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Jesse White (Jonah Marcus Weidenfeld)

Jesse White

White was born as Jonah Marcus Weidenfeld in Buffalo, New York, and was reared in Akron, Ohio. He was called “Jesse” as a nickname. He made his first amateur appearance in local stage productions at the age of fifteen. Though aspiring to be an actor, he worked at many different jobs during the 1930s, including selling beauty supplies and lingerie. After moving to Cleveland, Ohio, White began a career in vaudeville and burlesque, traveling widely before landing a role on Broadway. In 1942, White made his Broadway debut in The Moon is Down, followed by a successful performance in the role of a sanitarium orderly in the popular play Harvey. He would later reprise his role in the 1950 film version and the 1972 television movie. In 1947, White made his film debut in a small part in Kiss of Death. During the 1950s, he began landing roles on television shows, including appearances in Danny Thomas’s Make Room for Daddy and Peter Lawford’s Dear Phoebe. In 1954, he landed a semi-regular role as Cagey Calhoun on Private Secretary, starring Ann Sothern, Ann Tyrrell, and Don Porter. The role led to another semi-regular part as the deceitful Oscar Pudney on CBS’s The Ann Sothern Show in 1960. White guest-starred on Four Star Playhouse and NBC’s The Bob Cummings Show. He also appeared in roles in The Bad Seed (1956); Designing Woman (1957), with Lauren Bacall; and Marjorie Morningstar (1958), with Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly. On October 2, 1958, White portrayed the fast-talking, presumably dishonest, used-car salesman San Fernando Harry in the segment “The New Car” of the ABC sitcom, The Real McCoys, starring Walter Brennan, with whom he clashes in this episode, Richard Crenna, and Kathleen Nolan.

From 1958 to 1965, White made five guest appearances on Perry Mason. In his first appearance he played murderer Luke Hickey in “The Case of the Married Moonlighter.” His third appearance featured him as murder victim Burt Renshaw in “The Case of the Polka Dot Pony.” In his final appearance he played murder victim Max Armstead in “The Case of the Fatal Fortune.” In the 1960s, White appeared on Tightrope, Oh! Those Bells, The Twilight Zone, The Dick Van Dyke Show; The Donna Reed Show; The Andy Griffith Show; The Roaring 20s, Mickey, starring Mickey Rooney; The Beverly Hillbillies; Petticoat Junction;The Munsters; The Addams Family; That Girl; and I Dream of Jeannie. In a memorable cameo, he played a frustrated airport tower controller (alongside a hilarious Paul Ford, Carl Reiner & Eddie Ryder) in Stanley Kramer’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. In 1966, he accepted the role of Donelli in The Reluctant Astronaut, playing a curmudgeonly janitorial supervisor who instructed his students in the use of a mop in a deadpan delivery rivaling that of an aerospace engineer. In a short but memorable performance, he routinely castigated Don Knotts’s bumbling character Roy Fleming for his “lack of dedication” to cleaning floors. An advertising director who saw his performance on the film’s release soon cast him in a television advertising campaign for the Maytag Corporation. White played the role of a lonely Maytag repairman, a man with nothing to do as a result of his company’s reputation for dependable products. In one of the campaign’s first spots, White’s character unmistakably alluded to his former role as ‘Donelli’: “At ease men! Now, you men have all volunteered to be Maytag Repairmen and so I’m gonna give it to you straight. Maytag washers and dryers are built to last. That makes the Maytag Repairman the loneliest guy in town!” The campaign proved wildly successful, and the actor began a long-running and highly paid career as the ever-lonely Maytag repairman. White continued appearing in both television and films during his many years as the Maytag repairman. His final film role was a small but pivotal role in the 1993 Joe Dante comedy Matinee starring John Goodman, and his last TV role was in an episode of Seinfeld in 1996.

White was also a member of the stellar band of voiceover actors who voiced Stan Freberg’s classic lampoon of American history, Stan Freberg Presents The United States of America: Volume One The Early Years, and thirty-five years later, “The Middle Years.” In addition to film and television work, White lent his voice to such cartoons as Jonny Quest, Garfield and Friends, and Inspector Gadget. In 1942, White married Celia Cohn (July 17, 1914 – August 5, 2003). The couple had two daughters, Carole Ita White (who later became an actress) and Janet Jonas. On January 9, 1997, White died from a heart attack following surgery, only six days after his 80th birthday. He is interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

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  • January, 03, 1917
  • USA
  • Buffalo, New York


  • January, 09, 1997
  • USA
  • Los Angeles, California

Cause of Death

  • heart attack


  • Mount Sinai Memorial Park
  • Los Angeles, California
  • USA

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