Ann Jillian

Active - 1961 - 1999  |   Born - Jan 29, 1950 in Cambridge, MA  |   Genres - Drama

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Blonde, round-faced actress Ann Jillian was the daughter of Lithuanian war refugees. Her mother, for whom the phrase "stage-struck" might well have been coined, determined that the family would settle in Los Angeles so that her children would grow up in the heart of showbiz. In 1961, 11-year-old Ann made her film debut as Bo Peep in Disney's Babes in Toyland (1961). Two years later, she was cast as young Dainty June in Gypsy (1963); her talent and dedication prompted producer Mervyn LeRoy to forecast a "most rewarding future in show business" for the young actress. But after essaying her first semi-adult role as secretary Millie Ballard in the TV sitcom Hazel, Jillian dropped out of acting for three years to study psychology in college; during this period, she paid her tuition by working in a department store. She returned to performing as one half of a singing act (Debra Shulman was the other half) which opened for such Las Vegas headliners as Robert Goulet. In the late 1970s, Jillian scored a personal triumph in the Broadway musical Sugar Babies, holding her own on stage despite the howitzer-shell competition of stars Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller (her role was later reduced in size, reportedly because Miller felt she was being upstaged). Under the guidance of her manager-husband, ex-policeman Andy Murcia, Jillian went onward and upward in 1980 as star of the long-running sitcom It's a Living; later television projects included the short-lived series Jennifer Slept Here and the title role in the TV biopic Mae West, which earned her the first of two Emmy nominations (the second was for 1984's Ellis Island). After undergoing a double mastectomy in 1985, Ann Jillian celebrated her survival by starring in another made-for-TV biography, The Ann Jillian Story (1988)

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