Hawaii child actress, singer Donna Butterworth dies at 62

  • Photo courtesy of Donna Butterworth Donna Butterworth and Elvis Presley
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Donna Butterworth in 2016

Donna Butterworth, a child actress and singer who co-starred with Elvis Presley in the 1966 movie “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” died Tuesday at Hilo Medical Center following a long illness. She was 62.

Born in Philadelphia on Feb. 23, 1956, Butterworth was 3 when she moved to Hawaii with her family.


She was 9 and already a showbiz veteran when she got the call to film with Elvis. By then, she had performed with entertainer Don Ho; released two singles, “Sailor Boy” and “California Sunshine Boy” on a national record label; appeared on “The Hollywood Palace,” “The Dean Martin Show,” “The Andy Williams Show” and “The Danny Kaye Show”; and garnered a Golden Globe nomination for most promising newcomer for her role in the 1965 Jerry Lewis comedy “The Family Jewels.”

In “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” Butterworth played Jan Kohana, daughter of the business partner of Elvis’ character.

Butterworth sang several duets with the King of Rock ’n’ Roll and gained a cult following, but her acting career was short-lived.

She appeared in “Little Leathernecks,” an unsold sitcom pilot that aired as an episode of “Summer Fun,” a seven-week 1966 ABC-TV summer-replacement series, and “A Boy Called Nuthin’,” a two-part 1967 episode of “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” that starred Ron Howard.

As an adult, Butterworth sang professionally and recorded a CD in Hawaii in the early 2000s.

A private memorial and celebration of life will be held at a later date.


Butterworth is survived by her mother, Isabella Chalfant of Las Vegas; brother, William T. Butterworth of Las Vegas; nieces, nephews and cousins.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

  1. thebamboo March 9, 2018 6:06 am

    Rest In Peace Donna.
    “when shadows fall, I sit alone and as my eyes get misty”.

  2. Elis LS March 9, 2018 6:52 am

    You’re right? Was it Donna, an actress who actually died? I do not see this news anywhere anymore!
    You’re right?

  3. James Levi Maka'io March 9, 2018 11:51 am

    Keep on smiling Donna, a hui hou, until we meet again, my friend. The show definitely goes on and go girl. Please give my regards to Elvis. Aloha ‘oe.

  4. Richard Head March 10, 2018 6:47 am

    She was so cute in The Family Jewels.

  5. David Cerullo March 10, 2018 3:12 pm

    She was a Doll-Baby. I loved her in “The Family Jewels”. Does anybody know the nature of her illness?

  6. Audrey Halley March 13, 2018 2:11 am

    That is what I would like to know. Was it Cancer or heart disease or what?

  7. John Mullis March 13, 2018 8:52 am

    I loved donna butterworth. She was a great child actor as well as a good friend of elvis presley. She also was good friends with jerry lewis. What a tallent a big voice she had for a little girl. She also had a pet squrell she named elvis. I will shurly miss this little hawaiian wahini she was truly awesome. My heart goes out to her family and survivors. She made many people smile. God bless you donna.

    1. joel edward March 14, 2018 11:55 am

      nice spelling.

  8. Earline Taylor March 13, 2018 6:08 pm

    It’s really odd. Today I was thinking about how many of Elvis
    Presley’s female leading ladies, co-stars, and supporting cast has passed away. Recently another actress from the same movie: “Paradise, Hawaiian Style”, passed away. I wonder how is Actress “Jan Sheperd” taking Donna’s passing. She played her mother in that film.

  9. Itsjusta_Nothername March 14, 2018 7:21 am

    Such sad news… I had the biggest 10-year-old-boy-crush on her when I used to watch “The Family Jewels” over and over again on Chicago TV (they showed Jerry Lewis movies a lot back then.) Once a few years back I wondered what became of her while re-watching the film. Say hello to Willard in Heaven for us, sweet angel. RIP, and prayers for her family at this difficult time, in Jesus Name.

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