Peggy Ryan

Margaret O'Rene "Peggy" Ryan (August 28, 1924 – October 30, 2004)[1] was an American dancer and actress, best known for starring in a series of movie musicals at Universal Pictures with Donald O'Connor and Gloria Jean.

Peggy Ryan
Margaret O'Rene Ryan

August 28, 1924
DiedOctober 30, 2004(2004-10-30) (aged 80)
OccupationActress, dancer
Years active1930–1983
Spouse(s)James Cross
Ray McDonald
Eddie Sherman


Ryan joined her parents' vaudeville act, "The Merry Dancing Ryans", before she was 3 years old, and appeared in her first film, Wedding of Jack and Jill (1929) when she was 4. She attended Hollywood Professional School.[1]

Her singing, acting, and dancing skills were noticed by song-and-dance actor George Murphy, who helped her get a role in 1937's Top of the Town. However, her entry in the book Vaudeville old & new: an encyclopedia of variety performances in America, Volume 1 notes, "[B]y then she was outgrowing the kiddie parts, yet not old enough for the teenage roles."[1]

She continued working in small roles until 1942, when she had a solo number in the feature film What's Cookin'?. The Gloria Jean-Donald O'Connor-Peggy Ryan team were a great hit with audiences and exhibitors,[2] and the three teens made five features together. Her screen character in these films was usually brash, wisecracking, and boy-crazy. In 1944, Ryan advanced to more elaborate productions, in support of Jack Oakie and Abbott and Costello.[3]

She left Universal in 1945 and married James Cross that same year; they were divorced in 1952. She returned to the screen with dancer Ray McDonald for 1949's There's a Girl in My Heart and Shamrock Hill, and 1953's All Ashore. They wed in 1953 and toured together in a nightclub act before being divorced in 1957.[1] Her third marriage, in 1958, was to Hawaii columnist Eddie Sherman, following which she left movies for choreography and semiretirement. Sherman adopted her two children from her previous marriages.

On television, Ryan played a recurring role as secretary Jenny Sherman in Hawaii Five-O from 1969–76.[4]

In later years, she trained Las Vegas showgirls[5] in tap dancing. Her last public performance, at her 80th birthday party, was a hilarious song-and-dance routine for her former Universal studio colleagues. She continued to teach tap until two days before her death.


Ryan died at the age of 80 after two strokes. Her ashes were scattered under the Hollywood sign in Hollywood, California.[4] She was survived by two children and five grandchildren. One of her children is retired actress Kerry Sherman.



Short subjects:

  • Billy Rose's Casa Mañana Revue (1938) - Peggy Dixon
  • A Night at the Troc (1939)
  • Varsity Vanities (1940)
  • Universal Musical Short 3655: Singin' and Swingin (1950)

Television work


  1. Vaudeville old & new: an encyclopedia of variety performances in America. Psychology Press. p. 985. ISBN 9780415938532. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  2. Scott MacGillivray and Jan MacGillivray, Gloria Jean: A Little Bit of Heaven, iUniverse, Bloomington, Indiana, 2005 ISBN 0595370802
  3. Peggy Ryan on IMDb
  4. Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. (2 volume set). McFarland. p. 654. ISBN 9780786479924. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  5. Rhodes, Karen (1997). Booking Hawaii Five-O: An Episode Guide and Critical History of the 1968-1980 Television Detective Series. McFarland. p. 52. ISBN 9780786486663. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
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