Janet Gaynor, circa 1927.
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Janet Gaynor
Forecourt Ceremony held on Wednesday, May 29, 1929
 
Born: Laura Augusta Gainor, October 6, 1906, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Age at the time of the ceremony: 23
Died: September 14, 1984, in Palm Springs, California, age 77
 
Janet Gaynor was another young actress who achieved stardom at a very early age in the silent period, then made the transition to sound films.

Born to a theatrical scenic painting father who taught Laura, "Lolly," to sing at an early age, her parents divorced when she was eight, in 1914. The family moved to Chicago, then San Francisco, where her mother remarried to a theatrical electrician. The whole group moved to Los Angeles to get Lolly into pictures in the early 1920s.

Her stepfather took her to many auditions until she was finally cast in Cupid's Rustler in 1924. Gaynor worked on shorts for Hal Roach, Universal and FBO which finally led to Janet being given a contract at Universal, when she pulled in the big money: $50 per week. Just bit parts mind you, in stuff like Dangerous Innocence and, The Teaser (both starring Laura La Plante in 1925), The Plastic Age (starring Clara Bow in 1925), and The Beautiful Cheat (with Laura La Plante, 1926).

Tested at Fox Film Corporation, Gaynor won a supporting role in The Johnstown Flood (starring George O'Brien, 1926) and made such an impression, Fox gave her a five-year contract to star in films. Her first starring role was in director John Ford's first film with an Irish setting, The Shamrock Handicap, released in May, 1926.

Small and slight, but capable of acting with great intensity (especially when pushed to her limits) Gaynor became an overnight sensation. Her key films from this period are 7th Heaven 1927, with frequent co-star Charles Farrell), director F. W. Murnau's moody masterpiece Sunrise (with George O'Brien in 1927), and Street Angel (with Charles Farrell, also 1927). All hits, Gaynor received the first Academy Award for Best Actress for all three of these films.

After doing her imprints at Grauman's, Gaynor scored a big success in the Fox musical Sunny Side Up (which premiered at the Chinese in November, 1929). Then Fox chose to have her star in two pictures which were successful for Mary Pickford: Daddy Long Legs (1931), and Tess of the Storm Country (1932). She got top billing over Fox's cash-cow Will Rogers in State Fair, which became a monster hit in 1933, making Janet Gaynor the top female box-office draw.

Even though Fox kept her busy, and her films were making money, Gaynor felt as though things were slowing down for her after the 20th Century / Fox merger and the rise of Shirley Temple.

Gaynor was almost on the point of quitting show business when she was offered the role which would make her immortal: Vicky Lester in A Star is Born (which premiered at the Chinese in April, 1937). Since the story closely parralled her on story, Gaynor brought that little something extra to the film — others might make a go of it, but Gaynor's performance will outlast them all.

Wanting a husband and family, Gaynor did quit the screen in 1938. In 1939, she married costume designer Adrian, with whom she had a son. They remained married for 20 years, until his death in 1959. On her own suddenly, Gaynor made her stage debut in a play called The Midnight Sun, which flopped. She became a fairly accomplished painter, selling her works through an art dealer in New York.

In 1980, Gaynor starred in a Broadway musical adaptation of Harold and Maude, which flopped. Undaunted, she made a guest appearance on The Love Boat in 1981, then toured in On Golden Pond, opposite her husband, producer Paul Gregory.

On September 5, 1982, while riding in a taxicab in San Francisco with husband Gregory, Mary Martin, and Ben Washer, the cab was hit by a drunk driver. Washer was killed, Gregory had both of his legs broken, Martin had two ribs and her pelvis broken; but Gaynor suffered serious injury: 11 broken ribs, fractured collarbone, pelvic fractures, punctured lung, and damage to her kidneys and bladder. Many surgeries allowed her to return home, but she was dogged with complications. She died in 1984 — two years after the crash, age 77.
 
 
Caption TK
 
 
 
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