As I sit down to write this post, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the proper way to tackle Jane Wyman’s career. It’s not that I haven’t seen many of her films, I have. I was a child who grew up on vintage Disney films, so I’ve seen Pollyanna more times than I probably should mention. Heck, I had a misspent political youth, so I’m also aware of her relationship with a certain future President of the United States.
However, despite all this, it’s a struggle to really put my feelings for Wyman’s work into words. With a career lasting more than sixty years, Wyman shone brightly on screen and has no shortage of classic film credits to her name.
Her work in movies like Johnny Belinda, Stage Fright, The Lost Weekend, Magnificent Obsession, Pollyanna and Bon Voyage! showed her to be a tremendously versatile performer, capable of criss-crossing genres with ease. She was great in everything she tackled, even taking home an Academy Award in 1948 for her work in Johnny Belinda.
Perhaps this is the root of the problem. Does Jane Wyman really bring a star persona? Or, was she a darn fine actress… a chameleon who brought characters to life with ease. Even this list above shows her excelling in thrillers, dramas, melodramas, period pictures and family films. Yet, aside from Aunt Polly in Pollyanna, it’s hard for me to zero in on her work. Perhaps she was too versatile?
Well, kids! I’d better get busy watching. What films are you looking forward to today?
A Career in Review:
If You Can Only Watch One:
There’s a few different options hitting the screen today with the only issue being to narrow down what you’re in the mood for! Alfred Hitchcock fans might want to sit down and watch Stage Fright. The movie, which airs at 4:00pm EST is a deeper cut in the director’s filmography, coming in 1950.
Meanwhile, those looking for a classic and essential drama might stay on to watch Johnny Belinda. As mentioned already, Wyman took home an Academy Award for her work in the film (opposite the darling Lew Ayres) as a deaf mute woman being tutored by a kindly town doctor (Ayres, of course). However, the small town is plunged into scandal when she’s raped and becomes pregnant. The movie is TCM’s primetime offering today and airs at 8:00pm EST.
Last but not least, what if you’re in the mood for a fluffy romantic comedy? Set your DVR for 4:15am EST and catch Three Guys Named Mike. The movie features Wyman as a stewar… errr, flight attendant… who becomes entangled with three particularly dashing men of the air (Van Johnson, Barry Sullivan and Howard Keel). Just who will she pick?
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Podcaster, film historian, and general lover of all things classic film and television. Studying the contributions of women behind the camera in classic television.
You can find me on Twitter @kpierce624!