Classic Movie Travels: Jean Porter

Classic Movie Travels: Jean Porter
Illinois, Texas and California

Jean Porter
Jean Porter

Jean Porter was one of Hollywood’s many ingénues, appearing in roles both on television and in films. Though her film career was short-lived in comparison to some of her peers, she remains a cheery and energetic presence in several classic films.

Bennie Jean Porter was born on December 8, 1922, in Cisco, Texas. Her father, H.C. Porter, worked for the Pacific Railway while her mother, Oma Thelma Simper, taught piano. Even at an early age, Porter was already particularly photogenic, dubbed the “Most Beautiful Baby” of Eastland County.

As she grew, so did her engaging personality, entertaining the residence of Dallas by hosting a Saturday morning radio show for the local WRR station by the age of 10. Later, she would secure a summer position touring with performer Ted Lewis and his band.

After spending her childhood in entertainment, Porter and her family moved to Hollywood, where Porter would begin training and work to find a role in the film industry. She won an all-expense-paid trip there and developed her craft as a performer. By age 12, she was taking dance lessons and the Fanchon and Marco dance school, leading to her being discovered by director Allan Dwan. Her first film appearance would be in an uncredited role as part of Song and Dance Man (1936). Porter would continue on in a succession of several uncredited roles before eventually moving on to appearances in B-movies as a bit player or supporting ingénue. Her early roles also included The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938) and One Million B.C. (1940) until she moved on to be cast in MGM films routinely.

Jean Porter Young
A young Jean Porter

Though Porter never achieved superstardom from her films, she appeared in some fairly popular endeavors. Among her screen successes were The Youngest Profession (1943), Andy Hardy’s Blonde Trouble (1944), Bathing Beauty (1944), Thrill of a Romance (1945), Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Hollywood (1945), Till the End of Time (1946), and Easy to Wed (1946).

While working on Till the End of Time, Porter met director Edward Dmytryk, who would become her husband. Porter had replaced Shirley Temple in the role. They married in 1948 in Ellicott City, Maryland, and had three children: Richard, Victoria, and Rebecca. Unfortunately, Dmytryk was blacklisted due to his refusal to respond to allegations of communism. He would become one of the Hollywood Ten most prominently blacklisted individuals of the film industry. As a result, the couple fled to England. Though they would return to the U.S. in 1951, it was not without challenges. Dmytryk was imprisoned for six months due to contempt of congress. He gave testimony and was eventually given a reprieve, leading him to be allowed to return to directing.

Porter’s career in films, however, would soon end. Dick Powell gave her a small part in Cry Danger (1951), which helped her to keep working while Dmytryk was in jail. During this period, Porter predominantly worked in television, appearing in shows like The Red Skelton Show, Sea Hunt, and 77 Sunset Strip. Her last film was The Left Hand of God (1955), directed by her husband. She retired from acting altogether in 1961.

Richard Erdman and Jean Porter in Cry Danger (1951)
Richard Erdman and Jean Porter in Cry Danger (1951)

Despite the many challenges they faced, Porter and Dmytryk remained married until Dmytryk’s death in 1999. The couple authored On Screen Actingtogether in 1984. Porter herself wrote frequently as a byline contributor for Classic Images as well as an unpublished book about Dmytryk and herself called The Cost of Living. Well into her 80s, Porter also published Hollywood’s Golden Age: As Told By One Who Lived It Alland Chicago Jazz and The Some: As Told by One of the Original Chicagoans, Jess Stacy. She would also regularly attend various film-related events.

Porter passed away on January 13, 2018, in Canoga Park, California, at age 95.

Over the years, Porter maintained many properties and moved fairly frequently. She and Dmytryk traveled often but many residences where she lived remain.

In 1947, she had a residence at 1220 N. State Parkway in Chicago, Illinois. The original structure remains.

Jean Porter 1220 N. State Parkway, Chicago, Illinois
1220 N. State Parkway, Chicago, Illinois

She also owned a property at 1400 Lorrain St. in Austin, Texas. This is the property today:

Jean Porter 1400 Lorrain St., Austin, Texas
1400 Lorrain St., Austin, Texas

From 1956 to 1962, Porter and Dmytryk resided at 609 Saint Cloud Rd in Westwood, California. The home also stands today.

Jean Porter 609 Saint Cloud Road, Westwood, California
609 Saint Cloud Road, Westwood, California

1n 1983, Porter lived at 8729 Lookout Mountain Ave. in Los Angeles, California. Here is the home today:

Jean Porter 8729 Lookout Mountain Ave., Los Angeles, California
8729 Lookout Mountain Ave., Los Angeles, California

By 1988, she relocated to 588 Cold Canyon Rd in Calabasas, California. This is the home today:

Jean Porter 588 Cold Canyon Road, Calabasas, California
588 Cold Canyon Road, Calabasas, California

In 1996, Porter resided at 3945 Westfall Dr. in Encino, California. This is the home at present:

Jean Porter 3945 Westfall Dr., Encino, California
3945 Westfall Dr., Encino, California

Today, Porter can still be remembered through her films as well as her intriguing written output both with her husband and independently.

–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

Annette Bochenek pens our monthly Classic Movie Travels column. You can read all of Annette’s Classic Movie Travel articles here.

Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for Classic Movie Hub, she also writes for Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco SocietyMagazine.

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2 Responses to Classic Movie Travels: Jean Porter

  1. Gloria Elizabeth says:

    If we’re playing “pick one”, I’ll take the Cold Canyon Road tree-shaded cabin. I’m completely enchanted by the turquoise front door! Thank you for a fun tour of 20th Century house styles.

  2. I thought she was adorable and effervescent in the Guy Madison movie, “Til the End of Time”. 🙂

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