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Subject: ARCHIVE: February 3, 1979 ~Jody Gilbert, character solidly-built actress and singer with a pronounced Texan drawl, whose popular wise-cracking lisp delivery made her a favorite in Hollywood films, likely best remember as the scene-stealing waitress opposite the great W.C. Fields in 1941's "Never Give A Sucker an Even Break", though enjoyed a career through the 1970s, sadly dies at 62 after car accident. ...

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Date Posted: Sunday, February 03, 04:25:10am

Jody Gilbert
(March 18, 1916 - February 3, 1979)

Biography …

Gilbert was born in Fort Worth, Texas and studied voice and acting at Columbia University. Solidly-built actress and singer with a pronounced Texan drawl. Had her own radio show while still at high school. Later acted in summer stock and then went to Hollywood, usually stereotyped as comic fat girls.

After her move to California, she was a graduate of Pasadena Playhouse. One time concert singer, Gilbert gave a recital at Carnegie Hall at the age of 19. By 1934, she was attending the Pasadena Playhouse, and soon after had her first big screen appearance was in Ninotchka (1939) with Greta Garbo. She soon gained popularity, as chronicled by gossip columnist of the day, May Mann wrote in 1940 ...
“There’s one girl in Hollywood who worries neither over her weight nor waistline...She is Jody Gilbert, who eats heartily, takes only enough exercise to get her where she’s going and does all right in the movies. Still in her early 20s, she already weighs an imposing 197 pounds and hopes to do even better. ‘I’m a girl of parts,’ she says, ‘and the more parts the merrier’ … ‘Why,’ she asks chuckling, ‘should I worry over my avoirdupois? It’s done all right for me so far. If I lost any one of these chins I might be just another actress. As it is, I’m a person of some weight around here.’”

...In 1948, she landed the role of 'Rosa', “the spectacularly fat and unattractive daughter of Pasquale”,
a supporting character on the radio program, "Life With Luigi", starring J.Carrol Nash. The show
was popular enough to make the jump to television, where it ran for a couple of seasons.

But likely her best known screen performance came in the 1941 W.C. Fields film classic,
"Never Give a Sucker an Even Break", and the wise-cracking waitress who steals scene from Fields. …

Gilbert appeared in numerous roles in radio, and films like "Christmas in Connecticut" (1945),
"Houdini" (1953), and 1971 horror film "Willard" as nosie family friend 'Charlotte Stassen'. …

But in those years of the 1950s, screen appearances came to a halt. In the height of the blacklist. Dozens of well-known actors, directors and producers had seen their careers destroyed following an appearance before the committee, regardless of whether any pro-Communist activity could be proved, so Jody would have been quite aware of what was almost certain to happen to her -- a small-time comedy actress -- when she received the subpoena requiring her to testify. And perhaps that’s why she decided to make a mockery of the proceedings. The committee’s official report records that, just after lunch on 26 May, 1953, Jody sat down at the witness table. …

...She was accompanied by two lawyers, but, as she pointed out with a self-deprecating reference to her considerable size, there was room for only one of them to sit beside her. After a contentious exchange, and bullying by HUAC counsel Frank Tavenner, Miss Gilbert tried to explain her reasoning further, but Tavenner had had enough, and kept asking, “Do you decline to answer the question?” and “Do you rely on the fifth amendment?” Jody retorted, “I actually rely on the constitution of the United States and the 10 commandments,...I am aware that the fifth amendment was written for the protection of the innocent, and I rely on the fifth amendment.” Then, just before the committee threw her out, she managed to squeeze in one more fat joke: “I am not hiding behind the fifth amendment” -- an impossibility, given her size -- “I am standing right in front of it!” The committee refused to allow her to make a final statement or ask a question, and, as she left the room, she pledged to do so elsewhere. She might have done, but the press didn’t report it. The newspapers that mentioned her appearance before the committee portrayed it as a confusing farce, rather than as the corrosive indictment of a vicious and unfair witch hunt that Jody was presumably aiming for. But, for Jody, the outcome was that she didn’t have a day’s work in the next 12 years, until the mid 1960s.

...She was also known for countless television appearances in the 1960s and 70s, like "Batman", Love, American Style", "Mannix", and her last screen appearance on TV's "Switch" with Robert Wagner". Jody Gilbert died from complications from an auto accident in 1979, and was interred at Hollywood Memorial (now Hollywood Forever Cemetery), survived by a sister, brother, and mother Rita, who died a few years later. ...

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Subject Author Date
Jody Gilbert, Familiar FaceJR NelsonSunday, February 03, 10:18:29am

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