Polly Rowles

Actress Polly Rowles, whose career on the stage, screen and TV spanned more than six decades and is remembered as the long-running character of Inspector No. 12 in a Hanes Underwear commercial, died Oct. 7 at her daughter’s home in New Hampshire. She was 87.

A native of Philadelphia, she attended the drama school of Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1936, relocated to Hollywood that year, signed a contract with Universal Pictures and appeared in “Westbound Limited,” “Wings Over Honolulu,” “Some Blondes are Dangerous,” “Love Letters of a Star,” “Vogues of 1938” and the Gene Autry starrer “Springtime in the Rockies.”

She returned to Pittsburgh in 1939, married, gave birth to a daughter, and hosted an early version of talk radio on Pittsburgh radio station KDKA.

Toward the end of World War II, Rowles moved to New York City, where she would reside for 57 years.

During the late 1940s through the ’50s, Rowles appeared in numerous Broadway productions as well as guesting on popular golden age TV shows. Broadway appearances included “The Wooden Dish,” “Time Out for Ginger,” “A Mighty Man Is He,” “Auntie Mame,” “No Strings” and “Love Makes the World Go Square.”

Some of her early TV credits included appearances on “Philco Television Playhouse,” “Studio One,” “The Alcoa Hour,” “U.S. Steel Hour,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Naked City.”

In her later years she segued to TV commercials, including the long-running character of Inspector No. 12 for Hanes Underwear.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by a cousin.

More Scene

  • Ryan Murphy Pose

    Ryan Murphy on 'Showrunning as Advocacy' and the Post-Me Too 'Age of Enlightenment'

    Actress Polly Rowles, whose career on the stage, screen and TV spanned more than six decades and is remembered as the long-running character of Inspector No. 12 in a Hanes Underwear commercial, died Oct. 7 at her daughter’s home in New Hampshire. She was 87. A native of Philadelphia, she attended the drama school of […]

  • 'The Sinner' film premiere

    Jessica Biel Closes Her Kid-Friendly Au Fudge Restaurant

    Actress Polly Rowles, whose career on the stage, screen and TV spanned more than six decades and is remembered as the long-running character of Inspector No. 12 in a Hanes Underwear commercial, died Oct. 7 at her daughter’s home in New Hampshire. She was 87. A native of Philadelphia, she attended the drama school of […]

  • Comedy Converstion with L to R:

    Just for Laughs Festival Honors Tiffany Haddish, Hannah Gadsby, More

    Actress Polly Rowles, whose career on the stage, screen and TV spanned more than six decades and is remembered as the long-running character of Inspector No. 12 in a Hanes Underwear commercial, died Oct. 7 at her daughter’s home in New Hampshire. She was 87. A native of Philadelphia, she attended the drama school of […]

  • Paul Krassner Memoir Illustration

    Paul Krassner on Resisting With Humor

    Actress Polly Rowles, whose career on the stage, screen and TV spanned more than six decades and is remembered as the long-running character of Inspector No. 12 in a Hanes Underwear commercial, died Oct. 7 at her daughter’s home in New Hampshire. She was 87. A native of Philadelphia, she attended the drama school of […]

  • Just for Laughs Festival Montreal

    Just for Laughs Festival Is the Coachella of Comedy

    Actress Polly Rowles, whose career on the stage, screen and TV spanned more than six decades and is remembered as the long-running character of Inspector No. 12 in a Hanes Underwear commercial, died Oct. 7 at her daughter’s home in New Hampshire. She was 87. A native of Philadelphia, she attended the drama school of […]

  • National Comedy Center Set To Open

    National Comedy Center Set To Open During Lucille Ball Fest

    Actress Polly Rowles, whose career on the stage, screen and TV spanned more than six decades and is remembered as the long-running character of Inspector No. 12 in a Hanes Underwear commercial, died Oct. 7 at her daughter’s home in New Hampshire. She was 87. A native of Philadelphia, she attended the drama school of […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content