Mostly Credited As: Jean Byron
Sometimes Credited As: Jeane Byron
Birth Name: Imogene Burkhart
Date Of Birth: December 10, 1925 (Age 80)
Country Of Birth: USA
Birth Place: Paducah, Kentucky
Date Of Death: February 03, 2006
Cause Of Death: post-surgery complications (Mobile, AL)
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
A true sunny delight, actress Jean Byron will be fondly remembered for her three-season role as vivacious Natalie Lane, the grounding mom of "identical cousin" Patty Duke on "The Patty Duke Show" (1963), the one who was always around to help teenage Patty regroup when "a hot dog made her lose control." She was born with the unlikely marquee name of Imogene Burkhart in Paducah, Kentucky, in 1925. Musically inclined, she was a teen singer on radio before even graduating from high school. Her family subsequently moved to California which only spurred on Jean's interest in show business. Apprenticing on the local stage and continuing to work on radio, she earned her first contract with Columbia Pictures and chose the more adaptable name of Jean Byron for billing purposes.
Her movie career officially began uneventfully in 1952 co-starring with Johnny Weissmuller in Voodoo Tiger (1952), one of a series of "Jungle Jim" adventure programmers. Uninspired roles opposite a radioactive creature in The Magnetic Monster (1953) and as a handmaiden to Rhonda Fleming's Cleopatra in Serpent of the Nile (1953) eventually had her leaning towards TV as a more viable medium for her. Not only did she appear in the top shows of the day but she seemed to have an affinity for westerns with steady work on such series as "Yancy Derringer," "Fury," "My Friend Flicka," "Cheyenne" and "Laramie" to her credit. The highly attractive, wholesome-looking blonde with the warm, peaches-and-cream complexion also became a mild household fixture as an on-camera spokeswoman for such products as Revlon and Lux soap. At one time she was known as "The Lux Girl." TV series work came her way as well and she earned recurring roles on "Dobie Gillis" before solidifying her status on the "Duke" show from 1963 to 1966.
Following the series' demise, Jean was seen less and less, primarily on 60s and 70s TV. She also appeared on the dinner theater circuit and in musical stage shows, portraying Mama Rose in one production of "Gypsy." Retiring in the 1980s, she moved with her aged mother to Mobile, Alabama in the late 1980s to be closer to extended family. Her final TV appearance was a happy occasion with a nostalgic TV-movie reunion show that brought her back in touch with former cast members Patty Duke and TV husband William Schallert, among others, in 1999. The reunion took 33 years in the making, one for the TV record books. At one time briefly married to handsome actor Michael Ansara, she had no children and never remarried. Jean died at age 80 after developing an infection following surgery for a hip replacement. She was buried in Mobile Memorial Gardens.