Thursday, October 6, 2016

Born Today October 6: Janet Gaynor


Born Laura Augusta, with either her last name spelled Gainor or Gainer, in Germantown, Pennsylvania, she was nicknamed "Lolly" as a child.  Her father was a theatrical painter and paperhanger; it was he that began to teach her song and dance, as well as acrobatics when she was just a toddler.  When she entered school, she then began to act in school plays.  After her parents divorced and her mother remarried, the family eventually settled in San Francisco. When she graduated from high school there, she began doing stage work in Melbourne, Florida while on winter vacation. Upon her return to San Francisco, the whole family moved to Los Angeles so she could be pursue a career in acting.  She, accompanied by her stepfather, began to present herself at studios there, where she eventually landed a role as an extra in a Hal Roach film.  The film was Cupid's Rustler, the year was 1924.  She continued to get work in roles as extras regularly until 1926, when she began to get small roles that she credited for, the first of which was The Johnstown Flood, a Fox film that she was hired for after Fox offered her a screen test. By 1927, she had blossomed into one of Hollywood's leading ladies.  She played a lead role as "The Wife" in F. W. Murnau's 1927 feature Sunrise, for which she won one of the very earliest Oscars, in the category of Best Actress in a Leading Role--she was the very first winner for this category.  She also won for her role in Street Angel (a partial sound film).  The award, which was presented in the year 1929, combined the work.  Another interesting fact is that she was only 22 years of age at the time; she would remain the youngest actress to win in the category until 1986, when at 21 Marlee Matlin won for Children Of A Lesser God.  Her first full sound film came in 1928 with 4 Devils, which had an alternative silent print, and was also directed by Murnau. By 1929, she had made the transition to speaking roles and even starred in a film with early color sequences (Sunnyside Up).  By the age of 33, she had been making films for almost 20 years and had made up her mind to retire, which she did in 1938.  After this, she worked sporadically, and almost entirely in television.  She found a new profession is painting however, becoming very accomplished in still life depictions of flowers and vegetables.  She finally made her professional stage debut in 1980!  She worked in the theater for 2 years.  In September of 1982, a taxi in which she was a passenger was struck by a van that had run a red light; she was left with several very serious injuries, including 11 broken ribs.  She passed away 2 years later on 14 September; with her long time doctor declaring that her death was brought on by the accident, from which she had never fully recovered.  She is buried in the famous Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  [For anyone that interested in visiting, it is located in the Garden of Legends section, Lot 193)

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