ACTRESS, PHILANTHROPIST JANE WYMAN DIES
Palm Springs, CA - September 10, 2007 Jane Wyman, known to one generation as an Academy Award- and Golden Globe-winning film actress and to still more fans as ruthless matriarch and vintner Angela Gioberti Channing on 1980s prime-time CBS soap opera Falcon Crest, has died at the age of 90, according to her long-time business manager, Michael Mesnick.
Ms. Wyman passed away today at her home in Rancho Mirage. She had been in failing health for several years.
Her son, Michael Reagan, said: "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."
Jane Wyman known as "one take Wyman" because of her work ethic played the role of Angela Channing over nine years and 212 episodes and won both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for her performance as deaf-mute rape victim Belinda MacDonald in Johnny Belinda (1948).
Less known by fans than Wyman's 61-year acting career was her philanthropy for the Arthritis Foundation and Catholic church.
"Jane was probably one of the most important philanthropists for the arthritis cause," said Stanford Rubin, former national chairman of the Arthritis Foundation. "In 1977 she became the second recipient of the Charles B. Harding award the highest national award given by the Arthritis Foundation. In turn, the local Southern California chapter created the Jane Wyman Humanitarian Award. Afflicted with arthritis and diabetes herself, Jane was the lead person running the local annual arthritis telethons for about 20 years, many times appearing with her daughter, Maureen Reagan. Jane acted as the Foundation's national chairperson for many years, flew around the country promoting the cause and was a substantial benefit from an awareness standpoint."
Wyman also was a devout Catholic convert and supporter of the Catholic church. Michael Mesnick, her longtime business manager since before Falcon Crest, said, "She was a tough lady, but a nice lady. She had a real strong backbone and took no nonsense. Her mind was determined in what she wanted to do. In her own way, she was very giving and loving. For example, even though her prime charity was the Catholic Church, she once gave some money to one of the priests there, not because she wanted something back or any recognition, but because that was her way of saying, 'Hey, I'm paying back.' Her philanthropic and charitable giving were admirable, and she didn't do it with any ulterior motive in mind."
Wyman also was a strong supporter of Hollywood's Covenant House and Our Lady of the Angels Monastery.
Wyman started in show business as a radio singer and dancer, then broke into movies in the early 1930s as a Goldwyn Girl. She appeared in more than 80 films from 1932 to 1969, plus two documentaries in the 1990s. She began gaining recognition in 1945 for her sensitive performance in Billy Wilder's harrowing The Lost Weekend, opposite Ray Milland. In addition to her Oscar win for Johnny Belinda, Wyman won three other Oscar nominations for Best Actress for her dramatic roles as a stern mother in The Yearling (1946), as a self-sacrificing nursemaid in The Blue Veil (1951) and as Rock Hudson's Magnificent Obsession in the 1954 Douglas Sirk melodrama.
After her 1948 Academy Award, she also starred in romantic comedies like Here Comes the Groom (1951). She hosted and produced her first TV series, The Jane Wyman Theater, in the mid-1950s. Airing in prime time, the half-hour anthology featured a different drama every week much like its predecessor, The Loretta Young Show. Wyman's series ran three years (1955-1958) and garnered her two Emmy nominations. She also continued performing in films, including another Sirk movie, All That Heaven Allows (1956). One of her last notable feature leads came in the Disney film Pollyanna (1960), in which she revisited the role of the stern matriarch who learns to love, a role she had played in The Yearling.
Until 1980, Wyman guest-starred from time to time on TV series and in made-for-TV movies. In 1981 she began her acclaimed portrayal of yet another ruthless matriarch and vintner, Angela Gioberti Channing, on CBS's prime-time soap opera, Falcon Crest.
Wyman's roles demonstrated her wide-ranging skills, whether sensitively communicating mainly with her eyes in her portrayal of deaf-mute rape victim Belinda MacDonald, or singing the Oscar-winning song, "In the Cool Cool Cool of the Evening," with Bing Crosby in Frank Capra's musical comedy Here Comes The Groom (1951), or playing the nasty mother in Falcon Crest. Wyman also worked with other noteworthy directors, such as Alfred Hitchcock on Stage Fright (1950), and with Michael Curtiz on The Story of Will Rogers (1952).
Wyman won three Golden Globe awards: (1) Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama for Johnny Belinda (1949); (2) The Blue Veil (1952); (3) Best Actress - TV-series - Drama for 1984 Falcon Crest (1984). On February 8, 1960 Wyman had two stars unveiled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for motion pictures at 6607 Hollywood Boulevard and one for television at 1620 Vine Street.
But Wyman always said her favorite of her films was The Blue Veil, made in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral and released in 1951, around the time she converted to Catholicism.
Jane Wyman (her professional name) always allowed an aura of mystery to surround her birth date in St. Joseph, Missouri. Even though the date of January 4, 1914 was often given because, like many people in the film industry, Jane initially wanted to be seen as older for career reasons the State of Missouri issued a birth certificate for Sarah Jane Mayfield on January 5, 1917 to Manning J. Mayfield and Gladys Hope Christian, a doctor's stenographer and office assistant. Further proof of Wyman's current age of 90 is contained in her driver's license and passport. In 1921, her parents divorced. Her father died unexpectedly the following year. She assumed the name Sarah Jane Fulks in honor of her neighbors, Richard and Emma Fulks, who unofficially adopted her after her father died. She reportedly adopted her professional surname from her foster mother, Emma Fulks, who was previously married to a Dr. M.F. Weyman and by whom she had several children who lived with Jane Wyman in her youth.
Wyman was married four times. She married and divorced Myron Futterman in the 1930s. Her second husband, from 1940 to 1948, was actor and future U.S. President Ronald Reagan, with whom she had daughter Maureen Reagan, sometime actress, singer and White House adviser who died of skin cancer in 2001. They also adopted a son, Michael, a radio personality. She later twice married and divorced Fox musician and vocal coach Fred Karger.
Ms. Wyman will be memorialized at a funeral Mass open to the public on Wednesday, September 12. Rosary is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., followed by the Mass, both to be held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 43775 Deep Canyon Rd. in Palm Desert, CA. Presiding will be Bishop Gerald R. Barnes. Private interment will follow at Forest Lawn Mortuary, Cathedral City, California.
The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to one of the following: The Arthritis Foundation of Southern California or Sacred Heart Catholic Church, address above.