Jean Rogers in The War Against Mrs. Hadley (1942)
|Born||Eleanor Dorothy Lovegren
March 25, 1916
Belmont, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||February 24, 1991
Sherman Oaks, California, U.S.
|Notable work||Flash Gordon, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars|
(m.1943–1970; his death)
Jean Rogers (March 25, 1916 – February 24, 1991) was an American actress who starred in serial films in the 1930s and low–budget feature films in the 1940s as a leading lady. She is best remembered for playing Dale Arden in the serials Flash Gordon (1936) and Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938).
Rogers was born Eleanor Dorothy Lovegren in Belmont, Massachusetts. Her father was an immigrant from Malmö, Sweden. She had hoped to study art, but in 1933 she won a beauty contest sponsored by Paramount Pictures that led to her career in Hollywood. Rogers starred in several serials for Universal between 1935 and 1938, including Ace Drummond and Flash Gordon.
Rogers was assigned the role of Dale Arden in the first two Flash Gordon serials. Buster Crabbe and Rogers were perfectly cast as the hero and heroine in the first serial Flash Gordon, and Rogers' beauty, long blonde hair, and revealing costumes endeared her to moviegoers. The evil ruler "Ming the Merciless" (Charles B. Middleton) lusted after her, and Flash Gordon was forced to rescue her from one situation after another. While filming the series in 1937, her costume caught fire and she suffered burns on her hands. Co-star Crabbe smothered the fire by wrapping a blanket on her.
In the first serial, Dale competed with Princess Aura (Priscilla Lawson) for Flash Gordon's attention. Rogers' character was fragile, small-chested, diminutive, and totally dependent on Flash Gordon for her survival; Lawson's Princess Aura was domineering, independent, voluptuous, conniving, sly, ambitious, and determined to make Flash her own. The competition for Flash Gordon's attention is one of the highlights of the film. In the second serial, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, Jean Rogers sported a totally different look. She had dark hair and wore the same modest costume in each episode. Rogers matured after the first serial, and no sexual overtones are seen in Trip To Mars. Rogers told writer Richard Lamparski that she was not eager to do the second serial and asked her studio to excuse her from the third.
Despite starring in serial films, Rogers felt she was not going to improve her career unless she could participate in feature films. She discovered that it was more tedious working in feature films. She played John Wayne's leading lady in the 1936 full-length motion picture Conflict and co-starred with Boris Karloff in the horror film Night Key the following year. During the 1940s, Rogers appeared solely in feature films, including The Man Who Wouldn't Talk (1940) with Lloyd Nolan, Viva Cisco Kid (1940) with Cesar Romero as the Cisco Kid, Design for Scandal (1941) with Rosalind Russell and Walter Pidgeon, Whistling in Brooklyn (1943) with Red Skelton, A Stranger in Town (1943) with Frank Morgan, Backlash (1947), and Speed to Spare (1948) with Richard Arlen. Still, she was unhappy with the studios, possibly because she was relegated to films on a lower salary. She decided to freelance with companies such as 20th Century Fox and MGM. Her last appearance was in a supporting role in the suspense film The Second Woman, made in 1950 by United Artists.
Rogers married Dan Winkler in 1943 after she was dropped by MGM. She continued freelancing until retiring in 1951. Because she starred mainly in low-budget films, she was never a top star. In a 1979 interview, she explained what it was like and why she decided not to play Dale Arden in the third Flash Gordon serial.
- Eight Girls in a Boat (1934) with Dorothy Wilson
- Manhattan Moon (1934) with ZaSu Pitts
- Tailspin Tommy in the Great Air Mystery (1935 serial) with Noah Beery, Jr.
- The Adventures of Frank Merriwell (1936 serial) with Donald Briggs
- Flash Gordon (1936 serial) with Buster Crabbe
- Conflict (1936) with John Wayne
- My Man Godfrey (1936) with William Powell
- Ace Drummond (1936 serial) with Noah Beery, Jr.
- Night Key (1937) with Boris Karloff
- When Love is Young (1937)
- Secret Agent X-9 (1937 serial) with Lon Chaney, Jr.
- Always in Trouble (1938) with Jane Withers
- Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938 serial) with Buster Crabbe
- Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence (1939) with Glenn Ford
- Hotel for Women (1939) with Linda Darnell
- The Man Who Wouldn't Talk (1940) with Lloyd Nolan
- Charlie Chan in Panama (1940) with Sidney Toler
- Viva Cisco Kid (1940) with Cesar Romero
- Design for Scandal (1941) with Rosalind Russell
- The War Against Mrs. Hadley (1942) with Fay Bainter
- Swing Shift Maisie (1943) with Ann Sothern
- A Stranger in Town (1943) with Frank Morgan
- Whistling in Brooklyn (1943) with Red Skelton
- Hot Cargo (1946) with William Gargan
- Backlash (1947; top billing)
- Speed to Spare (1948) with Richard Arlen
- Fighting Back (1948) with Morris Ankrum
- The Second Woman (1951) with Robert Young
- Spaceship to the Unknown (1936, edited serial) with Buster Crabbe
- Deadly Ray from Mars (1938, edited serial) with Buster Crabbe
- Obituary Variety, March 4, 1991.
- "Q&A". Films and Filming. June 1975. p. 28.
- Swedes In America (Adolph B. Benson; Naboth Hedin. New York: Haskel House Publishers. 1969)
- International News Service Staff (3 Dec 1937). "Jean Rogers Suffers Burns". International News Service.
- Lamparski, Richard Whatever Became of-Eight Edition 1982 Crown Publishers
- Obituary The New York Times, February 28, 1991.
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