Thursday, January 5, 2012

Jane Wyman

Who was born on this date:

Actress Jane Wyman was born on January 5, 1917 in St. Joseph, Missouri. Known as a talented and classy actress whose award winning and distinguished film career was nearly overshadowed by her failed third marriage to actor and future U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Wyman came from a broken home; her parents divorced when she was very young and her father died prematurely. After high school with the help of her mother, she attempted to break into show business but early attempts failed. While attending the University of Missouri, she moonlighted as a radio singer under the name of Jane Durrell. She got her start in films in 1932 as a member of the chorus line in The Kid from Spain; other yet unknown cast members from this film included Betty Grable and Paulette Goddard. Throughout the early to late 1930’s, Wyman appeared in numerous “B” movies as a contract player at Warner Bros Studios and it was during this time that she met and eventually married actor Ronald Reagan. The pair first appeared on film together in Brother Rat (1938) and the two were married on January 26, 1940; they would appear together in three additional motion pictures. Their union lasted eight years, producing one biological daughter (Maureen Reagan) and one adopted son (Michael Reagan), and in 1948 ended in divorce. After Reagan became Governor of California and then President in 1980, Wyman refused to comment on their marriage and considered it bad taste to talk of ex-husbands.  

Professionally, Wyman’s film career as a dramatic actress was not taken seriously until after appearing alongside Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend (1945). The following year she starred in The Yearling (1946) and received a best actress Oscar nomination. In 1949, she won the Oscar for her portrayal of a deaf-mute rape victim in Johnny Belinda (1948). This was the first time since the silent movie era that an actress had won the award by not saying a word. There were whispers that Academy voters had given her the Oscar out of sympathy, due to a recent miscarriage and tumultuous divorce from Ronald Reagan. Upon accepting the award, Wyman was quoted as saying “I accept this very gratefully for keeping my mouth shut for once. I think I will do it again.” In following years, she would be nominated twice more for best actress Academy Awards in 1952 for The Blue Veil (1951) and 1955 for Magnificent Obsession (1954).

In a film and television career that would span six decades from 1932 to 1993, Wyman would appear in eighty six motion pictures and numerous television series some of which include; Ready Willing and Able (1937), The Angel from Texas (1940), Bad Men of Missouri (1941), Night and Day (1946), The Glass Menagerie (1950), and Pollyanna (1960). Television credits include; Jane Wyman Presents: The Fireside Theatre (1955-58) and Falcon Crest (1981-1990). In 1993, she retired from show business and moved to the Palm Springs area; there she remained active as the national chairwoman of the National Arthritis Foundation. On September 10, 2007, Wyman died from of complications of arthritis and diabetes at her home in Rancho Mirage, California. The actress had been in failing health for several years prior to her death. Her funeral was held at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Palm Desert, California. She is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Cathedral City in the Mission Santa Rosa outdoor mausoleum, crypt 5F.

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