Jane Wyman, the Academy Award-winning actress whose long and distinguished film and television career was nearly overshadowed by her real-life role as the first wide of actor-turned-politician Ronald Reagan, died yesterday morning.
Ms. Wyman died at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., said Virginia Zamboni, a longtime friend.
Jane Wyman (January 5, 1917 to September 10, 2007, was an Oscar Globe-winning and Emmy-nominated American actress whose career spanned several decades. Her most prolific appearances in film came in the 1940s and 1950s, included her best known film roles in Johnny Belinda, for which she won her Oscar, and Magnificent Obsession opposite Rock Hudson. Wyman became known to new generations in the 1980s, not only for her leading role as the malevolent matriarch Angela Gioberti Channing on the hit prime-time soap opera Falcon Crest, but also because of her prior marriage to former actor Ronald Reagan, who later became the President of the United States.
Wyman was born Sarah Jane Mayfield. … In 1921, her parents divorced, and her father died unexpectedly the following year at age 27. As a child, she was raised by foster parents, Emma and Richard D. Fulks (1862-1928), the chief detectives of Saint Joseph, [Missouri] and she took In 1928, aged 11, she moved to southern California, where her mother tried to start an acting career. When that was unsuccessful, she turned to her daughter as an alternative but neither were able to find work. In 1920 the two moved back to Missouri, where Sarah Jane attended Lafayette High School in her hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri. That same year she began a radio singing career, calling herself “Jane Durrell” and added years to her birth date to work legally since she would have been under age.
After Jane left Lafayette, aged 15, she returned to Hollywood, obtaining small parts … In 1939, Wyman was cast in her first starring role in Torchy Plays With Dynamite. In 1941, she appeared in You’re in the Army Now, in which she and Regis Toomey had the longest screen kiss in cinema history – 3 minutes and 5 seconds. …
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 the first person in the sound era to win an acting Oscar without speaking a line of dialogue.
The Oscar win gave her the ability to choose higher profile roles, although she still showed a liking for musical comedy.Wyman finally gained critical notice in the film The Lost Weekend (1945). She worked with such directors as Alfred Hitchcock on Stage Fright (1950), Frank Capra on Here Comes the Groom (1951) and Michael Curtiz on The Story of Will Rogers (1952). She starred in The Glass Menagerie (1950), Just For You (1952), Let’s Do It Again (1953), The Blue Veil (1951) (another Oscar nomination), the remake of Edna Ferber’s So Big (1953), Magnificent Obsession (1954) (Oscar nomination), Lucy Gallant (1955), All That Heaven Allows (1955), and Miracle in the Rain (1956).
She came back to the big screen after her anthology series to replace the ailing Gene Tierney in Holiday for Lovers (1959), Pollyanna (1960), and her final big screen movie, How to Commit Marriage (1969).
Wyman was also one of Hollywood’s most sought-after and top-notch character actresses all time, beginning in 1955. Her first guest-starring role was an episode of General Electric Theatre. …
Wyman’s career enjoyed resurgence when she was cast as the scheming Californian vintner and matriarch Angela Channing in the primetime soap opera Falcon Crest. …
Wyman’s health problems in 1989 prompted Sullivan to pay Wyman a visit to the hospital to see the ailing actress, as she prayed and asked Jane to go back to work, when better.
… In 1938, Wyman co-starred with Ronald Reagan in Brother Rat (1938), and its sequel Brother Rat and a Baby (1940). The two married (her second or third marriage, and his first) on January 26, 1940, and divorced on June 28, 1948. She and Reagan had three children: Maureen Elizabeth Reagan (1941-2001), Michael Reagan (adopted, born March 18, 1945), and Christine Reagan (born prematurely June 26, 1947) and died the following day). Following her divorce from Reagan, Wyman married bandleader Frederick Karger on November 1, 1952, and they divorced in December 1955. They later remarried on March 11, 1961, and divorced a second time in 1965. Wyman never remarried, and after her conversion to Roman Catholicism, both she and her best friend Loretta Young obtained special indults from their bishop to receive communion despite being divorced.
Jane had seven hobbies throughout the prime of her life, including those of: reading, listening to music, philanthropy, collecting CD’s, playing piano, and singing. She also did painting in her spare time, on one episode of Falcon Crest, one of Angela’s visitors painted a picture of her. During her retirement, she purchased a house in Rancho Mirage, California in 1997, so that she could continue living a quiet life and attend honorable charity events. On April 16, 2003, she moved to a retirement home in Palm Springs, California.