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Britton in the film D.O.A. (1950)
|Born||Armilda Jane Owen
March 19, 1923
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Died||June 17, 1974
Arlington Heights, Illinois, U.S.
|Cause of death||brain tumor|
|Other names||Gloria Owen|
|Spouse(s)||Arthur Steel (1945–1974; her death); 1 daughter|
|Children||Katherine Lee (b. 1946)|
|Parent(s)||Ethel Waite Owen|
Pamela Britton (born Armilda Jane Owen) (March 19, 1923 – June 17, 1974) was an American actress best known for appearing as Lorelei Brown in the television series My Favorite Martian (1963–1966). She also starred in the film noir classic D.O.A. (1950).
Owen was born in Milwaukee. Her mother was Ethel Owen (1893–1997), a prominent stage, radio, and early television actress. Owen's father, Raymond G. Owen, was a doctor who died when the actress was 20 years old. She had two sisters: Virginia, an actress under contract to RKO Radio Pictures; and Mary, a social worker.
Owen attended State Teacher's Normal School and Holy Angels Academy in her home town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, taking leads in her school plays. By the age of nine she was doing summer stock, and Hollywood came calling at age ten, though her mother rejected the advances, saying she wanted her to be an actress, not a child star. Owen started making the rounds at 15, using the name 'Gloria Jane Owen," but found that as soon as people knew who her mother was, they expected her to be as accomplished as the respected dramatic actress. She chose a pseudonym to audition under: Pamela (from a British book) and Britton (to emphasize the source).
After a stint touring with bandleader Don McGuire, Britton's big break came when she was cast as both Celeste Holm's understudy and as Gertie in the Broadway production of Oklahoma!. When the show went on tour, she took over Holm's role as "Ado Annie."
Britton's New York agent eventually sent her credentials to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive Marvin Schneck. He came to see one of her performances in Chicago, and was disappointed. He returned a second night, however, after additional cajoling from her agent. and he signed Britton immediately.
Britton's first role in a major production was as Frank Sinatra's girlfriend in Anchors Aweigh. Afterward, however, came a forgettable part in A Letter for Evie in 1946. She went on hiatus to play the comic role of "Meg Brockie" in the original 1947 Broadway production of Brigadoon on Broadway.
She returned to the big screen opposite Clark Gable in Key to the City (1950), and then went on to make her most significant film appearance in the classic D.O.A., also in 1950. She made her third film of the year in the Red Skelton-starring Watch the Birdie (1951), but it was 19 years before she again returned to the big screen. During that period, she portrayed the title role of the TV version of the Chic Young newspaper comic strip Blondie for the one season it ran, opposite Arthur Lake as her husband, "Dagwood Bumstead." (Lake had played the role earlier in numerous movie comedies opposite Penny Singleton as Blondie.)
Britton was married on April 8, 1943, in Texas, to Captain Arthur Steel after they met on a blind date arranged by Pamela's sister. After the wedding, he was posted to Italy on active service and Britton continued working. They had a daughter, Katherine Lee, born on September 8, 1946. After the war, Steel worked as an advertising executive and went on to manage the Gene Autry hotels (Steel and Autry were first cousins). While their daughter grew up, Britton worked mainly in West Coast theater. She reprised her role in Brigadoon in 1954; appeared in Annie Get Your Gun at the Santa Barbara Bowl; and then returned to Broadway to replace an ailing Janis Paige in Guys and Dolls.
My Favorite Martian
What is perhaps her signature role began in 1963 and lasted until 1966 when she appeared as the nosy and ditzy landlady Mrs. Lorelei Brown in My Favorite Martian. After the series ended, Britton appeared in If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium and Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came.
In May 1974, while performing on tour with Don Knotts in The Mind with the Dirty Man, Britton began to have headaches. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor and succumbed within two weeks. She was 51. She was survived by her husband, daughter, mother, and sister. Britton is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills).
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