That's right, another favorite actress named Jean.
First Movie I Saw Her In: Shane (1953)
Three Favorite Movies: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936); Easy Living (1937); You Can’t Take It with You (1938)
Honorable Mention: Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
Favorite Performance: Easy Living (1937)
Why I Like Her: My reasons might be reactionary in that everything I like about Jean Arthur is what her detractors dislike! They say she wasn’t pretty, whereas I think she’s beautiful. Others dislike her speaking voice, yet I adore it. And seeing as Arthur so often played comedic roles, it suited her perfectly, but she’s equally tremendous in dramatic parts, adding a sense of urgency to the characters she’s playing (Only Angels Have Wings is a fine example of this).
Jean Arthur was an underdog in every sense of the word, with those aforementioned “handicaps” presumably working against her, she still managed to be involved with many of the 1930s greatest films. Her work with Frank Capra alone would cement her immortality in these eyes. Her impeccable line delivery is a joy to behold. You can “hear” her thinking when she’s a character. Arthur, (along with Irene Dunne) had this quality where you never saw her acting. Comedic actresses who take on dramatic roles almost never get the credit or awards that predominantly dramatic performers get for the odd comedy part. Comedy always gets the short end, doesn’t it?
One of her best attributes was being able to “sell the drama” in any given situation. When Arthur did this, there was no sign of the daffy screwball comedienne; it was an impressive transformation. She was excellent at the dramatic speech in that she could give an impassioned “pep talk” to the likes of Gary Cooper or James Stewart in what could be viewed as a sort of “strong woman behind the man.” She often came off as the female best friend of the protagonist as well as their conscience. Not many actresses from the Golden Age had these multilayered character traits.
Jean Arthur’s last film was 1953’s Shane, though she was largely retired from movies at the height of her career in 1944. Arthur appeared in 1948’s A Foreign Affair (dir. Billy Wilder) and 1953’s Shane (dir. George Stevens), working for two legendary directors wasn’t a bad way call it a movie career. Arthur would try her hand at television with 1966’s The Jean Arthur Show, which lasted all of eleven episodes.
Jean Arthur also qualifies for Miserable Sod status, as she came off as perpetually unhappy in her private life, with two failed marriages and endless doubts about her abilities as a performer: “I guess I became an actress because I didn't want to be myself.” Whatever it was that bothered her, it didn’t interfere with Jean the actress, whom I’ve grown to enjoy a whole lot in only a short time.
Does anyone have an unadulterated copy of this photo?