So, how much did you know about her career and personal life?
Above is one of the few photos of Jane Wyman projecting the sex appeal she so conspicuously lacks in most of the roles she plays at her peak as one of Hollywood’s most lauded female stars of the Forties and Fifties.
Viewing this shot, we can believe that she really did begin her movie career in the mid-Thirties play the tough-talking chorus girl “with bite and a seemingly natural hard edge,” according to the actress’ chroniclers, Edward Z. Epstein and our own Joe Morella (1985’s Jane Wyman, A Biography).
Wyman excelled in melodramas as the handsome, understanding mother; the severely put upon (notably a deaf-mute half her real age); one-of-the-boys western figures. Later she was warmly received as the suffering heroine in “womens’ pictures” and, most famously, as the stylish, take-charge woman running a California winery on tv.
And, yes, she married Ronald Reagan before Nancy Davis did.
How much else did you know about Jane Wyman? Let’s take a look at the answers to our Monday Quiz to find out. Here we go:
1) Question: Ronald Reagan was famously known informally as “Dutch.” What was Wyman’s comparable nickname? a) Baby; 2) Sweet Ma; c) Kitten; or d) Button Nose.
1) Answer: Reagan and her friends called Wyman d) “Button Nose.”
2) Question: Which of these prestige movie directors did Wyman NOT work with? a) Frank Capra; b) Alfred Hitchcock; c) Billy Wilder; or d) Michael Curtiz.
2) Answer: Ok, we admit it. This is a trick question. Wyman worked with all these directors: Frank Capra in 1951’s Here Comes The Groom; Alfred Hitchcock in 1950’s Stage Fright; Billy Wilder in 1945’s The Lost Weekend; and Michael Curtiz in 1952’s The Story of Will Rogers.
3) Question: Among her cinematic accomplishments Wyman holds the record for providing the longest onscreen kiss in movie history. a) True; or b) False.
3) Answer: a) True. In 1941, Wyman engaged in a smooching match with Regis Toomey in You’re In The Army Now. The kiss lasted a record 3 minutes and five seconds.
4) Question: Wyman won a best actress Oscar for playing a young deaf-mute rape victim in 1948’s Johnny Belinda. She was also nominated as best actress for which of the following pictures? a) 1946’s The Yearling; b) 1951’s The Blue Veil; c) 1954’s Magnificent Obsession; or d) 1952’s The Story of Will Rogers.
4) Answer: Wyman earned best actress Oscar nominations for every choice except d) The Story of Will Rogers.
5) Question: When she first was signed by Warner Brothers in the mid-Thirties, Wyman was promoted as a) a budding musical star; b) a serious actress; c) a blond floozy; or d) a potential sexpot?
5) Answer: As suggested in today’s intro, Wyman was pegged as c) a blond floozy.
6) Question: What broke up Wyman’s marriage (January 1940 to June 1948) to Ronald Reagan? a) An illicit romance with actor Lew Ayres; b) her lack of interest in politics; c) Reagan’s loquaciousness; or d) none of the above.
6) Answer: Wyman never discussed for public consumption the reasons why her marriage to Reagan fell apart. She did, however, make cryptic references to his talkativeness, saying that if you asked him the time he would reply with a full-blown explanation of how a Swiss watch worked.
7) Question: Just how many movies did Wyman actually make with Reagan? a) five; b) two; c) nine; or d) none.
7) Answer: Wyman and Reagan costarred in b) two movies: 1938’s Brother Rat and 1940’s Brother Rat and Baby.
8) Question: Although Wyman’s is best remembered for her principal part on the 1981 Falcon Crest tv series, she was NOT the first choice for the role of California winery proprietress Angela Channing. Who was? a) Joan Crawford; b) June Haver; c) Barbara Stanwyck; or d) Nancy Davis.
8) Answer: c) Barbara Stanwyck, who nonetheless made her own tv impression with The Big Valley western series, which ran on ABC from 1965 to 1969. She played the widow of a wealthy rancher.
9) Question: Wyman never quite got over unhappy end of her marriage to Reagan, and never remarried. a) True; or b) False.
9) Answer: b) False. Wyman married a total of five times, twice to the same husband, musician-bandleader Fred Karger. Reagan was husband No. 3.
10) Question: How did someone born Sarah Jane Mayfield wind up as Jane Wyman?
10) Answer: Wyman was the surname of the actress’ first husband, to whom she was married for two years beginning in 1933.