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Jean Arthur

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Jean Arthur

One of the silver screen's greatest comediennes, Jean Arthur began her career in silent films but became famous in the 1930's and 40's for her squeaky voice and heroine roles opposite such stars as Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart. At left is a shot of Arthur taken from George Stevens' THE MORE THE MERRIER (1943), a brilliant comedy written especially for her by Garson Kanin, Robert Russell and Arthur's husband, producer Frank Ross Jr., for which Arthur received her only Best Actress Oscar nomination.

A poster from MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (1936)

Her first of two films in 1936 with Gary Cooper, and the film which made her a star, Frank Capra's MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN, features Arthur as a big city reporter named Babe Bennett trying to figure out why Longfellow Deeds (Cooper) wants to give away his $20 million inheritance. The comedy was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture.

A still of Jean Arthur and Gary Cooper in Mr. Deeds

Arthur with Cooper in a still from MR. DEEDS, Arthur's first of three very successful collaborations with director Frank Capra, who was also under contract to Columbia Pictures at the time.

A poster from THE PLAINSMAN

After the success of MR. DEEDS, Arthur was borrowed by Paramount Pictures director Cecil B. DeMille to co-star once again opposite Gary Cooper in DeMille's western adventure tale of Wild Bill Hickok, THE PLAINSMAN (1936).  As part of her portrayal of Hickok's side-kick Calamity Jane, Arthur had to learn how to manipulate a 10-foot bullwhip while driving a stagecoach.

As a result of her new-found commercial success in 1936, Arthur renegotiated her contract with Columbia to include story and director approval on her projects.  She used this new power to help reduce her workload (generally between 5 and 6 assignments annually) and never again made more than two films a year.

Memorable Quotations:

  • "Why is it everyone in the world eats grapefruit when there are so many bananas running around loose?" --as Sandra Morrison in WHIRLPOOL (1934).
  • "Gee.  I tried so hard not to go female on you." --as Sandra Morrison in WHIRLPOOL (1934).
  • "Don't worry.  Christmas is coming.  Maybe your wife will give you a dog collar." --as Marge Oliver in PARTY WIRE (1935).
  • "You know, you don't have to get so mad, just because you're so stupid." --as Mary Smith in EASY LIVING (1937).
  • "You know, I think I'm kind of dumb sometimes myself." --as Mary Smith in EASY LIVING (1937).
  • "Oh, go soak your head in a bucket!" --as Mary Smith in EASY LIVING (1937).

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Last updated: March 10, 2011.
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