Iris Adrian

Active - 1930 - 1980  |   Born - May 29, 1913   |   Died - Sep 21, 1994   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Crime, Musical, Mystery

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Trained as a dancer by Marge Champion's father Ernest Belcher, Iris Adrian began her performing career at age 13 by winning a "beautiful back" contest. Working as a New York chorus girl (she briefly billed herself as "Jimmie Joy"), Iris's big break came with the 1931 edition of The Ziegfeld Follies, which led to featured nightclub and comedy revue work in the U.S. and Europe. In the Kaufman/Hart Broadway play The Fabulous Invalid, Adrian raised the temperatures of the tired businessmen in the audiences by performing a strip-tease--this at a time (the late 1930s) when the standard burlesque houses had been banned from New York by Mayor LaGuardia. Brought to films by George Raft, Adrian made her first screen appearance in Raft's 1934 vehicle Rhumba. This led to dozens of supporting roles in subsequent feature films; Iris' standard characterization at this time was the brassy, gold-digging dame who never spoke below a shout. Often appearing in one-scene bits, Adrian received more sizeable roles in Laurel and Hardy's Our Relations (1936), Bob Hope's The Paleface (1948), Milton Berle's Always Leave Them Laughing (1949) and Jerry Lewis' The Errand Boy (1961). Through the auspices of director William Wellman, who had a fondness for elevating character actors to larger roles, Adrian gave a rollicking performance as Bonnie Parker wannabe Two Gun Gertie in 1942's Roxie Hart. She launched her TV career in 1949 on Buster Keaton's LA-based weekly comedy series. Some of her most memorable work for the small screen was on the various TV programs of Jack Benny, Adrian's favorite comedian and co-worker. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Iris Adrian kept very active in the comedy films of the Walt Disney studio, including That Darn Cat (1965) and The Love Bug (1968); and in 1978, she was superbly cast in the regular role of the sarcastic secretary for a New York escort service on The Ted Knight Show.

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