Carolyn Sue Jones, actress, was born, according to most sources, on April 28, 1933, in Amarillo, Texas, one of two daughters of Jeanette (Baker) Jones. She was one-eighth Indian and claimed descent from the Apache chief Geronimo. She was known throughout her youth as a loner who cultivated few friendships and found her avenue of escape at the local movie theater. From the age of six she aspired to become an actress. She attended Amarillo High School, where she studied elocution and in her junior year won first place in the Tri-State Declamation Contest.
After graduating from high school in 1947, she moved to California to enter the Pasadena Playhouse, which produced many Hollywood stars. According to one report, she lied about her age and gave her birthdate as April 28, 1930, in order to get into the playhouse at age fifteen, three years younger than the required minimum age. Although Jones never denied that report, it was never confirmed, and her true age thereafter remained a mystery. In the three years she spent in Pasadena she made summer theatrical tours and was given leading roles in various stage productions. In August 1950 she married Don G. Donaldson, a former air corps officer from Detroit. She broke into films in 1952, when a prominent agent observed her performance in a playhouse production of Dark of the Moon and signed her to appear as a playgirl in the movie Turning Point with William Holden. That led to a long-term contract with Paramount Studios and appearances in several Bob Hope comedies. As her movie career began to bloom, she moved her mother and younger sister from Amarillo to Hollywood.
Carolyn Jones starred in about thirty motion pictures, including Desiree (1954) with Marlon Brando, The Seven Year Itch (1955) with Marilyn Monroe, The Tender Trap (1955) and A Hole in the Head (1959) with Frank Sinatra, Marjorie Morningstar (1958) with Natalie Wood, The Opposite Sex (1956) with June Allyson, King Creole (1958) with Elvis Presley, Last Train from Gun Hill (1959) with Kirk Douglas, Career (1959) with Dean Martin, Ice Palace (1960) with Richard Burton, Heaven with a Gun (1969) with Glenn Ford, and How the West was Won (1963) with George Peppard. In 1957 she received an Academy Award nomination for her performance as a Greenwich Village beatnik in the movie The Bachelor Party (1957). Her versatility as an actress was reflected in the variety of roles she played, ranging from "brainless blonde" types to scheming female "heavies."
In addition to films, she appeared in several early television series in the 1950s, including "Mr. and Mrs. North," "My Favorite Husband," and "Lux Video Theatre." Her most memorable television role was that of the weirdly beautiful Morticia in the 1960s comedy series "The Addams Family," based on characters by cartoonist Charles Addams and costarring John Astin and Jackie Coogan. Miss Jones also made numerous guest appearances in such series as "Dragnet" and "Fantasy Island."
In April 1954, after her first marriage had ended in divorce, she married film writer and producer Aaron Spelling, who had directed her in a stage production of The Live Wire. That marriage lasted thirteen years. She subsequently married voice coach Herbert Greene, was divorced, and wed actor Peter Bailey-Britton. In 1981 she starred in the television soap opera "Capitol" but dropped out after a year because she was stricken with cancer. After a lengthy bout with the disease, she died at her home on August 3, 1983, and was buried in Glassband-Winter Mortuary, Hollywood.
The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.
Amarillo Daily News, August 4, 1983. Amarillo Globe-Times, June 22, 1954, June 12, 1958, July 16, 1959, June 22, 1965. Amarillo Sunday News-Globe, January 6, 1952. Current Biography Yearbook, 1967.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
H. Allen Anderson,
“Jones, Carolyn Sue,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed September 21, 2021,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.