2006-02-06 16:35:20 UTC
Monday, February 06, 2006
Staff Report , AL.Com
Imogene Burkhart, an actress better known as Jean Byron, died Friday at
an area hospital. She was 80.
The native of Paducah, Ky., was born on Dec.10, 1925, to Anna Louise
Bastin and Edward Burkhart. She moved with her family to Louisville,
Ky., where she attended and graduated from Louisville Girl's High
School in 1943. Prior to her graduation, at age 16, she was briefly a
singer and entertainer on an area radio show.
The war effort took her family to California, where she studied acting
while appearing on stage and radio. When she signed her first contract
with Columbia Pictures, she adopted Jean Byron as her stage name.
In the 1950s, she was briefly married to actor Michael Ansara.
Byron had more than 80 credits in film and television on her resume.
She played alongside Johnny Weissmuller, John Carradine, Cary Grant,
Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Raquel Welch, Angela Lansbury and others.
She was spokeswoman for Revlon and Lux products on the Rosemary Clooney
show and was known as "the Lux Girl."
The role of Dr. Imogene Burkhart on the Dobbie Gillis series was
written for her by close friend and playwright Max Shulman.
Fans may best remember her as Natalie Lane, mother of Patty Duke on the
mid-1960s series, "The Patty Duke Show."
A friend of Tommy Dorsey, she occasionally sang with the big band while
she was filming in New York. She played regional theaters with Shirley
Jones and Virginia Mayo, played Mama Rose in "Gypsy" and sang in "Guys
In the late 1980s, Jean entered semi-retirement and moved to Mobile to
be closer to her family. She made a final movie appearance in the 1999
"Patty Duke Show Reunion" movie.
She is survived by her cousins, David Hancock and John Hancock, both of
Visitation will be Tuesday from 9 a.m. until the 10 a.m. graveside
service at Mobile Memorial Gardens. Memorials may be made to the SPCA
or a local animal shelter.