Willes in 1960
April 15, 1923
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||January 3, 1989
Van Nuys, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Liver cancer|
|Spouse(s)||Gerard Cowhig (1951–1989; her death)|
|Children||Gerry Cowhig (1954–2001)|
Jean Willes (April 15, 1923 – January 3, 1989) was an American film and television actress. She appeared in approximately 65 films in her 38-year career.
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 religious oriented and anthology series, Crossroads, The Caliifornians, Richard Diamond, Private Detective, several episodes of Burns and Allen television program, 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, and Kojak.
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.
Willes portrayed Belle Starr opposite James Garner in a 1960 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.
- So Proudly We Hail! (1943)
- Here Come the Waves (1944)
- Monkey Businessmen (1946) (short)
- The Winner's Circle (1948)
- Chinatown at Midnight (1949)
- A Woman of Distinction (1950)
- A Snitch in Time (1950) (short)
- Revenue Agent (1951)
- Hula-La-La (1951) (short)
- Don't Throw That Knife (1951) (short)
- A Yank in Indo-China (1952)
- Jungle Jim in the Forbidden Land (1952)
- The Sniper (1952)
- All Ashore (1953)
- From Here to Eternity (1953) as Annette, club receptionist (uncredited)
- Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953)
- Masterson of Kansas (1954)
- The Glass Web (1954)
- Gypped in the Penthouse (1955) (short)
- 5 Against the House (1955)
- Bowery to Bagdad (1955)
- Count Three and Pray (1955)
- Bobby Ware Is Missing (1955)
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
- The Lieutenant Wore Skirts (1956)
- The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956)
- The King and Four Queens (1956) as Ruby McDade
- Hear Me Good (1957)
- The Man Who Turned to Stone (1957)
- The Tijuana Story (1957)
- Hell on Devil's Island (1957)
- Desire Under the Elms (1958)
- No Time for Sergeants (1958)
- Official Detective "Hijackers" - Pat Dengue (1958)
- These Thousand Hills (1959)
- The FBI Story (1959) as Anna Sage
- Ocean's 11 (1960) as Gracie Bergdof
- The Crowded Sky (1960)
- Elmer Gantry (1960) as a Prostitute
- By Love Possessed (1961)
- Gun Street (1962)
- Gypsy (1962)
- McHale's Navy (1964)
- Bite the Bullet (1975)
- "Jean W. Cowhig". Social Security Death Index. New England Historic Genealogical Society. Retrieved September 11, 2011.
- Willes' profile, imdb.com; accessed March 6, 2015.
- ""Queen of the Cimarron", September 26, 1958". imdb.com. Retrieved February 11, 2013.
- "Jean Willes profile". The New York Times. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
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