Fetching, glossy-lipped, blue-eyed, white-hot blonde Jean Hale showed major promise playing superficial glamour girls, a la Carroll Baker and Virna Lisi, throughout the 1960s. Born to Mormon parents in Salt Lake City, Utah, she was raised in Darien, Connecticut and expressed an early interest in acting. As a promise to her parents, however, she attended college first to test her ambitions.
After attending the University of Utah (for one semester, majoring in ballet) and then Skidmore College for Women (three additional semesters), Jean went directly to New York, where she was accepted as a student at the Neighbood Playhouse. There, she studied under Sydney Pollack and met (and later married) fellow acting student, Dabney Coleman. To supplement her income, Jean’s incredible beauty served her well as a model for both the Conover and Huntington Hartford agencies. Upon her graduation from the Playhouse, she set out to find work — her first professional job being a Hudnut commercial.
More TV work came her way as a dancer on the 1960 Sing Along with Mitch (1961) series and she also appeared, on stage, in the plays, “The Male Animal” and “Everybody Loves Opal”. Agent Len Luskin (Sandra Dee’s agent) took an interest and signed her up in 1960. Turning down a part in BUtterfield 8 (1960) in order to stay put in New York with Coleman, the couple eventually married on December 11, 1961, and Coleman wound up accompanying her to Puerto Rico to shoot what should have been her debut film Felicia (1964). The movie was never released.
Her second film, however, Violent Midnight (1963) [aka Psychomania], a gruesome low-budget horror film, was released. She plays the potential victim of a knifing stalker and she received decent reviews. It led to a Universal contract in 1963 and co-starring/featured parts in a modicum of films, including Taggart (1964) and McHale’s Navy Joins the Air Force (1965). For the latter film as a man-hungry lieutenant, she dyed her hair platinum blonde and kept it). She also found TV guest parts in such shows as McHale’s Navy (1962), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962), The Wild Wild West (1965) and The Virginian (1962).
It was the role of a spoiled movie diva in the overly melodramatic, poorly-received flick, The Oscar (1966), that gave Jean an unexpected career boost. This led to her sexy villainous cohort role to “The Mad Hatter” (David Wayne) on TV’s Batman (1966). She also capitalized on her sensuality, with a key role opposite James Coburn, in the James Bond spoof, In Like Flint (1967), a move that earned her a Fox contract — one picture a year for seven years. Jean followed this immediately with her co-star role in The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967), directed by Roger Corman, in which she looked period perfect as George Segal’s moll. And then, her career hit a major decline.
Soon after her third child was born, Jean and Dabney Coleman separated and the actress lost complete focus of her career. The studio was promoting Jean as a sex goddess but, much to its consternation, she was unwilling to fulfill the requirements of such an image — wearing skimpy costumes; turning down film roles that required semi-nudity; turning down publicity tours in Europe for the sake of her family. Jean even refused a Playboy Magazine spread having her model men’s pajama tops, while promoting the “In Like Flint” film. The frustrated heads at Fox released her.
Turning back to the small screen once again (Tarzan (1966), Bonanza (1959), Hawaii Five-O (1968), Mod Squad (1968), Cannon (1971)), Jean then filmed Something Big (1971) with Dean Martin but all her scenes were excised from the final print. She left it all although, decades later, she returned briefly to appear in a few TV movies.
Long separated, Jean’s marriage to Coleman was finally dissolved on December 4, 1984. Her three children, daughters Kelly Johns and Mary (later aka singer-songwriter Quincy Coleman) and middle son Randy Coleman all pursued the music/acting careers at one time or another. In later years, Jean co-founded her own production company (“Coleman/Tanasescu Entertainment”) with partner Gino Tanasescu and continues to reside in Southern California.
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