Betty Jane Rhodes

Betty Jane Rhodes (April 21, 1921 – December 27, 2011) was an American actress and singer, most active in film during the late 1930s and the World War II era.[1] She was also known as Jane Rhodes.

Betty Jane Rhodes
Rhodes in 1942.
Born(1921-04-21)April 21, 1921
DiedDecember 27, 2011(2011-12-27) (aged 90)
Other namesJane Rhodes
OccupationActress, singer

Early years

Rhodes was born in Rockford, Illinois, on April 21, 1921.[1][2] She began her broadcasting career when she was just eight years old.[1][2]



Before Rhodes appeared on screen, she worked in films as a ghost singer at RKO Pictures, earning $200 per week for supplying the voice for actresses who moved their lips, pretending to sing.[3]

Paramount Pictures signed Rhodes to her first film contract as an actress at age 15.[1] She made her screen debut in the 1936 film, Forgotten Faces, in which she was credited as Jane Rhodes.[1] In Forgotten Faces, Rhodes played an adopted daughter whose father, portrayed by Herbert Marshall, is arrested for killing a man with whom his wife was having an affair.[1]

This was followed by a co-starring role in the 1936 western,[4] The Arizona Raiders.[1] The film, in which she played the younger sister of Marsha Hunt's character, marked the first time that Rhodes sang in a movie.[1]

By September 1936, Rhodes had signed a contract with Universal Pictures, which planned to have her in the lead female role in an upcoming Jungle Jim serial film.[5][6] The six-year contract called for payments of $1,000 per week.[7]

Rhodes was widely known to wartime movie audiences for her debut performance of the classic song, "I Don't Want To Walk Without You", in Sweater Girl in 1942.[1] In 2012, Tom Vallance of The Independent wrote of Rhodes' performance, "Her place in the history of popular song is secured by her having introduced on screen one of the great songs of wartime longing, "I Don't Want To Walk Without You."[1]


Rhodes first sang on the air on children's programs in Berkeley, California.[8] When she was 12 years old, she sang on The Laff Clinic on KHJ in Los Angeles[9] and joined in the program's comedy elements.[10] She also performed on several variety programs on KHJ.[11] In 1934, she joined the staff of KFWB, also in Los Angeles.[12] By August 14, 1934, she was top-billed on KWFB's Jubilee music and comedy program.[13] In the summer of 1936, she sang on a program that featured Johnny Green and his orchestra.[8]

Rhodes' first nationwide broadcast exposure came in the summer of 1940 when she sang on the Fred Allen Show during its three-week stay in Hollywood.[14] She had her own weekly show on NBC during the 1950s, which aired on Saturday nights.[1] Her appearances, as well as other early television roles, earned her the nickname, "The First Lady of Television."[1] Rhodes also sang in cabaret until the 1960s.[1]

Rhodes was the regular singer on the radio show Meet Me at Parky's, the series starring Harry Einstein as his character Parkyakarkas.[15] She portrayed Betty, the singer at Parky's restaurant.[16]


When she was 14 years old, Rhodes sang at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles.[17]


Cashbox magazine, in its December 16, 1946, issue designated Rhodes' "You'll Always Be The One I Love" as "Sleeper of the Week". Charles Dant's orchestra accompanied Rhodes on the recording, which Cashbox said, "has that trick of making you want to sit down and play the thing time and again."[18]

Personal life

In 1945, Rhodes married Willet Brown, the co-founder of the Mutual Broadcasting System.[1] She and Brown had one child during their marriage, as well as Brown's three children from his previous marriage.[1] Brown died in 1993.[1]

Archeology was Rhodes' hobby. In 1937, she took a course at the University of Southern California, focusing on pottery and beads of early southwestern Americans.[19]


Rhodes died on December 27, 2011, at the age of 90.[1]

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1936 Forgotten Faces Sally McBride
The Arizona Raiders Lenta Lindsay
1937 Jungle Jim Joan
1942 Sweater Girl Louise Menard
Priorities on Parade Lee Davis
The Fleet's In Diana Golden
1943 Salute for Three Judy


  1. Vallance, Tom (2012-01-30). "Betty Jane Rhodes: Actress and singer who charmed the US as a wartime sweetheart". The Independent. Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  2. Harris, Eleanor (August 1946). "Cover Girl". Radio-TV Mirror. p. 8. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  3. Othman, Frederick C. (November 19, 1940). "Betty Jane Rhodes Now Has Movie Contract of Her Own". The Journal Herald. Ohio, Dayton. p. 11. Retrieved August 17, 2018 via
  4. Lentz, Harris M., III (2012). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2011. McFarland. ISBN 9780786491346. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  5. "(film advertisement)". The Burlington Free Press. Vermont, Burlington. January 1, 1937. p. 8. Retrieved August 17, 2018 via
  6. "Withers to Play 'Jungle Jim'". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. September 8, 1936. p. 15. Retrieved August 17, 2018 via
  7. "(untitled brief)". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. Utah, Ogden. December 4, 1936. p. 3. Retrieved August 17, 2018 via
  8. "Notes off the Cuff". Santa Ana Register. California, Santa Ana. October 14, 1937. p. 4. Retrieved August 17, 2018 via
  9. "Tuning In". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. March 2, 1933. p. 16. Retrieved August 17, 2018 via
  10. Douglas, Doug (March 9, 1933). "Presidential Message on Radio". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. p. 12. Retrieved August 17, 2018 via
  11. "Tuning In". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. July 27, 1933. p. 16. Retrieved August 17, 2018 via
  12. "Tuning In". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. July 17, 1934. p. 18. Retrieved August 17, 2018 via
  13. "Duluth Orchestra Plays". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. August 14, 1934. p. 18. Retrieved August 17, 2018 via
  14. "Betty Jane Rhodes Joins Fred Allen Show". The Tampa Times. Florida, Tampa. June 12, 1940. p. 12. Retrieved August 17, 2018 via
  15. "Meet Me at Parky's" (PDF). Radio Album. 1948. pp. 54–55. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  16. Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 222–223. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4.
  17. "The Pageant of the Film World". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. June 3, 1935. p. 19. Retrieved August 17, 2018 via
  18. "Sleeper of the Week" (PDF). Cashbox. December 16, 1946. p. 11.
  19. "Actress Takes Special Course". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. January 11, 1937. p. 2. Retrieved August 17, 2018 via
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