Jeff Chandler was a top box office star in the 1950s, despite his Jewish background. His former lover Esther Williams (1921-2013 natural causes) put him back in the headlines in her tell-all 1999 autobiography when she alleged that he was a cross-dresser.
With premature silver hair, a dimpled chin and warm eyes, Chandler was a heartthrob for women. He also appeared on Broadway and guested on a number of television shows.
Cause of Death
With his ruggedly handsome tanned features, prematurely steel grey hair and rich baritone voice, Jeff Chandler was one of Universal’s leading men in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He starred in many western movies and other action films, most often playing American Indians (three times as Cochise), cavalrymen and gangsters.
His sex appeal and virile presence made him an attractive choice for lead roles in drama and costume movies as well. His performances earned him several Golden Globe nominations.
Esther Williams, his former lover, put him back in the headlines in her tell-all 1999 biography when she claimed that he was a cross-dresser who only wore women’s clothes for a sexual thrill. She later admitted that this claim had no basis in fact. He was buried in Culver City at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery. His pallbearers at his funeral included actors Tony Curtis and Gerald Mohr. He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1770 Vine Street.
He was born in Brooklyn and worked for a while as a layout artist for a mail order catalog. During this time he managed to save enough money to get into the Feagin School of Dramatic Art. He eventually broke into movies and became a top leading man during the fifties. His rugged features and prematurely grey crinkly hair gave him considerable sex appeal. He starred opposite many of the era’s top sex sirens such as Jane Russell, Esther Williams and Rhonda Fleming.
He also found work on the radio, where he was very popular in anthology programs such as The Academy Award Theatre, The Cavalcade of America and Damon Runyon’s Theatre.
He was a tough virile lead, often playing American Indians (three times as Cochise) or gangsters and cavalrymen. He starred in a number of quality productions such as Red Ball Express and Sign of the Pagan. He also made good use of his singing voice, recording several albums.
During the 1950s when Universal-International still had true studio power Chandler was one of their top contract players. He starred in few A productions but was a vital box office draw for the studio. His premature curly silver hair, dimpled chin and warm eyes made him a heartthrob for the women of the era.
Although he only made about 50 films, a good majority of them were westerns and action pictures. He was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Cochise in Broken Arrow. He was paired with the era’s top sex sirens such as Maureen O’Hara, Joan Crawford and June Allyson.
While shooting a movie in the Philippines called Merrill’s Marauders, Jeff Chandler was injured and had to be sent to a hospital for back surgery. He was given 55 pints of blood during this procedure, but died from blood poisoning only a few weeks later. His family would later settle a malpractice lawsuit against the hospital.
He was an important film star during the 1950s and was one of the few silver-haired actors to break into the top 20 box office. He starred opposite some of the era’s best sex sirens such as Jane Russell, Esther Williams, Rhonda Fleming and Mamie Van Doren. He also made a name for himself in courtroom dramas like The Tattered Dress.
He starred in over 50 movies and was known for his rugged features and prematurely grey, crinkly hair. He had a good sense of humor and was a well-known sports fan. He was also a liberal Democrat and worked on the campaign to elect John F. Kennedy in 1960.
He had two daughters and a granddaughter. His daughter, Dana Chandler Grossel (Grossel was her father’s real last name) died in 2002 and his granddaughter Jana Fourtune is the wife of actor Gerald Mohr. He died from blood poisoning after spinal surgery in California. The incident was deemed malpractice by the courts and resulted in a large settlement for his children.