JoAnn Dean Killingsworth, Disneyland’s First Snow White, Dies at 91

JoAnn Dean Killingsworth Dead
Courtesy of Jay Dean

JoAnn Dean Killingsworth, the first person to play Snow White at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., died Saturday. She was 91.

Her death comes just a few weeks shy of the park’s 60th anniversary. Disneyland recently hosted a weekend of festivities to celebrate its six decades in California.

Killingsworth, a professional figure skater and dancer on Broadway and in Hollywood, was born in Minneapolis in September 1923. She moved to Los Angeles with her family in 1931, and most recently lived in Brea, Calif.

After her family moved to L.A., they opened a canteen that became a full-fledged restaurant in what was then the Beverly Manor apartment house in Hollywood.

The restaurant’s success enabled the family to put Killingsworth through dancing lessons. She left home at 15 to join a skating troupe that shortly went on tour.

She would later go on to become the skating and dancing partner of Gene Nelson. She did some print modeling over the years as well, and made her first appearance as Snow White in 1955, riding a float down Main Street as the Disney character.

Killingsworth’s film credits include “Silver Skates” (1943), “Something for the Boys” (1944), “State Fair” (1945), “Rainbow Over Texas” (1946), “Lullaby of Broadway” (1951), “Sabrina” (1954), “Red Garters” (1954) and “Nob Hill” (1954).

She also appeared as a “Redette” dancer on the “Red Skelton Hour” for three years in the late ’50s.

In 1959, she and her then-husband James Killingsworth began publishing a weekly magazine in Newport Beach that would become the Orange County Illustrated. The magazine folded in the ’80s after the couple divorced.

She is survived by two stepsons, Bill and Larry Killingsworth, and a brother.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 1

Leave a Reply

1 Comment

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Josh Pincus says:

    “She did some print modeling over the years as well, and made her first appearance as Snow White in June 1955, riding a float down Main Street as the Disney character.”

    I find this odd, since Disneyland did not open until July 17, 1955 for press and invited guest. It officially opened to the public on July 18, 1955.

More Biz News from Variety

Loading