Sirens of the Silver Screen: Sheree North

MMSBSNAbove: Sheree North in a promotional photo shoot for 20th Century Fox.

Equally beautiful, talented, blonde and buxom, (and sharing the same exact measurements as Marilyn Monroe), it was no surprise why Fox intended Sheree North as their successor to Tinsel town’s tumultuous leading lady. North’s career at Fox as a blonde bombshell was short lived, yet North’s work has remained long-lived and memorable.

Before finding fame in Hollywood, North starred as Whitey, in James H. Street’s Broadway musical, Hazel Flagg. A year later North then reprised her role appearing in The Colgate Comedy Hours’ film adaptation of the play entitled: Anything Goes (starring alongside Frank Sinatra and Ethel Merman). It was around this time that North caught the eye of Fox Studios, who had recently suspended Monroe for refusing to appear in a film titled The Girl in Pink Tights. To promote their newfound starlet, Fox cast Sheree alongside Betty Grable in the ill-fated comedy titled How To Be Very, Very Popular. Although the film was not a success, Fox nevertheless continued to promote North in a series of other films such as: The Best Things in Life are Free as Kitty Kane (alongside Ernest Borgnine and Dan Dailey), The Lieutenant Wore Skirts as Katy Whitcomb (also starring alongside Tom Ewell, and Rita Moreno), The Way to the Gold as Henrietta “Hank” Williams (alongside Jeffrey Hunter), No Down Payment as Isabelle Flag (alongside Jeffrey Hunter, Tony Randall, and Joanne Woodward), In Love In War as Lorraine (alongside Robert Wagner, Dana Wynter and Jeffrey Hunter), and Mardi Gras  as Eadie West  (alongside Pat Boone and Tommy Sands).

Out of all these features (some of which were hits), none quite grossed in the big bucks like The Lieutenant Wore Skirts. Yet the film was criticized for resembling The Seven Year Itch (which also starred Tom Ewell alongside Marilyn Monroe). This, of course, was due to Fox’s attempts to promote North as a Monroe replacement. Eventually, after tough negotiations Fox gave way and granted North permission to drop the dreaded blonde bombshell image that she so strongly hated. Fox continued to cast North alongside other Hollywood big names and this time in less stereotypical roles, but was not satisfied with her performance. It was around this time that newcomer Jayne Mansfield, stepped onto the Hollywood scene, shifting Fox’s focus from Sheree and onto Miss. Mansfield as Fox’s next Blonde bombshell and Monroe replacement. In 1958 upon completion of filming Mardi Gras, Fox decided not to renew North’s contract.

In later years, North found steady work alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest names. Reestablishing herself back on the Hollywood scene, North starred in The Trouble With Girls as Nita Bix (alongside Elvis Presley), The Lawman as Laura Shelby (alongside Burt Lancaster and Robert Duvall), The Organization as Mrs. Morgan(also starring Sydney Poitier), The Outfit as Buck’s wife (also alongside Robert Duvall) and in The Shootist (alongside John Wayne and Lauren Bacall). Towards the end of North’s career, North starred in the popular sitcom Seinfeld in her final role as Kramer’s mom Babs. Sadly, (and just a few years later) on November 4th, 2005, North would die at the age of 73 due to complications from cancer surgery. North’s body of work lives on and can be found at the North Castle Public Library as well as other libraries through the Westchester Library System.

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