Sarah Jane Mayfield
January 5, 1917
Saint Joseph, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||September 10, 2007 (aged 90)|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Mortuary and Memorial Park, Cathedral City, California, U.S.|
Sarah Jane Wyman (née Mayfield; January 5, 1917 – September 10, 2007) was an American actress, singer, dancer, and philanthropist. Her career spanned more than seven decades. She was the winner of the Oscar for Best Actress for the 1948 film Johnny Belinda. She was also the first wife of actor Ronald Reagan (later the 40th president of the United States). They married in 1940 and divorced in 1949.
Wyman's professional career began at age 16 in 1933, when she signed with Warner Bros. Wyman followed common practice at the time when she added three years to her age. A popular contract player, she frequently played the leading lady, her roles including starring alongside William Hopper in Public Wedding (1937), Ronald Reagan and Eddie Albert in Brother Rat (1938) and its sequel Brother Rat and a Baby (1940), Dennis Morgan in Bad Men of Missouri (1941), Marlene Dietrich in Stage Fright (1950), and Sterling Hayden in So Big (1953). She was also featured opposite Rock Hudson in Magnificent Obsession (1954) and All That Heaven Allows (1955), both directed by Douglas Sirk. She was a three-time winner of a Golden Globe Award. She achieved continuing success in the television soap opera Falcon Crest (1981–1990), in which Wyman played the lead role of villainous matriarch Angela Channing.
Sarah Jane Mayfield was born on January 5, 1917, in St Joseph, Missouri, to Gladys Hope (née Christian; 1895-1960) and Manning Jeffries Mayfield (1895-1922). Her father was a meal company laborer and her mother was a doctor's stenographer and office assistant. Wyman was the only child of this union and had no biological siblings, despite some erroneous bios saying she was the youngest of three siblings. This may be in reference to her foster parents' children.
Wyman's biological parents were married in March 1916 in Jackson County, Missouri, and Wyman was born in January 1917. The 1920 census showed her to be the only child from the marriage, and aged three years old on January 15, 1920, and living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The most likely reason for the 1914 year of birth is that she added to her age in order to gain employment doing odd jobs and working as an actress, even though she was still a minor. She may have moved her birthday back by one day to January 4 so as to share the same birthday as her daughter, Maureen (January 4, 1941 - August 8, 2001). After Wyman's death, a release posted on her official website confirmed these details.
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 (née Reiss; 1866-1951) and Richard D. Fulks (1862-1928), the chief of detectives in Saint Joseph. She took their surname unofficially, including in her school records and on her first marriage certificate.
Her unsettled family life resulted in few pleasurable memories. Wyman later said, "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."
In 1928, aged 11, she moved to southern California with her foster mother. 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, as she would have been under-aged.
She started to obtain small parts in such films as The Kid from Spain (as a "Goldwyn Girl"; 1932), Elmer, the Great (1933), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Harold Teen (1934), College Rhythm (1934), Rumba (1935), All the King's Horses (1935), George White's 1935 Scandals (1935), Stolen Harmony (1935), Broadway Hostess (1935), King of Burlesque (1936) and Anything Goes (1936).
She signed a contract with Warner Brothers in 1936.
She had a support part in Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937) and the female lead in some "B" The Spy Ring (1938) (at Universal), He Couldn't Say No (1938) with Frank McHugh and Wide Open Faces (1938) with Joe E. Brown.
Wyman was borrowed by MGM to play a supporting part in The Crowd Roars (1938).
Wyman was borrowed by Fox for a support part in Tail Spin (1939), then did The Kid from Kokomo (1939) with Pat O'Brien and Morris. She played the title role in Torchy Blane.. Playing with Dynamite (1939), but it was the last in the series.
Wyman was now established as a leading lady, albeit of Bs - she did Kid Nightingale (1939) with John Payne, Private Detective (1939) with Foran, Brother Rat and a Baby (1940) with Reagan, An Angel from Texas (1940) with Albert, Flight Angels (1940), and Gambling on the High Seas (1940) with Wayne Morris.
She supported in "A"s such as My Love Came Back (1940), starring Olivia de Havilland and Jeffrey Lynn. She and Reagan were in Tugboat Annie Sails Again (1940). Wyman supported Ann Sheridan in Honeymoon for Three (1941) and was Dennis Morgan's leading lady in Bad Men of Missouri (1941).
Wyman made The Body Disappears (1941) with Jeffrey Lynn and You're in the Army Now (1941) with Jimmy Durante; in the latter she and Regis Toomey had the longest screen kiss in cinema history: 3 minutes and 5 seconds.
Warners teamed her with Jack Carson in Make Your Own Bed (1944) and The Doughgirls (1944), then she was top billed in Crime by Night (1944). She was one of many stars to cameo in Hollywood Canteen (1944).
Wyman finally gained critical notice in the film noir The Lost Weekend (1945) made by the team of Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, who had been impressed by her performance in Princess O'Rourke. It was only a support role - Ray Milland was the lead - but was the second biggest part. Wyman called it "a small miracle".
Wyman remained a supporting actor in One More Tomorrow (1946), and Night and Day (1946). However Wyman was borrowed by MGM for the female lead in The Yearling (1946), and was nominated for the 1946 Academy Award for Best Actress.
Her breakthrough role was playing a deaf-mute rape victim in Johnny Belinda (1948). Wyman spent over six months preparing for the film which was an enormous hit and won Wyman a Best Actress Oscar. 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."
Wyman was now a top billed star. She did two comedies, A Kiss in the Dark (1948) with David Niven and The Lady Takes a Sailor (1949) with Morgan, then made a thriller in England, Stage Fright (1950) for Alfred Hitchcock.
Frank Capra used her as Bing Crosby's leading lady in Here Comes the Groom (1951) at Paramount then she had the lead in RKO's The Blue Veil (1951), a melodrama that was a big box office hit and earned her an Oscar nomination.
Wyman was one of many stars in Warner Bros' Starlift (1951). She was the female lead in The Story of Will Rogers (1952) and Paramount reunited her and Crosby in Just for You (1952). Wyman expressed interest around this time of doing no more "weepy" roles.
Wyman and Hudson were promptly reteamed on All That Heaven Allows (1955). Pine-Thomas Productions put Wyman in Lucy Gallant (1955) with Charlton Heston. She did Miracle in the Rain (1956) with Van Johnson. Wyman was meant to follow this with Annabella but it appears to have not been made.
Her first guest-starring television role was on a 1955 episode of General Electric Theater, a show hosted by her former husband Ronald Reagan. Wyman began a TV series Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre (1955-58). In its first season it was known as Fireside Theatre then being changed to Jane Wyman Theatre. Wyman hosted every episode, acted in half, and was a producer.
When Fireside Theatre ended Wyman was no longer a film star, but she remained in demand. She replaced the ailing Gene Tierney in Holiday for Lovers (1959) for Fox, and next appeared in Disney's Pollyanna (1960) and Bon Voyage! (1962).
"Somthing happened in the sixties," she later said. "it seemed that the time didn't permit women to be part of it except in a sort of secondary sort of way which I resented. I kept telling myself 'I didn't want to play Whatever Happened to Baby Jane." So she went into semi retirement around 1962.
Wyman focused on painting. She made the occasional acting appearance, mostly on television.
She returned to films with How to Commit Marriage (1969).
Wyman continued to work in the 1970s, guest starring on My Three Sons, The Bold Ones: The New Doctors, The Sixth Sense and Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law and starring in films like The Failing of Raymond (1971) and The Incredible Journey of Doctor Meg Laurel (1979). She starred in a pilot for a TV series Amanda Fallon but it was not picked up.
She was offered roles of "murderers, old ladies that were senile - they were awful. The weirdest kind of writing."
In the spring of 1981 (a few months after her ex-husband became the president), 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. Wyman said she wanted to make it as it was a change from "the four handkerchief bits" she was known for. "You just can't miss on a thing like this," she added.
The series, which ran from December 1981 to May 1990, was created by Earl Hamner, who had created The Waltons a decade earlier. Hamner called Wyman "one of the legendary stars... a great actress", strongly denying her casting was due to her connection to the then-current president.
Also starring on the show was an already established character actress, Susan Sullivan, as Angela's niece-in-law, Maggie Gioberti, and the relatively unknown actor Lorenzo Lamas as Angela's irresponsible grandson, Lance Cumson. The on- and off-screen chemistry between Wyman and Lamas helped fuel the series' success.
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 Dynasty. Cesar Romero appeared from 1985 to 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 continued to deteriorate. 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 making her comatose in a hospital bed following an attempted murder).
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 almost every episode until the beginning of the ninth and final season, for a total of 208 of the show's 227 episodes.
After Falcon Crest, Wyman acted only 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 and two successful TV series, and was nominated for an Academy Award four times, winning once.
Wyman married five times. 
Wyman married salesman Ernest Eugene Wyman (1906 – 1970) in Los Angeles, California, on April 8, 1933. Wyman recorded her name as 'Jane Fulks' on the wedding certificate. She also listed foster parents Emma and Richard Fulks as her parents. In keeping with the tendency of making herself older than she really was, she gave her age as 19 on the document. Truthfully, she had turned 16 just three months prior. The couple would divorce after two years. Wyman kept her first husband's surname professionally for the remainder of her life.
Wyman married Myron Martin Futterman (1900 – 1965), a dress manufacturer, in New Orleans on June 29, 1937. As Wyman wanted children but Futterman did not, they separated after only three months of marriage and divorced on December 5, 1938.
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, and married on January 26, 1940, at the Wee Kirk o' the Heather Church, Glendale, California. She and Reagan had three children; Maureen Elizabeth Reagan (1941 – 2001), their adopted son Michael Edward Reagan (born March 18, 1945), and Christine Reagan (born prematurely on June 26, 1947, and died later the same day). Wyman, who was a registered Republican, stated that their break-up was due to a difference in politics (Ronald Reagan was still a Democrat at the time). She filed for divorce in 1948; the divorce was finalized in 1949. In 1981, Ronald Reagan became the first divorcé to assume the nation's highest office. This made Wyman the first former wife of a United States president who was still living at the time that her former husband became president. Although 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 she did not agree with him politically:
Following her divorce from Reagan, Wyman married German-American Hollywood music director and composer Frederick M. "Fred" Karger (1916 – 1979) on November 1, 1952, at El Montecito Presbyterian Church, 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." Wyman had a stepdaughter, Terry, from Karger's first marriage to Patti Sacks.
After Falcon Crest ended, Wyman made a guest appearance on the CBS series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and then completely retired from acting, spending her retirement painting and entertaining friends. Wyman was a recluse and made only a few public appearances in her last years in part due to suffering from diabetes and arthritis. She did attend her daughter's funeral in 2001 after Maureen died of melanoma. (Ronald Reagan was unable to attend due to his Alzheimer's disease.) She also attended the funeral of her long-time friend Loretta Young in 2000. Wyman broke her silence about her former husband upon his death in 2004, issuing an official statement that read, "America has lost a great president and a great, kind, and gentle man."
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.
Wyman reportedly died in her sleep of natural causes. A member of the Dominican Order (as a lay tertiary) of the Roman Catholic Church, she was buried in a nun's habit. She was interred at Forest Lawn Mortuary and Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California.
|1932||The Kid from Spain||Goldwyn Girl||Uncredited|
|1933||Elmer, the Great||Game Spectator||Uncredited|
|1933||Gold Diggers of 1933||Gold Digger||Uncredited|
|1934||All the King's Horses||Chorine||Uncredited|
|1935||Broadway Hostess||Chorus Girl||Uncredited|
|1935||George White's 1935 Scandals||Chorine||Uncredited|
|1936||King of Burlesque||Dancer||Uncredited|
|1936||Anything Goes||Chorus Girl||Uncredited|
|1936||Bengal Tiger||Saloon Girl||Uncredited|
|1936||My Man Godfrey||Socialite||Uncredited|
|1936||Stage Struck||Bessie Funfnick||Uncredited|
|1936||Cain and Mabel||Chorus Girl||Uncredited|
|1936||Here Comes Carter||Nurse||Uncredited|
|1936||The Sunday Round-Up||Butte Soule||Short film|
|1936||Polo Joe||Girl at Polo Field||Uncredited|
|1936||Gold Diggers of 1937||Chorus Girl||Uncredited|
|1937||Smart Blonde||Dixie the Hat Check Girl|
|1937||Ready, Willing, and Able||Dot|
|1937||The King and the Chorus Girl||Babette Latour|
|1937||Little Pioneer||Katie Snee||Short film|
|1937||The Singing Marine||Joan|
|1937||Public Wedding||Florence Lane Burke|
|1937||Mr. Dodd Takes the Air||Marjorie Day|
|1937||Over the Goal||Co-Ed||Uncredited|
|1938||The Spy Ring||Elaine Burdette|
|1938||He Couldn't Say No||Violet Coney|
|1938||Fools for Scandal||Party Guest||Uncredited|
|1938||Wide Open Faces||Betty Martin|
|1938||The Crowd Roars||Vivian|
|1938||Brother Rat||Claire Adams|
|1939||The Kid from Kokomo||Marian Bronson|
|1939||Torchy Blane... Playing with Dynamite||Torchy Blane|
|1939||Kid Nightingale||Judy Craig|
|1939||Private Detective||Myrna "Jinx" Winslow|
|1940||Brother Rat and a Baby||Claire Terry|
|1940||An Angel from Texas||Marge Allen|
|1940||Flight Angels||Nan Hudson|
|1940||Gambling on the High Seas||Laurie Ogden|
|1940||My Love Came Back||Joy O'Keefe|
|1940||Tugboat Annie Sails Again||Peggy Armstrong|
|1941||Honeymoon for Three||Elizabeth Clochessy|
|1941||Bad Men of Missouri||Mary Hathaway|
|1941||The Body Disappears||Joan Shotesbury|
|1941||You're in the Army Now||Bliss Dobson|
|1942||Larceny, Inc.||Denny Costello|
|1942||My Favorite Spy||Connie|
|1942||Footlight Serenade||Flo La Verne|
|1943||Princess O'Rourke||Jean Campbell|
|1944||Make Your Own Bed||Susan Courtney|
|1944||The Doughgirls||Vivian Marsden Halstead|
|1944||Crime by Night||Robbie Vance|
|1945||The Lost Weekend||Helen St. James|
|1946||One More Tomorrow||Frankie Connors|
|1946||Night and Day||Gracie Harris|
|1946||The Yearling||Orry Baxter||Nominated--Academy Award for Best Actress|
|1947||Magic Town||Mary Peterman|
|1948||Johnny Belinda||Belinda McDonald||Academy Award for Best Actress|
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
|1949||A Kiss in the Dark||Polly Haines|
|1949||The Lady Takes a Sailor||Jennifer Smith|
|1950||Stage Fright||Eve Gill|
|1950||The Glass Menagerie||Laura Wingfield|
|1951||Three Guys Named Mike||Marcy Lewis|
|1951||Here Comes the Groom||Emmadel Jones|
|1951||The Blue Veil||Louise Mason||Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama|
Nominated--Academy Award for Best Actress
|1952||The Story of Will Rogers||Betty Rogers|
|1952||Just for You||Carolina Hill|
|1953||Three Lives||Commentator||Short film|
|1953||Let's Do It Again||Constance "Connie" Stuart|
|1953||So Big||Selina DeJong|
|1954||Magnificent Obsession||Helen Phillips||Nominated--Academy Award for Best Actress|
|1955||All That Heaven Allows||Cary Scott|
|1955||Lucy Gallant||Lucy Gallant|
|1956||Miracle in the Rain||Ruth Wood|
|1959||Holiday for Lovers||Mrs. Mary Dean|
|1962||Bon Voyage!||Katie Willard|
|1969||How to Commit Marriage||Elaine Benson|
|1971||The Failing of Raymond||Mary Bloomquist||Television film|
|1973||Amanda Fallon||Dr. Amanda Fallon||Television film|
|1979||The Incredible Journey of Doctor Meg Laurel||Granny Arrowroot||Television film|
For several years, film exhibitors voted Wyman as among the most popular stars in the country:
|1955||G.E. True Theater||Dr. Amelia Morrow||Episode: "Amelia"|
|1955-1958||Jane Wyman Presents||Various||49 episodes|
Nominated--Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (1957, 1959)
|1958||Wagon Train||Dr. Carol Ames Willoughby||Episode: "The Doctor Willoughby Story"|
|1959||Lux Video Theatre||Selena Shelby||Episode: "A Deadly Guest"|
|1960||Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse||Dr. Kate||Episode: "Dr. Kate"|
|1960||Startime||Host||Episode: "Academy Award Songs"|
|1960||Checkmate||Joan Talmadge||Episode: "Lady on the Brink"|
|1961||The Investigators||Elaine||Episode: "Death Leaves a Tip"|
|1962||Wagon Train||Hannah||Episode: "The Wagon Train Mutiny"|
|1964||Insight||Marie||Episode: "The Hermit"|
|1966||Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre||Addie Joslin||Episode: "When Hell Froze"|
|1967||Insight||Auschwitz Victim||Episode: "Why Does God Allow Men to Suffer?"|
|1968||The Red Skelton Hour||Clara Appleby||Episode: "18.9"|
|1970||My Three Sons||Sylvia Cannon||Episode: "Who Is Sylvia?"|
|1972||The Sixth Sense||Ruth Ames||Episode: "If I Should Die Before I Wake"|
|1972-1973||The Bold Ones: The New Doctors||Dr. Amanda Fallon||Episodes: "Discovery at Fourteen" and "And Other Springs I May Not See"|
|1974||Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law||Sophia Ryder||Episode: "The Desertion of Keith Ryder"|
|1980||The Love Boat||Sister Patricia||Episode: "Another Day, Another Time"|
|1980||Charlie's Angels||Eleanor Willard||Episode: "To See an Angel Die"|
|1981-1990||Falcon Crest||Angela Channing||228 episodes|
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Television Series Drama
Nominated--Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Television Series Drama
|1993||Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman||Elizabeth Quinn||Episode: "The Visitor"|
|Burns and Allen||Gracie's Christmas Party||December. 25, 1947||Wyman played Gracie Allen, due to the star's illness|
|Screen Guild Players||The Lost Weekend||January 7, 1946|||
|Screen Guild Players||Saturday's Children||June 2, 1947|||
|Hollywood Star Playhouse||A Letter from Laura||February 24, 1952|||
|Hallmark Playhouse||Whistler's Mother||May 8, 1952|||
|Lux Radio Theatre||The Blue Veil||November 24, 1952|||
The Martin and Lewis Show Jane Wyman November 30, 1951
|1946||Academy Award for Best Actress||The Yearling||Nominated|
|1948||Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama||Johnny Belinda||Won|
|Academy Award for Best Actress||Johnny Belinda||Won|
|1951||Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama||The Blue Veil||Won|
|Academy Award for Best Actress||The Blue Veil||Nominated|
|1954||Academy Award for Best Actress||Magnificent Obsession||Nominated|
|1957||Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series||Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre||Nominated|
|1959||Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series||Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre||Nominated|
|1983||Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Television Series Drama||Falcon Crest||Nominated|
|1984||Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Television Series Drama||Falcon Crest||Won|
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.