Classy, elegant star Anne Jeffreys, whose long résumé included starring in the TV series Topper when it was being scripted by a young Stephen Sondheim, has died at age 94.
Born January 26, 1923, in Goldsboro, North Carolina, Jeffreys was trained as an operatic soprano and came to New York City while still in her teens. She became a member of the New York Municipal Opera Company. While still in her early 20s she was snapped up by Hollywood and featured in the 1942 movie adaptation of the Rodgers & Hart musical I Married an Angel. Among her World War II era films were the musical Step Lively (co-starring Frank Sinatra), the horror comedy Zombies on Broadway (with Bela Lugosi), and a series of Dick Tracy films, playing his sweetheart Tess Trueheart.
Jeffreys made her Broadway debut in 1947 in the original cast of Kurt Weill’s musical Street Scene. She was one of the replacements for Patricia Morison in the lead role of Lilli Vanessi in Cole Porter’s hit musical Kiss Me, Kate in 1950, and capped off her Broadway career in the hit comedy Three Wishes for Jamie, before focusing on television work.
From 1953 to 1955 she co-starred with Leo G. Carroll and Robert Sterling in the CBS sitcom Topper. Jeffreys and Sterling (her real-life husband) played Marion and George Kirby, socialites who are killed in an avalanche, but come back as ghosts to haunt their old house, now owned by the stuffy Cosmo Topper (Carroll), who is the only one who can see and hear them. Sondheim, who was 23 when the series began, is credited with co-writing 11 episodes of the first season with theatre critic George Oppenheimer. Jeffreys’ character was introduced as “the ghostess with the mostest.”
It was the launch of a TV career that eventually included guest roles on major series of the next few decades, including Wagon Train; L.A. Law; Murder, She Wrote; Love, American Style; and a long stint from 1984 to 2004 on the soap opera General Hospital. She appeared in a 1979 episode of Battlestar Galactica as the love interest for Fred Astaire, including a brief dancing sequence that earned her a footnote as his last on-screen dancing partner.
She earned a Golden Globe nomination for an appearance as a society hostess on the 1972 series The Delphi Bureau, opposite Laurence Luckinbill.
In 2012 she emerged briefly from retirement to take part in Actors Fund benefit in Los Angeles: