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Janet Gaynor Edit Profile

also known as Laura Gainor

Actress

Janet Gaynor was an American film, stage and television actress.

Background

Gaynor, Janet was born on October 6, 1906 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.

Career

Having worked four years as an extra, she won parts in two-reel Westerns. Fox put her in her first full-length movie, The Johnstown Flood (26, Irving Cummings), and signed her up. She had an impressive wide-eyed appeal in The Blue Eagle (26, John Ford), The Midnight Kiss (26, Cummings), The Shamrock Handicap (26, Ford), and The Return of Peter Grimm (26, Victor Sehertzinger); and she rose to eminence in three films that won her the first best actress Oscar: Seventh Heaven (27, Frank Borzage), as a tart brought to pure love by Charles Farrell; Street Angel (28, Borzage), again with Farrell; F. W. Muniaus Sunrise (27)—a glorious performance of humility and sacrifice in one of the silent cinema’s masterpieces.

For a moment, she was a huge star, the nation’s waif. Fox, in the person of Winfield Sheehan, adored her—as did cinema audiences, especially when she wus teamed with Farrell. In 1929 she made Christina (William K. Howard); Four Devils (Murnau); Lucky Star (Borzage), with Farrell; her first sound picture, Sunny Side Up (David Butler). She was by now established as an innocent victim —a character enhanced by her wholesome beauty and saucer eyes. But after High Society Blues (30, Butler), she quarreled with Fox, was suspended, and returned, humiliated, as a drug addict in The Man Who Came Back (31, Raoui Walsh). Contrite, she settled back into “sweetheart ” roles: Daddy Long Legs (31, Alfred Santell); Merely Many Ann (31, Henry King); Delicious (31, Butler); Tess of the Storm Country (32, Santell); and The First Year (32, Howard). Fox put her in State Fair (33, King) with Will Rogers. She then made Adorable (33, William Dieterle); Carolina (34, King); Change of Heart (34, John Blystone); Servant’s Entrance (34, Frank Lloyd); One More Spring (35, King); and The Fanner Takes a Wife (35, Victor Fleming), opposite Henry Fonda.

The studio now had little time for her, and she made Small Town Girl (36, William Wellman) at MGM before joining Selznick for A Star Is Born (37, Wellman), where she felt too old for the ingenue. She is the emotional engine of that film, but time has been kinder to Fredric Marchs elegant despair. She was also in The Young in Heart (38, Richard Wallace). After Three Loves Has Nancy (38, Richard Thorpe) at MGM, she retired. Perhaps she had waited for a flourish, sensing that she was more happily a silent screen actress, too demure and loyal for the 1930s. The retirement was broken, for no clear reason, in 1957, when she appeared as Pat Boone’s mother in Bernardine (Henry Levin).

Connections

In 1939, she married the clothes designer Adrian—but stories abound now about her feelings for Mary Martin.

spouses:
Lydell Peck

Gilbert Adrian