Jean Willes

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Jean Willes
Jean Willes 1960.JPG
Willes in 1960
Born Jean Donahue
(1923-04-15)April 15, 1923
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died January 3, 1989(1989-01-03) (aged 65)
Van Nuys, California, U.S.
Years active 1934–1972
Spouse(s) Gerard Cowhig (1951–1989; her death)
Children 1[1]

Jean Willes (April 15, 1923 – January 3, 1989)[2] was an American film and television actress. She appeared in approximately 65 films in her 38-year career.


Willes and Dennis Morgan (1955)
Willes and James Garner (1960)

Willes is familiar to modern viewers for her roles in several Three Stooges short subjects, such as Monkey Businessmen, A Snitch in Time, and Gypped in the Penthouse. She was a favorite of director Edward Bernds, who cast her in many shorts and features. She was cast in roles ranging from an Air Force captain to prostitutes. She was one of the "four queens" pursuing Clark Gable in The King and Four Queens (1956). Later that year she appeared as Nurse Sally Withers in the original movie version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

She made the transition to television easily appearing in dozens of series in varied roles and genre such as westerns and anthology series, Crossroads, The Caliifornians, Richard Diamond, Private Detective, several episodes of Burns and Allen television program, in the 1956 television show "The Great Gildersleeve" as the scheeming girlfriend Eva Jane in the episode "One Too Many Secretaries", The Twilight Zone, Bonanza, Hazel, Trackdown, Meet McGraw, The Munsters, Perry Mason, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Bat Masterson, The Beverly Hillbillies, McHale's Navy, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Tombstone Territory, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre and Kojak.[3]

In 1958, in the episode "Queen of the Cimarron" of the syndicated western television series Frontier Doctor, starring Rex Allen, Willes portrayed Fancy Varden, the owner of the Golden Slipper Saloon who attempts to establish her own cattle empire with animals infected with anthrax. The disease soon spread from the cattle to the cowhands.[4]

Willes portrayed Belle Starr opposite James Garner in a 1959 episode of the ABC/Warner Brothers western series Maverick entitled "Full House," in which Joel Grey played Billy the Kid. Willes played the character Ruth in the Wanted: Dead or Alive episode "The Eager Man", Manila Jones in "The Montana Kid", and Meghan Francis in "The Kovack Affair", both times opposite star Steve McQueen.

In 1947, she changed her billing, Jean Donahue, to her married name, Jean Willes.[5]


Willes's second husband was NFL football player Gerard Cowhig. The couple had one son, Gerry.

With Gene Barry and Adele Mara (1958)

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Jean W. Cowhig". Social Security Death Index. New England Historic Genealogical Society. Retrieved September 11, 2011. 
  3. ^ Willes' profile,; accessed March 6, 2015.
  4. ^ ""Queen of the Cimarron", September 26, 1958". Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Jean Willes profile". The New York Times. Retrieved March 6, 2015. 

External links[edit]