10 Things You Should Know About Janet Gaynor

Janet Gaynor‘s 112th birthday is timed perfectly, what with the third remake of the film for which she won an Oscar, A Star Is Born (1937), opening this weekend. Here are 10 things you should know about Gaynor, who was a huge star in the late 1920s and into the ’30s.

By the way, Gaynor’s A Star Is Born, in which she stars opposite Fredric March, is available via a number of streaming services: Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, Kanopy, Fandor and (with ads) Tubi TV. You could do much worse in priming yourself for the new remake than to watch the original on Gaynor’s birthday.

Happy 112th Birthday, Constance Bennett!

Actress Constance Bennett was born 112 years ago today in New York City. Here are 10 CB Did-You-Knows:

  • Bennett was born into a theatrical family. Both her parents, Richard Bennett and Adrienne Morrison, were actors, as was her maternal grandparents, Rose Wood and Lewis Morrison.
  • Bennett’s two sisters, Joan and Barbara, were also actresses (though Barbara’s career was brief), but it was Constance who was the first to enter motion pictures, appearing in silent pictures filmed in and around NYC and making her Hollywood debut in Cytherea (1924).
  • After giving up films upon marrying Philip Plant in 1925, Bennett, after divorcing Plant, returned to her film career just as talking pictures were taking off.
  • Bennett was, for a brief time in the early 1930s, the highest paid actress in Hollywood.
  • Like Kay Francis, Bennett’s ability to wear fine clothes well played a big role in her success.
  • Bennett Was cast in the role of Ellie Andrews in It Happened One Night but withdrew when Columbia Pictures declined to allow her to serve as producer of the film. Claudette Colbert, who took over the role, won the Best Actress Oscar for her work in the picture.
  • Bennett starred in the Janet Gaynor/Judy Garland/Barbra Streisand role in What Price Hollywood (1932), which was a clear inspiration for the A Star Is Born pictures.
  • Less in demand in pictures by the 1940s, Bennett began working in radio and in the theatre. Her stage debut came in 1940 in Noël Coward‘s Easy Virtue.
  • Bennett Was married five times; the final marriage, to US Air Force Colonel (later Brigadier General) John Theron Coulter, lasted by far the longest—from June 1946 until Bennett’s death in July 1965.
  • Because of her marriage to Coulter and in recognition of her efforts in providing relief entertainment to US troops stationed in Europe during and after World War II, Bennett was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Happy birthday, Constance Bennett, wherever you may be!

Constance Bennett

Happy 109th birthday, Barbara Stanwyck!

The wonderful Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Catherine Stevens in Brooklyn, New York, 109 years ago today. We admire dozens of actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood, but for our money, Stanwyck was the greatest of them all. Here are 10 BS Did-You-Knows:

  • Stanwyck’s older brother, Bert Stevens, was also a busy actor, with more than 400 credits listed at IMDb.com.
  • Stanwyck was of English, Scottish, and Irish ancestry.
  • Her mother died in a trolley accident when Stanwyck was just four years old. Her father then abandoned Stanwyck and her four siblings to be raised by other members of the family.
  • In 1944, the U.S. government named Stanwyck the country’s highest-paid woman.
  • Stanwyck’s relationship with her first husband, Frank Fay, is said to have been the inspiration for the 1937 film A Star Is Born.
  • Stanwyck attended high school at Erasmus Hall in Brooklyn, but dropped out at 14.
  • Stanwyck played characters named Jessica Drummond in two very different movies: My Reputation (1946) and Forty Guns (1957).
  • Stanwyck, who was very conservative politically, was a member of The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals.
  • Stanwyck started smoking when she was nine years old.
  • Stanwyck has no grave. After she passed away in 1990 due to congestive heart failure and emphysema, she was cremated and her ashes were scattered from a helicopter over Lone Pine, California.

Happy birthday, Barbara Stanwyck, wherever you may be!

Barbara Stanwyck

Happy Birthday, Janet Gaynor!

Janet Gaynor, born Laura Gainor 109 years today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is not as well remembered today as she should be. (Yes, we old movie buffs know her and love her, but the general public has largely forgotten her.)

There were few bigger stars in 1920s and early ’30s, and her screen partnership with Charles Farrell had fans dreaming that he’d leave his wife for her.

Janet Gaynor made any number of terrific films, but our two favorites are F. W. Murnau‘s silent masterpiece, Sunrise (1927), and the first A Star Is Born (1937), directed by the great William Wellman (A Star Is Born can be viewed for free by Amazon Prime members).

A few TV appearances aside, Janet Gaynor retired in 1938, but she left an indelible mark on the motion picture industry (she won the very first Best Actress Oscar on May 16, 1929, about which she said, “Naturally, I was thrilled, but being the first year, the Academy Awards had no background or tradition, and it naturally didn’t mean what it does now. Had I known then what it would come to mean in the next few years, I’m sure I’d have been overwhelmed. At the time, I think I was more thrilled over meeting Douglas Fairbanks.”

Here’s wishing you a happy birthday, Ms. Gaynor, wherever you may be.

Janet Gaynor quote