Janis Paige (born September 16, 1922) is an American film, musical theatre, and television actress.
Early life and career
Born Donna Mae Tjaden in Tacoma, Washington, she began singing in public at age five in local amateur shows. She moved to Los Angeles after graduating from high school and was hired as a singer at the Hollywood Canteen during World War II.
The Hollywood Canteen was a studio-sponsored club for members of the military. A Warner Bros. agent saw her potential and signed her to a contract. She began co-starring in low budget musicals, often paired with Dennis Morgan or Jack Carson. She later co-starred in adventures and dramas, in which she felt out of place. Following her role in Two Gals and a Guy (1951), she decided to leave Hollywood.
Paige appeared on Broadway and was a huge hit in a 1951 comedy-mystery play, Remains to Be Seen, co-starring Jackie Cooper. She also toured successfully as a cabaretsinger.
Stardom came in 1954 with her role as "Babe" in the Broadway musical The Pajama Game. (Doris Day played the part on film.) After a six years away, Paige returned to Hollywood in Silk Stockings (1957), which starred Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, the Doris Day comedy Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960), and as a love-starved married neighbor in Bachelor in Paradise (1961) with Bob Hope.
A rare dramatic role was as "Marion," an institutionalized prostitute, in The Caretakers (1963).
Paige returned to Broadway in 1963 in the short-lived Here's Love, and as one of a succession of actresses playing the title role in the musical Mame. She also appeared in touring productions of musicals such as Annie Get Your Gun, Applause, Ballroom, Gypsy: A Musical Fable, and Guys and Dolls.
In the 1955-1956 television season, Paige starred in her own CBS situation comedy, It's Always Jan, co-starring Merry Anders. The 26-week program preceded the first season ofGunsmoke on the Saturday evening schedule. The plot, set in New York City, centered around Paige as Jan Stewart, a widowed mother, and her two female roommates played by Anders and Patricia Bright.
She appeared as troubadour Hallie Martin in The Fugitive episode "Ballad For a Ghost" (1964). Paige had a recurring role as "Auntie V", Tom Bradford's erstwhile sister, in Eight Is Enough.
She also appeared on 87th Precinct (TV series),The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, Trapper John, M.D., All in the Family, Columbo and Caroline in the City. In the 1980s and 1990s, she was seen on soap operas such as General Hospital (as Katharine Delafield's flashy Aunt Iona, a lady counterfeiter; Capitol (as Sam Clegg's first wife, Laureen), and Santa Barbara (replacing the older Dame Judith Anderson as matriarch Minx Lockridge). In 1982, she appeared on St. Elsewhere as a female flasher who stalked the hallways of the hospital to "cheer up" the male patients. Although her character said she was "celebrating her 50th birthday," Ms. Paige was actually 60 at the time of filming.
In 1986, she appeared with Richard Kline and Bert Convy on Super Password.
Paige has been married to:
- Frank Louis Martinelli Jr, restaurateur; married 1947, divorced 1950
- Arthur Stander, television writer and creator of It's Always Jan; married 1956, divorced 1957
- Ray Gilbert, composer and music publisher; married 1962, died 1976; he wrote the classic song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah".
She has no children.