Virginia Christine (March 5, 1920 – July 24, 1996) was an American stage, radio, film, television, and voice actress. Christine had a long career as a character actress in film and television. She is particularly remembered as "Mrs. Olson" (or the "Folgers Coffee Woman") in a number of television commercials for Folgers.
Christine was born Virginia Christine Ricketts in Stanton in Montgomery County in southwestern Iowa. She was of Swedish descent. Upon her mother's remarriage, she changed her last name to "Kraft". The family later moved moved to Des Moines in Polk County, where Virginia attended Elmwood Elementary School. The family relocated again to Des Moines County in southeastern Iowa, not to be confused with the state capital in central Iowa. There Christine attended Mediapolis High School, where she aspired to be a concert pianist. Her family later moved to California, where she enrolled at UCLA.
Radio and films
Christine began working in radio during college. She began training for a theatrical career with actor/director Fritz Feld whom she married in 1940. In 1942, she made her stage debut in the Los Angeles production of Hedda Gabler. While performing in the play, she was spotted by an agent fromWarner Bros. who signed her to a film contract with the studio. Her first film for Warner's was Edge of Darkness (1943), in which she played aNorwegian peasant girl. She was dropped by Warner Bros. in 1943 and signed with Universal Pictures in 1944. That year, Christine had a supporting role in The Mummy's Curse and The Wife of Monte Cristo, with her husband Fritz Feld (the two would also go on to appear together in the Western 4 for Texas in 1963). In 1946, she appeared in The Scarlet Horseman, a 13-chapter film serial playing Carla Marquette, or Matosca, followed by a supporting role in mystery film The Inner Circle. Christine's next film for Universal was the film noir classic The Killers. She initially tested for the lead role of femme fatale Kitty Collins, but lost out to Ava Gardner. The film's producer, Mark Hellinger, was impressed with her test and cast her as Lilly Harmon Lubinsky, the wife of Lt. Sam Lubinsky (Sam Levene). Christine also portrayed the role of Miss Watston in the 1964 remake of the film, starring Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson.
In 1950, she co-starred as Marlon Brando's wife in The Men. Although the part was small and the film was not a commercial success, her performance impressed the film's producer Stanley Kramer. She became a favorite of his and went on to appear in a number of his films including Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) and High Noon (1952). Kramer later cast her in the 1955 drama Not as a Stranger, where she played a countrywoman. She also coached the film's star Olivia de Havilland on her Swedish accent. The following year, she co-starred in the horror film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In 1961, Kramer cast her again as a German housekeeper in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). One of her most notable roles was as Hilary St. George, the bigoted co-worker of theKatharine Hepburn character in the 1967 film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.
In addition to her work in films, Christine also appeared in numerous television series. In the 1950s, she appeared in multiple guest roles on The Abbott and Costello Show, Four Star Playhouse,Dragnet, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Ford Television Theatre, Gunsmoke, Science Fiction Theatre, Matinee Theatre, Father Knows Best, Trackdown, State Trooper, Perry Mason, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Rifleman, Letter to Loretta, and General Electric Theater. In November 1959, Christine co-starred as the wife of a verbally abusive hypochondriac in the first season episode ofThe Twilight Zone entitled "Escape Clause".
In 1960 and 1961, Christine guest starred on episodes of COronado 9, Rawhide, and The Untouchables. From 1961 to 1962, Christine had a recurring role as widower Ovie Swenson in theWestern series Tales of Wells Fargo. For the remainder of the decade, she continued with guest starring roles in show such as 77 Sunset Strip, Ben Casey, Bonanza, The Fugitive, Wagon Train,The Virginian, Going My Way, The F.B.I., and Daniel Boone. In 1969, Christine co-starred in the ABC television movie Daughter of the Mind.
Her greatest fame came in 1965 when she started her 21-year stint as the matronly Mrs. Olson, who had comforting words for young married couples while pouring Folgers Coffee in the television commercials. The commercials became a popular staple on television and Christine's character, Mrs. Olsen, was often parodied by comedians and entertainers including Carol Burnett, Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, Ann-Margret, and Jackie Gleason. She would go on to appear in over 100 commercials for Folgers. In 1971, Christine's hometown of Stanton, Iowa, honored her by transforming the city water tower to resemble a giant coffeepot.
During the 1970s, Christine continued to work primarily in television. Her last role was on the 1979 animated series Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, in which she provided additional voices.
Christine retired from acting in 1979. After her retirement, she did volunteer work at Planned Parenthood and served as a judge at the American College Theatre Festival. Christine was later appointed the honorary mayor of Brentwood, Los Angeles where she and her husband resided for many years.
In November 1940, Christine married actor Fritz Feld. The couple had two sons, Steven and Danny. Christine and Feld remained married until Feld's death in 1993.
On July 24, 1996, Christine died at her Brentwood home of cardiovascular disease. Her interment was at the Jewish Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in the Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles.