Jean Gillie

Jean Gillie

Jean Gillie is beloved of film noir buffs for one film “Decoy”.   She was born in 1915 in London.   She began her career in quota quickies in the UK during the 1930’s.   Jack Buchanan cast her in the 1936 film “This’ll Make You Whistle”.   In 1943 she was featured in “The Gentle Sex”.   During the Second World War she met the American film director Jack Bernhard in London and at War’s end went back to the United States with him.   “Decoy” in 1946 was her penultimate film.   It is rightly regarded as a classic and thankfully it is now available on DVD.   In 1947 she made “The Macomber Affair” with Greyory Peck and Joan Bennett.  After the breakdown of her marriage she returned to England.    She died of pneumonia at the age of 33 in 1949.

Gary Brumburgh’s entry:

Great Britain’s killer answer to Hollywood’s femme fatale Ann Savage, sultry-eyed, long-maned beauty Jean Gillie had a modest, lightweight career in her homeland before coming to the States and impressing American audiences in one classic film noir. Had the film been released by a major studio, her career might have turned out differently. But, like Savage, it wasn’t and she make it out of the “B” class tier and quickly lost favor. With her early death, it pretty much clinched her almost total anonymity today.

Born Jean Mabel Coomber, on October 14, 1915, in Kensington, England, she initially appeared on stage in 1932 before debuting on film in the musical comedy His Majesty and Co (1935). Musical hall star Jack Buchanan was impressed by her smoldering beauty and comedic flair and cast her in a small role in his movie Brewster’s Millions (1935), then brought her a couple of years later for his a few of his other showcases — This’ll Make You Whistle (1936) Sweet Devil (1938) and The Middle Watch (1940).

In between time Jean continued to work in a comedic vein with leads roles School for Stars (1935), While Parents Sleep (1935), The Live Wire (1937), opposite musical comedy revue star Bobby Howes in Sweet Devil (1938); and, the title role in Tilly of Bloomsbury (1940). After a slight lull in the early 1940s she returned to films in change-of-pace dramatic roles opposite Leslie Howard WWII propaganda film The Gentle Sex(1943); as supersleuth Simon Templar’s love interest in The Saint Meets the Tiger (1943) opposite star Hugh Sinclair. She returned to lighter fare with Tawny Pipit (1944) and ; and Flight from Folly (1945) before meeting associate producer Jack Bernhard, who would forever change the course of her career.

She met Bernhard while he was stationed in England during WWII and married him in May of 1944. After his discharge, he took her back to his native America with the idea of shaping her into a Hollywood star. He produced and directed Decoy (1946) and cast her as vile Margot Shelby who, before the last reel, runs a car over Edward Norris, stealsHerbert Rudley from his lady love in order to save her just-executed boy friend; and nearly does in Sheldon Leonard before getting her just desserts.

Had this cult film noir been released by a major studio instead of “Poverty Row” Pathe, Jean could have rivaled Barbara Stanwyck in later years. Following Decoy (1946), Jean won a second femme role in the film The Macomber Affair (1947) starring Gregory Peckand Joan Bennett but it was Bennett who earned the accolades playing the “bad girl” in this dramatic romantic triangle that included Robert Preston.

By this time Jean’s marriage to Bernhard fell apart and the couple divorced in 1947. Gillie decided to return to England a year later but, before she had the time to revive her British stage/film career, died of pneumonia at age 33 on February 19, 1949.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh /

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