Jane Wyman: Wikis


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Jane Wyman

Wyman in the trailer for the film Stage Fright (1950)
Born Sarah Jane Mayfield
January 5, 1917(1917-01-05)
Saint Joseph, Missouri, U.S.
Died September 10, 2007 (aged 90)
Rancho Mirage, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1932–1993
Spouse(s) Ernest Eugene Wyman (1933–1935) (divorced)
Myron Futterman (1937–1938) (divorced)
Ronald Reagan (1940–1948) (divorced) 2 children
Fred Karger (1952–1955, 1961–1965) (divorced)
Official website

Jane Wyman (January 5, 1917 – September 10, 2007)[1][2] was an American singer, dancer, character actress of stage, film and television. She began her film career in the 1930s, and was a prolific performer for two decades. She received an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Johnny Belinda (1948), and later achieved success during the 1980s for her leading role in the television series Falcon Crest.

Wyman was the first wife of Ronald Reagan, marrying him in 1940 and divorcing him in 1948, long before he ran for any public office. To date, she is the only woman to have been an ex-wife of a U.S. president.


Early life

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 that she was born on January 5, 1917.[3][4][5] The most likely reason for the 1914 date is that she added to her age when beginning her career as a minor to work legally.[6] She may have changed her January 5 birthdate to January 4 to coincide with that of her daughter Maureen Reagan. After Wyman's death, a release posted on her official website confirmed these details.[1]

Birthplace in St. Joseph

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)[7] and Richard D. Fulks (1862–1928), the chief of detectives in Saint Joseph.[8] and 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 recalled:

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.[9]

In 1928, around age 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.



Early career

Jane Wyman on the beach, 1935

After Jane dropped 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 films The Kid from Spain (as a "Goldwyn Girl") (1932), My Man Godfrey (1936) and Cain and Mabel (1936). After changing her surname from Durrell to Wyman, she began her career as a contract player with Warner Bros. in 1936. Her big break came the following year, when she received her first starring role in Public Wedding, but it would be nine long years before her movie career finally took off.[citation needed]

Recognition and acclaim

Wyman in her Academy Award-winning role in Johnny Belinda (1948)

In 1939, Wyman was cast in another 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.[10]

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 the first person in the sound era to win an acting Oscar without speaking a line of dialogue. In an amusing acceptance speech, perhaps poking fun at some of her long-winded counterparts, Wyman took her statue and said only, "I accept this, very gratefully, for keeping my mouth shut once. I think I'll do it again."[11]

The Oscar win gave her the ability to choose higher profile roles, although she still showed a liking for musical comedy. 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 replaced the ailing Gene Tierney in Holiday for Lovers (1959), and next appeared in Pollyanna (1960), Bon Voyage! (1962), and her final big screen movie, How to Commit Marriage (1969). Wyman was also a well-regarded character actress.


Her first guest-starring television role was on a 1955 episode of General Electric Theatre. This appearance led to roles on Summer Playhouse, Lux Playhouse, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, Checkmate, The Investigators, and Wagon Train. She also served as hostess of The Bell Telephone Hour and Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre. She had telling roles in both The Sixth Sense and Insight, among other programs.

Wyman hosted an anthology television series, Jane Wyman Presents the Fireside Theater, for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1957. During her tenure as host, however, ratings steadily declined, and the show ended after three seasons.

She was later cast in two unsold pilots during the 1960s and 1970s. After those pilots were not picked up, Wyman went into semi-retirement and remained there for most of the 1970s, though she made guest appearances on series such as Charlie's Angels and The Love Boat.

Falcon Crest

Wyman's career enjoyed a resurgence when she was cast as the scheming Californian vintner and matriarch Angela Channing in The Vintage Years, which was retooled as the primetime soap opera Falcon Crest. The series, which ran from 1981 to 1990, was created by Earl Hamner who had created The Waltons a decade earlier. Also starring on the show was an already established character actress, Susan Sullivan as Angela's niece-in-law, Maggie Gioberti, and relatively unknown actor Lorenzo Lamas as Angela's irresponsible grandson, Lance Cumson. The on and off-screen chemistry of both Wyman and Lamas was an immediate success story of 1980s television, spitting fire against each other. In its first season, Falcon Crest was a ratings hit, behind other 1980s prime-time soap operas such as, Dallas and Knots Landing, but initially ahead of rival soap Dynasty. Cesar Romero appeared from 1985-1987 on Falcon Crest as the romantic interest of Angela Channing.

For her role as Angela Channing, Wyman was nominated for a Soap Opera Digest Award five times (for Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role and for Outstanding Villainess: Prime Time Serial), and was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 1983 and 1984. Her 1984 Golden Globe nomination resulted in a win for Wyman, who took home the award for Best Performance By an Actress in a TV Series. Later in the show's run, Wyman suffered several health problems. In 1986, she had abdominal surgery which caused her to miss two episodes (her character simply "disappeared" under mysterious circumstances). In 1988, she missed another episode due to ill-health and was told by her doctors to avoid work. However, she wanted to continue working and she completed the rest of the 1988-1989 season while her health was still deteriorating. Months later in 1989, Wyman collapsed on the set and was hospitalized due to problems with diabetes and a liver ailment. Her doctors told her that she should end her acting career. Wyman was absent for most of the ninth and final season of Falcon Crest in 1989-1990 (her character was written out of the series by being comatose in a hospital bed following an attempted murder). Going against her doctor's advice, she returned for the final three episodes in 1990, even writing a soliloquy for the series finale. Wyman ultimately appeared in 208 of the show's 227 episodes.

After Falcon Crest, Wyman only acted once more, playing Jane Seymour's screen mother in a 1993 episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Following this, she retired from acting permanently. Wyman had starred in 83 movies, two successful TV series, and was nominated for an Academy Award four times, winning once.

Personal life


Ernest Eugene Wyman

It has been rumored that on April 8, 1933, Wyman married Ernest Eugene Wyman (or Weymann) (1906–1970),[12] a salesman; the marriage was mentioned in Dutch, the authorized biography of Ronald Reagan by Edmund Morris, who says that the marriage certificate is on file with the State of California, with the bride giving her name as Jane Fulks, daughter of Richard D. and Emma Reise Fulks. Morris also says that Reagan hinted at Wyman's first marriage when he told him in 1989, "What you have to look at [is] that there were a few husbands before me."[13] American genealogist William Addams Reitwiesner suggests that Jane Wyman adopted her professional surname from her German-born foster mother, Emma (Reise) Fulks, whom he says was previously married to Dr. M. F. Weyman, a St. Louis, Missouri ophthalmologist[14] by whom she had several children who lived with Jane Wyman in her youth.

Myron Martin Futterman

Wyman married Myron Martin Futterman (1900–1965), a dress manufacturer, in New Orleans on June 29, 1937. Because Wyman desired children and Futterman did not, they separated after three months of marriage.[15] They divorced on December 5, 1938.[16]

Ronald Reagan

Wyman with Ronald Reagan at the Tales of Manhattan film premiere in Los Angeles, 1942

In 1938, Wyman co-starred with Ronald Reagan in Brother Rat (1938), and its sequel Brother Rat and a Baby (1940). They were engaged at the Chicago Theatre,[17] and married on January 24, 1940, at the Wee Kirk o' the Heather church in Glendale, California.[18] She and Reagan had three children; Maureen Elizabeth Reagan (1941–2001), the adopted son Michael Edward Reagan (born March 18, 1945), and Christine Reagan (born prematurely on June 26, 1947 and died the next day).[19] She filed for divorce in 1948; the divorce was finalized in 1949. Since Ronald Reagan is the only U.S. president to have been divorced, Wyman is the only ex-wife of an American President.

Though she remained silent during Reagan's political career, she told a newspaper interviewer in 1968 that this was not because she was:

bitter or because I don't agree with him politically. I've always been a registered Republican. But it's bad taste to talk about ex-husbands and ex-wives, that's all. Also, I don't know a damn thing about politics.

A few days after Reagan died on June 5, 2004, Wyman broke her silence:

America has lost a great president and a great, kind, and gentle man.[20]

Fred Karger

Following her divorce from Reagan, Wyman married Hollywood music director and composer Frederick M. Karger (1916–1979) on November 1, 1952, at El Montecito Presbyterian Church in Santa Barbara. They separated on November 7, 1954 and were granted an interlocutory divorce decree on December 7, 1954; the divorce was finalized on December 30, 1955. They remarried on March 11, 1961, and Karger divorced her again on March 9, 1965. According to The New York Times report of the divorce, the bandleader charged that the actress "had walked out on him."[21] Wyman had a stepdaughter, Terrence (Karger) Melton, by Karger's first marriage to Patti Sacks, an actress.[22]

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 Holy Communion.

Later life

Jane Wyman lived in seclusion for a number of years because of declining health. She was rarely seen in public, with the exception of attending the funerals of her daughter, Maureen Reagan, and friend Loretta Young.

During her retirement, she purchased a house in Rancho Mirage in 1997. Reportedly, on April 16, 2003, she moved to a retirement home in Palm Springs, but after her death it was reported that she had died at her own home at the Rancho Mirage Country Club.


Jane Wyman died at the age of 90[1] at her Rancho Mirage home on Monday, September 10, 2007,[23] having long suffered from arthritis and diabetes. Wyman's son, Michael Reagan, released a statement saying:

I have lost a loving mother, my children Cameron and Ashley have lost a loving grandmother, my wife Colleen has lost a loving friend she called Mom and Hollywood has lost the classiest lady to ever grace the silver screen.[24]

It was reported that Wyman died in her sleep of natural causes. Since she was a member of the Dominican order of the Catholic Church, she was buried in a nun's habit. She was interred at Forest Lawn Mortuary and Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California.



Short subjects

  • The Sunday Round-Up (1936)
  • Little Pioneer (1937)
  • Screen Snapshots: Sports in Hollywood (1940)
  • Alice in Movieland (1940)
  • Breakdowns of 1941 (1941)
  • Sports Parade: Shoot Yourself Some Golf (1942)
  • The Screen Director (1951)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Awards (1951)
  • Three Lives (1953)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Mothers and Fathers (1955)

Television work

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards

Emmy Awards

  • Nominated: Best Lead Actress - Drama Series, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre (1957)
  • Nominated: Best Lead Actress - Drama Series, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre (1959)

Golden Globe Awards

Wyman has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for motion pictures at 6607 Hollywood Boulevard and one for television at 1620 Vine Street.


  1. ^ a b c Actress, Philanthropist Jane Wyman Dies. Retrieved September 10, 2007.
  2. ^ Birth and death dates from the Social Security Death Index.
  3. ^ Edwards, Anne. Early Reagan: The Rise to Power. William Morrow & Co (November 1990). ISBN 0688060501.
  4. ^ Bubbeo, Daniel. The Women of Warner Brothers: The Lives and Careers of 15 Leading Ladies. McFarland & Company (October 2001). ISBN 0786411376.
  5. ^ Colacello, Bob. Ronnie and Nancy: Their Path to the White House--1911 to 1980. Warner Books; 1st Warner Books Edition (2004). ISBN 044653272X.
  6. ^ She is listed in the U.S. Census taken in April 1930 as being 18 years old, when she was actually 13. U.S. Census, April 1, 1930, State of California, County of Los Angeles, City of Los Angeles, enumeration district 328, p. 13A, family 503.
  7. ^ U.S. Census, April 15, 1910, State of Missouri, County of Buchanan, enumeration district 54, p. 5-A, family 99. California death index, 1940–1997.
  8. ^ Jane Wyman, 90, Star of Film and TV, Is Dead, The New York Times, September 11, 2007. Fulks's position was upgraded to mayor of Saint Louis by the Warner Bros. publicity department when his foster daughter became a successful actress. Source: Jane Wyman (obituary), The Times (London), September 11, 2007.
  9. ^ Jane Wyman (obituary). The Independent (London), September 11, 2007.
  10. ^ [1], quoting Guinness Book of World Records
  11. ^ Jane Wyman's Oscar acceptance speech, 1948 at YouTube.
  12. ^ California Death Index, 1940-1997. U.S. Census, April 1, 1930, State of California, County of Los Angeles, enumeration district 221, p. 14-A, family 490.
  13. ^ Morris, Edmund. Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan. Modern Library, 2000. ISBN 978-0375756450
  14. ^ The Annals of Ophthalmology: A Quarterly Review of Ophthalmic Science, Volume XI, St. Louis, Missouri: Jones H. Parker, 1900.
  15. ^ Jane Wyman biography. Official Wyman website.
  16. ^ "Film Actress Wins Divorce," Los Angeles Times, December 6, 1938, p. 3.
  17. ^ "Dispute Over Theatre Splits Chicago City Council". The New York Times. May 8, 1984. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=travel&res=9407E6DA1138F93BA35756C0A962948260. Retrieved 2007-05-17. 
  18. ^ Oliver, Marilyn (March 31, 1988). "Locations Range From the Exotic to the Pristine". The Los Angeles Times. 
  19. ^ http://www.jane-wyman.com/biography.html
  20. ^ Jane Wyman, Ronald Reagan's first wife, dies at 93, Politico.com
  21. ^ "Jane Wyman Divorced", The New York Times, March 10, 1965.
  22. ^ "Frederick M. Karger, 63, Arranger and Composer", The New York Times, August 6, 1979.
  23. ^ "Johnny Belinda Actress Jane Wyman Dies", USA Today, 10 September 2007.
  24. ^ Oscar-Winner Jane Wyman, Ronald Reagan's First Wife, Dead at 93. Fox News. 10 September 2007.

External links


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