Childhood & Early Life
Jane Wyman was born Sarah Jane Mayfield in St. Joseph, Missouri, on January 5, 1917. Her father was Manning Jefferies Mayfield and her mother was Gladys Hope Christian, a doctor’s stenographer and office assistant.
Her parents divorced in 1921 and her father died the next year after which her mother moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in search of work.
Sarah Jane was adopted by Richard and Emma Fulks at the age of five and assumed the name Sarah Jane Fulks.
She attended the ‘Lafayette High School’ in St. Joseph, Missouri but dropped out in 1932 when she was only 15.
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Jane Wyman worked as a manicurist and switchboard operator before singing for the radio under the name Jane Durrell.
She started her acting career by doing bit parts in films starting with ‘The Kid From Spain’ in 1932, ‘King of Burlesque’ in 1935, ‘My Man Godfrey’ and ‘Cain and Mabel’ in 1936.
She signed a contract with ‘Warner Bros’ in 1936.
She acted in ‘Gold Diggers’ in 1937 and starred in ‘Public Wedding’ in 1937 opposite William Hopper. During this period she changed her name from Durrell to Wyman.
She appeared in film ‘Brother Rat’ in 1938 and its sequel ‘Brother Rat and a Baby’ in 1940 opposite Ronald Reagan whom she married later.
In 1941 she became famous for her 3-minute 5-second kissing scene in ‘You’re in the Army Now’. She acted opposite Dennis Morgan in ‘Bad Men of Missouri’ in the same year.
Billy Wilder’s drama film ‘Lost Weekend’ gave her a big break in 1945 when she played the role of the fiancée of an alcoholic writer ‘Ray-Milland’.
She played the role of ‘Ma Baxter’ in ‘The Yearling’ in 1946 opposite Gregory Peck and won an Oscar nomination.
She played the role of ‘Belinda MacDonald’, a deaf-mute rape victim in ‘Johnny Belinda’ in 1948 and won an Oscar without speaking a word in the era of talkies.
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In 1951 she starred in her favorite film ‘The Blue Veil’ opposite Charles Laughton for which she received another Oscar nomination.
She starred in many more films such as Frank Capra’s ‘Here Comes the Groom’ in 1951, Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Stage Fright’ in 1950, Michael Curtiz’s ‘The Story of Will Rogers’ in 1952, ‘The Glass Menagerie’ in 1950, opposite Bing Crosby in ‘Just for You’ in 1952 and ‘Let’s Do It Again’ in 1953.
She also starred in ‘So Big’ in 1953, ‘Magnificent Obsession’ opposite Rock Hudson in 1954 which won her another Oscar nomination, ‘All That Heaven Allows’ and ‘Lucy Gallant’ in 1955, ‘Miracle in the Rain’ in 1956, ‘Polyanna’ in 1960, ‘Holiday for Lovers’ in 1959 and ‘Bon Voyage’ in 1962.
During the period 1955-1958 Jane moved to the television and hosted, co-produced and starred in the shows ‘Jane Wyman Presents Fireside Theater’ and ‘Jane Wyman Theater’.
Her last feature film was ‘How to Commit Marriage’ in 1969 opposite Bob Hope and Jackie Gleason.
From 1981 to 1990 she starred in the TV series ‘Falcon Crest’ in the role of ‘Angela Charming’ which lasted nine seasons. She also acted in many TV movies.
She made a guest appearance in ‘Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman’ in 1993.
After ‘Falcon Crest’ ended, Jane withdrew from public life and gave very few interviews.
Awards & Achievements
Jane Wyman was nominated for ‘Academy Award for Best Actress Award’ in 1947 for ‘The Yearling’.
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In 1949 she won the ‘Oscar for the Best Actress’ and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress’ for ‘Johnny Belinda’.
In 1951 she won the ‘Golden Globe’ as the ‘World Film Favorite Female Actress’.
In 1952 she won the ‘Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress – Drama’ and an ‘Oscar nomination for Best Actress’ for ‘Blue Veil’ made in 1951.
In 1955 she won a nomination for the ‘Oscar for Best Actress’ for ‘Magnificent Obsession’ made in 1954.
In 1957 she was nominated for the ‘Emmy for Best Continuing Performance by an Actress in a Dramatic Series’ for ‘Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theater’.
In 1983 she was nominated for the ‘Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama’ for ‘Falcon Crest’.
In 1984 she won the ‘Golden globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama’ for ‘Falcon Crest’.
Personal Life & Legacy
She married Myron Futterman, a wealthy children’s clothes manufacturer, on June 29, 1937 in New Orleans, and divorced him on November 1, 1938.
She married Ronald Reagan, a co-actor at Warner Brothers, on January 26, 1940 and divorced him on June 28, 1948.
She had a daughter, Maureen, born on January 4, 1941 but died of cancer on August 8, 2001.
She and Ronald adopted a three-day old boy named Michael on March 21, 1945.
Her second daughter Christine, born prematurely on June 26, 1947, passed away nine hours later.
She married Fred Karger, a studio music director, on November 1, 1952 and divorced him on December 7, 1954. She re-married him on March 11, 1961 and divorced him again on March 9, 1965. She remained single thereafter.
Jane Wyman died on September 10, 2007 at her home in Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs, California at the age of 90 due to diabetes and arthritis complications.