American actress Ann Jillian began her career as a child actress in the 1960s. Best known for her role as the sultry Cassie Cranston on the 1980s sitcom It’s a Living, Jillian has faced plenty of ups and downs during her time in Hollywood. Most recently, the star said she’s blessed to be a survivor.
As a child star, she was given her stage name by none-other than Walt Disney himself before starring in the 1961 movie, Babes in Toyland. Jillian grew up in the public eye and managed to maintain a successful career as she went on to star in the TV series It’s a Living from 1980 until 1986. Unfortunately for the actress, in 1985 she was faced with a cancer diagnosis at age 35. A sign of her strength of character and resilience, she fought the cancer and won.
In a recent interview with Fox News, Jillian opened up about many subjects, including her life as a sex symbol. Join us as we take a look at the interesting career of Ann Jillian and what she has to say about her life as a sex symbol.
In an interview with Fox News, Ann Jillian spoke about meeting Walt Disney, becoming a sex symbol as an adult, her battle with cancer, as well as the lesson she learned from stand-up comedian, Bob Hope.
Ann Jillian’s friendship with Ruta Lee
Canadian-American actress and dancerof Lithuanian descent, Ruta Lee, appeared as one of the brides in the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. She had roles in films including Billy Wilder’s crime drama Witness for the Prosecution and Stanley Donen’s musical comedy Funny Face. Lee guest-starred on many television series, and was also featured on a number of game shows, including Hollywood Squares, What’s My Line?, Match Game and as Alex Trebek’s co-host on High Rollers. She also has a strong relationship with Jillian.
When asked about their friendship, Jillian labeled them as Lithuanian sisters. They both go to the same parish and share many of the same friends. Jillian explained that Lee is a supportive and a dear friend. Considering the industry they work in, it’s common that people work together and then simply separate and move on to other projects. This is not the case for Jillian and Lee. After the memorial of actor Dick Van Patten, the two made a promise to each other that they would always find ways to get together and remain close. They’ve remained loyal friends for years.
Ann Jillian opened up about Walt Disney giving her a stage name
Considering how everyone loves the legacy of Disney himself, it’s no surprise that Ann Jillian describes her time with him as a wonderful memory. She went on to confirm that the rumour of him giving Jillian her stage name is in fact correct.
Jillian played Little Bo Peep in the Walt Disney version of Babes in Toyland. After being cast, Disney invited Jillian and her mother to his office. Her maiden name was Ann Jura Nauseda.
Walt Disney explained to her mother that while she had a beautiful name, they would like to propose something to her. Claiming that her name may be too difficult for some to pronounce, they got to thinking of a professional name for her as Disney believed she was going to have a long career as an actress.
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Ann Jillian wasn’t bothered by being viewed as a sex symbol
As an adult, Ann Jillian starred in the TV series, It’s a Living. The show that aired from 1980 to 1989, followed a group of waitresses and a pianist, who work at a fancy restaurant at the top of a skyscraper. The show quickly made people view Jillian as a sex symbol. While this may be an issue for some, Jillian claims that it didn’t bother her.
She explained that when you look at the history of the industry, women like Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe were recognized as blond bombshells or sex symbols. Jillian saw it as the public appreciating her looks. Simply put, that was fine with her. Jillian continued on the subject by describing that when every girl puts on her makeup and is nicely dressed in something that truly looks the best on her, they go out with the intention of accentuating her positives and feeling good about it. When you look good, you feel good, and that is exactly how Jillian felt about the situation.
But Jillian isn’t neive and knows that over the years, it has evolved into something else. She certainly understands the concerns and doesn’t approve of some of the things that have happened over the years in Hollywood. She made a point that she supports women standing up for themselves. But for her specifically, being labeled a sex symbol back then, she actually felt quite honored that people liked the way she looked.
Ann Jillian was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 35
Most certainly a shock to everyone that heard of the news, and no doubt herself, Ann Jillian was diagnosed with cancer at the young age of 35. In the midst of shooting the miniseries Alice in Wonderland, Jillian received the devastating news. Jillian’s mother had breast cancer so it was a concern that always sat at the back of the actress’s mind. But the positive she could take from that was that her mother was also very much alive, giving her the hope and strength to fight it.
Jillian noticed it with her own self breast examination, which she has stated is extremely important for all women to do. While in the shower, she noticed something. Immediately she went to see a doctor about the issue. She had a mammogram, and luckily it turned out to be good timing.
She believes that if she hadn’t caught it early, she would likely not be here with us today. An important note to make for all women around the world, early detection and swift medical action saved Ann Jillian’s life, and could save yours. So always remember to regularly check yourself.
Jillian also made the point that it goes back to having a good attitude. She put her trust in her medical team, as well as her family and friends who supported her along the way. She also stated that she remembers the cast she was working with on Alice in Wonderland at the time, were very supportive. Jillian went back to work 11 days after her surgery. Actor Harvey Korman, who played The White King, was very nervous when shooting a scene with Jillian as he was afraid of hurting her. She explained that he held her in a loving way.
Jillian told Fox News that she did an odd little walk as The Red Queen, but it was actually because she was protecting herself during recovery and that ended up being the way she was walking. The surgery was done underneath her arms, which affected her range of movement. Now, she is thankful for her full recovery and can hold her granddaughter comfortably in her arms.
Ann Jillian learned an important lesson from Bob Hope
Bob Hope was a British-American stand-up comedian, vaudevillian, actor, singer, dancer, and author. With a career that spanned nearly 80 years, Hope appeared in more than 70 short and feature films, with 54 feature films with Hope as star, including a series of seven Road musical comedy movies with Bing Crosby.
In addition to hosting the Academy Awards show 19 times, more than any other host, Hope appeared in many stage productions and television roles and wrote 14 books. After a brief career as a boxer in the late 1910s, Hope began his career in show business in the early 1920s, initially as a comedian and dancer on the vaudeville circuit, before acting on Broadway. Hope began appearing on radio and in films starting in 1934. He was praised for his comedic timing, specializing in one-liners and rapid-fire delivery of jokes that were often self-deprecating. He helped establish modern American stand-up comedy.
But there was something else that he was known for… taking naps. And that is exactly what he passed on to Ann Jillian. When asked what important lesson Hope taught her, she answered, “to save your energy”. Hope loved getting foot massages and always had a masseuse travel with him at all times. Jillian always saw him as Mr. America because of all the USO shows he led. As the daughter of a Lithuanian air force captain, Jillian had a lot of love for him and what he was doing, as he brought many stars to entertain the troops.
Jillian remembers Hope asking her to do one of the USO shows. She joined him and his wife Dolores to Riyadh for a Christmas show. Jillian remembers fondly that whenever he could, Hope would take his nap. Maybe that’s a trick he learned from the troops he so happily took the time to entertain. Hope used the tactic as he wanted to be as energetic as possible for the troops and give them his all in the shows. Jillian learned the importance of this lesson and became a lesson she would never forget.
What are your thoughts on Ann Jillian’s attitude to being a sex symbol? What other interesting facts are there about Jillian and her acting career that we may have missed? Let us know in the comments section below and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more. Click the bell icon to stay updated on all our latest content.