Janet Gaynor: The Original Star of “A Star is Born”


Today is the birthday of Laura Augusta “Janet” Gaynor (1906-1984) — no relation to Mitzi or Gloria. Gaynor’s career straddled the late silent and early talking cinema eras. She started out in Hal Roach comedy shorts in 1924. Within two years, she had a contract with Fox and was voted a WAMPAS Baby Star. The following year she starred in F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece Sunrise, which in combination with performances in two other films, earned the very first Academy Award for Best Actress.

Singing and dancing skills stood her in good stead when talkies came in; she starred in the 1929 musical Sunny Side Up. Other notable pix included the original version of State Fair (1933) with Will Rogers and the original version of A Star is Born (1936), a monster hit which earned her second Oscar nomination (though she didn’t win this time.) In 1938, she retired at the top of her game, at age 33. The following year she married her second husband, the famed costume designer Adrian, with whom she remained until his death in 1959. In later years she continued to act on television and in the theatre.

For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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