Gloria Henry, TV Mom on 'Dennis the Menace,' Dies at 98

Gloria Henry and Jay North in Dennis the Menace (CBS) TV Series.
CBS/Photofest

Gloria Henry and Jay North in 'Dennis the Menace'

She made a living in 'B' pictures before starring opposite Jay North on the popular sitcom.

Gloria Henry, who appeared in movies with Gene Autry, Lucille Ball and George Raft before portraying the mother of a chaos-causing kid on the 1960s CBS comedy Dennis the Menace, has died. She was 98.

Henry died Saturday, one day after her birthday, at her home in Los Angeles, her daughter, Erin, told The Hollywood Reporter. 

For four seasons starting in October 1959 — and then in reruns for years — Henry played the loving Alice Mitchell opposite Herbert Anderson as her hapless husband, Henry, and Jay North as Dennis on the Screen Gems show that was based on Hank Ketcham's comic book character.

"Many of the fans say, 'Oh, I always wished you were my mom' and 'My mom was jealous of you, because I wanted you for a mom,'" she said in a 2011 interview. "Which is pretty funny, because I don't think my own children felt that way."

Henry starred opposite the Singing Cowboy Autry — and his horse, Champion — in The Strawberry Roan (1948) and Riders in the Sky (1949), and she played one of William Bendix's daughters in Kill the Umpire (1950).

She also appeared with Ball and William Holden in Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949), with Raft and Nina Foch in Johnny Allegro (1949) and with Arthur Kennedy and Marlene Dietrich in the Fritz Lang-directed Rancho Notorious (1952).

Gloria Eileen McEniry was born in New Orleans on April 2, 1923. She worked in radio and signed a contract with Columbia Pictures, where in 1947 she starred in Sport of Kings, Keeper of the Bees and Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back. She then made six movies in 1948 and then seven in '49, most of them 'B' pictures.

In the 1950s, Henry played a sexy woman who tries to set up her gullible neighbor Lou for a fall on The Abbott and Costello Show and appeared on such other series as My Little Margie, Father Knows Best, Perry Mason and The Life of Riley before landing on Dennis the Menace.

After years away from acting, she returned to show up on television on Simon & Simon, Newhart, Dallas, Doogie Howser, M.D. and Parks and Recreation.

Henry was married to architect Craig Ellwood from 1949 until their 1977 divorce, and they had three children, Jeffrey, Adam and Erin.