Jeff Chandler (actor)

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Jeff Chandler

Chandler from the trailer for the film The Tattered Dress (1957)
BornIra Grossel
(1918-12-15)December 15, 1918
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedJune 17, 1961(1961-06-17) (aged 42)
Culver City, California, U.S.
Cause of deathSurgical complications
Resting placeHillside Memorial Park Cemetery
Years active1945–1961
Spouse(s)Marjorie Hoshelle (m. 1946–1954) «start: (1946)–end+1: (1955)»"Marriage: Marjorie Hoshelle to Jeff Chandler (actor)" Location: (linkback://
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Jeff Chandler

Chandler from the trailer for the film The Tattered Dress (1957)
BornIra Grossel
(1918-12-15)December 15, 1918
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedJune 17, 1961(1961-06-17) (aged 42)
Culver City, California, U.S.
Cause of deathSurgical complications
Resting placeHillside Memorial Park Cemetery
Years active1945–1961
Spouse(s)Marjorie Hoshelle (m. 1946–1954) «start: (1946)–end+1: (1955)»"Marriage: Marjorie Hoshelle to Jeff Chandler (actor)" Location: (linkback://

Jeff Chandler (December 15, 1918 – June 17, 1961) was an American film actor and singer in the 1950s, best remembered for playing Cochise in Broken Arrow (1950), and for being one of Universal International's most popular male stars of the decade.


Early life

Chandler was born Ira Grossel to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, the only child of Anna (née Shapiro) and Phillip Grossel.[1] He was raised by his mother after his parents separated when he was a child.

He attended Erasmus Hall High School, the alma mater of many stage and film personalities. His father was connected with the restaurant business and got his son a job as a restaurant cashier. He studied art for a year and worked as a lay out artist for a mail order catalogue, but then decided to move into acting.



Chandler then took a drama course at the Feagin School of Dramatic Art in New York. He worked briefly in radio, then got a job in a stock company on Long Island as an actor and stage manager. He worked for two years in stock companies all up, even forming his own company, the Shady Lane Playhouse, in Illinois in 1941. This toured the midwest with some success before the war came along.[2]

Chandler served in World War II for four years, mostly in the Aleutians, finishing with the rank of lieutenant.[3] His enlistment record for the Cavalry on November 18, 1941 gave his height as six foot four inches and his weight as 210 pounds.

After being discharged from the military, Chandler moved to Los Angeles with $3,000 he had saved and soon found work as a radio actor. He appeared episodes of anthology drama series such as Escape and Academy Award Theater, and became well known for playing the lead in Michael Shayne and bashful biology teacher Phillip Boynton on Our Miss Brooks. In 1945 he was involved in a serious car accident on the way to a screen test which resulted in a large scar on his forehead.[4]

Chandler had acted on radio in Rogue's Gallery with Dick Powell, who was impressed enough to give the actor his first film role, a one-line part as a gangster in Johnny O'Clock (1947).[5] His performance as Boynton in Our Miss Brooks brought him to the attention of executives at Universal, who were looking for someone to play an Israeli leader in Sword in the Desert (1948). Chandler was cast and impressed the studio so much he ended up being signed to Universal for a seven-year contract.

Jeff Chandler at Capernaum during a visit to Israel in 1959

Chandler's first movie for Universal under his new contract was Abandoned (1949), then he was borrowed by 20th Century Fox to play Cochise in Broken Arrow (1950). This film was a considerable hit, earning Chandler an Oscar nomination and establishing him as a star. He later reprised the role as the legendary Apache chief in The Battle at Apache Pass (1952) and in a cameo in Taza, Son of Cochise (1954). He was the first actor nominated for an Academy Award for portraying an American Indian.

Chandler's success in Broken Arrow led to him being cast as a variety of nationalities from different historical periods, such as an Arab chief in Flame of Araby (1951) and a Polynesian in Bird of Paradise (1951). He also played an embittered Union cavalryman in Two Flags West (1950).[6] In 1952 exhibitors voted him the 22nd most popular star in the US.[7]

During the latter part of the decade and into the early 1960s, Chandler became a top leading man. His sex appeal, prematurely gray hair, and ruggedly handsome tanned features put him into drama and costume movies. Among the movies of this period are Female on the Beach (1955), Foxfire (1955), Away All Boats (1956), Toy Tiger (1956), Drango (1957), The Tattered Dress (1957), Man in the Shadow (1957), A Stranger in My Arms (1959), The Jayhawkers! (1959), Thunder in the Sun (1959), and Return to Peyton Place (1961).[5] His leading ladies included June Allyson, Joan Crawford, Rhonda Fleming, Maureen O'Hara, Kim Novak, Jane Russell, Esther Williams, and his Brooklyn friend Susan Hayward. His agent was Doovid Barskin of The Barskin Agency in the late 50s.

In 1957 Chandler left Universal and signed a contract with United Artists. He formed his own company, Earlmar Productions, with agent Meyer Mishkin. Together they produced the film Drango (1957), which Chandler also directed for a few weeks.

Chandler was due to star in Operation Petticoat (1959) but fell ill and had to pull out.[4] He later formed another production company, August, for whom he made The Plunderers, at Allied Artists.


Chandler had a concurrent career as a singer and recording artist, releasing several albums and playing nightclubs. In 1955 he became only the second star to play at the Riviera, after Liberace was the featured headliner. In her autobiography Hold the Roses (2002), Rose Marie wrote that “Jeff Chandler was a great guy, but he was no singer. He put together an act and we opened at the Riviera. He came with a conductor, piano player, light man, press agent, and manager. None of it helped”. And “Everybody raved about Jeff’s singing, but let’s face it: He really didn’t sing very well. He definitely had guts to open in Vegas”. He left to work on a movie after three and a half weeks.

Personal life

Chandler married actress Marjorie Hoshelle (1918–1989) in 1946. The couple had two daughters, Jamie Tucker (1947–2003) and Dana Grossel (1949–2002), before separating in 1954.[8] They reconciled but his wife applied for divorce again in 1957.

Both of Chandler's daughters died of cancer, as did his mother, maternal aunt, uncle and grandfather.

When his friend Sammy Davis, Jr. lost an eye in an accident and was in danger of losing the other, Chandler offered to give Davis one of his own eyes.[9] Chandler himself had nearly lost an eye and had been visibly scarred in an auto accident years earlier.

He was romantically linked with Esther Williams, who claimed in her 1999 autobiography Chandler was a cross dresser and she broke off the relationship. According to the Los Angeles Times, many friends and colleagues of Chandler's refuted Williams' claims. Jane Russell commented, "I've never heard of such a thing. Cross-dressing is the last thing I would expect of Jeff. He was a sweet guy, definitely all man."[10]

His public support for Israel prompted the United Arab Republic to ban his films in Arab countries in 1960.[2]


Shortly after completing his role in Merrill's Marauders in 1961, Chandler injured his back while playing baseball with U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers who served as extras in the movie. He entered a Culver City hospital and had surgery for a spinal disc herniation, on May 13, 1961. There were severe complications; an artery was damaged and Chandler hemorrhaged. In a seven-and-a-half-hour emergency operation over-and-above the original surgery, he was given 55 pints of blood. Another operation followed, date unknown, where he received an additional 20 pints of blood. He died on June 17, 1961. His death was deemed malpractice and resulted in a large lawsuit and settlement for his children.[5]

At the time he was romantically involved with British actress Barbara Shelley. Tony Curtis and Gerald Mohr were among the pallbearers at Chandler's funeral. He was interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, in Culver City, California.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Chandler has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1770 Vine Street.

Critical appraisal

Film historian David Shipman once wrote this analysis of Chandler:

Jeff Chandler looked as though he had been dreamed up by one of those artists who specialise in male physique studies, or, a mite further up the artistic scale, he might have been plucked bodily from some modern mural on a biblical subject. For that he had the requisite Jewishness (of which he was very proud) - and he was not quite real. Above all, he was impossibly handsome. He would never have been lost in a crowd, with that big, square, sculpted 20th-century face and his prematurely grey wavy hair. If the movies hadn't found him the advertising agencies would have done - and in fact, whenever you saw a still of him you looked at his wrist-watch or pipe before realising that he wasn't promoting something. In the coloured stills and on posters his studio always showed his hair as blue, heightening the unreality. His real name was Ira Grossel and his film-name was exactly right; his films were mainly dreams spun by idiots. It's hard to believe he really existed.[3]

An obituary of Chandler stated that:

Known for his careful attention to detail in making pictures, Chandler was often described as introverted. But colleagues who worked with him closely said he had an easy, light-hearted approach on the set that helped ease some of the strain of production.[2]


1947Johnny O'ClockTurkUncredited (film debut)
1947The Invisible WallAl Conway, henchman
1947Roses Are RedKnuckles
1949Mr. Belvedere Goes to CollegePolice Officer #66Uncredited
1949Sword in the DesertKurtaLed to Chandler signing a long-term contract with Universal
1949AbandonedChief MacRaeAlternative title: Abandoned Woman
1950Abbott and Costello in the Foreign LegionNarratorUncredited
1950Broken ArrowCochiseAcademy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor
1950DeportedVic Smith
1950The Desert HawkOpening Off-Screen NarratorUncredited
1950Two Flags WestMajor Henry Kenniston
1951Double CrossbonesNarratorUncredited
1951Bird of ParadiseTenga
1951Smuggler's IslandSteve Kent
1951Iron ManCoke Mason
1951Flame of ArabyTamerlaneAlternative title: Flame of the Desert
1952The Battle at Apache PassCochise
1952Red Ball ExpressLt. Chick Campbell
1952Son of Ali BabaOpening NarratorUncredited
1952Yankee BuccaneerCmdr. David Porter
1952Because of YouSteve Kimberly
1953Girls in the NightOff-Screen Narrator at FinishUncredited
Alternative title: Life After Dark
1953The Great Sioux UprisingJonathan Westgate
1953East of SumatraDuke Mullane
1953War ArrowMajor Howell Brady
1954Taza, Son of CochiseCochiseUncredited
1954Yankee PashaJason Starbuck
1954Sign of the PaganMarcian
1955FoxfireJonathan Dartland
1955Female on the BeachDrummond Hall
1955The SpoilersRoy Glennister
1956The Toy TigerRick Todd
1956Away All BoatsCaptain Jebediah S. Hawks
1956Pillars of the SkyFirst Sergeant Emmett BellAlternative title: The Tomahawk and the Cross
1957The Tattered DressJames Gordon Blane
1957Jeanne EagelsSal Satori
1957DrangoMajor Clint DrangoAlso produced
1957Man in the ShadowBen SadlerAlternative titles: Pay the Devil
Seeds of Wrath
1958The Lady Takes a FlyerMike DandridgeAlternative titles: A Game Called Love
Lion in the Sky
Wild and Wonderful
1958Raw Wind in EdenMark Moore/Scott Moorehouse
1959A Stranger in My ArmsMajor Pike YarnellAlternative title: And Ride a Tiger
1959Thunder in the SunLon Bennett
1959Ten Seconds to HellKarl WirtzAlternative title: The Phoenix
1959The Jayhawkers!Luke Darcy
1960A Story of DavidKing DavidAlternative title: A Story of David: The Hunted
1960The PlunderersSam ChristyAlso producer
1961Return to Peyton PlaceLewis Jackman
1962Merrill's MaraudersBrig. Gen. Frank D. Merrill

Award nominations

YearAwardCategoryTitle of workResult
1951Academy AwardsBest Actor in a Supporting RoleBroken ArrowNominated
1958Laurel AwardsTop Male Star
14th Place
1959Laurel AwardsTop Male Star
15th Place

Box office rankings

For a number of years, film exhibitors voted Chandler among the top stars at the box office.

Select radio Ccredits

Regular role

Guest appearances

Further reading


  1. ^ Wells, Jeff (2005). Jeff Chandler: film, record, radio, television and theater performances. McFarland & Co.. pp. 5. ISBN 0-7864-2001-4. 
  2. ^ a b c 'Jeff Chandler Is Dead; Blame Blood Poison: JEFF CHANDLER', Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 18 June 1961: f1.
  3. ^ a b David Shipman, The Great Movie Stars: The International Years, Angus & Robertson 1972, p83
  4. ^ a b Jeff Chandler overview at TCM
  5. ^ a b c Jeff Wells. Jeff Chandler: Film, Record, Radio, Television and Theater Performances. McFarland, 2005.
  7. ^ "Martin And Lewis Top U.S. Film Poll.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia): p. 3. 27 December 1952. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  8. ^ "Jeff Chandler.". The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982) (1933 - 1982: National Library of Australia): p. 35. 21 July 1954. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  9. ^ Davis Jr., Sammy: Yes I Can, The Story of Sammy Davis Jr., New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux (1965) ISBN 0-374-52268-5
  10. ^ Lovell, Glenn (1999-10-27). "Esther Williams Is All Wet, Say Friends of the Late Jeff Chandler". Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  11. ^ "Martin And Lewis Top U.S. Film Poll.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia): p. 3. 27 December 1952. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  12. ^ 'Dirk Bogarde favorite film actor', The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 29 Dec 1955: 9.

External links