Jean Hagen was an American film actress. Hagen was born as Jean Shirley Verhagen in Chicago, Illinois, to Christian Verhagen, a Dutch immigrant, and his Chicago-born wife, Marie. The family moved to Elkhart, Indiana when she was 12 and she subsequently graduated from Elkhart High School. She studied drama and worked as a theater usherette before making her Broadway theatre debut in Another Part of the Forest in 1946.
Her film debut was as a femme fatale in Adam’s Rib in 1949. The Asphalt Jungle provided Hagen with her first starring role beside Sterling Hayden, and excellent reviews. She appeared in the film noir Side Street playing a gangster’s sincere, but none-too-bright gun moll. She is arguably best remembered for her comic performance in Singin’ in the Rain. As the vain and talentless silent movie star Lina Lamont, Hagen received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
By 1953, she had joined the cast of the television sitcom Make Room for Daddy. As the first wife of Danny Thomas, Hagen received three Emmy Award nominations, but after three seasons she grew dissatisfied and left the series. Thomas, who also produced the show, reportedly didn’t appreciate Jean’s departing the successful series, and her character was killed off rather than recast. This was the first TV character to be killed off a family sitcom. Marjorie Lord was cast a year later as Danny’s second wife and played against Thomas successfully for several seasons. Hagen starred in the 1957 Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Season 3, Episode 7, entitled “Enough Rope for Two”. She appeared as Frida Daniels in The Shaggy Dog starring with Fred MacMurray. In 1960, she appeared as “Elizabeth” in the episode “Once Upon a Knight” of CBS’s anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson.
Although she made frequent guest appearances in various television series, she was unable to successfully resume her film career, and for the remainder of her career played supporting roles, such as Marguerite LeHand, personal secretary to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello, and the friend of Bette Davis in Dead Ringer. In the 1960s, Hagen’s health began to decline and she spent many years hospitalised or under medical care.