Janet Gaynor is bring honored by TCM today as part of the network’s Summer Under the Stars festival. Since I’ve never dedicated a post to Gaynor I thought it’d be nice to offer a Foto Follies-style tribute on her day.
If you don’t know Janet Gaynor’s movies – and I only know a few – then the fact that she won the first-ever Academy Award for Best Actress in 1929 might help you remember her if such things matter to you. Another impressive bit of trivia is that Gaynor remained the youngest leading actress to win the Oscar until 1986 when Marlee Matlin won for Randa Haines’ Children of a Lesser God. Anyway, the Oscar Janet Gaynor received in 1929 was for her work in 7th Heaven and Street Angel directed by Frank Borzage and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans directed by F. W. Murnau.
[on receiving her Best Actress Academy Award] “Naturally, I was thrilled, but being the first year, the Academy Awards had no background or tradition, and it naturally didn’t mean what it does now. Had I known then what it would come to mean in the next few years, I’m sure I’d have been overwhelmed. At the time, I think I was more thrilled over meeting Douglas Fairbanks.”
Janet Gaynor was born Laura Gainor on October 6, 1906, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and she died on September 4, 1984 in Palm Springs California. Gaynor was one of the most popular stars in the silent era and she transitioned successfully to talking pictures. Ms. Gaynor retired from acting in 1939 to dedicate time to her personal life. When duty called she answered the call, however, by making appearances in Bond Drives and Victory Rallies during WWII. Gaynor eventually returned to acting with appearances in feature films, on stage and on the radio and did a few TV shows through 1981, which is when (I believe) she was a guest on “The Love Boat.” It’s her film career that garnered her all the attention though so join the fun by tuning in to TCM for the 24-hour Gaynor tribute. I can’t wait to see her in action.
Ms. Gaynor didn’t do many radio shows, but the handful she did were top-notch. Following are two I think you’ll enjoy. First up is the Lux Radio Theatre production of “A Star is Born” where Gaynor reprises her Academy Award-nominated performance from earlier that year. This show was the first to air in the Lux 1937-1938 season, which gives you an inkling as to how popular the players were. Janet appears opposite Robert Montgomery in this production.
From June 6, 1939 Janet Gaynor stars alongside George Brent in “Mrs. Moonlight”
Visit Classic Movie Hub to access a collection of film quotes by Janet Gaynor, which are fun to peruse.
This post is submitted as part of the ‘Summer Under the Stars’ blogathon hosted by Kristen at Journeys in Classic Film. Be sure to visit her site throughout August to access submissions on the stars and movies featured on TCM.