Nationality: American. Born: Sarah Jane Fulks in St. Joseph, Missouri, 4 January 1914. Education: Attended Los Angeles High School; University of Missouri, Columbia, 1935. Family: Married 1) Myron Futterman, 1937 (divorced 1939); 2) the actor Ronald Reagan, 1940 (divorced 1948), daughter: Maureen, adopted son: Michael; 3) Freddie Karger, 1952 (divorced 1955); 4) Freddie Karger, 1963 (divorced 1965). Career: 1932—film debut (as Sarah Jane Fulks) in The Kid from Spain ; had a few small parts in other films, then enrolled at the University of Missouri; radio singer (as Jane Durrell); 1936–49—contract with Warner Brothers; 1955–58—host and actress on TV series The Jane Wyman Theater ; 1981–90—starring role in TV series Falcon Crest . Awards: Best Actress Academy Award, for Johnny Belinda , 1948. Address: 3970 Overland Avenue, Culver City, CA 90230, U.S.A.
(as Sarah Jane Fulks)
The Kid from Spain (McCarey) (as a Goldwyn Girl)
Elmer the Great (LeRoy) (bit role)
College Rhythm (Taurog) (bit role)
Rumba (Gering) (as chorus girl); All the King's Horses (Tuttle) (bit role); Stolen Harmony (Werker) (bit role as girl)
King of Burlesque (Lanfield) (bit role as girl); Anything Goes ( Tops Is the Limit ) (Milestone) (bit role); My Man Godfrey (La Cava) (as party-goer)
(as Jane Wyman)
Stage Struck (Berkeley) (as Bessie Fuffnick); Cain and Mabel (Lloyd Bacon) (bit role); Polo Joe (McGann) (as polo spectator); Smart Blonde (McDonald) (as Dixie)
"Love and War" production number of Gold Diggers of 1937 (Lloyd Bacon) (as chorus girl); Ready, Willing and Able (Enright) (as Dot); The King and the Chorus Girl (LeRoy) (as Babette); Slim (Enright) (as Stumpy's girl friend); The Singing Marine (Enright) (as Joan); Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (Alfred E. Green) (as Marjorie Day); Public Wedding (Grinde) (as Flip Lane)
The Spy Ring (Joseph H. Lewis) (as Elaine Burdette); Fools for Scandal (LeRoy) (bit role); He Couldn't Say No (Seiler); Wide Open Faces (Neumann) (as Betty Martin); The Crowd Roars (Thorpe) (as Vivian); Brother Rat (Keighley) (as Claire Adams)
Tail Spin (Del Ruth) (as Alabama); Private Detective (Noel Smith) (as Myrna Winslow); The Kid from Kokomo (Seiler) (as Miss Bronson); Torchy Plays with Dynamite (Noel Smith) (as Torchy Blane); Kid Nightingale (Amy) (as Judy Craig)
Brother Rat and a Baby (Enright) (as Claire Ramm); An Angel from Texas (Enright) (as Marge Allen); Flight Angels (Seiler) (as Nan Hudson); My Love Came Back (Bernhardt) (as Joy O'Keefe); Tugboat Annie Sails Again (Seiler) (as Peggy Armstrong); Gambling on the High Seas (Amy) (as Laurie Ogden)
Honeymoon for Three (Lloyd Bacon) (as Elizabeth Clochessy); Bad Men of Missouri (Enright) (as Mary Hathaway); You're in the Army Now (Seiler) (as Bliss Dobson); The Body Disappears (Lederman) (as Lynn Shotesbury)
Larceny, Inc. (Lloyd Bacon) (as Denny Costello); My Favorite Spy (Garnett) (as Connie); Footlight Serenade (Ratoff) (as Flo La Verne)
Princess O'Rourke (Krasna) (as Jean)
Make Your Own Bed (Godfrey) (as Susan Courtney); Crime by Night (Clemens) (as Robbie Vance); The Doughgirls (Kern) (as Vivian); Hollywood Canteen (Daves) (as herself)
The Lost Weekend (Wilder) (as Helen St. James)
One More Tomorrow (Godfrey) (as Fran Connors); Night and Day (Curtiz) (as Gracie Harris); The Yearling (Brown) (as Ma Baxter)
Cheyenne (Walsh) (as Ann Kincaid); Magic Town (Wellman) (as Mary Peterman)
Johnny Belinda (Negulesco) (as Belinda McDonald)
A Kiss in the Dark (Daves) (as Polly Haines); The Lady Takes a Sailor (Curtiz) (as Jennifer Smith); It's a Great Feeling (David Butler) (as herself)
Stage Fright (Hitchcock) (as Eve Gill); The Glass Menagerie (Rapper) (as Laura Wingfield)
Three Guys Named Mike (Walters) (as Marcy Lewis); Here Comes the Groom (Capra) (as Emmadel Jones); The Blue Veil (Bernhardt) (as Louise Mason); Starlift (Del Ruth) (as herself)
The Story of Will Rogers (Curtiz) (as Betty Rogers); Just for You (Nugent) (as Carolina Hill)
Let's Do It Again (Hall) (as Constance Stuart); So Big (Wise) (as Selina Dejong)
Magnificent Obsession (Sirk) (as Helen Phillips)
Lucy Gallant (Parrish) (title role); All that Heaven Allows (Sirk) (as Cary Scott)
Miracle in the Rain (Maté) (as Ruth Wood)
Holiday for Lovers (Levin) (as Mary Dean)
Pollyanna (Swift) (as Aunt Polly)
Bon Voyage! (Neilson) (as Katie Willard)
How to Commit Marriage (Lilley) (as Elaine Benson)
The Failing of Raymond (Sagal—for TV) (as Mary Bloomquist)
The Outlanders (Green)
The Incredible Journey of Dr. Meg Laurel (Guy Green—for TV) (as Granny Arrowroot)
Falcon Crest (Arner and Badiyi—series for TV) (as Angela Channing)
Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (Robinson—doc for TV) (as herself)
Parish, James Robert, and Don E. Stanke, The Forties Gals , Westport, Connecticut, 1980.
Morella, Joe, and Edward Z. Epstein, Jane Wyman , New York, 1985.
Quirk, Lawrence J., Jane Wyman: The Actress and the Woman , New York, 1986.
Current Biography 1949 , New York, 1949.
Bawden, J., "Jane Wyman: American Star Par Excellence," in Films in Review (New York), April 1975.
Briggs, C., "Jane Wyman," in Hollywood: Then and Now , vol. 23, no. 11, 1990.
* * *
Decades before she was to become the star of the prime-time television soap opera Falcon Crest , Jane Wyman was just another "cute" Hollywood blond with a turned-up nose who populated dozens of B films, usually playing a wisecracking friend of the star or a gold-digging chorus girl. Wyman provided some light, enjoyable moments in a wide variety of 1930s comedies such as Brother Rat and The Kid from Kokomo . As the war years dawned, she began to get increasingly better parts, mostly in Warner Brothers features such as Larceny, Inc. and The Doughgirls .
In 1945 Wyman's career changed sharply for the better when she began to dye her hair brown and appeared in several well-received straight dramatic roles. Beginning with the critically acclaimed The Lost Weekend , Wyman showed a dramatic depth to her acting which the public had not seen. During the late 1940s and early 1950s she received several Academy Award nominations and received an Oscar for Best Actress for her touching performance as the deaf-mute heroine of Johnny Belinda .
Wisely varying her genres once she attained major stardom, Wyman often highlighted a chin-quivering vulnerability while playing down the verve she displayed as the longest-running starlet in B-movie history. Despite being outclassed in terms of theatrical training and despite being too old for the tricky role, her halting Laura is the most memorable performance in The Glass Menagerie . Although she radiates movie-star assuredness in all her 1950s soap operas (So Big , Lucy Gallant , Magnificent Obsession ) she is most incandescent in All that Heaven Allows , the most caustic slap at suburban America's snobbism and agism that has ever slipped past a major studio head's attention span. If she had sobbed at the victim well once too often by the time she experienced her Miracle in the Rain , she also brought new meaning to the word "vivacious" in some minor musicals ( Just for You , Here Comes the Groom , Let's Do It Again ) that should have made MGM sit up and take notice.
Although her screen appearances grew sparse, particularly after the rise and fall of her heralded television anthology, The Jane Wyman Show , she always could be counted on to enliven the proceedings even in vanilla-flavored Disney ventures. Still, none of her joie de vivre prepared Wyman groupies for her steely stint in Falcon Crest , in which she huffed and puffed hammily, reportedly ran the set with an iron glove borrowed from the character she played, and locked horns with such formidable guest-starring divas as Kim Novak, Gina Lollobrigida, and Lana Turner. If her Angela Channing, the Wicked Witch of the Wine Country, cannot be considered fine acting on a par with her most masterful big-screen legacy, The Yearling , it is just as unforgettable in its own shameless, scenery-chewing way. Popping up infrequently since her vintage soap series was canceled, Wyman can regard her kaleidoscopic career as a testament to the resilience, clear-sightedness, and good humor her fans have always responded to, whether Wyman happened to be casting herself as fluffy contract player, song-and-dance gal, drama doyenne, or television matriarch from Hell.
—Patricia King Hanson, updated by Robert Pardi