New Orleans-born second-string actress Gloria Henry was born Gloria Eileen McEniry on April 2, 1923, and lived on the edge of the Garden District growing up. Educated at the Worcester Art Museum School, she moved to Los Angeles in her very late teens and worked on a number of radio shows and commercials using the stage name of Gloria Henry. She also performed in little theater groups.
Signed by an agent, the brunette hopeful transitioned into film work via Columbia Studios and made her debut as the femme lead in the minor horse-racing film Sport of Kings (1947), instantly moving into the programmer Keeper of the Bees (1947) as a love interest for Michael Duane and mystery drama Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1947) with Ron Randell as the title sleuth. Now a pert and pretty reddish-blonde, she continued providing decorative duties in such “B” fodder as Port Said (1948), in a dual role, Adventures in Silverado (1948),Air Hostess (1949), Rusty Saves a Life (1949), Feudin’ Rhythm (1949), a musical western showcasing Eddy Arnold, Al Jennings of Oklahoma (1951), and the Gene Autry westerns The Strawberry Roan (1948) and Riders in the Sky (1949). Some of the better films for her that came out of this period included secondary femme roles in Johnny Allegro (1949) with George Raft and Nina Foch, Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949) starring Lucille Ball and William Holden, and the classic Fritz Lang western Rancho Notorious (1952) top-lining Marlene Dietrich. She also had top billing in a few of her “B” films but to little notice.
The 1950s were an uneventful mixture of more “B” films and episodic TV guest parts (My Little Margie (1952), Perry Mason (1957)). She also was a regular on the private eye series The Files of Jeffrey Jones (1952) starring Don Haggerty, but was written out of the show due to pregnancy. All this relative anonymity, ended for her, however, when she won the role of radiant and resilient mom “Alice Mitchell” on the comedy series Dennis the Menace (1959) shortly after filming a role in Gang War (1958) starring a young and up-and-coming Charles Bronson. The series co-starred Herbert Anderson as her hapless, bespectacled husband and young Jay North as the pint-sized, trouble-making tornado of the title. Gloria was the picture of sunny innocence and maternal warmth and enjoyed four seasons. Sadly, invaluable actor Joseph Kearns, who played the cranky next-door neighbor “Mr. Wilson”, died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1962 to the detriment of the show. He provided an important chemistry with North and necessary friction that just wasn’t mustered up by his eventual replacement Gale Gordon, a terrific character grump in his own right. Dennis the Menace (1959) lasted only one more season before being canceled. Gloria’s career slowed down considerably after this TV success. She was spotted occasionally in TV-movies playing assorted bit-part matrons and returned to the big screen in a brief role in Her Minor Thing (2005), a romantic comedy directed by Charles Matthau, Walter Matthau’s son. She occasionally attends film festivals and nostalgic conventions. Gloria wed architect “Craig Ellwood” in 1949; they divorced in 1977. She has three children from that marriage: Jeffrey, Adam and Erin Ellwood.
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