For other uses, see Jesse White (disambiguation).

Jesse White (January 4, 1917 – January 9, 1997) was an American television, film, and stage character actor. He is best remembered for portraying the Maytag repairman in television commercials, a role he played from 1967 to 1988.

Life and career

White was born as Jesse Marc Weidenfeld in Buffalo, New York, and was raised in Akron, Ohio. He made his first amateur appearance in local stage productions at the age of 15. Though aspiring to be an actor, he worked at many different jobs during the 1930s, including selling beauty supplies and lingerie. After moving to Cleveland, Ohio, Jesse began a career in vaudeville and burlesque, traveling widely before landing a role on Broadway. In 1942, White made his Broadway debut in The Moon is Down, followed by a successful performance in the role of a sanitarium orderly in the popular play Harvey. He would later reprise his role in the 1950 film version and the 1972 television movie.[1]

In 1947, White made his film debut in a small part in Kiss of Death. During the 1950s, he began landing roles on television shows, including appearances in Danny Thomas's Make Room for Daddy and Peter Lawford's Dear Phoebe. In 1954, he landed a semiregular role on Private Secretary, starring Ann Sothern, Ann Tyrrell, and Don Porter. The role led to another semiregular part as the deceitful Oscar Pudney in The Ann Sothern Show in 1960. White guest-starred on Four Star Playhouse and The Bob Cummings Show. He also appeared in roles in The Bad Seed (1956); Designing Woman (1957), with Lauren Bacall; and Marjorie Morningstar (1958), with Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly.

In the 1960s, White also appeared on The Twilight Zone, The Dick Van Dyke Show; The Donna Reed Show; Mickey, starring Mickey Rooney; The Beverly Hillbillies; The Munsters; The Addams Family; That Girl; and I Dream of Jeannie. In a memorable cameo, he played a frustrated airport tower controller (alongside a hilarious Paul Ford, Carl Reiner & Eddie Ryder) in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. In 1966, he accepted the role of Donelli in The Reluctant Astronaut, playing a curmudgeonly janitorial supervisor who instructed his students in the use of a mop in a deadpan delivery rivaling that of an aerospace engineer. In a short but memorable performance, he routinely castigated Don Knotts's bumbling character Roy Fleming for his "lack of dedication" to cleaning floors. An advertising director who saw his performance on the film's release soon cast him in a television advertising campaign for the Maytag Corporation. White played the role of a lonely Maytag repairman, a man with nothing to do as a result of his company's reputation for dependable products. In one of the campaign's first spots, White's character unmistakably alluded to his former role as 'Donelli': "At ease men! Now, you men have all volunteered to be Maytag Repairmen and so I'm gonna give it to you straight. Maytag washers and dryers are built to last. That makes the Maytag Repairman the loneliest guy in town!"[2] The campaign proved wildly successful, and the actor began a long-running and highly-paid career as the ever-lonely Maytag repairman. While reprising his Maytag repairman role, White continued appearing in both television and films during his many years as the Maytag repairman. His last onscreen role was in an episode of Seinfeld in 1996.

White was also a member of the stellar band of voiceover actors who voiced Stan Freberg's classic lampoon of American history, Stan Freberg Presents The United States of America: Volume One The Early Years, and thirty-five years later, "The Middle Years." In addition to film and television work, White lent his voice to such cartoons as Jonny Quest, Garfield and Friends, and Inspector Gadget.

In 1942, White married Celia Cohn (July 17, 1914 - August 5, 2003)[3]. The couple had two daughters, Carole Ita White (who later became an actress) and Janet Jonas.[4]


On January 9, 1997, White died from a heart attack following surgery, only five days after his 80th birthday. He is buried at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles.[5]





  1. Erickson, Hal. "Jesse White Biography". Retrieved 2008-01-09. 
  2. Advertising Mascots: People; The Maytag Man (2009)
  4. Saxon, Wolfgang (1997-01-11). "Jesse White, 79, an Actor and the Maytag Repairman". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-09. 
  5. Jesse White, Find a Grave

External links

Preceded by
Tom Pedi
Maytag Repairman
Succeeded by
Gordon Jump

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