Biography

A self-described "household face," character actor Jesse White made his first stage appearance as a teenager in his adopted hometown of Akron, OH. Supporting himself with a variety of civilian jobs, White worked the nightclub circuit in Cleveland, then moved on to what was left of vaudeville in the late '30s. White's first Broadway role was in 1942's The Moon is Down; two years later he scored his biggest success as the acerbic sanitarium attendant in Mary Chase's Harvey, a role he would repeat for the 1950 film version (though Harvey is often listed as White's film debut, he can be seen in a bit role as an elevator operator in 1947's Gentleman's Agreement). While he has appeared in some 60 films, White is best known for his TV work, which allowed him to play Runyon-esque gangsters, theatrical agents, neurotic TV talk show hosts, art connoisseurs, toy manufacturers, and whatever else suited his fancy. Two of his longest professional associations were with satirist Stan Freberg (White was featured in several of Freberg's commercials and comedy albums) and comedian/TV mogul Danny Thomas (White played agent Jesse Leeds during the first few seasons of Make Room for Daddy). In the 1970s, White became established as the "lonely" Maytag repairman in a series of well-circulated TV commercials; when he stepped down from this role in the late '80s, the event received a generous amount of press coverage. Jesse White was still in harness into the 1990s. In 1992, he was memorably cast as a sarcastic, cigar-chomping theater chain owner in Joe Dante's Matinee. He passed away at age 79 following complications from surgery on January 8, 1997. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi