Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Late Great Anne Jefffreys

Anne Jeffreys, the "ghostess with the mostest" on television's Topper and an actress who appeared in films from Riffraff (1947) to Boys' Night Out (1962), died yesterday at the age of 94.

Anne Jeffreys was born Anne Carmichael on January 26 1923 in Goldsboro, North Carolina. From a young age she received voice training. By the time she was 10 years old she had her own radio show. She was going to be an operatic soprano, and even won a scholarship to New York Municipal Opera Company. To help pay for her operatic training she was also a junior model at the famed John Robert Powers agency.

Anne Jeffreys's plans for a career in opera changed when she was cast in the musical revue Fun for the Money in Hollywood in 1941. Fun for the Money led to her career in movies. In the Forties she appeared in such films as Billy the Kid Trapped (1942), Olaf Laughs Last (1942), I Married an Angel (1942), X Marks the Spot (1942), Bordertown Gun Fighters (1943), Step Lively (1944), Dillinger (1945), Step by Step (1946), Riffraff (1947), and Return of the Bad Men (1948). She played Dick Tracy's girlfriend Tess Trueheart in two Dick Tracy movies, Dick Tracy (1945) and Dick Tracy vs. Cueball (1946). She also entertained troops at the Hollywood Canteen during World War II. Her career at RKO and Republic were spent primarily in B-movies, a good number of them Westerns. It was in 1947 that Miss Jeffreys left Hollywood for Broadway. She appeared in the opera Street Scene in 1947 and then the musical My Romance in 1948. In 1950 she appeared as Katharine in Kiss Me Kate.

Anne Jeffreys made her television debut in 1951 as a guest on Four Star Revue. She also guest starred on Musical Comedy Time. In 1952 she had a successful stage act with then husband Robert Sterling. It was in 1953 that she and Mr. Sterling were cast in the roles of the ghosts the Kerbys on the TV show Topper. The show proved very successful and ended simply because Camel cigarettes did not want to pay for another season of the show. It would persist in reruns for literally years and remains popular to this day. In 1955 she appeared in the television spectaculars Max Liebman Presents: The Merry Widow and Max Liebman Presents: Dearest Enemy. She guest starred on such shows as Lux Video Theatre, Star Stage, The Red Skelton Hour, The 20th Century Fox Hour, The Polly Bergen Show, The Bob Cummings Show, and Wagon Train. She starred in the short lived sitcom Love That Jill. She appeared on Broadway in Three Wishes for Jamie.

In the Sixties Anne Jeffreys appeared in the films Boys' Night Out (1962) and Panic in the City (1968). She guest starred on the shows Dr. Kildare, Bonanza, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Tarzan, and My Three Sons. In the Seventies she appeared on the short-lived daytime soap opera Bright Promise. She was a regular on the short-lived show The Delphi Bureau. She guest starred on the shows Love, American Style; Police Story, Flying High, Battlestar Galactica, Vega$, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. She appeared in the film Southern Double Cross (1976).

In the Eighties Anne Jeffreys had recurring roles on the shows Falcon Crest and Finder of Lost Loves. She guest starred on Mr. Merlin; Fantasy Island; Matt Houston; Hotel; and Murder, She Wrote. She was a regular on the soap opera General Hospital and played the same role on the soap opera Port Charles. In the Nineties she guest starred on L. A. Law and Baywatch. She appeared in the movie Clifford (1994). In the Naughts she appeared in the 2007 film version of Richard III. In the Teens she appeared in the film Sins Expiation (2012) and guest starred on the show Getting On.

I have always thought Anne Jeffreys was ill-used by both RKO and Republic. With but few exceptions she was cast in B-movies that were not very good. In a 1993 interview with The Toronto Star she said, "They decided I could do any type of role, and I often ended up getting the kind of parts Joan Fontaine didn’t want." What RKO and Republic missed was that Anne Jeffreys was a wonderful actress with a gift for comedy and a fine singing voice. If Topper is still remembered to his day, it is largely because of her performance as Marion Kerby. Quite simply, she was the sexy, supernatural entity years before Samantha on Bewitched or Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie. Miss Jeffreys also shined in Boys' Night Out and her various guest appearances on sitcoms from The Bob Cummings Show to My Three Sons. Of course, she could do more than comedy. Anne Jeffreys was the perfect Tess Trueheart in the two Dick Tracy movies in which she appeared, and she made for a convincing femme fatale in Riffraff. She also gave a good performance in Dillinger. Many of Anne Jeffreys's films may not have been particularly good, but she always gave good performances.

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