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Phyllis Avery (November 14, 1922 – May 19, 2011) was an American television and film actress.

Phyllis Avery
Phyllis Avery and George Gobel 1950s.JPG
Avery with George Gobel on his television show, 1958–59 season.
Born(1922-11-14)November 14, 1922
DiedMay 19, 2011(2011-05-19) (aged 88)
Resting placeWestwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Real estate agent
Years active1951–1999
James Howell Van Campen
(m. 1942; div. 1944)

Don Taylor
(m. 1944; div. 1955)

Early yearsEdit

Avery was born in New York City to Evelyn (née Martine) and author Stephen Morehouse Avery. Her father hailed from Webster Groves, Missouri, near St. Louis. She studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, as well as in California, Maryland, and France.[1]


Avery made her Broadway debut in Orchids Preferred in 1937. Her other Broadway credits included Three Waltzes (1937-1938), Charley's Aunt (1940-1941), Letters to Lucerne (1941-1942), Little Darling (1942), Ask My Friend Sandy (1943), Winged Victory (1943-1944), which starred her second husband, Don Taylor, and Brighten the Corner (1945-1946).[2]


Avery's first motion picture role (other than a bit in the film version of Winged Victory) was as Marjorie in the 1951 film Queen for a Day based on the popular radio and television show hosted by Jack Bailey. In 1952, she played Tracy McAuliffe, the wife of the Charlton Heston character in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film Ruby Gentry. She also was in The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956).[3]


From 1953 to 1955, Avery was cast as faculty wife Peggy McNutley in all but five of the seventy-five episodes of the CBS Television situation comedy, Meet Mr. McNutley, with Ray Milland as college professor Ray McNutley and Minerva Urecal as Miss Bradley, the dean. The name "McNutley" was changed in the second season to McNulty.[4][5]

From 1953 to 1958, Avery appeared six times on the CBS anthology series, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, having guest starred in such episodes as "The Unopened Letter", "Bluebeard's Seventh Wife", and "The Girl Who Scared Men Off". In the latter segment, Avery, again playing the role of a small-town schoolmarm, resents the arrival of the new pipe-smoking instructor from Great Britain, played by Hans Conreid.[6]

She appeared on the Charles Bronson ABC series, Man with a Camera as Miss Hollis in the 1958 episode "Turntable". In 1959, she was Ann Macauley in "Incident in No Man's Land" of CBS's western Rawhide. From 1957 to 1959, she appeared in three different roles on the first David Janssen series, Richard Diamond, Private Detective. She played an unnamed schoolteacher in the 1957 episode "The Teacher" on the ABC western series, Broken Arrow, with John Lupton and Michael Ansara.

In 1956, she appeared as Maggie Henderson in the film The Best Things in Life Are Free, a biography of three songwriters played by Gordon MacRae, Ernest Borgnine, and Dan Dailey. That same year, she and Lew Ayres portrayed Peg and Clint Howard in "The Unrelenting Sky", the fourth episode of Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater.

Avery was cast as the supporting actress Shelley Hayes in "Millionaire Jim Hayes" and in the title role of "The Vicki Lawson Story" in two segments of the CBS fantasy drama, The Millionaire. She played Leona Pickford Bartell in "The Baby Sitter" segment of ABC's The Rifleman, with Chuck Connors and directed by Sam Peckinpah. In the story line, Avery as Bartell works in a dance hall and asks Lucas McCain to care for her daughter in order to keep the child from the clutches of Avery's bigoted husband,[7] played by John Dehner.[8]

In 1958, Avery appeared as herself singing on NBC's variety show, The George Gobel Show, and also in several episodes in various comedy sketches as Gobel's wife "Alice" (which happened to also be the first name of the real-life Mrs. Gobel).[9]

Avery made two guest appearances on Perry Mason. In 1958 she played the title character, murderer Marion Shelby, in "The Case of the Half-Wakened Wife." In 1961 she played Mary Cromwell in "The Case of the Brazen Bequest"; that same year, she played the wife of a Bell Telephone Company employee in the driver education film Anatomy Of an Accident.

From 1960 to 1962, Avery appeared as Anne Selby on the CBS soap opera The Clear Horizon, a story of American astronauts and their wives.[10]

On February 12, 1963, Avery appeared in "The Fugitives" of NBC's Laramie western series. Series character Slim Sherman (John Smith) is shot and left for dead while in the pursuit of robbers. With temperatures dropping rapidly, his ranch partner Jess Harper (Robert Fuller) must find Slim quickly. Jess breaks from jail Joel Greevy, played by Jan Merlin, the young man who shot Slim, in order to get Greevy to reveal Slim's whereabouts. Jess recaptures the Greevy and his partners, but Greevy is killed in the process. Avery plays Greevy's older sister, Myra, who had been a surrogate mother to the young outlaw.[11][12]

During the 1960s, Avery continued with guest-starring roles on various television series, including Adventures in Paradise, The Deputy, Peter Gunn, Mr. Novak, Perry Mason, The Red Skelton Show, Have Gun - Will Travel, The Virginian, The Greatest Show on Earth, and Daniel Boone. In 1963 Avery appeared as Martha Clain on The Virginian in the episode titled "If You Have Tears."[citation needed]

During the 1970s, Avery guest starred in episodes of All in the Family, Maude, Charlie's Angels and Baretta.

Later yearsEdit

In the 1980s, Avery retired from acting and became a real estate agent in Los Angeles, working in association with William Justice, who had also been an actor in Winged Victory. She returned to acting in the 1990s with an appearances in the feature film, Made in America (1993), and in an episode of the television series Coach, starring Craig T. Nelson.

Personal lifeEdit

Avery married James Howell Van Campen in 1942, with the marriage ending in divorce on Aug 3, 1944.[13] Her divorce was finalized so that she could marry actor Don Taylor a few weeks later, on Sept 14, 1944. She and Taylor had two daughters together, Anne and Avery, before that marriage ended in divorce in 1955.[14]



  1. ^ "Tom Weatherly Had Blonde Trouble the Very First Week". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. November 8, 1942. p. 2. Retrieved September 22, 2017 – via  
  2. ^ "Phyllis Avery". Playbill. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  3. ^ "Actress Phyllis Avery dies". Variety. May 25, 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  4. ^ Terrace, Vincent (October 6, 2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 875–876. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  5. ^ "Meet Mr.McNutley: The Ray Milland Show". Classic Television Archives. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
  6. ^ "The Girl Who Scared Men Off". Retrieved January 30, 2010.
  7. ^ "The Rifleman". Retrieved January 30, 2010.
  8. ^ ""The Baby Sitter" of The Rifleman". IMDb. Retrieved January 29, 2010.
  9. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2010). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. Random House. p. 456. ISBN 978-0307483157. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  10. ^ Scheuer, Steven (August 4, 1960). "Phyllis Avery Fiery On "Clear Horizon"". The Troy Record. p. 6. Retrieved February 21, 2016 – via  
  11. ^ "Laramie". Classic Television Archives. Retrieved September 23, 2012.
  12. ^ "Laramie: "The Fugitives", February 12, 1963". IMDb. Retrieved September 23, 2012.
  13. ^ "Billboard". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved October 24, 2014. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)[full citation needed]
  14. ^ "Divorce Sought By Phyllis Avery". San Mateo County Times. October 29, 1955. p. 16. Retrieved February 20, 2016 – via  
  15. ^ Barnes, Mike (May 23, 2011). "Prolific TV Actress Phyllis Avery Dies at 88". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 24, 2011.

External linksEdit