Dean Jagger

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Dean Jagger
Dean Jagger in Dangerous Number trailer.jpg
Trailer for Dangerous Number (1937)
Dean Ida Jagger

(1903-11-07)November 7, 1903
DiedFebruary 5, 1991(1991-02-05) (aged 87)
Resting placeLakewood Memorial Park, Hughson, California
Years active1928–1987
Antoinette Lowrance
(m. 1935; div. 1943)

Gloria Ling
(m. 1947; div. 1967)

Etta Mae Norton
(m. 1968)

Dean Jeffries Jagger[1] (November 7, 1903 – February 5, 1991) was an American film, stage and television actor who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Henry King's Twelve O'Clock High (1949).[2]

Early life[edit]

Born Dean Ida Jagger,[3][4] in Columbus Grove[2] or Lima, Ohio,[5][1] he grew up on a farm. He wanted to act and would practice oratory on cows while working on the farm. He later won several oratory competitions. At age 14 he worked as an orderly at a sanatorium.[6]

He dropped out of school several times before finally attending Wabash College. While at Wabash, he was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and played football. He dropped out in his second year, realizing he was not suited to an academic life.[7]

At age 17, he taught all eight grades in an elementary school in the country, before heading to Chicago. He studied at the Conservatory of Drama with Elias Day and through him got a job on the Chautauqua Circuit.[6]


Norman Lloyd, Katherine Emery and Dean Jagger in the Broadway production of Everywhere I Roam (1938)

Early stage appearances[edit]

Jagger studied acting at Chicago's Lyceum Arts Conservatory.[7] He eventually played Young Matt in a production of Shepherd of the Hills on the stage in Chicago. This experience resulted in him deciding to try his luck in New York.[2]

He joined a stock company as Spencer Tracy's replacement.[2] He performed in vaudeville, on the radio and on stage,[2] making his Broadway debut in 1925 in a bit part in a George M. Cohan production.[7]

He was in a play Remote Control in 1928.[8]

Early films[edit]

Jagger visited Los Angeles on a vaudeville show with Irene Rich. While in town he made his film debut in The Woman from Hell (1929) with Mary Astor. "My good notices," he later recalled, "had a reverse effect on the industry, which was suddenly revolutionized by sound pictures. With the one film to my credit, I was considered part of that group of untouchables-silent film stars."[9]

He followed it with Handcuffed (1929). Jagger decided to move into film production, helping raise money to make a feature which ultimately was never released. He returned to New York.[10]

Tobacco Road[edit]

Jagger's big career break came when cast in a lead role in Tobacco Road in 1933. This was a huge hit, and ran until 1941.[11]

Jagger left the show in 1934 to appear in They Shall Not Die which only ran 62 performances.[12]


In April 1934 Jagger signed a contract with Paramount for whom he made You Belong to Me (1934), then College Rhythm (1934), Behold My Wife! (1934), Wings in the Dark (1935), Home on the Range (1935), Car 99 (1935), People Will Talk (1935), and Men Without Names (1935).[6][8]

Paramount gave him a lead role in a B Western Wanderer of the Wasteland (1935). He was back to support parts in It's a Great Life (1935), Woman Trap (1936), and 13 Hours by Air (1936).

Victor Halperin borrowed him to play the lead role in Revolt of the Zombies (1936). He went over to 20th Century Fox for Pepper (1936) and Star for a Night (1936) then went to MGM for Under Cover of Night (1937).[13]

Columbia did Woman in Distress (1937) at Columbia, and Dangerous Number (1937) and Song of the City (1937) at MGM.

Jagger went to Republic for Escape by Night (1937) and Exiled to Shanghai (1937).

Jagger played Michael Drops In in summer sock and returned to Broadway to star in Missouri Legend (1938) which ran 48 performances.[14] There were also short runs for Everywhere I Roam (1938–39), Brown Danube (1939), Farm of Three Echoes (1939–40) with Ethel Barrymore and Unconquered (1940) by Ayn Rand.[15]

Brigham Young[edit]

Jagger made his breakthrough with his portrayal of Brigham Young in Brigham Young (1940) at 20th Century Fox, alongside Tyrone Power for director Henry Hathaway. He was cast on the basis of his performance in Missouri Legend.[16] According to George D. Pyper, a technical consultant on the film who had personally known Brigham Young, Jagger not only resembled Young, he also spoke like him and had many of his mannerisms.[16] Thirty-two years later, in 1972 he was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[17]

Fox signed him to a long term contract and put him in Western Union (1941) for Fritz Lang. He was announced for a Biblical film, The Great Commandment and a biopic of Lewis and Clark with Randolph Scott but neither was made.[18]

Instead Jagger did The Men in Her Life (1941) for Columbia, Valley of the Sun (1942) at RKO, and The Omaha Trail (1942) at MGM.

King Brothers[edit]

Jagger had a rare lead role in I Escaped from the Gestapo (1943) for the King Brothers, then went back to support roles for The North Star (1943) for Sam Goldwyn. The King Brothers gave him top billing again with When Strangers Marry (1944). Jagger did Alaska (1944) at Monogram who distributed to King films.

Jagger went to England to appear in I Live in Grosvenor Square (1945) with Anna Neagle and Rex Harrison. He had good roles in Sister Kenny (1946) with Rosalind Russell and Pursued (1947) with Robert Mitchum.

He did Driftwood (1947) for Republic and started appearing on TV shows like The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, Studio One and The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre.[19]

Jagger returned to Broadway for Dr Social (1948) but it only had a short run. He had the lead role in 'C'-Man (1949).

Twelve O'Clock High[edit]

Jagger received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Twelve O'Clock High (1949), made at Fox for director Henry King. In the film, he played the retread World War I veteran, middle-aged adjutant Major/Lt. Col. Harvey Stovall, who acts as an advisor to the commander, General Savage (Gregory Peck).

Jagger stayed a supporting actor though, appearing in Sierra (1950) with Audie Murphy at Universal, Dark City (1950) for Hal Wallis, Rawhide (1951) with Hathaway and Power at Fox, and Warpath (1951) at Paramount with Edmond O'Brien and directed by Byron Haskin.

Jagger had a lead role in the notorious anti-Communist film My Son John (1952) at Paramount. He was in Denver and Rio Grande (1952) again with Haskin and O'Brien, and episodes of Gulf Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre, Cavalcade of America, Schlitz Playhouse, and Studio 57.

He appeared in the biblical epic The Robe (1953) as the weaver Justus of Cana and was in Private Hell 36 (1954).

He played the retired Army major general Tom Waverly honored by Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) in the musical White Christmas (1954), and an impotent local sheriff in the modern Western Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), starring Spencer Tracy for MGM. He was also in The Eternal Sea (1955) at Republic, It's a Dog's Life (1955) at MGM, On the Threshold of Space (1956) at Fox, and Red Sundown (1956) at Universal.

For the 1956 British science-fiction film X the Unknown, Jagger refused to work with director Joseph Losey because Losey was on the Hollywood blacklist. Losey came off the project after a few days of shooting and was replaced by Leslie Norman. An alternative version is that Losey was replaced due to illness.[20][21] Half the budget, $30,000, went to Jagger's fee.[22]

Jagger was in The 20th Century Fox Hour, Three Brave Men (1956), The Great Man (1956) (second billed to José Ferrer), Zane Grey Theatre, Bernadine (1957) with Pat Boone, an episode of Playhouse 90, Forty Guns (1957) for Sam Fuller, and The Proud Rebel (1958) with Alan Ladd and directed by Michael Curtiz.

Jagger also portrayed the father of Elvis Presley's character in 1958's King Creole, directed by Curtiz.

Jagger was in The Nun's Story (1959), playing the father of Audrey Hepburn, and Cash McCall (1960) and was the traveling manager for an evangelist played by Jean Simmons in the acclaimed 1960 drama Elmer Gantry. He did two failed pilots, including The House on K Street.

In the 1960s Jagger increasingly worked on television appearing in The Twilight Zone ("Static"), Sunday Showcase, Our American Heritage, General Electric Theater, Dr. Kildare, The Christophers, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He also appeared in the films Parrish (1961), The Honeymoon Machine (1961) and Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962).

Mr. Novak[edit]

James Franciscus and Jagger from the television series Mr. Novak

Jagger achieved success in the television series Mr. Novak (1963–65) receiving Emmy Award nominations for his role in 1964 and 1965, as well as the California Teachers Association's Communications Award, along with star James Franciscus, in 1963 for his portrayal of high school principal Albert Vane.[5] However, even before he left the show to have a major medical operation, he was less than happy with the series, clashing repeatedly with the writers and directors[5] and describing "the Mr. Novak company" afterwards as "a mishmash of unbelievable amateurishness."[23]

"It is unforgivable how bad TV is today," he said in 1965. "The people doing it have succumbed to the cliché that there is no time to be good in TV, or that we doing it are lucky to get one good episode out of three. Why?"[9]

Jagger officially left the show in December 1964 because of an ulcer.[24]

Jagger's late 60s appearances included episodes of The F.B.I. and The Fugitive, as well as films First to Fight (1967), Firecreek (1968), Day of the Evil Gun (1968), Smith! (1968) with Glenn Ford, The Lonely Profession (1969), Tiger by the Tail (1970), The Kremlin Letter (1970), Men at Law, The Brotherhood of the Bell (1970), again with Ford, and an episode of The Name of the Game.

He had a semi-regular role on the series Matt Lincoln (1970) as the father of the title character, and parts in Vanishing Point (1971), Bonanza, and Incident in San Francisco (1971).[25]

In 1971, Jagger appeared on The Partridge Family. He played a prospector named Charlie in the Christmas episode "Don't Bring Your Guns to Town, Santa".

Later career[edit]

Jagger was in The Glass House (1972), Columbo, Kung Fu (Jagger appeared as Caine's grandfather, who wants little to do with him, but starts Caine on his series-long search for his half-brother Danny), Alias Smith and Jones, Medical Center, The Stranger (1973), The Delphi Bureau, The Lie (1973), Shaft, I Heard the Owl Call My Name (1973), Love Story, The Hanged Man (1974), The Great Lester Boggs (1974), So Sad About Gloria (1975), The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case (1976), Harry O, Hunter, End of the World (1977), and Evil Town (1977).

He played the snydicate boss in Game of Death (1978) as the nemesis of Bruce Lee.

Jagger's later appearances included The Waltons, Gideon's Trumpet (1980) and Alligator (1980).

He won a Daytime Emmy award for a guest appearance in the religious series This Is the Life.[2]

His last role was as Dr. David Domedion in the St. Elsewhere Season Three finale "Cheers" in 1985.

Dean Jagger has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1523 Vine Street for his contribution to motion pictures.

Personal life and death[edit]

When Jagger tried to marry his second wife, Gloria Ling, in 1947, they were denied a marriage license in California due to a state law "forbidding unions between Caucasians and Mongolians [sic]"; Ling's father had been born in China.[26] Within two days the couple had flown to Albuquerque, and were married under "New Mexico's more liberal statute".[27]

In later life, Dean Jagger suffered from heart disease; he died in his sleep in Santa Monica, California. He was 87, and was buried in the small town of Hughson, California, at Lakewood Memorial Park. He was survived by his third wife, Etta, a daughter and two stepsons.[2]

Jagger joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints later in his life.[28]

Complete filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Dean Jagger". Variety. 10 February 1991.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Peter B. Flint (6 February 1991). "Dean Jagger, actor, 87, Is Dead; Versatile Figure in Films and TV". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Joseph F. Clarke (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 90.
  4. ^ Paul Michael; James Robert Parish (1969). The American Movies Reference Book: The Sound Era. Prentice-Hall. p. 138.
  5. ^ a b c Myrna Oliver (6 February 1991). "Oscar-Winning Character Actor Dean Jagger Dies". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ a b c Dean Jagger Got Start Denouncing 'Demon Rum' Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 26 Feb 1950: D1.
  7. ^ a b c "Former Teacher Dean Jagger Returning to 'School'". Hazleton Standard-Speaker. 15 June 1963 – via open access
  8. ^ a b Lee Tracy Awarded Long-Term Contract by Paramount Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 26 Apr 1934: 15
  9. ^ a b Oscar-Winning Character Actor Dean Jagger Dies: [Home Edition] Oliver, Myrna. Los Angeles Times 6 Feb 1991: 1.
  10. ^ Road to Fame Often Bids a Dreary Detour The Washington Post 27 Jan 1935: A1.
  11. ^ Tobacco Road at the Internet Broadway Database
  12. ^ They Shall Not Die at the Internet Broadway Database
  13. ^ Zane Grey's 'Western Union' and Dean Jagger: Hollywood Letter By Frank Daugherty Special to The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor15 Nov 1940: 8.
  14. ^ Missouri Legend at the Internet Broadway Database
  15. ^ ALLEGORY OF FARM WILL OPEN TONIGHT New York Times 9 Dec 1938: 14.
  16. ^ a b Church News, July 7, 2003.[full citation needed]
  17. ^ "Dean Jagger (1903-1991) Actor". Famous Mormons. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
  18. ^ Dean Jagger Wins Plum Role in 'Western Union' Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 23 July 1940: 13.
  19. ^ Radio and Television: Dean Jagger and Margaret Sullavan to Co-Star in 'The Storm' Over CBS Video Sunday New York Times 3 Nov 1948: 54.
  20. ^ "R U Sitting Comfortably - Dean Jagger". Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  21. ^ Sanjek, David. "Cold, Cold Heart: Joseph Losey's The Damned and the Compensations of Genre". senses of cinema. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  22. ^ Marcus Hearn & Alan Barnes, The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films, Titan Books, 2007 p. 18
  23. ^ Dick Kleiner (23 May 1965). "Dean Jagger Is Recovering From 'Novak'". Waco Tribune-Herald – via open access
  24. ^ Dean Jagger to Give Up His Role in 'Mr. Novak': Recurrence of Ulcer Forcing Actor to Drop Portrayal in Series on N.B.C.-TV By VAL ADAMS. New York Times 03 Dec 1964: 90.
  25. ^ Dean Jagger Signed Los Angeles Times 3 Nov 1970: f14.
  26. ^ "Film Actor, Secretary Denied License to Wed". Pottstown Mercury. 25 January 1947 – via open access
  27. ^ "Miles Kangun performed marriage ceremony for Dean Jagger & Gloria Ling; Actor, Balked by California Law, Weds Pretty Part Chinese Fiance Here". Albuquerque, New Mexico: Albuquerque Journal. 26 January 1947. p. 1 col.1-3. Retrieved 22 November 2020 – via [...] after hectic three days that began with an airplane trip from New York to Los Angeles Thursday and wound up with a marriage ceremony here at Bernalillo County court house a half hour after their arrival in mid-afternoon. Because Miss Gloria Jean Ling, the bride, is partly of Chinese ancestry, the couple had been refused a license in California, so retraced part of their journey by TWA in order to be married under New Mexico's more liberal statute. open access
  28. ^ D’Arc, James Vincent. "The Conversion of Hollywood's 'Brigham Young'". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 22 November 2020.

External links[edit]