Jean Hagen

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Jean Hagen
Jean Hagen 1955.jpg
Hagen in 1955
Born Jean Shirley Verhagen
(1923-08-03)August 3, 1923
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died August 29, 1977(1977-08-29) (aged 54)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Esophageal cancer
Occupation Actress
Years active 1945–1977
Spouse(s) Tom Seidel (m. 1947–1965; divorced; 2 children)
Children Christine Patricia (b. 1950)
Aric Phillip (1952-2012)

Jean Hagen (born Jean Shirley Verhagen,[a] August 3, 1923 – August 29, 1977) was an American actress best known for her role as Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain (1952), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Hagen was also nominated three times for an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Margaret Williams (1953–56) on the television series Make Room For Daddy.[2]

Early life[edit]

Hagen was born on August 3, 1923 in Chicago, 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 at Northwestern University, where she was a roommate of actress Patricia Neal. She graduated from Northwestern in 1945.[3] She also worked as a theater usherette.



Hagen began her show business career in radio in the 1940s, performing in Light of the World, Hollywood Story, and other programs.[4] Using her maiden name (Jean Verhagen), she played Betty Webster on Those Websters.[5]


Hagen first appeared on Broadway in Swan Song. She also acted in Another Part of the Forest, Ghosts, Born Yesterday,[4][6] and The Traitor.[7]

Film and television[edit]

Her film debut was as a comical femme fatale in the Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn 1949 classic Adam's Rib, directed by George Cukor. The Asphalt Jungle (1950) provided Hagen with her first starring role alongside Sterling Hayden. Hagen received excellent reviews playing "Doll" Conover, a woman who sticks by criminal Dix's side until the bitter end. She appeared too in the film noir Side Street (1950) playing a gangster's sincere but none-too-bright nightclub-singer girlfriend.

Hagen is best remembered for her comic performance in Singin' in the Rain as the vain and talentless silent movie star Lina Lamont. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for this memorable performance.

Thomas and Hagen in "Make Room for Daddy", 1955

By 1953, she had joined the cast of the television sitcom Make Room for Daddy. For her portrayal as the first wife of Danny Thomas, Hagen received three Emmy Award nominations, but after three seasons, she grew dissatisfied with the role and left the series. Thomas, who also produced the show, reportedly did not appreciate Hagen's departing the successful series, and her character was killed off rather than recast.[citation needed] This was the first TV character to be killed off in a family sitcom.[citation needed] Marjorie Lord was cast a year later as Danny's second wife and played opposite Thomas successfully for the remainder of the series.

In 1957 Hagen co-starred in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents titled "Enough Rope for Two", portraying a woman who accompanies two thieves trying to retrieve stolen money from a desert mine shaft. She then appeared as Elizabeth in the 1960 episode "Once Upon a Knight" on CBS's anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson; and the following year she guest-starred on The Andy Griffith Show in the episode "Andy and the Woman Speeder".

Although she made frequent guest appearances in various television series, Hagen was unable to successfully resume her film career in starring roles. After appearing with Fred MacMurray in the Disney comedy The Shaggy Dog (1959), Hagen for the remainder of her career played supporting roles, such as Marguerite LeHand, personal secretary to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello (1960), and the friend of Bette Davis in Dead Ringer (1964). In the 1960s, Hagen's health began to decline and she spent many years hospitalized or under medical care. Much later, in 1976, she made a comeback of sorts playing character roles in episodes of the television series Starsky and Hutch and The Streets of San Francisco. She, however, made her final acting appearance the next year in the television movie Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn.

Personal life[edit]

Jean Hagen married actor Tom Seidel, who originated the role of Dr. Sanderson in the play Harvey, on June 12, 1947, in Brentwood, and had two children, Christine Patricia Seidel (b. 1950) and Aric Phillip Seidel (1952–2012). According to Lorraine LoBianco's authoritative biography, Seidel, in his attempt to stop his wife from drinking, divorced her and gained custody of the children. It did not work. Hagen's alcoholism only worsened, finally becoming so severe by 1968 that she was hospitalized and lapsed into a coma at UCLA Medical Center. She managed to survive the ordeal, and her daughter Christine said that after she emerged from the coma, Hagen never drank again. Unfortunately, another health problem arose: throat cancer. Patricia Neal wrote in her autobiography that Hagen went to Germany "'for laetrile, a supposed cure unavailable in the United States. But she was bubbly and bright and so much the way I remembered her from the old days.'"[8]


Hagen died at age 54 of esophageal cancer on August 29, 1977, at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital,[4] and was buried in Chapel of the Pines Crematory.


Hagen was nominated for a 1956 Emmy Award in the "Best actress (continuing performance)" category.[9] She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1502 Vine Street for her contributions to television.


Title Year Role Notes
Adam's Rib 1949 Beryl Caighn
Ambush 1950 Martha Conovan
Side Street 1950 Hariette Sinton
The Asphalt Jungle 1950 "Doll" Conovan
A Life of Her Own 1950 Maggie Collins
Night Into Morning 1951 Girl Next Door
No Questions Asked 1951 Joan Brensen
Shadow in the Sky 1952 Stella Murphy
Singin' in the Rain 1952 Lina Lamont
Carbine Williams 1952 Maggie Williams
Arena 1953 Meg Hutchins
Latin Lovers 1953 Anne Kellwood
Half a Hero 1953 Martha Dobson
The Big Knife 1955 Connie Bliss
Spring Reunion 1957 Barna Forrest
The Shaggy Dog 1959 Freeda Daniels
Sunrise at Campobello 1960 Marguerite "Missy" LeHand
Panic in Year Zero 1962 Ann Baldwin
Dead Ringer 1964 Dede Marshall
Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn 1977 Landlady TV movie, (final film role)

Television appearances[edit]

Television series Role Year Notes
Make Room for Daddy Margaret Williams 117 (3 seasons) 1953–1956 later called The Danny Thomas Show; first family sitcom character to be killed off
The Andy Griffith Show Elizabeth Crowley Season 2 episode 3, Oct. 16, 1961 "Andy and the Woman Speeder "
The Streets Of San Francisco Landlady Season 4 episode 19, Nov. 1976 "Judgement Day"

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Stars in the Air The Yearling[10]


  1. ^ A variation on the spelling was ver Hagen[1]


  1. ^ Hess, Earl J.; Dabholkar, Pratibha A. (2009). Singin’ in the Rain: The Making of an American Masterpiece. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-7006-1656-5. 
  2. ^ Obituary Variety, September 7, 1977, p. 111.
  3. ^ "Northwestern Co-Eds Train For The Stage; Inspired By Achievements Of Some Grads". Lubbock Evening Journal. January 12, 1950. p. 11. Retrieved June 5, 2015 – via  open access publication – free to read
  4. ^ a b c "Jean Hagen, former actress, dies at 54". The Lowell Sun. August 31, 1977. p. 43. Retrieved June 5, 2015 – via  open access publication – free to read
  5. ^ "'Those Websters,' American Family Heard Fridays at 9:30 P.M. on WHP". Harrisburg Telegraph. March 3, 1945. p. 15. Retrieved June 5, 2015 – via  open access publication – free to read
  6. ^ "Jean Hagen Is Delighted To Get Bad Woman Role". Corsicana Daily Sun. May 6, 1955. p. 9. Retrieved June 5, 2015 – via  open access publication – free to read
  7. ^ "Broadway Openings: The Traitor". Billboard. April 9, 1949. p. 57. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  8. ^ "Jean Hagen Profile", Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Turner Broadcasting System, New York, N.Y. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  9. ^ "'Emmy' Award Nominations Announced" (PDF). Broadcasting. February 27, 1956. p. 93. Retrieved 6 June 2015. [permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Kirby, Walter (February 10, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 38. Retrieved June 2, 2015 – via  open access publication – free to read

External links[edit]