Dean Jagger

Dean Jagger

in Dangerous Number (1937)
Born (1903-11-07)November 7, 1903
Columbus Grove or Lima, Ohio, U.S.
Died February 5, 1991(1991-02-05) (aged 87)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Resting place Lakewood Memorial Park, Hughson, California
Occupation Actor
Years active 1928–87
Religion The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Spouse(s) Antoinette Lawrence (1935–1943) (divorced)
Gloria Ling (1947–1967) (divorced) 1 daughter
Etta Mae Norton (1968–1991) (his death) (1925–1992)
Children Diane Pearson[1]
Tom and Lee Winger, stepsons[2]

Dean Jeffries Jagger[3] (November 7, 1903 February 5, 1991) was an American film, stage and television actor who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Henry King's Twelve O'Clock High (1949).[4]

Early life

Born Dean Jeffries,[5][6] or Dean Jeffries Jagger (sources disagree), in Columbus Grove[4] or Lima, Ohio,[3][7] he dropped out of school several times before finally attending Wabash College. While at Wabash, he was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and played football. He dropped out in his sophomore year, realizing he was not suited to an academic life.[8] For a few semesters, he taught all eight grades in an elementary school, before heading to Chicago.[4]


Jagger studied acting at Chicago's Lyceum Arts Conservatory.[8] He joined a stock company as Spencer Tracy's replacement.[4] He performed in vaudeville, on the radio and on stage,[4] making his Broadway debut in 1925 in a bit part in a George M. Cohan production.[8] Through the '30s and '40s, he performed in a number of Broadway plays, including the original production of Tobacco Road.

Jagger made his film debut in The Woman from Hell (1929) with Mary Astor. He became a successful character actor and appeared in almost 100 films in a career that lasted until shortly before his death. Jagger made his breakthrough with his portrayal of Brigham Young in Brigham Young (1940).[9] According to George D. Pyper, a technical consultant on the film who had personally known Brigham Young, Jagger not only resembled Young, he also spoke like him and had many of his mannerisms.[9] Thirty-two years later, in 1972 he was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[10]

He received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Twelve O'Clock High (1949). In the film, he played the retread World War I veteran, middle-aged adjutant Major/Lt. Col. Harvey Stovall, who acts as an advisor to the commander, General Savage (Gregory Peck). He appeared in the biblical epic The Robe (1953) as the weaver Justus of Cana. He played the retired Army major general Tom Waverly honored by Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) in the musical White Christmas (1954), and an impotent local sheriff in the modern Western Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), starring Spencer Tracy. Jagger also portrayed the father of Elvis Presley's character in 1958's King Creole. He was the traveling manager for an evangelist played by Jean Simmons in the acclaimed 1960 drama Elmer Gantry.

For the 1956 British science-fiction film X the Unknown, Jagger refused to work with director Joseph Losey[11][12] because Losey was on the Hollywood blacklist. Losey was removed from the project after a few days of shooting and replaced with Leslie Norman.

Jagger also achieved success in the television series Mr. Novak, receiving Emmy Award nominations for his role in 1964 and 1965, as well as the California Teachers Association's Communications Award, along with star James Franciscus, in 1963 for his portrayal of high school principal Albert Vane.[7] However, even before he left the show to have a major medical operation, he was less than happy with the series, clashing repeatedly with the writers and directors[7] and describing "the Mr. Novak company" afterwards as "a mishmash of unbelievable amateurishness."[13]

He won a Daytime Emmy award for a guest appearance in the religious series This Is the Life.[4] He played dozens of TV dramatic roles, including an episode of The Twilight Zone called "Static." In an early episode of the television series Kung Fu Jagger appeared as Caine's grandfather, who wants little to do with him, but starts Caine on his series-long search for his half-brother Danny.

Dean Jagger has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1523 Vine Street for his contribution to motion pictures.

Personal life and death

When Jagger tried to marry his second wife, Gloria Ling, in 1947, they were denied a marriage license in California due to a state law "forbidding unions between Caucasians and Mongolians [sic]"; Ling's father was born in China.[14]

In later life Dean Jagger suffered from heart disease and died in his sleep in Santa Monica, California. He was 87, and was buried in the small town of Hughson, California, at Lakewood Memorial Park. He was survived by his third wife, Etta, a daughter and two stepsons.[4]

Partial filmography


  3. 1 2 "Dean Jagger". Variety. February 10, 1991.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Peter B. Flint (February 6, 1991). "Dean Jagger, Actor, 87, Is Dead; Versatile Figure in Films and TV". The New York Times.
  5. Joseph F. Clarke (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 90.
  6. Paul Michael, James Robert Parish (1969). The American Movies Reference Book: The Sound Era. Prentice-Hall. p. 138.
  7. 1 2 3 Myrna Oliver (February 6, 1991). "Oscar-Winning Character Actor Dean Jagger Dies". Los Angeles Times.
  8. 1 2 3 "Former Teacher Dean Jagger Returning to 'School'". Hazleton Standard-Speaker. June 15, 1963 via
  9. 1 2 Church News, July 7, 2003.
  10. "Dean Jagger (1903-1991) Actor". Famous Mormons. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
  11. "R U Sitting Comfortably - Dean Jagger". Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  12. Sanjek, David. "Cold, Cold Heart: Joseph Losey's The Damned and the Compensations of Genre". senses of cinema. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  13. Dick Kleiner (May 23, 1965). "Dean Jagger Is Recovering From 'Novak'". Waco Tribune-Herald via
  14. "Film Actor, Secretary Denied License to Wed". Pottstown Mercury. January 25, 1947 via
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