I gave up Hollywood and I gave up pictures because I was always getting parts where I’d be the girl who says, “Oh, Red!,” in a Skelton movie.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here again to reveal the subject of one of our who-is-this-person-in-the-picture quizzes.
After getting one “princess” role after the next, it’s no wonder the movie career of Janet Blair — our mystery woman, who looks great in the photo above — lasted for only about seven years, from 1941 after a Columbia Pictures talent scout discovered her performing at a Hollywood night club as a singer in front of the Hal Kemp band, until 1948 after she appeared in a ho-hum costume drama, “The Black Arrow,” opposite Louis Hayward and George Macready.
From there on Janet concentrated on tv, logging an substantial career spanning the so-called Golden Age of 1950’s right through to “Murder, She Wrote” in the 1990’s. She also turned to the theater, touring on the road in the lead role that Mary Martin played on Broadway in the Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein musical “South Pacific.”
Captivated by Blair’s polished good looks combined with an air of wholesomeness, Rogers felt she would be perfect as Nellie Forbush, that irrepressibly perky Navy Ensign determined to “wash that man out of my hair.” (Although she was 37 at the time the movie version of “South Pacific” was made, Janet was passed over by Mitzi Gaynor, who was a decade younger.)
Still in all, Blair’s movie careers was nothing to sneeze at. In 1942, she costarred with Rosalind Russell in “My Sister Eileen.” Janet also played a key supporting role to Rita Hayworth — they were said to be studio rivals — in 1945’s “Tonight And Every Night.”
In “Once Upon A Time,” Janet costarred with Cary Grant playing a small-time showbiz hustler in need of a new act. (The cast of that 1944 movie included another of our mystery women, a young Jeff Donnell.) We expect that the band-singer side of Janet most enjoyed her role in the 1947 Tommy-Jimmy Dorsey biopic, “The Fabulous Dorseys.”
Janet married and divorced twice, and was the mother of two children. She passed away four years ago, in her late 80’s.
By the way, congrats again to Patricia Nolan-Hall (aka Caftan Woman), who e-mailed us immediately after our Nov. 4 posting with this: “I know that gal because I’m a fan of her singing and acting, plus my daughter has the same first name and her most famous movie character shares a name with my niece. That’s Janet Blair aka My Sister Eileen.”
The photos accompanying today’s blog show the two sides of Janet: the glamorous, carefully turned out studio star (above) and the cheerful, fun-loving actress more or less at her leisure (photo below from The Donald Gordon Collection).
Which Blair do you prefer?