Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Peggy Rea: From Secretary to Supporting Player

"I'm just an incurable ham," said Peggy Jane Rea of her lengthy career as a film and television actress. Born March 31, 1921, Miss Rea originally worked as a secretary, getting a taste of show business with jobs at MGM, a New York advertising agency, and the production office of TV's Gunsmoke. 

Although she can be seen in early shows like I Love Lucy, it wasn't until the early 1960s that she gave up her day gigs and devoted herself fully to being a character actress. Prior to that, when she served as secretary to producer Arthur Freed at MGM, she was prone to slip out occasionally to have studio costume and makeup artists transform her into whatever character she hoped to play next, whether it be a prim schoolteacher or a little old lady. As she told syndicated columnist Erskine Johnson, Freed indulged her, and "joked about having a secretary with a thousand faces."

Later years brought her prominent roles such as Rose Burton on The Waltons, Lulu Hogg on The Dukes of Hazzard, and Jean Kelly on Grace Under Fire. Miss Rea died on February 5, 2011, at the age of 89. But today, on her birthday, let's take a moment and remember this lady who brought so many sharply etched characterizations to life.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVED her on the Dukes of Hazzard. Never could understand why she'd stay with Rosco P. Coltrane, but the heart wants what the heart wants, I guess.