Saturday, August 28, 2010

Actress Gloria Winters Passes On

Gloria Winters, who played Penny King on the series Sky King, passed on August 14. She was in her late seventies. The cause was complications from pneumonia.

Gloria Winters was born on November 28 in either 1931 or 1932 (sources do not agree on the year) in Los Angeles, California. She was raised in San Fernando Valley until her family moved to Hollywood. She made her film debut in 1947 in an uncredited role in the movie Driftwood.

Miss Winters would appear in uncredited roles in the movies Luxury Liner (1948) and El Pas (1949) before being cast as Riley's daughter Babs in the first television version of the popular radio show The Life of Riley. Starring Jackie Gleason, this version of The Life of Riley lasted from 1949 to 1950. She made guest appearances on such shows as The Gene Autry Show, The Lone Ranger, The Range Rider, Racket Squad, Death Valley Days, Studio 57, Richard Diamond Private Detective, Frontier Doctor, and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. She also appeared in the films Hot Rod (1950), Gambling House (1951), Hold That Line (1952), and Geraldine (1953).

In 1952 she was cast in the role of Penny King, the niece of rancher and Schuyler "Sky" King on the series Sky King. Essentially a modern day Western, Sky King often found his skills as a pilot called up on by friend Mitch, the local sheriff. Unlike many female characters on Fifties TV Shows, Penny could handle herself in nearly any situation and handle an aeroplane nearly as well as her uncle Sky, all the while remaining wholesome and sweet. The series ran from 1952 to 1960, and ran in syndication into the Seventies.

Following Sky King Miss Winters retired from show business. In 1963 she wrote a book on etiquette for girls entitled  Penny's Guide to Teen-Age Charm and Popularity. It would be parodied in the song "Popular" by Nada Surf in 1996.

When I was a very young child KOMU showed reruns of Sky King. Naturally, Penny King was then among my earliest crushes. She was perky, petite, pretty, and blonde, and she could do nearly anything her uncle Sky could. Gloria Winters made Penny King seem very realistic, acting in a naturalistic style much as fellow star Kirby Grant (who played Sky King) utilised. Between their performances and writing which emphasised realistic, if simplistic storylines, Sky King was then a  good deal better than the average children's show of the Fifties. Much of the reason that the show was a success is no doubt due to Gloria Winters, who not only brought charm to the character of Penny, but made her seem real as well.

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