February 25, 2017
Olive Joann Dunbar (known privately as Jo Keene) was a stage, film and TV actress, born on March 30, 1925 to lawyer Harry C. Dunbar and Geneva Teague Dunbar in Wellesley Hills, Mass. At an early age, Jo (who identified herself with the heroine of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women) decided she wanted to be an actress. (Not surprisingly, her favorite performer was Katherine Hepburn, who memorably created the Alcott character on film). After finishing high school, with lessons in elocution, Olive was accepted at the Yale Drama School as an acting major, one of the youngest in the class of '46. She left after completing two of the three-year program because she had won a role in Philip Barry's Broadway play, The Joyous Season, making her debut in the company of Ethel Barrymore. Several stage performances followed, including the leading role in John van Druten's I Remember Mamma. Later, she went on tour with Gertrude Lawrence in several plays written and directed by Noel Coward. When a cross-country tour of an Archibald MacLeish play starring Raymond Massey ended in Los Angeles, she decided to remain there and soon found work in films (The First Monday in October, The Carey Treatment, The Lottery) and in many television shows, including a series with Fred MacMurray and another with Carroll O'Connor. She married William Keene, a New York radio actor who had migrated to Hollywood and the couple lived and worked there until his death. She returned to New York briefly and was persuaded by Richard Burdick, the son of her roommate at Yale, to move to a retirement community (Kendal at Ithaca) where she resumed her acting career at the Kitchen Theatre and helped to form another dramatic group, Icarus, with which she appeared for several seasons. Failing health forced her permanent retirement and she died on February 8, 2017, a month before her 92d birthday, mourned by all her friends.
DUNBAR, Olive (Olive Joann Dunbar)
Born: 3/30/1925, Wellsbury, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Died: 2/8/2017, Ithaca, New York, U.S.A.
Olive Dunbar’s westerns – actress:
Invitation to a Gunfighter – 1964 (towns woman)
Death Valley Days (TV) – 1967 (Gita Schieffelin)
Laredo (TV) – 1967 (Mrs. Morton)
The Big Valley (TV) – 1969 (Eliza Grant)
Little House on the Prairie (TV) - 1974 (sales lady)