Donna Butterworth, Kid Co-Star of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lewis, Dies at 62
She sang three songs in 'Paradise, Hawaiian Style' and co-starred in 'The Family Jewels' during her brief showbiz career.
Donna Butterworth, a charming child actress and singer in the 1960s who co-starred with Elvis Presley in Paradise, Hawaiian Style and with Jerry Lewis in The Family Jewels, has died. She was 62.
Butterworth died March 6 at the Hilo Medical Center in Hilo, Hawaii, after a long, unspecified illness, Guadalupe Erece Jr., funeral director at Dodo Mortuary and Crematory, told The Hollywood Reporter.
In Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966), Butterworth, then just 10, performed three songs: "Datin'," "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home" and "Queen Wahine's Papaya." The last is a lovely duet with a ukulele-strumming Elvis that gets faster and faster and ends with a huge embrace from the King.
"Elvis was a fabulous professional, but he was also a fabulous human being, because he was so comfortable with everyone," Butterworth said in 2015. "He always tried to have a lot of fun on the set. So, the four months that we all were together in Hawaii and of course at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, he was just a great guy to be around."
In the 1965 comedy The Family Jewels — which Lewis wrote, directed, produced and starred in — Butterworth's Donna Peyton inherits $30 million from her father and must decide which of her six uncles (all played by Lewis) will become her guardian. Lewis also portrayed a seventh character — her devoted chauffeur.
In delightful behind-the-scenes footage, Lewis is seen deliberately confusing Butterworth with humor during an on-set conversation, hoping to get her to relax. For her work in the film, the actress received a Golden Globe nomination as Most Promising Newcomer.
Butterworth was born in Philadelphia on Feb. 23, 1956, and she and her family moved to Hawaii when she was 3. Butterworth began learning the ukulele and performed with a local legend, entertainer Don Ho, before appearing on variety programs like The Andy Williams Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Hollywood Palace and The Danny Kaye Show.
On Kaye's program in 1966, Butterworth performed "Where Am I Going" in a segment hosted by a young Ronny Howard, and they acted alongside each other a year later on an episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, her final onscreen appearance.
Butterworth was in the crowd when Presley performed his "Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite" concert in January 1973. She said she always regretted not approaching Elvis manager Colonel Tom Parker, who was standing nearby, to request a meeting with her Hawaiian Style co-star.
When Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977, Butterworth said she heard the news on her apartment radio. "My first instinct was to run to my closet and grab my scrapbook and open it to the page where he and I were together," she said. "Then I just cried."
Survivors include her mother, Isabella, and brother William.
Her death was first reported by the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.