Dean Jagger
Jagger in The Twilight Zone (1961)
Dean Jeffries Jagger or Dean Ida Jagger

(1903-11-07)November 7, 1903
DiedFebruary 5, 1991(1991-02-05) (aged 87)
Resting placeLakewood Memorial Park, Hughson, California
Years active1923–1987
Antoinette Lowrance
(m. 1935; div. 1943)
Gloria Ling
(m. 1947; div. 1967)
Etta Mae Norton
(m. 1968)

Dean Jagger (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).[1]

Early life

Dean Jeffries Jagger[2][3] (or Dean Ida Jagger)[4] was born in Columbus Grove[1] or Lima, Ohio.[2][5] Growing up on a farm, he wanted to act, and practiced oratory on cows while working. He later won several oratory competitions. At age 14, he worked as an orderly at a sanatorium.[6]

He dropped out of school several times before finally attending Wabash College. While there he was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and played football. He dropped out in his second year, realizing he was not suited to an academic life.[7]

At age 17, he taught all eight grades in a rural elementary school, before heading to Chicago. He studied at the Conservatory of Drama with Elias Day, and through him got a job on the Chautauqua circuit.[6]


Left to right: Norman Lloyd, Katherine Emery, and Dean Jagger in the Broadway production of Everywhere I Roam (1938)

Early stage appearances

Jagger studied acting at Chicago's Lyceum Arts Conservatory.[7] He eventually played Young Matt in a production of Shepherd of the Hills on stage in Chicago. This experience resulted in him deciding to try his luck in New York City.[1]

He joined a stock company as Spencer Tracy's replacement.[1] He performed in vaudeville, on the radio and on stage,[1] making his Broadway debut in 1925 in a bit part in a George M. Cohan production.[7] He was in a play Remote Control in 1928.[8]

Early films

Jagger visited Los Angeles on a vaudeville show with Irene Rich. While there, he made his film debut in The Woman from Hell (1929) with Mary Astor. "My good notices," he later recalled, "had a reverse effect on the industry, which was suddenly revolutionized by sound pictures. With the one film to my credit, I was considered part of that group of untouchables – silent film stars."[9] He followed it with Handcuffed (1929).

Jagger decided to move into film production, helping raise money to make a feature that ultimately never was released. He returned to New York City.[10]

Tobacco Road

Jagger's big career break came when cast in a lead role in the play Tobacco Road in 1933. The play was a huge hit and ran until 1941,[11] though Jagger left the show in 1934 to appear in They Shall Not Die, which only ran 62 performances.[12]


In April 1934, Jagger signed a contract with Paramount, for which he made You Belong to Me (1934) with Lee Tracy, then College Rhythm (1934) with Jack Oakie, Behold My Wife! (1934) with Sylvia Sidney, Wings in the Dark (1935) with Myrna Loy and Cary Grant, Home on the Range (1935) with Jackie Coogan, Randolph Scott and Evelyn Brent, Car 99 (1935) with Fred MacMurray and Ann Sheridan, People Will Talk (1935) with Charlie Ruggles, and Men Without Names (1935) with Fred MacMurray.[6][8] Paramount gave him a lead role in the B Western Wanderer of the Wasteland (1935). He was back in supporting parts in It's a Great Life (1935), Woman Trap (1936), and 13 Hours by Air (1936).

Victor Halperin borrowed him to play the lead role in Revolt of the Zombies (1936). He went to 20th Century Fox for Pepper (1936) and Star for a Night (1936), then to MGM for Under Cover of Night (1937).[13]

Trailer for Dangerous Number (1937)

Jagger did Woman in Distress (1937) at Columbia, and Dangerous Number (1937) and Song of the City (1937) at MGM.

Jagger appeared in Republic Pictures' Escape by Night (1937) and Exiled to Shanghai (1937).

Jagger played Michael Drops In in summer stock and returned to Broadway to star in Missouri Legend (1938), which ran 48 performances.[14] He was also in short runs for Everywhere I Roam (1938–39), Brown Danube (1939), Farm of Three Echoes (1939–40) with Ethel Barrymore, and Unconquered (1940) by Ayn Rand.[15]

Brigham Young

Jagger made his breakthrough with his portrayal of Mormon leader Brigham Young in Brigham Young (1940) at 20th Century Fox, alongside Tyrone Power for director Henry Hathaway. He was cast on the basis of his performance in Missouri Legend.[16] According to George D. Pyper, a technical consultant on the film who had personally known Brigham Young, Jagger not only resembled Young, but he also spoke like him and had many of his mannerisms.[16] Thirty-two years later, in 1972 he was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[17]

Fox signed him to a long-term contract and put him in Western Union (1941) for Fritz Lang. He was announced for the Biblical film The Great Commandment and a biopic of Lewis and Clark with Randolph Scott, but neither was made.[18]

Instead, Jagger appeared in The Men in Her Life (1941) for Columbia, Valley of the Sun (1942) at RKO, and The Omaha Trail (1942) at MGM.

King Brothers

Jagger had a rare lead role in I Escaped from the Gestapo (1943) for the King Brothers, then went back to supporting roles for The North Star (1943) for Sam Goldwyn. The King Brothers gave him top billing again with When Strangers Marry (1944). Jagger acted in Alaska (1944) at Monogram, which was distributed to King films.

Jagger went to England to appear in I Live in Grosvenor Square (1945) with Anna Neagle and Rex Harrison. He had good roles in Sister Kenny (1946) with Rosalind Russell and Pursued (1947) with Robert Mitchum.

He did Driftwood (1947) for Republic and started appearing on TV shows such as The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, Studio One, and The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre.[19]

Jagger returned to Broadway for Dr. Social (1948), but it had a short run. He had the lead role in 'C'-Man (1949).

Twelve O'Clock High and 1950s

Jagger received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Twelve O'Clock High (1949), made at Fox and directed by Henry King. In the film, he played the World War I veteran, middle-aged adjutant Major/Lt. Col. Harvey Stovall, who acts as an advisor to the commander, General Savage (Gregory Peck).

Jagger stayed a supporting actor, though, appearing in Sierra (1950) with Audie Murphy at Universal, Dark City (1950) for Hal Wallis, Rawhide (1951) with Hathaway and Power at Fox, and Warpath (1951) at Paramount with Edmond O'Brien and directed by Byron Haskin.

Jagger had a lead role in the strongly anti-communist film My Son John (1952) at Paramount. He was in Denver and Rio Grande (1952), again with Haskin and O'Brien, and episodes of Gulf Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre, Cavalcade of America, Schlitz Playhouse, and Studio 57.

He appeared in the biblical epic The Robe (1953) as the weaver Justus of Cana, and was in Private Hell 36 (1954).

He played 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 for MGM. He was also in The Eternal Sea (1955) at Republic, It's a Dog's Life (1955) at MGM, On the Threshold of Space (1956) at Fox, and Red Sundown (1956) at Universal.

For the 1956 British science-fiction film X the Unknown, Jagger refused to work with director Joseph Losey because Losey was on the Hollywood blacklist. Losey came off the project after a few days of shooting and was replaced by Leslie Norman. An alternative version is that Losey was replaced due to illness.[20][21] Half the budget, $30,000, went to Jagger's fee.[22]

Jagger was in The 20th Century Fox Hour, Three Brave Men (1956), The Great Man (1956) (second-billed to José Ferrer), Zane Grey Theatre, "Bernadine" (1957) with Pat Boone, an episode of Playhouse 90, Forty Guns (1957) for Sam Fuller, and The Proud Rebel (1958) with Alan Ladd and directed by Michael Curtiz.

Jagger also portrayed the father of Elvis Presley's character in 1958's King Creole, directed by Curtiz.

Jagger was in The Nun's Story (1959), playing the father of Audrey Hepburn's character, and Cash McCall (1960), and played the traveling manager for an evangelist played by Jean Simmons in the acclaimed 1960 drama Elmer Gantry. He was in two failed pilots, including The House on K Street.

In the 1960s, Jagger increasingly worked on television appearing in The Twilight Zone ("Static"), Sunday Showcase, Our American Heritage, General Electric Theater, Dr. Kildare, The Christophers, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He also appeared in the films Parrish (1961), The Honeymoon Machine (1961) and Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962).

Mr. Novak

James Franciscus and Jagger from the television series Mr. Novak

Jagger achieved success with the television series Mr. Novak (1963–1965), 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.[5] Before he left the show to have a major medical operation, though, he was less than happy with the series, clashing repeatedly with the writers and directors[5] and describing "the Mr. Novak company" afterwards as "a mishmash of unbelievable amateurishness."[23]

"It is unforgivable how bad TV is today," he said in 1965. "The people doing it have succumbed to the cliché that there is no time to be good in TV, or that we doing it are lucky to get one good episode out of three. Why?"[9]

Jagger officially left the show in December 1964 because of an ulcer.[24]

Jagger's appearances in the 1960s included episodes of The F.B.I. and The Fugitive, as well as films First to Fight (1967), Firecreek (1968), Day of the Evil Gun (1968), Smith! (1968) with Glenn Ford, The Lonely Profession (1969), Tiger by the Tail (1970), The Kremlin Letter (1970), Men at Law, The Brotherhood of the Bell (1970), again with Ford, and an episode of The Name of the Game.

He had a semiregular role on the series Matt Lincoln (1970) as the father of the title character, and parts in Vanishing Point (1971), Bonanza, and Incident in San Francisco (1971).[25]

In 1971, Jagger appeared on The Partridge Family. He played a prospector named Charlie in the Christmas episode "Don't Bring Your Guns to Town, Santa".

Later career

Jagger was in The Glass House (1972), Columbo, 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), Alias Smith and Jones, Medical Center, The Stranger (1973), The Delphi Bureau, The Lie (1973), Shaft, I Heard the Owl Call My Name (1973), Love Story, The Hanged Man (1974), The Great Lester Boggs (1974), So Sad About Gloria (1975), The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case (1976), Harry O, Hunter, End of the World (1977), and Evil Town (1977).

He played the syndicate boss in Game of Death (1978) as the nemesis of Bruce Lee.

Jagger's later appearances included The Waltons, Gideon's Trumpet (1980) and Alligator (1980).

He won a Daytime Emmy award for a guest appearance in the religious series This Is the Life.[1]

His last role was as Dr. David Domedion in the St. Elsewhere season-three finale "Cheers" in 1985.

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 had been born in China.[26] Within two days, the couple had flown to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and were married under "New Mexico's more liberal statute".[27]

In later life, Jagger suffered from heart disease. He died in his sleep in Santa Monica, California. He was 87. He was survived by his third wife, Etta, a daughter and two stepsons.[1]

Jagger joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints later in his life.[28]

Complete filmography


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Flint, Peter B. (February 6, 1991). "Dean Jagger, actor, 87, Is Dead; Versatile Figure in Films and TV". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 29, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Dean Jagger". Variety. February 10, 1991.
  3. ^ "Veteran charactor actor Dean Jagger dead at 87". Racine Journal Times. Associated Press. February 6, 1991.
  4. ^ Clarke, Joseph F. (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 90.
  5. ^ a b c Oliver, Myrna (February 6, 1991). "Oscar-Winning Character Actor Dean Jagger Dies". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ a b c Dean Jagger Got Start Denouncing 'Demon Rum' Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times, February 26, 1950: D1.
  7. ^ a b c "Former Teacher Dean Jagger Returning to 'School'". Hazleton Standard-Speaker. June 15, 1963 – via Open access icon
  8. ^ a b Lee Tracy Awarded Long-Term Contract by Paramount Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times, April 26, 1934: 15
  9. ^ a b Oscar-Winning Character Actor Dean Jagger Dies: [Home Edition] Oliver, Myrna. Los Angeles Times, February 6, 1991: 1.
  10. ^ Road to Fame Often Bids a Dreary Detour, The Washington Post, January 27, 1935: A1.
  11. ^ "Tobacco Road". Internet Broadway Database.
  12. ^ "They Shall Not Die". Internet Broadway Database.
  13. ^ Zane Grey's Western Union and Dean Jagger: Hollywood Letter, by Frank Daugherty, "Special to The Christian Science Monitor". The Christian Science Monitor, November 15, 1940: 8.
  14. ^ "Missouri Legend". Internet Broadway Database.
  15. ^ Allegory of Farm Will Open Tonight, The New York Times, December 9, 1938: 14.
  16. ^ a b Church News, July 7, 2003.[full citation needed]
  17. ^ "Dean Jagger (1903-1991) Actor". Famous Mormons. Archived from the original on September 21, 2013. Retrieved September 19, 2013.
  18. ^ Dean Jagger Wins Plum Role in 'Western Union', Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times, July 23, 1940: 13.
  19. ^ Radio and Television: Dean Jagger and Margaret Sullavan to Co-Star in 'The Storm' Over CBS Video Sunday, The New York Times, November 3, 1948: 54.
  20. ^ "R U Sitting Comfortably - Dean Jagger". Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  21. ^ Sanjek, David (March 9, 2015). "Cold, Cold Heart: Joseph Losey's The Damned and the Compensations of Genre". senses of cinema. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  22. ^ Marcus Hearn & Alan Barnes, The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films, Titan Books, 2007. p. 18
  23. ^ Kleiner, Dick (May 23, 1965). "Dean Jagger Is Recovering From 'Novak'". Waco Tribune-Herald – via Open access icon
  24. ^ Dean Jagger to Give Up His Role in 'Mr. Novak': Recurrence of Ulcer Forcing Actor to Drop Portrayal in Series on N.B.C.-TV, By VAL ADAMS. New York Times, December 3, 1964: 90.
  25. ^ Dean Jagger Signed, Los Angeles Times, November 3, 1970: f14.
  26. ^ "Film Actor, Secretary Denied License to Wed". Pottstown Mercury. January 25, 1947 – via Open access icon
  27. ^ "Miles Kangun performed marriage ceremony for Dean Jagger & Gloria Ling; Actor, Balked by California Law, Weds Pretty Part Chinese Fiance Here". Albuquerque, New Mexico: Albuquerque Journal. January 26, 1947. p. 1 col.1–3. Retrieved November 22, 2020 – via [...] after hectic three days that began with an airplane trip from New York to Los Angeles Thursday and wound up with a marriage ceremony here at Bernalillo County court house a half hour after their arrival in mid-afternoon. Because Miss Gloria Jean Ling, the bride, is partly of Chinese ancestry, the couple had been refused a license in California, so retraced part of their journey by TWA in order to be married under New Mexico's more liberal statute. Open access icon
  28. ^ D’Arc, James Vincent. "The Conversion of Hollywood's 'Brigham Young'". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved November 22, 2020.