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JANE ADAMS

Johnny Mack Brown holds the hands of lovely Jane Adams in "Outlaw Gold" ('50 Monogram).

A stage-trained model and screen beauty, it’s ironic Jane Adams is best remembered for playing a hunchback in the 1945 Universal chiller “House of Dracula.”

“I was offered a full scholarship to study violin at Juliard—but I wanted to be an actress. So, I got my training at the Pasadena Playhouse for four years. I took stage design, stage makeup, French, voice and diction. We performed in everything from Greek tragedy to classic comedies.”

It was at this time Jane landed her first professional acting jobs. “I had small roles on ‘Lux Radio Theatre’— and on the old ‘Whistler’ radio series.  Later,  when I was under contract to Universal, I did the commercials on the Lux show, but I wasn’t paid for that. It was part of my contract salary with Universal!”

When asked about her first screen name, Poni Adams, Jane recalls: “I was given that name at the Harry Conover Modeling Agency. The day after I arrived in New York, I began working for them. Because of my experience at the Playhouse, I was among the first to appear on live TV in New York. I modeled for the National Tea Association and was the Dodge Girl for a year.”

By chance, it was a picture of Jane in ESQUIRE (“I had my clothes ON!”) That led to a contract with Universal. “Walter Wanger asked me to test for the lead in ‘Salome, Where She Danced.’ I was not a dancer—and Yvonne De Carlo got the part. I played one of the girls in the picture.”

Sometimes billed Jane “Poni” Adams, the actress (real name Betty Jane Bierce) recalls, “There was a publicity buildup about what my screen name would be. GI’s got to select a name as part of a contest in STARS AND STRIPES.”

Almost immediately, Jane began appearing in westerns with Kirby Grant and Fuzzy Knight. “Kirby was like all the western stars I worked with—a very nice, outdoorsy, down-to-earth man. Not temperamental at all. I took riding lessons for two—three days of the week. When it came time to shoot the picture I had a double and didn’t get to use any of my riding experience! On one of the pictures with Kirby, I fell off into the mud—and it held up production. They had to get me—and the costume—clean!”

Jane (Poni) Adams holds tight to Kirby Grant in a confrontation with Sheriff Stanley Andrews in "Trail to Vengeance" ('46 Universal). Perennial Universal sidekick Fuzzy Knight is slack-jawed at left.

“I enjoyed the westerns—the California hills locations. I enjoyed seeing the caravans that would be filled with props, extras and all. I enjoyed seeing the sets come alive. Of course, I had to be there two hours earlier than the men—one hour for hair, one hour for makeup. We were mainly outdoors all day—in the sun and heat. We worked hard. Sometimes we’d have dinner—then go to the studio and work on a soundstage in the evening!”

We asked Jane about Lionel Atwill, who died part way into the shooting of the serial “Lost City of the Jungle”. “It was very unfortunate when a main character dies in the middle of production. It sounds funny, the way I put it. I never saw the serial—only the rushes. It was filled with a lot of problems but at least I did more in that than in ‘Batman and Robin’ three years later!”

Russell Hayden and Keye Luke protect Jane Adams in Universal's "Lost City of the Jungle" serial ('46).

Jane Adams appeared in both a Cisco Kid feature (“Girl From San Lorenzo”) and the TV pilot. “Duncan Renaldo was a lovely man and Leo Carrillo was a clown! So much fun! I did so many TV shows and films I don’t always remember them that clearly. I do recall Jimmy Wakely as a very good western person. His music was good and he was not obnoxious. I got along well with everybody. I never saw any temperamental stars in action.”

“When I was making ‘A Night In Paradise’, Turhan Bey was the male lead. Although he was dating Lana Turner, he seemed to be flirting with me on the set every day!”

Asked why her career didn’t continue, Jane reveals, “On July 14, 1945, I married Tom Turnage. (A brief marriage to an Annapolis cadet ended tragically as he was killed in action on his first mission during WWII). I wanted to be with Tom, whose career kept us traveling constantly. It was only when he was sent to Korea that I came back and did those TV shows. I wanted to be a housewife, mother and travel. That’s something I couldn’t do as an actress. I’m very happy in Palm Springs. I receive about 10 fan letters a week. My life has been a great adventure.”

Jane’s Western Filmography


Movies: Salome, Where She Danced (‘45 Universal)—Rod Cameron; Code of the Lawless (‘45 Universal)—Kirby Grant; Trail to Vengeance (‘45 Universal)—Kirby Grant; Gunman’s Code (‘46 Universal)—Kirby Grant; Lawless Breed (‘46 Universal)—Kirby Grant; Rustlers’ Roundup (‘46 Universal)—Kirby Grant; Gun Law Justice (‘49 Monogram)—Jimmy Wakely; Western Renegades (‘49 Monogram)—Johnny Mack Brown; Law of the Panhandle (‘50 Monogram)—Johnny Mack Brown; Outlaw Gold (‘50 Monogram)—Johnny Mack Brown; Girl From San Lorenzo (‘50 United Artists)—Duncan Renaldo. TV: Cisco Kid: Boomerang (‘51); Wild Bill Hickok: Silver Stage Holdup (‘51); Kit Carson: Law of the Six Guns (’51); Kit Carson: Range Master (‘52).

Jane Adams protects her guilty brother, Bernard Thomas, from Wells Fargo investigators Fuzzy Knight and Kirby Grant on this lobby card from "Gunman's Code".

Jane Adams stands up to Kirby Grant for her innocent but accused-of-murder father, Walter Baldwin, on this lobbycard from "Trail to Vengeance".