Isabel Jeans

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Isabel Jeans
Isabel Jeans in Gigi (1958).jpg
from the trailer for the film Gigi (1958)
Born(1891-09-16)16 September 1891
London, England, UK
Died4 September 1985(1985-09-04) (aged 93)
London, England
Years active1917–1972
Claude Rains
(m. 1913;div. 1915)

Gilbert Wakefield
(m. 1920;died 1963)

Isabel Jeans (16 September 1891 4 September 1985) was an English stage and film actress known for her roles in several Alfred Hitchcock films and her portrayal of Aunt Alicia in the 1958 musical film Gigi . [1] [2]


Early life and career

Born in London, Jeans was the daughter of an art critic. [3]

She planned to become a singer but began her career on the London stage in 1908 at age 15, at the invitation of Herbert Beerbohm Tree. [3] An early appearance on Broadway was in The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife in January 1915 and as Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream in February 1915. [4] She played Lady Mercia Merivale in the London musical hit Kissing Time (1919). [5] She appeared in a production of James Elroy Flecker's Hassan at His Majesty's Theatre in London in 1923. Incidental music for the play was by Frederick Delius, and the ballet in the House-of-the-Moving Walls was created by Fokine. [6] In 1924, she appeared in Ivor Novello's play The Rat at the Prince of Wales's Theatre in London. The following year, she was in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play The Rivals at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, together with her ex-husband Claude Rains, his ex-wife Marie Hemingway, and his then-current wife Beatrix Thomson. [7]

Films and later years

She appeared in major roles in two Alfred Hitchcock silent films, Downhill (1927) and Easy Virtue (1928) and various other British films, then played a number of grande dames in Hollywood films, such as Suspicion (1941), Banana Ridge (1942), Gigi (1958) and A Breath of Scandal (1960). [1] [8]

Later stage roles included The Beggar's Opera at the Comedy Theatre, London in 1935, a revival of The Happy Hypocrite in 1936. [9] Later Broadway roles were Crystal Wetherby in The Man in Possession in 1930 and Mrs. Emmeline Lucas in Make Way for Lucia in 1948. [4] English productions included Anton Chekhov's play The Seagull (1949 at the Lyric Theatre, London and St. James's Theatre), Jean Anouilh's play, "Ardele" (1951 at the Vaudeville Theatre), Noël Coward's play, The Vortex (1952 at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith), T.S. Eliot's play The Confidential Clerk (1953 at the Lyric Theatre), William Congreve's play The Double Dealer (1959 at the Old Vic Theatre, and other plays there that season. She also acted in West End productions of plays by Oscar Wilde, including Lady Windermere's Fan (1945 at the Haymarket Theatre, directed by John Gielgud and 1966 at the Phoenix Theatre (London)), A Woman of No Importance (1953 at the Savoy Theatre) and as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest (1968 at the Haymarket Theatre). [10] [11]

Family and personal life

Jeans' brother Desmond was an actor and boxer, and her sister Ursula became a respected character actress. [12]

She was married twice: first to the actor Claude Rains, from 1913 to 1915, and then to the barrister and playwright Gilbert Edward "Gilley" Wakefield from 1920 until his death in 1963. [3]

Partial filmography

Selected stage credits

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The Rat is play by the British writers Ivor Novello and Constance Collier which first premiered in 1924. It ran for 282 performances in its original West End run, initially at the Prince of Wales Theatre before transferring to the Garrick Theatre. Novello himself starred as the title character, an Apache dancer who frequents Paris nightclubs. The cast also included James Lindsay and Isabel Jeans. On Broadway it enjoyed a run of 126 performances at the Colonial Theatre.


  1. 1 2 "Isabel Jeans".
  2. "Isabel Jeans - Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  3. 1 2 3 Harrison, Paul. "Charming British Girl Arrives in Hollywood", The Sunday Spartanburg Herald-Journal (South Carolina), 29 August 1937, front page of Sec. 2
  4. 1 2 Isabel Jeans at the IBDB database
  5. Findon, B.H., "Kissing Time", The Play Pictorial , May 1919, p. 82.
  6. Drake, Fabia. Blind Fortune, ISBN   0-7183-0455-1 pp. 50-51
  7. Skal, David J. and Jessica Rains. Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice, University Press of Kentucky (2009), p. 38, ISBN   081313885X, accessed 15 January 2013
  8. "Isabel Jeans - Movies and Filmography - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  9. The Happy Hypocrite on Official London Theatre Guide, accessed 19 September 2011
  10. Classic Plays – 1950s, Rob Wilton Theatricalia, accessed 19 September 2011
  11. Classic Plays – 1960s, Rob Wilton Theatricalia, accessed 19 September 2011
  12. Wilson, Scott (16 September 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. ISBN   9781476625997 via Google Books.