Actress Janet Gaynor was the first winner of the Academy Award for lead actress and the youngest ever to win the award (until Marlee Matlin in 1986). She was born Laura Gainer on October 6, 1906 in Philadelphia. Gaynor had a long career in show business with over sixty film, theater, and television credits from 1924 until 1981. She was one of Hollywood’s top stars from the late 1920’s through the 1930’s. The classic virgin-heroine type on screen, her personal life mirrored her on screen persona. A devout Quaker, Gaynor lived at home with her mother until she got married. She was one of the few actresses to successfully move from silent pictures to talkies. Gaynor’s major film credits include; High Society Blues (1930), Daddy Long Legs (1931), State Fair (1933), The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935), and A Star is Born (1937).
Who died on this date:
On October 6, 1989, actress Bette Davis died. She was known as “the First Lady of the American Screen.” Davis was born Ruth Elizabeth Davis on April 5, 1908 in Lowell, Massachusetts. An outgoing child, the young Bette Davis was destined for a career on the stage and film. She studied and excelled in acting under famed drama coach John Murray Anderson. In 1929, Davis made her successful Broadway stage debut in Broken Promises. It was in this performance that Hollywood began to take notice of the future award winning actress. In 1930, studio executives at Universal Pictures who offered her a contract and her film debut followed the next year (1931) in Bad Sister. The next few pictures that followed were less than successful for Davis and she was dropped by Universal Pictures. Fortunately, Warner Brothers gave her a second chance; she co-starred alongside Academy Award winning actor George Arliss in The Man Who Played God (1932). This began what would become a successful eighteen year association with Warner Studios. This relationship was very contentious; she often fought with studio head Jack Warner over top movie roles and even sued the studio in an attempt to break her contact. Davis’ storied film career spanned nearly six decades 1931 to 1989, and included over one hundred and twenty television and motion picture performances. Her first big smash hit came in 1934’s, Of Human Bondage, loaned out to RKO Pictures by Warner Studios; Davis cemented her place in Hollywood lore by playing the role of the sullen heroine, Mildred Rogers for which she was nominated for an Academy Award.