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.
Cause of death Liver cancer
Years active 1934-1972
Spouse(s) ___ Willes
Gerard Cowhig (19??-1989; her death)
Children 1

Jean Willes (April 15, 1923 – January 3, 1989)[1] 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 from an Air Force captain to prostitutes. She was one of the "four queens" pursuing Clark Gable in The King and Four Queens. She also appeared as Nurse Sally Withers in the original 1956 version of the movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

Willes appeared on many television series in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, including the religion anthology series, Crossroads, The Caliifornians, Richard Diamond, Private Detective, several episodes of Burns and Allen, The Twilight Zone, Bonanza, Hazel,Trackdown, Meet McGraw, The Munsters, Perry Mason, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Bat Masterson, The Beverly Hillbillies, McHale's Navy, and Kojak.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4]


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

Selected filmography[edit]


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

External links[edit]