Sep 27, 2007

Photo of the Week

Rita Hayworth supports the US war effort, early 1940s

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Sep 11, 2007

Jane Wyman, 1917-2007

In an age where the everyday comings and goings of less-than-celebrity celebrities are monitored and published with the utmost vigilance, I find it truly saddening that something so notable as the passing of Hollywood royalty - predecessors of today's Tinseltown, remembered by only a few - is barely acknowledged in print, the internet, or on television. The September 10th death of Jane Wyman, then, four-time Oscar nominee and former wife of then-future president Ronald Reagan, is just one such overlooked instance.

Remembered by younger generations as the stern matriarch on TV's long-running soap Falcon Crest, Wyman actually started her career in the 1930's, appearing in bit parts in Warner Brothers films until her first credited role, that of a hatcheck girl, came along in 1937. She met and married co-star Ronald Reagan in 1940, garnering her even more publicity - but it was throughout the next decade she proved herself a golden girl in cinema based on talent alone, starring in movies like Billy Wilder's dramatic The Lost Weekend (1945) and the classic weepie The Yearling (1946), the latter for which she received an Oscar nomination.

Wyman's deft turn as the deaf-mute victim of rape in 1948's Johnny Belinda secured her place as a serious actress when she earned an Oscar for the role; she accepted graciously, saying only, "I won this award for keeping my mouth shut, so I think I'll do it again now." Her triumph didn't lessen her film appearances throughout the remainder of the 1940s and the 1950s, but her scrutiny and her devotion to her family did: those she did star in contrasted sharply in that they were either of considerably higher quality than those she churned out in the 1930's: films like Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, The Blue Veil and a same-titled remake of the Barbara Stanwyck classic So Big; or they were films in which she seemed completely out of her element (1953's Let's Do It Again is too painful an example to be forgettable). She also made several romantic comedies with Bing Crosby - quaint, endearing little cinematic gems like There Goes the Groom and Just For You, fondly remembered by fans of the pair and still sweet viewing today.

Wyman moved gracefully from the medium of film to that of television, and spent three seasons hosting, and occasionally starring in, tv's drama series Fireside Theatre. In the years preceding her 1981 inauguration into the coveted and memorable role of Angela Channing on Falcon Crest, she made numerous tv appearances and continued her quiet philanthropic habits, supporting arthritis research and the Catholic Church, which she converted to in 1951, shortly after her divorce from Reagan. She divorced for a fourth and final time in 1965, remaining single until her 2007 death.

Doe-eyed, elegant, and simperingly scandal-free, Jane Wyman was a rare thing in Hollywood indeed. But when you get to heaven and you meet up with Ol' Bing, Jane, I hope he's Zingin a Zong Just For You.

For more information or photos on Jane, visit her official family website or view a beautiful collection of images on Meredy's website.

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