Mary Jane Croft

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Mary Jane Croft
Maryjane1.jpg
Born (1916-02-15)February 15, 1916
Muncie, Indiana
Died August 24, 1999(1999-08-24) (aged 83)
Century City, California
Occupation Actress
Years active 1935–1979
Spouse(s) Jack Zoller
Elliot Lewis (1959-1990; his death)

Mary Jane Croft (February 15, 1916 – August 24, 1999) was an American actress best known for her roles as Betty Ramsey on I Love Lucy, Ms. Daisy Enright on the radio and television versions of Our Miss Brooks, Mary Jane Lewis on The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy, and Clara Randolph on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

Early career[edit]

Described as "a stage-struck 17-year-old just out of high school," Croft was selected as part of a then-new theatrical stock company in Cincinnati, Ohio.[1] From that, she went to radio station WLW. Croft said of her work at WLW, "from 1935 to 1939, I played parts with every kind of voice and accent: children, babies, old women, society belles, main street floozies -- everything."[1]

Radio[edit]

Croft's initial appearance on radio was in Sherlock Holmes.[1] She worked extensively as an actress in radio, appearing on such programs as Life with Luigi,[2] Blondie,[3] The Adventures of Sam Spade, Suspense, The Beulah Show, The Bill Goodwin Show, Broadway Is My Beat, Cathy and Elliott Lewis on Stage, Crime Classics, Four-Star Playhouse, The Harold Peary Show, Joan Davis Time, The Mel Blanc Show, One Man's Family, Our Miss Brooks, Romance, Sears Radio Theater, The Story of Sandra Martin and Twelve Players. She also appeared in frequent guest star roles on Lucille Ball's My Favorite Husband, the beginning of their later professional and personal relationship.

Croft and Hal March co-starred in Too Many Cooks, a summer replacement program on CBS in 1950. The comedy centered around Douglas and Carrie Cook and their 10 children.[4]

Television[edit]

In addition to her work with Lucille Ball, she was a frequent guest star on other television programs, including Howard Duff's adventure/drama series Dante in the 1960 episode "The Misfortune Cookie".

She was a regular on at least two other series, as ebullient neighbor Clara Randolph on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and on Our Miss Brooks on CBS, in which she reprised her radio role as Miss Daisy Enright, the title character's rival. She provided the voice for Cleo the basset hound in Jackie Cooper's NBC series The People’s Choice (1955–58).

Late in the weekly run of the original I Love Lucy series, the major characters moved to Connecticut. There Lucy Ricardo befriended a new neighbor, Betty Ramsey (portrayed by Croft), who was very socially conscious and tended to get Lucy involved in adventures different from those that involved Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance). Croft had previously guest-starred as Lucy's wealthy schoolmate Cynthia Harcourt in "Lucy is Envious," then as Evelyn Bigsby, the airline passenger seated next to Lucy in "Return Home from Europe," the episode in which Lucy disguises a hunk of cheese as a baby.

When Vance left The Lucy Show after the 1964-1965 season, Croft became Lucy's new sidekick, Mary Jane Lewis. Croft had previously had a recurring role as Audrey Simmons during the show's early seasons set in Danfield, New York. Mary Jane Lewis was Croft's legal name at the time, as she was then married to actor-producer Elliott Lewis (who had originally produced The Lucy Show during its first two seasons) but continued to use her maiden name professionally. Her only son, by a prior marriage, was killed in the Vietnam War during the period that she was co-starring with Ball.

The Lewis character was maintained when The Lucy Show was transformed into Ball's third sitcom, Here's Lucy. The character remained until the cancellation of Here's Lucy in 1974.

Croft made an unsold pilot, The Two of Us, that centered around a children's books illustrator. The pilot was produced by Desilu. [5]

Later years and death[edit]

Croft continued to act in television for several years after the end of Here's Lucy, even reuniting with Ball in 1977 in the special, Lucy Calls the President. She also returned to radio for several episodes of Sears Radio Theater in 1979.

She died of natural causes in Century City, California.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Croft married actor Jack Zoeller, but they divorced soon afterward.[7]

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Film Role Notes
1943 In Old Oklahoma Dance-hall girl Uncredited
1958 Kathy O' Harriet Burton/Aunt Harriet
Radio
Year Title Role Notes
1945-1954 Beulah Alice Henderson
1946-1947 The Mel Blanc Show Betty Colby
1948-1957 Our Miss Brooks Daisy Enright
1953 On Stage Mrs. Bill Bailey "String Bow Tie"
1953-1954 Crime Classics Bathsheba Spooner, Elizabeth, Josie Mansfield, Marie, Marquise de Brinvilliers "The Crime of Bathsheba Spooner", "The Axe and the Droot Family - How They Fared", "The Checkered Life and Sudden Death of Colonel James Fisk Jr.", "The lethal Habit of the Marquise de Brinvilliers"
1954 Escape Narrator "The Price of the Head"
1979 Sears Radio Theater Elizabeth "The Choosing"
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1952 I Married Joan Helen Unknown episodes
1953–1955 Our Miss Brooks Miss Daisy Enright 4 episodes
1954-1957 I Love Lucy Cynthia Harcourt, Betty Ramsey 7 episodes
1955–1958 The People's Choice Cleo the Basset Hound (voice) all episodes
1956 Dragnet 2 episodes
1956–1966 The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet Clara Randolph 28 episodes
1957 The Eve Arden Show Secretary 1 episode, "Housework"
1958 The Court of Last Resort Mrs. Craig 1 episode
1960 Dante Alma Jenks 1 episode
1962–1968 The Lucy Show Audrey Simmons (1962-65), Mary Jane Lewis (1965-68) 26 episodes
1966 Vacation Playhouse Helen 1 episode
The Two of Us Helen Television pilot
1969 The Mothers-in-Law Carol Yates 1 episode
1969–1974 Here's Lucy Mary Jane Lewis
1977 Lucy Calls the President Midge Bowser Television special

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Meet Voice Of Cleo, the Talking Dog". The Corpus Christi Caller-Times. December 29, 1957. p. 53. Retrieved March 24, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  2. ^ "Good Old Days". The Winona Daily News. July 29, 1973. p. 9. Retrieved March 24, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  3. ^ "On the Air". The Circleville Herald. October 30, 1947. p. 15. Retrieved March 24, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  4. ^ Crosby, John (August 14, 1950). "Radio in Review". The Evening Review. p. 10. Retrieved March 24, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  5. ^ "Special: The Two of Us". Independent Press-Telegram. August 6, 1967. p. 120. Retrieved March 24, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  6. ^ Pesselnick, Jill (1999-08-31). "Mary Jane Croft Lewis". variety.com. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  7. ^ "Mary Jane Croft: A 'Working Actress'". Independent Press-Telegram. October 15, 1967. p. 128. Retrieved March 24, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read

External links[edit]