Jean Sullivan, 79; Varied Talents Included Acting, Flamenco, Ballet

From a Times Staff Writer

Jean Sullivan, an eclectic entertainer and musician who acted on screen opposite Errol Flynn, danced ballet and flamenco, and even informed New Yorkers whether to expect rain, has died. She was 79.

Sullivan died Feb. 27 of cardiac arrest at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital in Woodland Hills.

Discovered by a Warner Bros. scout when she was performing in a play at UCLA, the native of Logan, Utah, was immediately put to work in front of motion picture cameras.

Sullivan burst onto the screen as the leading lady Marianne opposite Flynn in “Uncertain Glory” in 1944. Although Sullivan was the ingenue, she was billed above veterans Paul Lukas and Faye Emerson.


Sullivan also played the leading lady in the 1945 “Escape in the Desert,” a remake of “The Petrified Forest.” The young actress also played the daughter of Rosalind Russell and Jack Carson in the 1945 motion picture comedy “Roughly Speaking.”

But Sullivan’s film career was short-lived. She relocated to New York City to study acting with Sanford Meisner and others. She also studied ballet and began dancing professionally.

While practicing flamenco steps during a Carnegie Hall rehearsal, Sullivan was discovered anew by choreographer Anthony Tudor and soon was a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre.

She enhanced her flamenco persona by playing Spanish guitar and became a popular entertainer at Latin nightclubs throughout New York City. Sullivan also played cello and piano.

Never too far from acting, Sullivan became popular in television soap operas including “Search for Tomorrow” and performed flamenco on television variety shows including “The Steve Allen Show” and “The Jackie Gleason Show.”

For several years, she was also a “weather girl” on local New York television stations.

In the 1970s, Sullivan worked as executive director of New York’s South Street Seaport Museum, a position that included overseeing and performing in the museum’s Theater-on-the-Pier. Two of the plays in which she appeared in 1975 were “Moby Dick” and “Spoon River Anthology.”

Sullivan is survived by her daughter, Francesca Poston, from her former marriage to comedic actor Tom Poston; a brother, Michael Sullivan; and two sisters, Maggi McHugh and Anne Sullivan Stewart.