Saturday, January 5, 2013
BORN ON THIS DAY: JANE WYMAN
Wyman was born Sarah Jane Mayfield in St. Joseph, Missouri. Although her birthdate has been widely reported for many years as January 4, 1914, research by biographers and genealogists indicates she was born on January 5, 1917. The most likely reason for the 1914 year of birth is that she added to her age so as to be able to work and act while still a minor. She may have moved her birthday back by one day to January 4 so as to share the same birthday as her daughter, Maureen (born January 4, 1941) After Wyman's death, a release posted on her official website confirmed these details.
Her parents were Manning Jefferies Mayfield (1895–1922), a meal-company laborer, and Gladys Hope Christian (1895–1960), a doctor's stenographer and office assistant. In October 1921, her mother filed for divorce, and her father died unexpectedly the following year at age 27. After her father's death, her mother moved to Cleveland, Ohio, leaving her to be reared by foster parents, Emma (1866–1951) and Richard D. Fulks (1862–1928), the chief of detectives in Saint Joseph. She took their surname unofficially, including in her school records and, apparently, her first marriage certificate.
Her unsettled family life resulted in few pleasurable memories. Wyman later said, "I was raised with such strict discipline that it was years before I could reason myself out of the bitterness I brought from my childhood. In 1928, aged 11, she moved to southern California with her foster mother, but it is not known for certain if she attempted a career in motion pictures at this time, or if the relocation was due to the fact that some of Fulks' children also lived in the area. In 1930, the two moved back to Missouri, where Sarah Jane attended Lafayette High School in Saint Joseph. That same year she began a radio singing career, calling herself "Jane Durrell" and adding years to her birthdate to work legally since she would have been under age.
After dropping out of Lafayette in 1932, at age 15, she returned to Hollywood, taking on odd jobs as a manicurist and a switchboard operator, before obtaining small parts in such films as The Kid from Spain (as a "Goldwyn Girl"; 1932), My Man Godfrey (1936) and Cain and Mabel (1936). After changing her name from Jane Durrell to Jane Wyman, she began her career as a contract player with Warner Bros. in 1936 at age 19. Her big break came the following year, when she received her first starring role in Public Wedding.
Wyman finally gained critical notice in the film noir The Lost Weekend (1945). She was nominated for the 1946 Academy Award for Best Actress for The Yearling (1946), and won two years later for her role as a deaf-mute rape victim in Johnny Belinda (1948).
She was also the first wife of future President Ronald Reagan, and she remained a friend to Nancy Reagan and the rest of the Reagan family for the rest of her life. Movies and television roles continued until Wyman basically retired in 1993. Her daughter died in 2001, and her ex husband Ronald Reagan died in 2004. Other than making appearances at the funerals, she remained out of the public eye. Jane Wyman lived out her remaining years quietly in California and died in 2007 at the age of 90...