Jean Willes

Jean Willes (April 15, 1923 – January 3, 1989)[2] was an American film and television actress. She appeared in approximately 65 films in her 38-year career.

Jean Willes
Jean Willes 1960.JPG
Willes in 1960
Jean Willes[citation needed]

(1923-04-15)April 15, 1923
DiedJanuary 3, 1989(1989-01-03) (aged 65)
Years active1934–1972
Spouse(s)Frank Donohue (1944–1947) Gerard Cowhig (1951–1989; her death)


The daughter of William and Velma Willes, she began her career in show business, after she graduated from high school. In 1944, she went to Chihuahua, Mexico, and married Frank Donohue.[citation needed] In 1947, she changed her billing, Jean Donahue, to her maiden name, Jean Willes.

Willes is familiar to modern viewers for her roles in several Three Stooges short subjects, such as Monkey Businessmen with Curly Howard obviously showing the effects of multiple strokes, as well as A Snitch in Time, Don't Throw That Knife and Gypped in the Penthouse after Curly had been replaced by his older brother Shemp Howard. She was a favorite of director Edward Bernds, who cast her in many shorts and features. She was played roles ranging from an Air Force captain to prostitutes. She was one of the "four queens" pursuing Clark Gable in The King and Four Queens (1956). Later that year she appeared as Nurse Sally Withers in the original movie version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

She made the transition to television easily, appearing in dozens of series in varied roles and genres such as Westerns and anthology series, Crossroads, The Caliifornians, Richard Diamond, Private Detective with David Janssen, several episodes of the Burns and Allen television series titled The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, in the 1956 television show The Great Gildersleeve as the scheming girlfriend Eva Jane in the episode "One Too Many Secretaries," The Twilight Zone ("Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?"), four episodes of Bonanza between 1959 and 1968, Hazel, Trackdown ("The Bounty Hunter" with Robert Culp and Steve McQueen), Meet McGraw, The Munsters, Perry Mason, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Bat Masterson with Gene Barry, The Beverly Hillbillies with Buddy Ebsen, McHale's Navy with Ernest Borgnine, Tombstone Territory, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre, Walt Disney's Zorro with Guy Williams, and Kojak with Telly Savalas.[citation needed]

In 1958, in the episode "Queen of the Cimarron" of the syndicated western television series Frontier Doctor, starring Rex Allen, Willes portrayed Fancy Varden, the owner of the Golden Slipper Saloon who attempts to establish her own cattle empire with animals infected with anthrax. The disease soon spread from the cattle to the cowhands.[citation needed]

Willes portrayed Belle Starr in a 1959 episode of the ABC/Warner Brothers Western series Maverick entitled "Full House," in which Joel Grey played Billy the Kid and James Garner performed a bravura pistol-twirling exhibition woven into the plot. In the same year for Warners she played Anna Sage in The FBI Story. Willes played the character Ruth in the Wanted: Dead or Alive episode, "The Eager Man", Manila Jones in "The Montana Kid", and Meghan Francis in "The Kovack Affair", all three times opposite series star Steve McQueen.

Willes played Amelia Monk in the 1967 episode, "Siege at Amelia's Kitchen", on the syndicated anthology series, Death Valley Days hosted by Robert Taylor. In the story line, Amelia must adjust to a teenaged stepson, Warren Monk (Dennis Oliveri), son of her husband, Titus Monk (George D. Wallace), particularly during an attack by rogue Indians on their ranch in the Arizona Territory.[citation needed]


Willes's second husband was NFL football player Gerard Cowhig. The couple had one son, Gerry.

With Gene Barry and Adele Mara (1958)


Willes died of liver cancer in Van Nuys, California on January 3, 1989. She was 65 years of age.[3]

Selected filmographyEdit

Willes and Dennis Morgan (1955)
Willes and James Garner (1960)
Willes in Ocean's 11 (1960)


  1. ^ "Jean Willes".
  2. ^ "Jean W. Cowhig". Social Security Death Index. New England Historic Genealogical Society. Retrieved September 11, 2011.
  3. ^ "Jean Willes". The New York Times. Associated Press. January 9, 1989. p. D 10. Retrieved January 23, 2021 – via ProQuest.

External linksEdit