Janis Paige (born Donna Mae Tjaden; September 16, 1922) is an American retired actress and singer. She is one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Early life and career
Born in Tacoma, Washington, Paige began singing in public at age five in local amateur shows. She moved to Los Angeles after graduating from high school and was hired as a singer at the Hollywood Canteen during World War II. During the war, United States Army Air Forces pilots flying the P-61 Black Widow chose her as their "Black Widow Girl". In appreciation, she posed for a pinup, dressed in an appropriate costume.
The Hollywood Canteen was a studio-sponsored club for members of the military. A Warner Bros. agent saw her potential and signed her to a contract. She began co-starring in low budget musicals, often paired with Dennis Morgan or Jack Carson. She co-starred in Romance on the High Seas (1948), the film in which Doris Day made her movie debut. Paige later co-starred in adventures and dramas, in which she felt out of place. Following her role in Two Gals and a Guy (1951), she decided to leave Hollywood.
Paige appeared on Broadway and was a huge hit in a 1951 comedy-mystery play, Remains to Be Seen, co-starring Jackie Cooper. She also toured successfully as a cabaret singer. In April 1947, she was crowned "Miss Damsite" and participated at the ground-breaking ceremony for the McNary Dam, on the Columbia River, alongside Cornelia Morton McNary, Senator Charles McNary's widow, and Oregon Governor Earl Snell.
Stardom came in 1954 with her role as "Babe" in the Broadway musical The Pajama Game. She was on the December 1954 cover of Esquire magazine, where she was featured in a seductive pose taken by American photographer Maxwell Frederic Coplan. For the screen version, the studio wanted one major movie star to guarantee the film's success, so John Raitt's role of Sid was offered to Frank Sinatra, who would have been paired with Paige. When Sinatra turned it down, the producers offered Paige's role of Babe to Doris Day, who accepted and was paired with Raitt.
After six years away, Paige returned to Hollywood in Silk Stockings (1957), which starred Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, the Doris Day/David Niven comedy Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960), and as a love-starved married neighbor in Bachelor in Paradise (1961) with Bob Hope. A rare dramatic role was as "Marion", an institutionalized prostitute, in The Caretakers (1963).
Paige returned to Broadway in 1963 in the short-lived Here's Love. In 1968, when after nearly two years Angela Lansbury left the Broadway production of the musical Mame to take the show on a limited US tour, Paige was the star chosen to be the first Broadway replacement, and she admired the character, saying, "She's a free soul. She can be down, but never out. She's unbigoted. She says what she thinks with a kind of marvelous honesty, which is the only way to say anything."
Paige appeared in touring productions of musicals such as Annie Get Your Gun, Applause, Sweet Charity, Ballroom, Gypsy: A Musical Fable, and Guys and Dolls. In 1984 she was back on Broadway with Kevin McCarthy in a non-musical play, Alone Together The tryout tour gave Paige her first experience of the Eastern Summer Stock circuit, where she said audiences "laughed so hard you just had to wait", and she enjoyed the role so much she played it again in 1988 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, this time with Robert Reed.
During the 1955–1956 television season, Paige starred in her own CBS situation comedy, It's Always Jan, co-starring Merry Anders, as Janis Stewart, a widowed mother, and her two female roommates played by Anders and Patricia Bright.
Paige made her live dramatic TV debut June 27, 1957, in "The Latch Key" on Lux Video Theatre. She appeared as troubadour Hallie Martin in The Fugitive episode "Ballad For a Ghost" (1964). Paige had a recurring role as "Auntie V", Tom Bradford's erstwhile sister, in Eight Is Enough.
Paige appeared as a waitress named Denise in both the seventh and ninth seasons of All in the Family. In her first appearance, she has a flirtation with Archie Bunker.
She also appeared on 87th Precinct, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, Trapper John, M.D., All in the Family, Columbo and Caroline in the City, and in the 1975 television movie John O'Hara's Gibbsville (also known as The Turning Point of Jim Malloy). Paige played the role of Auntie V in 5 episodes on the series Eight is Enough (1977-1981). In the 1980s and 1990s, she was seen on the soap operas Capitol (1987, as Sam Clegg's first wife, Laureen), General Hospital (1989-1990, as Katharine Delafield's flashy Aunt Iona, a lady counterfeiter and Santa Barbara (1990-1993, replacing the much older Dame Judith Anderson as matriarch Minx Lockridge). In 1982, she appeared on St. Elsewhere as a female flasher who stalked the hallways of the hospital to "cheer up" the male patients. Although her character said she was "celebrating her 50th birthday," Ms. Paige was actually 60 at the time of filming.
Walk of Fame
Paige was given a star in the Motion Picture section of the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6624 Hollywood Boulevard on February 9, 1960.
Paige has been married three times. She married Frank Louis Martinelli Jr., a restaurateur, in 1947; they divorced in 1951. She married Arthur Stander, television writer and creator of It's Always Jan, in 1956 and divorced him in 1957. Paige married Ray Gilbert, composer and music publisher in 1962. Gilbert died March 3, 1976. All of Paige's marriages were childless.
Paige is a Republican who supported the campaign of Dwight Eisenhower during the 1952 presidential election.
In 2001, Paige found that her voice was cracking with nearly irreparable vocal-cord damage. She went to a singing teacher a friend recommended. Paige's voice ended up worse with her not being able to talk at all. "He literally took my voice away," she said. "I lost all my top voice. I couldn't hold a pitch for a second. Finally, I couldn't make a sound. He said that this will all come back. It didn't." Another singing teacher told her to go to the voice clinic at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. "There were bits of skin hanging off my vocal cords", she said. "They told me to go home and not talk for three months." She finally was introduced by a doctor to another voice teacher, Bruce Eckstut. He helped her regain her voice and singing voice.
In 2017, aged 95, Paige wrote a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter in which she stated that Alfred Bloomingdale had attempted to rape her when she was 22 years old.
|1951–1952||Remains to Be Seen||Jody Revere||Morosco Theatre (October 3, 1951 – March 22, 1952)||Directed by Bretaigne Windust, written by Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse, and produced by Leland Hayward.|
|1954–1955||The Pajama Game||Babe Williams||St. James Theatre (May 13, 1954 – June 23, 1955)|
|1959||High Button Shoes||Unknown||State Fair of Texas in Dallas at Fair Park|
|1963–1964||Here's Love||Doris Walker||Shubert Theatre (October 3, 1963 – July 25, 1964)|
|1970||Gypsy||Mama Rose||Hershey Community Theater (August 17–22, 1970)||With Jack Haskell.|
|1971||Applause||Margo Channing||Performed in Johannesburg, South Africa.|
|1973||Born Yesterday||Unknown||Country Dinner Playhouse (July 17, 1973 – August 19, 1973)|
|1974||Desk Set||Bunny Watson||Thunderbird Dinner Theatre||Directed by Robert Bruce Holley.|
|1975||Annie Get Your Gun||Annie Oakley||National tour|
|1975||The Gingerbread Lady||Evy||Candlelight Dinner Playhouse (August 19, 1975–unknown)||Replacement for Carolyn Jones.|
|1978||Guys and Dolls||Adelaide||National tour|
|1984–1985||Alone Together||Helene Butler||Music Box Theatre (October 21, 1984 – January 12, 1985)||Directed by Arnold Mittelman, written by Lawrence Roman, originally produced at the Whole Theatre Company, and produced by Arnold Mittelman and Lynne Peyser.|
|1987||Happy Birthday, Mr. Abbott! or Night of 100 Years||Unknown||Palace Theatre (June 22, 1987)|
|1987||The Gingerbread Lady||Evy||Equity Library Theater||Directed by Geoffrey C. Shlaes.|
|1989||The Gingerbread Lady||Evy||Coconut Grove Playhouse||Directed by Jack Allison.|