Sheree North early publicity photo

Sheree North

The Trouble With Girls, 1969

Birth Name: Dawn Shirley Crang
Born: January 17th, 1933, in Los Angeles, California.
Husbands: Fred Bessire (1948 - 1953)
John M. Freeman (1955 - 1957)
Gerhardt Sommer (1958 - 1963)

Sheree North in Lawman

In a scene towards the end of The Trouble With Girls, Sheree North's character slurs, "Actually, I was always more of a dancer than a singer", before going into a drunken tap-dance routine! Dancing was Sheree's forte long before The Trouble With Girls. By the time Dawn Bethel was 10 years old, she was dancing at USO socials in the Los Angeles area. At the ripe old age of 13, she was a regular with the company of the Greek Theatre! Married at 15, and a mother at 16 (to a daughter, also named Dawn), she continued her dancing at clubs around Los Angeles, under the name of Shirley Mae Bessire. In 1951, she had an unbilled bit part in the Red Skelton film, Excuse My Dust. Sheree North

In early 1953, choreographer Bob Alton, after seeing her dance at a club in Santa Monica, landed her a job as an extra in Here Come The Girls. In February, she got her big break as a dancer in the Broadway musical, Hazel Flagg, which led to her taking a role in the film version, the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis feature, Living It Up. In February of 1954, Sheree signed a contract with Twentieth Century Fox. The studio was hoping to have another blonde actress that they could build up as the next Marilyn Monroe, since they were having problems with Marilyn, who was then just married to Joe DiMaggio. Sheree tested for Marilyn's parts in Girl in Pink Tights and There's No Business Like Show Business. In 1955, she got the part intended for Marilyn in How To Be Very, Very Popular when Marilyn turned down the part, prompting LIFE magazine to feature Sheree on the cover of the March 21st issue. Her dance scene for the "Shake, Rattle and Roll" number also has the dubious honor of being advertised as "the screen's first Rock N Roll dance scene". Sheree was featured in a few more popular films in the next couple of years, such as The Lieutenant Wore Skirts, The Best Things In Life Are Free and No Down Payment, but the studio had switched to promoting their latest blonde, Jayne Mansfield, and Sheree's career switched gears once again. She began focusing more on stage work and TV guest roles, honing her acting talents and changing her image from that of a wide-eyed glamour girl to a more down-to-earth, street-wise type, often playing the fallen angel. She gives strong performances in supporting roles both in Don Siegel's Madigan (1968), and The Gypsy Moths (1969) with Burt Lancaster and Gene Hackman, before hamming it up with the king in The Trouble With Girls.

In many ways, Sheree's role in The Trouble With Girls was a typical one for her. She played Nita Bix, a small-town single mother, struggling to raise a daughter (Anissa Jones), harassed by her boss (Dabney Coleman), and harboring dreams of making it big and getting out of town. Once again, the "fallen angel" side of her character comes out as the film goes on, and she's quite funny in the final scenes, as Elvis and Edward Andrews attempt to sober her up.

In the '70's, Sheree had roles in some fine films, including Lawman, The Organization (1971), The Outfit (1974), and Breakout (1975). She appeared as Ed Asner's girlfriend on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" during the 1974-75 season, and costarred in the series "Big Eddie". In the '80's, she continued TV work, appearing in the series "I'm a Big Girl Now", "Our Family Honor", and had a meaty role in the film Maniac Cop (1988), in which she played a crippled policewoman. In 1995, Sheree had the honor of playing Kramer's mom on "Seinfeld", revealing his first name, Cosmo. Her last role was in 1998's Dying to Get Rich. Sheree died in November 2005 from complications during surgery, at 72. Read an excellent tribute article at the Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule blog.

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March 1955 Life magazine cover

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with Edward Andrews

with Tom Ewell in
The Lieutenant Wore Skirts

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