Today is the 103rd birthday of the character actress who’s picture you will see and think “Oh my God, ya, her!” Barbara Pepper is one of the people that you know, but you may not know her hame. I love working character actors and their stories and their long lives playing many different types of people over the course of their careers. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.
BEST KNOWN FOR: Barbara Pepper was an American stage, television, radio, and film actress. She is best known as the first “Doris Ziffel” on the sitcom Green Acres.
Born as Marion Pepper in New York City, at age 16 she started life in show business as one of the slender, curvy, and gorgeous Goldwyn Girls, where she met lifelong friend Lucille Ball. Pepper began making movies, among her many film parts were My Fair Lady and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Pepper also performed radio parts. In 1943 she married actor Craig Reynolds (né Harold Hugh Enfield); the couple had two sons. After Reynolds died in 1949 in a California motorcycle accident, Pepper was left to raise their two sons alone. She never remarried.
After gaining weight, her roles were mostly confined to small TV character parts, including several appearances on I Love Lucy and The Jack Benny Program. She made four appearances on Perry Mason, including the role of Martha Dale, mother of the title character, in the 1957 episode, “The Case of the Vagabond Vixen“. She may be best remembered as the first Doris Ziffel on Petticoat Junction in 1964 (although her character name on the “Genghis Keane” episode of Petticoat Junction was Ruth Ziffel) and Green Acres from 1965-1968. However, her heart ailments forced her to leave the series and she was replaced by Fran Ryan. Her final role was in 1969’s Hook, Line & Sinker, in which she played Jerry Lewis’s secretary.
Barbara Pepper died on July 18, 1969 in Panorama City, California, aged 54, from a coronary thrombosis.