A Tribute to Jean Arthur
Considering how notoriously publicity-shy she was, Jean Arthur isn’t the easiest person to find information about for a tribute article. Even her year of birth is a subject of some controversy. But the generally accepted date (cited by the Internet Movie Database) is Oct. 17, 1900, so we celebrated the centennial of her birth in 2000, when this article was originally written. (It has been updated several times since then.)
She was born as Gladys Georgianna Greene in New York. A model early on, she debuted in silent films at the age of 23, in Cameo Kirby (1923), but did not find stardom until the advent of talking pictures allowed audiences to hear her distinctive voice, which has been variously described as squeaky, scratchy, and even frog-like. Whatever it was, it was perfect for some of the screwball comedies in which she appeared, starting with The Whole Town’s Talking (1935), opposite Edward G. Robinson. The following year Frank Capra cast her with Gary Cooper in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, followed by You Can’t Take It With You (1938) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), both with Jimmy Stewart. The More the Merrier (1943) gained her an Academy Award nomination. But she was already close to the end of her movie career.
Her last film was Shane (1953), with Alan Ladd and Van Heflin. In 1966 she had a brief fling at TV with The Jean Arthur Show, but it ran for only 11 weeks. She then turned to teaching, at both Vassar College and North Carolina School of the Arts. She retired in 1972, and died in 1991 at the age of 90.
I’ve always enjoyed Jean Arthur’s acting, particularly in the Capra films. It’s quite regrettable that we know so little about her, but maintaining her privacy was her privilege. As you might expect, there are few pages on the Web devoted to her life and career, but the ones I found are listed in Part II of this article, with reviews, video sources, books, photos, and posters in Parts III and IV.
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Jean Arthur Tributes and Other Pages
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find Her Movies
Part IV: Photos, Art, and Posters