Mary Jane Croft (February 15, 1916 – August 24, 1999) was an American actress best known for her roles as Betty Ramsey on I Love Lucy, Mary Jane Lewis on The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy, and Clara Randolph on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
Born in Muncie, Indiana, Croft worked extensively as an actress in radio, appearing on such programs as The Adventures of Sam Spade, Suspense,The Beulah Show, The Bill Goodwin Show, Blondie, Broadway Is My Beat, Cathy and Elliott Lewis on Stage, Crime Classics, Four-Star Playhouse,Honest Harold, Joan Davis Time, The Mel Blanc Show, One Man's Family, Our Miss Brooks, Romance, Sears Radio Theater, The Story of Sandra Martin and Twelve Players. She also appeared in frequent guest star roles on Lucille Ball's My Favorite Husband, the beginning of their later professional and personal relationship.
In addition to her work with Lucille Ball, she was a frequent guest star on other television programs, including Howard Duff's adventure/drama seriesDante in the 1960 episode "The Misfortune Cookie". She was a regular on at least two other series, as ebullient neighbor Clara Randolph on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (ABC) and on Our Miss Brooks (CBS), in which she reprised her radio role as Miss Daisy Enright, the title character's rival. She provided the voice for Cleo the basset hound in Jackie Cooper's NBC series The People’s Choice (1955–58).
Late in the weekly run of the original I Love Lucy series, the major characters moved to Connecticut. There Lucy Ricardo befriended a new neighbor, Betty Ramsey (portrayed by Croft), who was very socially conscious and tended to get Lucy involved in adventures different from those that involved Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance). Croft had previously guest-starred as Lucy's wealthy schoolmate Cynthia Harcourt in "Lucy is Envious," then as Evelyn Bigsby, the airline passenger seated next to Lucy in "Return Home from Europe," the episode in which Lucy disguises a hunk of cheese as a baby.
When Vance left The Lucy Show after the 1964-1965 season, Croft became Lucy's new sidekick, Mary Jane Lewis. Croft had previously had a recurring role as Audrey Simmons during the show's early seasons set in Danfield, New York. Mary Jane Lewis was Croft's legal name at the time, as she was then married to actor-producer Elliott Lewis (who had originally produced The Lucy Show during its first two seasons) but continued to use her maiden name professionally. Her only son, by a prior marriage, was killed in the Vietnam War during the period that she was co-starring with Ball.
The Lewis character was maintained when The Lucy Show was transformed into Ball's third sitcom, Here's Lucy. The character remained until the cancellation of Here's Lucy in 1974.
Later years and death
Croft continued to act in television for several years after the end of Here's Lucy, even reuniting with Ball in 1977 in the special, Lucy Calls the President. She died of natural causes in Century City, California.