Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Jane Wyman R. I.P.

Jane Wyman died yesterday at the age of 90. She is perhaps best know for her role in Johnny Belinda, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Lead Actress.

Wyman was born Sarah Jane Mayfield in St. Joseph, Missouri. She attended Lafayette High School there and in her teen years began her singing career on radio under the name "Jane Darnell." She attended the University of Missouri. Upon graduation, she moved to California and worked various jobs before she finally started getting small parts in movies. Her first appearance on screen was in an uncredited part in The Kid From Spain in 1932. By 1939 she finally received her first starring role, in Torchy Plays with Dynamite. She appeared in many films throughout the Forties, among the more notable being The Yearling, The Lost Weekend, and Magic Town. In 1947 she appeared in her Oscar winning role in Johnny Belinda.

She continued to appear in films in the Fifties, starring in such movies as Stage Fright, Magnificent Obsession, Let's Do It Again, and Holiday for Lovers. Increasingly her career turned towards television. She appeared on such series as General Electric Theater, Summer Playhouse, and Lux Playhouse. She was also the host of her own anthology series, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre. Not only did she host the series, but she appeared in many of its episodes.

By the Sixties her career had slowed down. She appeared in such films as Pollyanna, Bon Voyage!, and How to Commit Marriage. She also guest starred in the shows Checkmate, The Investigators, and Wagon Train. From the Seventies to the Nineties her career was almost entirely spent on the small screen. She guest starred on such shows as The Sixth Sense, The New Doctors, Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, Love Boat, and Charlie's Angels. She played the matriarch of the Channing family on Falcon Crest. Her last appearance on screen was in a guest appearance on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, where she played Dr. Quinn's mother Elizabeth.

Jane Wyman was truly one of the great actresses of the screen in the Twentieth century. She could play any number of roles and be convincing in any of them. It is no surprise that she did well with the role of the deaf and mute Belinda McDonald in Johnny Belinda. Wyman was also a class act. Her marriage to one day President Ronald Reagan naturally elicited questions about the man. But Wyman always refused to say anything. Even though she could made big money doing so, Wyman never kissed and told. She was a truly great actress, and one of the most talented people to ever emerge from the state of Missouri.

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