Ann Jillian (born January 29, 1950, Cambridge, Massachusetts) is an American actress, who started acting at age 10. Her career reached its zenith in the 1980s, with her best-known role being that of waitress Cassie Cranston on the sitcom It's a Living.
Early life and career
Ann Jillian was born Ann Jura Nauseda in 1950, although some sources mistakenly cite 1951. She was born to Lithuanian immigrant parents and speaks Lithuanian fluently. Jillian was raised as a devout Roman Catholic.
She has been acting since 1960 when she played Little Bo Peep in the Disney film Babes In Toyland. Jillian appeared as Dainty June in the Rosalind Russell-Natalie Wood 1962 movie version of Gypsy. She had several television appearances in the 1960s and 1970s, notably becoming a regular on the 1960s sitcom Hazel and appearing in The Twilight Zone episode "Mute" (credited as "Ann Jilliann") as the mute telepathic Ilse Nielson in 1963. She also did voice acting, for Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and Sealab 2020 in the early 1970s, but—told she was too tall to play youthful roles of the day and too young to play a leading lady — there was no more work for her in Hollywood. She took a department store job and studied psychology, but heeded the advice of casting director Hoyt Bowers and Walt Disney who had told her, "whatever you do, keep working at your craft".
Jillian married Andy Murcia, a Chicago police sergeant, in 1977 and shortly thereafter Murcia retired to manage his wife's career. Murcia later partnered with Joyce Selznick in management of Ann Jillian until Joyce died of breast cancer shortly after.
In the late 1970s she toured in musical comedies including Sammy Cahn's Words and Music. After appearing with Mickey Rooney in "Goodnight Ladies" play in Chicago, the producers cast Ann Jillian to appear in the original company of Sugar Babies on Broadway with Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller in 1979.
Jillian appeared in more than 25 films, mostly for TV. Though she had nearly two decades' worth of film and television credits already, she first came to national prominence in the 1980s series It's a Living, a sitcom that elevated Jillian to sex symbol status in 1980. She was last to be signed onto this series and received last place billing. The show aired for two seasons on ABC before being cancelled due to low ratings and was sold into syndication for the burgeoning cable TV market.
Toward the end of her time on the series for the ABC run, she portrayed Mae West in a 1982 made-for-TV film. The supporting cast included James Brolin, Piper Laurie and Roddy McDowall. Jillian was nominated for a lead actress Emmy and Golden Globe for her performance.
In 1983 she appeared in the John Hughes movie Mr. Mom with Michael Keaton and Teri Garr. The same year she appeared in the mini-series Malibu, starring Kim Novak, Eva Marie Saint and James Coburn. That fall she starred in her own sit-com, Jennifer Slept Here, in which she played a ghost in a variation on The Ghost & Mrs. Muir. By this time It's a Living had become a surprise success in syndication.
Jennifer Slept Here ended in 1984, enabling her to take a role in the miniseries Ellis Island, co-starring opposite Richard Burton, Faye Dunaway, Ben Vereen and Liam Neeson. Dunaway and Vereen were nominated for Golden Globes and Jillian and Burton were nominated for Emmys.
Bob Hope selected her to appear in six of his TV specials, including two entertaining U.S. troops stationed in Beirut (1984) and Saudi Arabia (1991). She displayed her athletic abilities on three Battle of the Network Stars specials and a Circus of the Stars special and appeared in the charity extravaganza Night of 100 Stars. She guest starred in TV specials for Don Rickles (1986) and David Copperfield (1987) and was on the dais at the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast for Mr. T (1984).
In 1985 she played The Red Queen to Carol Channing's White Queen in an all-star television musical adaptation of Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland. The same year the producers of It's a Living made the relatively unheard-of decision to resume production of the series, by then a couple years off the air, for the USA cable network, and Jillian was contractually obligated to return to the series.
Battle with cancer
Just prior to that time, however, the then 35-year-old actress had made headlines when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she became a vocal advocate for cancer research and prevention. Leaving It's a Living after the 1985-1986 season, she focused on beating her cancer, with treatment including a double mastectomy. Her battle with the disease was chronicled in the top-rated 1988 made-for-TV film, The Ann Jillian Story, in which Jillian portrayed herself. Jillian received her third Emmy Award nomination, for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special, and won a 1989 Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV.
Family and later work
The following year she starred in a series, Ann Jillian, which aired 13 episodes in the 1989-1990 season.
Jillian had a son, Andrew Joseph, in 1992. She has continued to act, with ten TV movie roles throughout the 1990s, though her TV and film credits have been sporadic since the late 1990s, as she decided to devote herself to raising her son and to promoting breast cancer issues.
Today, she mostly works as a motivational speaker and also performs as a singer in corporate and symphony "pops" circles. She is an occasional guest columnist for the website TheColumnists.com. She resides with her family in the Greater Los Angeles Area.
- Babes in Toyland (1961)
- Gypsy (1962)
- Mae West (1982) TV
- Mr. Mom (1983)
- Ellis Island (1984) TV mini-series
- Alice in Wonderland (1985)
- The Ann Jillian Story (1988) TV
- Little White Lies (1991) TV
- "Ann Jillian". NNDB. Retrieved 2009-04-14.
- "Ann Jillian on CITWF". Retrieved May 5, 2009.
- Rosen, Marjorie (1991-09-16). "Miracle Mama". People. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
Jillian is a devout Catholic
- Parent, Nancy (August 12, 1983). "Ann Jillian has stars in her eyes". The Courier (TV supplement). p. 16.
- Ann Jillian bio at IMDb
- Ellis Island awards/nominations
- IMDb/ The Ann Jillian Story
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