Jean Marie "Jeff" Donnell (July 10, 1921 – April 11, 1988) was an American film and television actress.
Donnell was born in South Windham, Maine, to Harold and Mildred Donnell, when her father was superintendent at a boys' reformatory in that town. As a child, she adopted the nickname "Jeff" after the character in her favorite comic strip, Mutt and Jeff.[note 1] To avoid gender confusion, she was sometimes billed as "(Miss) Jeff Donnell."
Donnell was signed to a contract by Columbia Pictures while she was active with the Farragut Playhouse in New Hampshire, and she made her film debut in My Sister Eileen (1942). She later had roles in some RKO films.
She was not a major star, but she did have a lengthy film and television career in various supporting roles, including the role of Gidget's mother Dorothy Lawrence in Gidget Goes Hawaiian and Gidget Goes to Rome. She also played Hannah Marshall in the Gidget television series.:391 She portrayed Mrs. Bennett in the TV series Julia,:548 and in 1966 she made five appearances on Dr. Kildare as Evelyn Driscoll.
Her other notable appearances in movies and television include:
- My Sister Eileen (1942) - Helen Loomis
- The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942) - Winnie Slade
- A Night to Remember (1942) - Anne Stafford Carstairs
- What's Buzzin', Cousin? (1943) - Billie (uncredited)
- Doughboys in Ireland (1943) - Molly Callahan
- There's Something About a Soldier (1943) - Jean Burton
- Nine Girls (1944) - 'Butch' Hendricks
- Once Upon a Time (1944) - Girl from Brooklyn (uncredited)
- Stars on Parade (1944) - Mary Brooks
- She's a Soldier Too (1944) - Mary Fleming (uncredited)
- Sensations of 1945 (1944) - Young Girl (uncredited)
- Mr. Winkle Goes to War (1944) - USO Hostess (uncredited)
- Three Is a Family (1944) - Hazel Whittaker
- Dancing in Manhattan (1944) - Julie Connors
- Carolina Blues (1944) - Charlotte Barton
- Eadie Was a Lady (1945) - Pamela 'Pepper' Parker
- The Power of the Whistler (1945) - Francie
- A Thousand and One Nights (1945) - Harem Girl (uncredited)
- Over 21 (1945) - Jan Lupton
- Song of the Prairie (1945) - Penelope 'Penny' Stevens
- Tars and Spars (1946) - Penny McDougal
- Throw a Saddle on a Star (1946) - Judy Lane
- Night Editor (1946) - Martha Cochrane
- The Phantom Thief (1946) - Anne Parks Duncan
- That Texas Jamboree (1946) - Jean Warren
- The Unknown (1946, One of the "I Love A Mystery" movies) - Nina Arnold
- Cowboy Blues (1946) - Susan Nelson
- Singing on the Trail (1946) - Cindy Brown
- It's Great to Be Young (1946) - Georgia Johnson
- Mr. District Attorney (1947) - Miss Miller
- Roughshod (1949) - Elaine Wyatt
- Stagecoach Kid (1949) - Jessie Arnold
- Outcasts of the Trail (1949) - Vinnie White
- Post Office Investigator (1949) - April Shaughnessy
- Easy Living (1949) - Penny McCarr
- In a Lonely Place (1950) - Sylvia Nicolai
- Hoedown (1950) - Vera Wright
- Big Timber (1950) - Sally
- The Fuller Brush Girl (1950) - Jane Bixby
- Redwood Forest Trail (1950) - Julie Westcott
- Walk Softly, Stranger (1950) - Gwen
- Three Guys Named Mike (1951) - Alice Raymend
- The First Time (1952) - Donna Gilbert
- Thief of Damascus (1952) - Sheherazade
- Skirts Ahoy! (1952) - Lt. Giff
- Because You're Mine (1952) - Patty Ware
- The Blue Gardenia (1953) - Sally Ellis
- So This Is Love (1953) - Henrietta Van Dyke
- Flight Nurse (1953) - Lt. Ann Phillips
- Massacre Canyon (1954) - Cora
- Magnificent Roughnecks (1956) - Julie
- The Guns of Fort Petticoat (1957) - Mary Wheller
- Destination 60,000 (1957) - Ruth Buckley
- Sweet Smell of Success (1957) - Sally
- My Man Godfrey (1957) - Molly
- Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) - Dorothy Lawrence
- Force of Impulse (1961) - Louise Reese
- Perry Mason (1962-1964, TV Series) - Rose Carol
- The Iron Maiden (1963; released in the U.S. as Swinging Maiden) - Miriam Fisher
- Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) - Mrs. Lawrence
- The Addams Family (1966, TV Series) - Eleanor Digby
- The Comic (1969) - Nurse
- Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) - Cornelia Fort, a flying instructor
- The Jimmy Stewart Show (1971, TV Series) - Agatha Dwiggins
- Stand Up and Be Counted (1972) - Ruth
- Adam-12 (1973, TV Series) - Mrs James Nelson
- Barnaby Jones (1973, Episode: "Sunday: Doomsday") - Janet Gossett
- The Amazing Spider-Man (1977, TV Series) - Aunt May Parker
- The Bob Newhart Show (1978, TV Series) - Clara Hackler ("The Little Woman")
- General Hospital (1979–1988, in the TV soap opera) - Stella Fields (final appearance)
Donnell's first marriage was in 1940 to William "Bill" Anderson, who was her teacher at the Leland Powers Dramatic School. She had her only children with him, Michael Phineas (b. 1942) and Sarah Jane (b. 1948), before their divorce in 1953.
Donnell died of a heart attack on April 11, 1988, aged 66. Her sudden absence from General Hospital, on which she had a recurring role as the Quartermaines' housekeeper at the time of her death, was explained away by the writers as her character having won the lottery and quit her job.
- Newspaper columnist Erskine Johnson wrote in a July 12, 1943, article, "... an uncle nicknamed her Jeff when she was three years old and the name stuck."
- Johnson, Erskine (July 12, 1943). "Hollywood: 'Miss' Jeff Donnell Doing All Right". The Ithaca Journal. New York, Ithaca. p. 8. Retrieved 8 March 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Wade Ballard, "The Jeff Donnell Story"". Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2007-10-02.
- Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 198–199. ISBN 9781557835512. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
- Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 384. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.