliott Lewis divorced, putting an end to their image as "Mr. and Mrs. Radio." A year later, she starred as half the title of a short-lived bid to bring another radio legend, Fibber McGee and Molly, to television, with Bob Sweeney as Fibber to Lewis' Molly; poor writing and an inability to adapt the radio show's humor to the visual medium (Lewis's portrayal of Molly sometimes came off colder and harsher than the source material) were factors in the show's failure.
By 1961, Lewis played a supporting role in the Spencer Tracy movie The Devil at 4 O'Clock and began a recurring role as George Baxter's haughty sister Deirdre on the television hit, Hazel, which starred another one-time radio presence, Shirley Booth (Miss Duffy in the comedy Duffy's Tavern).
Lewis played a widow courted by two muleskinners (Ken Curtis and Denver Pyle) in the 1964 episode "Graydon's Charge" of the syndicated series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews. In the story line, the Union Army plans one of the last attacks of the American Civil War against a renegade Confederate camp in New Mexico Territory. Graydon (Curtis) agrees with reluctance to send his mules, laden with dynamite into the rival camp. The episode is semi-comedic.
Her final screen appearance was on a 1965 episode of the comedy western, F-Troop. However, she did have one more memorable contribution to make: the voice of Jade, a female spy/adventurer who appeared in two episodes of the original Jonny Quest animated series.
Cathy Lewis died of cancer on November 20, 1968, the ninth anniversary of her father's death.
- Ancestry.com. Social Security Death Index [database on-line]. Provo, Utah, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2009.
- Cathy Lewis, 50, Actress, Is Dead", The New York Times, Nov. 23, 1968, p. 47.
- DeLong, Thomas A. (1996). Radio Stars: An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary of 953 Performers, 1920 through 1960. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-2834-2. P. 165.
- "Graydon's Charge on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Data Base. January 5, 1964. Retrieved August 5, 2015.