While I was researching different movies filmed in Kankakee County, I also found quite a few actors and actresses that have connections to Kankakee. This post includes actors/actresses who visited, lived, or was born here, and also famous shows that have been performed in Kankakee County.
(In Alphabetical Order by Last Name)
Buffalo Bill brought his show for two performances in Kankakee on July 29, 1909. Although he did not bring Annie Oakley or Sitting Bull, Buffalo Bill brought more than 100 Indians and with other characters. They re-enacted a stagecoach attack as their main act.
Michael Clarke Duncan
Duncan, famous for movies such as The Green Mile and nominated for an Academy Award, played basketball on the Kankakee Community College team. After his death, CBS wrote an article featuring Denny Lehnus, the KCC basketball coach, about Michael Clarke Duncan and his impact on the team. According to the interview, Duncan kept in touch with the coach and wanted to come back to Kankakee to start a mentoring program for students.
C.O. “Doc” Erickson
This executive producer was born in Kankakee in 1923 and grew up in Manteno. Erickson joined Paramount Studios in 1944 and worked his way up to be executive producer. Some notable achievements include working with Alfred Hitchcock on Rear Window, Vertigo, To Catch a Thief, and others Hitchcock films. Erickson also worked on Blade Runner, Urban Cowboy, Chinatown, and Groundhog Day, as well as others.
Janet Hubert graduated from Momence High School in 1974. She is probably most famously known for playing Vivian Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, at least from 1990-1993 (Seasons 1-3). She also has starred in small television roles.
Phylis Isley/Jennifer Jones
Although Phylis Isley, who later changed her name to Jennifer Jones, did not grow up in Kankakee. However, she lived here for awhile and worked as a waitress at McBroom’s Restaurant. She met one of the McBroom family members at Northwestern (probably Andrew McBroom), where she studied theater. She later would win a Best Actress Academy Award for The Song of Bernadette and obtain 5 more Oscar nominations. Besides The Song of Bernadette, she is known for the movie A Farewell to Arms with Rock Hudson and Mercedes McCambridge (keep reading to find out more about her!)
MacMurray was born in Kankakee on August 30, 1908. He and his family moved to Wisconsin when MacMurray was 5 years old. He is best known for playing Steve Douglas in My Three Sons. He also starred in Double Indemnity and The Apartment with Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon.
Andrew McBroom/David Bruce
Andrew McBroom, who later changed his name to David Bruce, was born in Kankakee in 1916. He attended Northwestern, as did Phylis Isley/Jennifer Jones. He is known for starring in Sergeant York, The Sea Hawk, The Mad Ghoul, and more.
McCambridge did not live in Kankakee, but she would come with her parents to visit. Her parents really loved to visit the town and visited quite often. She became famous for being a regular on the radio show I Love a Mystery. McCambridge won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and Golden Globe for All the Kings Men and nominated for an Academy Award for Giant, starring James Dean. She also had small roles on television shows including Bonanza, Charlie’s Angels, and Cagney and Lacey. Mercedes McCambridge is also known for A Farewell to Arms and playing the voice of a demon in The Exorcist.
The Marx Brothers
The Marx Brothers, Gummo, Groucho, Zeppo, Harpo, and Chico, all played at the Majestic Theater. It was the main theater at the time. On April 16-19, 1916, the brothers promised “A bombardment of beauty, a howitzer fire of fun” and “A cyclone of dances”. The city of Kankakee must have made some kind of an impact. In their 1939 film At the Circus, Groucho Marx sang, “For a dime you can see Kankakee or Paree, Or Washington crossing the Delaware” from the song “Lydia, The Tattooed Lady”
Extra fact: This same song/lyric is also sung by Kermit the Frog on an episode of The Muppet Show.
Kankakee may not become the next Hollywood anytime soon, but it does have some Academy Award winners and other famous actors that have come from here.
You Learn Something Every Day:
Kankakee first got its name from a Native American word “teeyaahkiki”, meaning open country or exposed land. The Potawatami lived in the area until 1833, then they signed a treaty with the government to move west.
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