Groomed by Universal Pictures as a potential successor to Deanna Durbin, Gloria Jean never did supplant the better-known singing starlet in the hearts of moviegoers during World War II, but enjoyed a star ascendancy all her own. Pennsylvania's own Baby Skylark had been selected by producer Joe Pasternak to star in Universal's summer musical "The Under-Pup" (1939) and audiences immediately warmed to the 11-year-old newcomer, whose lilting soprano voice was offset by a refreshingly middle-class demeanor. Often cast as an underprivileged youth at odds with her societal betters, Jean sailed through a string of wartime songfests aimed at lifting homefront morale, teaming with hoofer Donald O'Conner for "What's Cookin'" (1942) and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (1943), and with jazz drummer Mel Tormé for "Pardon My Rhythm" (1944). As she edged towards the edge of consent, Jean's status as Shirley Temple-style Li'l Miss Fixit declined and the studio shoehorned her into vehicles largely unworthy of her talents, including the Olsen and Johnson farce "Ghost Catchers" (1944) and the dockside crime drama "The River Gang" (1945). Unable to regain her celebrity footing on the big screen or in the burgeoning medium of television, Jean quit showbiz to help found Redken Cosmetics, where she remained for 30 years. Retired to Hawaii in 2007, Jean seemed at peace with her legacy as a Hollywood also-ran, albeit one who did more than her share to lift American spirits during the dark days of the Second World War.