Cute brunette actress Jean Heather came of age when American boys were pinning up photographs of ladies like Betty Grable and Jane Russell all over military barracks walls. The lithe-bodied, soft-voiced Miss Heather began work in Hollywood during World War II and acted alongside many leading names in the film industry. Her career never quite took off as imagined, but Jean had a spell at the tail end of the war when she worked on a consistent basis.
Very few actors make their film debut in classic motion pictures, and even fewer have pivotal roles, but Jean Heather was an exception. Her initial film industry assignment came in the Billy Wilder classic DOUBLE INDEMNITY with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. Miss Heather wasn’t credited as a “hat check girl” or “pretty dame on the street,” but played Lola, the pouty daughter of the deceitful Barbara Stanwyck. Jean gives a solid performance as the doe-eyed beauty, who seems easy to keep in line but is all too eager to do what daddy would prefer she wouldn’t. She slips into MacMurray’s car and has him take her, secretly mind you, to meet her rowdy, violent boyfriend in town. The pretty Miss Heather excels as Lola, bringing her natural innocent appearance to the role of a young woman with a cunning mind.
After shooting DOUBLE INDEMNITY, one of the finest pictures in film history, Jean landed a role in a Bing Crosby musical titled GOING MY WAY. The dapper Mister Crosby plays a clergyman in the two-hour long singfest with solid support from Jean. Her first year in Hollywood was fruitful, for the young Midwesterner appeared in four films. The following year she teamed up with Fred MacMurray again in the oddball comedy MURDER, HE SAYS. Fred plays a pollster sent to the backwoods to locate a missing co-worker but instead finds a hillbilly brood trying to learn where their dying grandmother buried $70,000. The dying dame gives MacMurray a hint and the goose chase begins. Jean plays the airheaded Elany who constantly sings an incoherent little jingle that might be a clue as to where the loot is stashed. Jean is quite brilliant in her role as a simple-minded bumpkin, employing crazy eyes to contrast with her dainty features. The dinner table scene, in which a plate of food is poisoned, is the highlight of the film. Elany adds to the despair of the scene by eating a roll that was placed on the poisoned dish which distinguished it from the non-poisoned dishes.
In 1946 Jean appeared in THE WELL-GROOMED BRIDE and followed up that role with a western in 1947. Having worked with MacMurray and Crosby, Miss Heather teamed with famous western star Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy, in THE LAST ROUND-UP. Jean plays the lovely, virtuous school marm who helps the yodeling oater in a scheme designed to pit Gene against a band of Indians. Jean would make one final film, RED STALLION IN THE ROCKIES, before ending her acting career.
ACTING ABILITY: 5.9