Mary Frann
Frann in an episode of That Girl in 1968
Mary Frances Luecke

(1943-02-27)February 27, 1943
DiedSeptember 23, 1998(1998-09-23) (aged 55)
Resting placeHoly Cross Cemetery
Other namesJennifer Douglas
Mary Fran
Alma materNorthwestern University
Years active1961–1998
Known forNewhart
T. J. Escott
(m. 1973; div. 1983)
Partner(s)Jonathan Cookman, Jr.
(??–1998, her death)

Mary Frann (born Mary Frances Luecke, February 27, 1943[citation needed] – September 23, 1998) was an American stage, film, and television actress.

She is best known for her role as Joanna Loudon, the wife of Bob Newhart's character on the CBS sitcom Newhart, which aired from 1982 to 1990.

Early years

Born in St. Louis, Frann was a child model and appeared in commercials for a local television station while she attended Nerinx Hall High School. At the age of 18, she was voted Missouri's "Junior Miss". She went on to win the 1961 national title of America's Junior Miss and earned a college scholarship to study drama at Northwestern University.[1] As America's Junior Miss, she starred in a Jam Handy educational film (Prom: It's a Pleasure) extolling the etiquette and fun of the high school prom.[2] While attending Northwestern, Frann worked as a weather reporter for the NBC station in St. Louis.[3][4] After a year, she dropped out of Northwestern and moved to Chicago where she co-hosted a morning show on an ABC affiliate. While working as a host, Frann worked in local theatre productions and began working in television and films.[5] In 1964, Frann made her television debut in the Kraft Suspense Theatre episode "Once Upon a Savage Night", which was subsequently expanded into the TV movie Nightmare in Chicago. In 1966, Frann made her feature film debut in the low-budget musical drama Nashville Rebel, starring Waylon Jennings.[6]


After receiving an offer to host another morning show, Frann realized she wanted to pursue a career as an actress rather than a broadcaster. In 1968, she moved to Los Angeles where she stayed with her best friend, actress Joan Van Ark. Shortly after her arrival, Frann won a role on the NBC crime drama series My Friend Tony.[5] After winning the role, Frann's agent told her that he felt she should change her name to something more appealing. Frann adopted the stage name "Jennifer Douglas", a name she picked from the phone book. After My Friend Tony was canceled after one season, Frann returned to using the name "Mary Frann" (which she had gone by since high school) as her professional name.[1]

For the next five years, Frann continued to work in television and also worked in theatre in Los Angeles and New York. In 1974, she landed the role of Amanda Howard on the daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives. She would remain on the show until 1979.[7] While on the series, Frann also made guest appearances on Quincy, M.E.; The Rockford Files; Fantasy Island; The Mary Tyler Moore Show and WKRP in Cincinnati. In 1978, Frann was nearly cast as Sue Ellen Ewing on the CBS primetime drama Dallas. Producers later decided to cast actress Linda Gray.[8] In 1982, she starred on the short-lived series King's Crossing with Linda Hamilton. That series was canceled after one season due to low ratings.[9] Later that year, she landed her most memorable role as Joanna Loudon, the wife of Vermont inn owner Dick Loudon (Bob Newhart), in the sitcom Newhart.[10] The series, which aired from October 1982 to May 1990, was a hit with audiences and was nominated for 25 Emmys and five Golden Globes. Shortly after filming the series finale, Frann was cast as "Clementine Duke" in the miniseries Lucky/Chances.[11] The series was based on two of Jackie Collins' novels, Lucky and Chances. The role was a dramatic departure from Frann's work on Newhart and surprised audiences. She later told the Los Angeles Times, "I thought it would be outrageous, flamboyant, glamorous. I wanted to remind people that I was capable of playing many different roles."[12]

During the run of Newhart, Frann continued acting in various projects. In 1985, she co-starred in the TV movie Gidget's Summer Reunion,[13] and in 1988, she appeared in Dance 'til Dawn with Alyssa Milano, Christina Applegate and Kelsey Grammer.[14] Frann also co-hosted the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants of 1986 and 1987,[15][16][17][18] and acted as hostess for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Rose Parade.[12]

Her last acting role came in an episode of the series Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. Due to the sporadic airing of the series, the episode she was in, "The Curse of Hampton Manor", aired two years after her death.

Personal life

Frann married T.J. Escott in 1973. They separated in 1982 and divorced the following year.[7][12]

Frann was active as a volunteer fund-raiser and with several charitable works. She was a member of the Celebrity Action Council, a volunteer group of celebrity women who served the women's outreach of the Los Angeles Mission, for seven years. The night before her death, she had attended a meeting at the Mission.[12]


On September 23, 1998, Frann died in her sleep at her home in Beverly Hills.[19] Her body was discovered by longtime boyfriend Jonathan Cookman, Jr.[12] An autopsy determined she died of a heart attack, and found myocardial scars suggesting earlier undiagnosed infarction.[20] Her remains are interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.[21]

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1961 The Prom: It's a Pleasure! Junior Miss Missouri short film
1966 Nashville Rebel Molly Morgan
1976 Woman in the Rain Alternative title: A Hell Black Night
1990 Fatal Charm Susan Direct-to-video
Year Title Role Notes
1964 Kraft Suspense Theatre Annette Episode: "Once Upon a Savage Night"
1966 The Monkees Hilda S1:E12, "I've Got a Little Song Here"
1968 Get Smart Stewardess Episode: "Snoopy Smart vs. the Red Baron"
Credited as Jennifer Douglas
1968 That Girl Pat Crawford Episode: "Ann vs. Secretary"
Credited as Jennifer Douglas
1968–69 The Wild Wild West Dr. Virginia Mays
Princess Lina
2 episodes
Credited as Jennifer Douglas
1969 My Friend Tony Main cast
credited as Jennifer Douglas
1969 Bonanza Barbara Parker Episode: "The Running Man"
Credited as Jennifer Douglas
1969 Lancer Dorrie Episode: "The Kid"
Credited as Jennifer Douglas
1971 The Bill Cosby Show Louise Episode: "The Miraculous Martin"
1972 The Mary Tyler Moore Show Joanne Episode: "Some of My Best Friends Are Rhoda"
1972 Hawaii Five-O Jean Holland Episode: "Chain of Events"
1972 Search Stephanie Burnside Episode: "Operation Iceman"
1973 Cannon Janice Rogers Episode: "Murder for Murder"
1973–74 Return to Peyton Place D. B. Bentley Unknown episodes
1974 Firehouse Episode: "Tide of Terror"
1974 The F.B.I. Agent Pat Driscoll Episode: "Confessions of a Madman"
1974 Apple's Way Claudine Delacorte Episode: "The Circus"
1974–79 Days of Our Lives Amanda Howard Unknown episodes
1975 The Wide World of Mystery Episode: "Distant Early Warning"
1975–78 The Rockford Files Valerie Thomas/Maria Heller
Ruth Beetson-White
2 episodes
1976 The TVTV Show Mary Kay Television special
1977 The Fantastic Journey Roxanne Episode: "Funhouse"
1977 Quincy, M.E. Christine Hopwood Episode: "No Deadly Secret"
1978 Fantasy Island Grace Arnold Episode: "Family Reunion/Voodoo"
1978 The Incredible Hulk Karen Weiss Episode: "Stop the Presses"
1978 The Rockford Files Ruth Beetson-White Episode: "A Fast Count"
1980 Stone Adelle Lovins Episode: "The Man in the Full Toledo"
1980 Portrait of an Escort Sandy TV movie
1981 Nero Wolfe Janet Eaton Episode: "Wolfe at the Door"
1981 WKRP in Cincinnati Avis Dropkin 2 episodes
1981 Darkroom Linda Beckwith Episode: "Closed Circuit"
1982 King's Crossing Nan Hollister Main cast
1982–90 Newhart Joanna Loudon Main cast
1984–85 Hotel Stephanie
Dr. Ellen Graham
2 episodes
1985 Gidget's Summer Reunion Anne Bedford TV movie
1987 The New Mike Hammer Harriet "Harry" Quail Episode: "A Face in the Night"
1987 Eight Is Enough: A Family Reunion Abby Bradford TV movie
1988 Dance 'til Dawn Nancy Johnson TV movie
1989 Single Women, Married Men Pat Michaels TV movie
1990 I'm Dangerous Tonight Martha TV movie
1990 CBS Comedy Bloopers Host Television special
1990 Lucky/Chances Clementine Duke Miniseries
1991 The Hitchhiker Veronica Episode: "Secrets"
1994 Burke's Law Brittany Moore Episode: "Who Killed Good Time Charlie?"
1997 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Alice White Episode: "Toy Story"
1998 Diagnosis: Murder Lucy Caruso Episode: "Talked to Death"
2000 Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction Bev Conklin Episode: "The Curse of Hampton Manor"
Aired posthumously


  1. ^ a b Reinhold, Toni (January 4, 1987). "Mary Frann has character's spirit". The Herald Journal TV Week. Logan, Utah. p. 62. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  2. ^ "The Prom: It's a Pleasure". Jam Handy. 1961. Retrieved February 7, 2013 – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ Carter, Bill (September 25, 1998). "Mary Frann, 55, Bemused Wife on 'Newhart'". The New York Times. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
  4. ^ "Mary Frann, played Bob Newhart's wife on TV series". The Standard-Times. New Bedford, Mass. Archived from the original on July 18, 2010. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
  5. ^ a b Guttman, Monika (March 23, 1986). "Joking Around Way of Life on Set of 'Newhart'". The Victoria Advocate. p. 8. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  6. ^ Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (2003). Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (eds.). All Music Guide to Country: The Definitive Guide to Country Music (2nd ed.). Backbeat Books. p. 897. ISBN 978-0-8793-0760-8.
  7. ^ a b Norbom, Mary Ann (July 20, 1986). "Proving The Allure Of An 'Older Woman'". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  8. ^ Gold, Aaron (May 8, 1981). "Jane Wyman lands new TV series role". Boca Raton News. p. 20. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  9. ^ Heldenfels, R.D. (October 9, 1982). "'Newhart' Actress Mary Frann Knows 'Inns' and Outs of Role". Schenectady Gazette. p. 5. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  10. ^ Haviland, Joe (June 17, 1984). "Mary Frann Falls In Love With 'Newhart'". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. p. 36. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  11. ^ "Vamp role up next". The Victoria Advocate. May 23, 1990. p. 9D. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  12. ^ a b c d e Oliver, Myrna (September 24, 1998). "Mary Frann; Veteran Actress Played Wife on 'Newhart'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  13. ^ Anderson, Nancy (June 8, 1985). "'Gidget' returns to the tube". The Evening News. Newburgh, New York. Copley News Service. p. 5E. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  14. ^ Burlingame, Jon (October 21, 1988). "'Mission: Impossible' Is Back!". Ocala Star-Banner. p. 8B. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  15. ^ "Texas Wins Miss USA Title". Lakeland Ledger. Associated Press. May 21, 1986. p. 8A. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  16. ^ "Miss Texas wins..." Lodi News-Sentinel. February 18, 1987. p. 12. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  17. ^ Zuckerman, Faye B. (July 21, 1986). "Miss Universe crowned tonight". Spokane Chronicle. p. B5. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  18. ^ Major Holmes, Sue (February 18, 1987). "Barker wins; furs cut from pageant". The Times-News. Hendersonville, North Carolina. p. 14. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  19. ^ Errico, Marcus (September 24, 1998). ""Newhart" Wife Mary Frann Dies". E! News. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  20. ^ "Coroner: 'Newhart's Mary Frann died of heart attack". CNN. November 5, 1998. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
  21. ^ Ellenberger, Allan R. (May 1, 2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-7864-0983-9.