Janet Shaw, 82; Actress Had Role in ‘Jezebel’

From a Times Staff Writer

Janet Shaw, a blond actress who appeared in about 60 films during the 1930s and 1940s, including a special role in “Jezebel,” has died in her native Nebraska town. She was 82.

Shaw, formally Ellen Martha Clancy Stuart, who began her acting career under the name Ellen Clancy, died Oct. 15 in Beatrice, Neb., of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

She moved to Los Angeles with her parents when she was a teenager and spent most of her life here, returning to Beatrice in 1994. The Beverly Hills High School graduate studied acting in little theater groups and in 1934 began earning mostly uncredited film roles.

But in 1937, when a Hollywood executive saw her perform as a Southern belle in a dramatic scene, he brought her to the attention of Jack L. Warner. Grooming her for bigger parts, Warner changed her name to Janet Shaw and signed her to a seven-year contract.


He also expanded a role for her as Molly Allen in “Jezebel,” the 1938 film that earned Bette Davis a second Academy Award.

Shaw worked her way through popular trends of the period, playing romantically inclined chorines, secretaries, factory workers and ingenues in films about World War II, westerns and glamorous adventures.

In addition to Davis, she appeared with such performers as Clark Gable, Tex Ritter and Robert Taylor.

Among her screen credits were “It’s Love I’m After,” “Prairie Thunder,” “Sergeant Murphy,” “When Strangers Marry” and “I’ll Tell the World.”

Shaw’s last role was in the 1950 film “Prehistoric Women,” about lonely cavewomen in search of mates.

In 1944, Shaw married an actor and at the time an Army Air Force lieutenant, Williard Ilefeldt, whom she met at the Long Beach Municipal Airport while working on a film about women pilots who ferried planes during World War II. The brief marriage produced no children.