Born Elizabeth Ellen Gillease in the New Jersey city of Jersey City, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, she began her career as a Ford Agency high-fashion model before landing the television role of the “Away We Go!” girl on The Jackie Gleason Show in the 1950s. Thereafter, she honed her stage skills by joining and performing with the Helen Hayes Repertory Group before expanding into the big and small screens. Elizabeth made numerous television appearances in guest starring roles on such programs as The Fugitive, Kojak, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. She was also a regular cast member on TV’s Bracken’s World, The Paul Lynde Show, C.P.O. Sharkey, Another World and its spin-off, Texas. Her television, film and stage career spanned three decades. She was featured with William Shatner in “The Hungry Glass”, the 16th episode in the first season of Boris Karloff’s Thriller in 1961. In 1962, she played a leading role in the first season of Combat!, in the episode “No Hallelujahs for Glory” as a persistent war correspondent. Allen is perhaps best known on TV for her role as the creepy saleslady in the first-season episode of Rod Serling’s original version of The Twilight Zone, entitled “The After Hours”, where actress Anne Francis (playing ‘Miss Marsha White’) finally realizes that she is a mannequin and that her month of freedom and living among the humans is over. Allen’s saleslady character (seen by no one but Marsha) is the mannequin whose turn in the outside world is up next and has already been delayed by one full day, thus explaining her slightly peeved attitude.
In 1963, Allen starred with John Wayne, Dorothy Lamour and Lee Marvin in the John Ford film Donovan’s Reef. She also starred in Diamond Head with Charlton Heston and Yvette Mimieux. Both movies were filmed on location in Hawaii. Allen also appeared with James Stewart in Cheyenne Autumn and won a Laurel Award in 1963 as the year’s most promising film actress. She was twice nominated for Tony Awards for her performances on Broadway in The Gay Life, as Best Featured Actress in a Musical and Do I Hear a Waltz?, as Best Actress in a Musical. She can be heard singing beautifully throughout the original cast album of Waltz, available on CD. Her other notable stage productions on the Great White Way and beyond included Romanoff and Juliet, Lend an Ear, Sherry!, California Suite, The Pajama Game, The Tender Trap, Show Boat, South Pacific, and culminating in the 1980s Broadway musical 42nd Street, as fading star Dorothy Brock. In 1983 she appeared as Dr. Gwen Harding on the CBS soap opera Guiding Light. Allen quietly retired from show business in 1996, after touring numerous cities throughout the world for over a decade with her 42nd Street role from Broadway. This was her last, significant acting job after appearing in the 1980s TV series Texas for two seasons.
She was married briefly to Baron Karl von Vietinghoff-Scheel, but they divorced and she never remarried. Allen died from kidney disease, aged 77, in Fishkill, New York. She was predeceased by her only sibling, brother Joseph L. Gillease, and survived by her sister-in-law, Marion Gillease, her nephew and Godson, Patrick J. Gillease, her niece, Erin Gillease Phelan, and two grand-nieces, Alicia Phelan and Alexandria Phelan.
- January, 25, 1929
- Jersey City, New Jersey
- September, 19, 2006
- Fishkill, New York
Cause of Death
- kidney disease