Donna Mae Tjaden
September 16, 1922
Tacoma, Washington, U.S.
|Known for||Pajama Game, It's Always Jan|
Janis Paige (born Donna Mae Tjaden; September 16, 1922) is an American retired actress and singer.
Born in Tacoma, Washington, she began singing in local amateur shows at the age of five. After high school, she moved to Los Angeles, where she became a singer at the Hollywood Canteen during World War II, as well as posing as a pin-up model.
This led to a film contract with Warner Bros., although she later left the studio to pursue live theatre work, appearing in a number of Broadway shows. She continued to alternate between film and theatre work for much of her career. Beginning in the mid-1950s, she also made numerous television appearances, as well as starring in her own sitcom It's Always Jan. With a career spanning nearly 60 years, she is one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Paige was born Donna Mae Tjaden in Tacoma, Washington, the only child of Hazel Leah (née Simmons) and George S. Tjaden on September 16, 1922, primarily of Norwegian, German, English, and Cornish descent.
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. During the war, United States Army Air Forces pilots flying the P-61 Black Widow chose her as their "Black Widow Girl". In appreciation, she posed as a pin-up model, dressed in an appropriate costume.
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 co-starred in Romance on the High Seas (1948), the film in which Doris Day made her movie debut. Paige 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 cabaret singer. In April 1947, she was crowned "Miss Damsite" and participated at the ground-breaking ceremony for the McNary Dam, on the Columbia River, alongside Cornelia Morton McNary, Senator Charles McNary's widow, and Oregon Governor Earl Snell.
Stardom came in 1954 with her role as Babe in the Broadway musical The Pajama Game. She was on the December 1954 cover of Esquire, where she was featured in a seductive pose taken by American photographer Maxwell Frederic Coplan. For the screen version, the studio wanted one major movie star to guarantee the film's success, so John Raitt's role of Sid was offered to Frank Sinatra, who would have been paired with Paige. When Sinatra turned it down, the producers offered Paige's role of Babe to Doris Day, who accepted and was paired with Raitt.
Return to film
After six years away, Paige returned to Hollywood in Silk Stockings (1957), which starred Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, the Doris Day/David Niven 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. In 1968, when after nearly two years Angela Lansbury left the Broadway production of the musical Mame to take the show on a limited US tour, Paige was the star chosen to be the first Broadway replacement, and she admired the character, saying, "She's a free soul. She can be down, but never out. She's unbigoted. She says what she thinks with a kind of marvelous honesty, which is the only way to say anything."
Paige appeared in touring productions of musicals such as Annie Get Your Gun, Applause, Sweet Charity, Ballroom, Gypsy: A Musical Fable, and Guys and Dolls. In 1984, she was back on Broadway with Kevin McCarthy in a nonmusical play, Alone Together. The tryout tour gave Paige her first experience of the eastern summer-stock circuit, where she said audiences "laughed so hard you just had to wait", and she enjoyed the role so much, she played it again in 1988 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, this time with Robert Reed.
Television host and roles
During the 1955–1956 television season, Paige starred in her own CBS situation comedy, It's Always Jan, co-starring Merry Anders, as Janis Stewart, a widowed mother, and her two female roommates played by Anders and Patricia Bright.
Paige made her live dramatic TV debut June 27, 1957, in "The Latch Key" on Lux Video Theatre. She appeared as troubadour Hallie Martin in The Fugitive episode "Ballad For a Ghost" (1964). She also had a recurring role as "Auntie V", Tom Bradford's sister, in Eight Is Enough.
Paige appeared as a waitress named Denise in both the seventh and ninth seasons of All in the Family. In her first appearance, she has a flirtation with Archie Bunker that threatens to become more serious.
Paige appeared on episodes of 87th Precinct; Trapper John, M.D.;Columbo; Night Court; Caroline in the City; and in the 1975 television movie John O'Hara's Gibbsville (also known as The Turning Point of Jim Malloy). In 1982, she appeared on St. Elsewhere as a female flasher who stalked the hallways of the hospital to "cheer up" the male patients. She also appeared on a season 11 episode of Happy Days, as a roadside diner waitress named Angela who may or may not be Fonzie's long lost mother; Fonzie has a heartfelt talk with Angela, and it is left up to the viewer to determine if she is his mother or not - though the emotions exhibited by her character throughout the scene indicate that she is, but does not want to be found out. In the 1980s and 1990s, she was seen on the soap operas Capitol (1987, as Sam Clegg's first wife, Laureen), General Hospital (1989–1990, as Katharine Delafield's flashy Aunt Iona, a lady counterfeiter), and Santa Barbara (1990–1993, replacing the much older Dame Judith Anderson as matriarch Minx Lockridge).
Paige has been married three times. She married Frank Louis Martinelli Jr., a restaurateur, in 1947; they divorced in 1951. She married Arthur Stander, a television writer and creator of It's Always Jan, in 1956 and divorced him the next year. Paige married composer and music publisher Ray Gilbert in 1962. They remained married until his death on March 3, 1976. All of Paige's marriages were childless.
In 2001, Paige found that her voice was cracking with nearly irreparable vocal-cord damage. She went to a singing teacher a friend recommended. Paige's voice ended up worse with her not being able to talk at all. "He literally took my voice away," she said. "I lost all my top voice. I couldn't hold a pitch for a second. Finally, I couldn't make a sound. He said that this will all come back. It didn't." Another singing teacher told her to go to the voice clinic at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. "There were bits of skin hanging off my vocal cords", she said. "They told me to go home and not talk for three months." She finally was introduced by a doctor to another voice teacher, Bruce Eckstut, who helped her regain her speaking voice and singing voice.
In 2017, Paige wrote a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter in which she stated that Alfred Bloomingdale had attempted to rape her when she was 22 years old. She alleges that she was sexually assaulted after being lured into Bloomingdale's apartment under false pretenses.
|1944||Bathing Beauty||Janis||Musical film directed by George Sidney.|
|Hollywood Canteen||Studio Guide||Musical romantic comedy film directed by Delmer Daves.|
|1946||Her Kind of Man||Georgia King||Crime film noir directed by Frederick De Cordova.|
|Of Human Bondage||Sally Athelny|
|Two Guys from Milwaukee||Polly||Comedy film directed by David Butler.|
|The Time, the Place and the Girl||Sue Jackson|
|1947||Love and Learn||Jackie||Comedy film directed Frederick de Cordova.|
|Cheyenne||Emily Carson||Romantic western film directed by Raoul Walsh.|
|1948||Winter Meeting||Peggy Markham||Drama film directed by Bretaigne Windust & written by Catherine Turney from the novel of the same title by Grace Zaring Stone under the pseudonym Ethel Vance.|
|Wallflower||Joy Linnett||Comedy film directed by Frederick de Cordova.|
|Romance on the High Seas||Elvira Kent|
|One Sunday Afternoon||Virginia Brush|
|1949||The Younger Brothers||Kate Shepherd||Western directed by Edwin L. Marin.|
|The House Across the Street||Kit Williams||Comedy film directed by Richard L. Bare.|
|1950||Fugitive Lady||Barbara Clementi|
|This Side of the Law||Nadine Taylor||Film noir directed by Richard L. Bare.|
|1951||Mister Universe||Lorraine||Comedy–romantic sports film directed by Joseph Lerner.|
|Two Gals and a Guy||Della Oliver / Sylvia Latour|
|1957||Silk Stockings||Peggy Dayton||Metrocolor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer CinemaScope musical film adaptation of the 1955 stage musical of the same name, which itself was an adaptation of the film Ninotchka.|
|1960||Please Don't Eat the Daisies||Deborah Vaughn||Metrocolor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer CinemaScope comedy film directed by Charles Walters and partly inspired by the book of the same name by Jean Kerr.|
|1961||Bachelor in Paradise||Dolores Jynson||Metrocolor romantic comedy film directed by Jack Arnold.|
|1963||Follow the Boys||Liz Bradville||Comedy film directed by Richard Thorpe.|
|The Caretakers||Marion||Drama produced and directed by Hall Bartlett and based on the novel of the same name by Dariel Telfer.|
|1967||Welcome to Hard Times||Adah||Western film directed by Burt Kennedy. and based on the novel of the same name by E. L. Doctorow.|
|1994||Natural Causes||Mrs. MacCarthy||Action–drama thriller film directed by James Becket.|
|1944||I Won't Play||Kim Karol / Sally||Short drama film directed by Crane Wilbur.|
|1947||So You Want to Be in Pictures||Herself|
|2003||Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There||Herself||Documentary film by Rick McKay.|
|2021||Journey to Royal: A WWII Rescue Mission||Herself||Documentary film by Christopher Johnson and Mariana Coku.|
|1949–1950||Bonnie Maid's Versatile Varieties||Herself|
|1953||Plymouth Playhouse||Guest||Episode: "Baby and Me"|
|1954||Philip Morris Playhouse||Guest||Episode: "Make Me Happy, Make Me Sad"|
|1955–1956||It's Always Jan||Jan Stewart||26 episodes|
|1957||Lux Video Theatre||Iris||Episode: "The Latch Key"|
|Studio 57||Guest||Episode: "One of the Family"|
|1958||Schlitz Playhouse||Bebe Evans||Episode: "Home Again"|
|Shower of Stars||Herself||Episode: "Episode #4.7"|
|Roberta||Scharwenka||Musical made-for-TV-film directed by Ed Greenberg and Dick McDonough.|
|1959||The Red Skelton Show||School Teacher||Episode: "Bashful Clem"|
|Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse||The Redhead||Episode: "Chez Rouge"|
|Andy Williams Show||Herself||July 7, 1959, episode|
|1960||The Secret World of Eddie Hodges||Circus Star||Made-for-TV-film and musical directed by Norman Jewison.|
|Maisie||Maisie Ravier||Made-for-TV-film and comedy directed by Edward Ludwig & based on Wilson Collison's Dark Dame novel.|
|Hooray for Love||Leading actress||Made-for-TV-film and musical directed by Burt Shevelove.|
|The Ann Sothern Show||Edith||Episode: "The Girls"|
|1961||Wagon Train||Nellie Jefferson||Episode: "The Nellie Jefferson Story"|
|The Dinah Shore Chevy Show||Kathy Hewitt||Episode: "Happiest Day"|
|1962||87th Precinct||Cheryl Anderson||Episode: "Girl in the Case" (Series cancelled after 1st season)|
|Alcoa Premiere||Connie Rankin||Episode: "Blues for a Hanging"|
|The Red Skelton Show||Mrs. Cavendish||Episode: "Ten Baby Fingers and 12 Baby Toes"|
|1963||The Dick Powell Theater||Lavern||Episode: "Last of the Private Eyes"|
|1964||Burke's Law||Sharon McCauley||Episode: "Who Killed the Swinger on a Hook?"|
|The Fugitive||Hallie Martin||Episode: "Ballad for a Ghost"|
|1965||The Red Skelton Show||Hatta Mari||Episode: "Dial 'O' for Nothing"|
|1969||Roberta||Scharwenka||musical made-for-TV-film directed by John Kennedy and Dick McDonough.|
|1971||Sarge||Marian Hart||Episode: "Psst! Wanna Buy a Dirty Picture?"|
|1972||Columbo||Goldie Williamson||Episode: "Blueprint for Murder"|
|Banacek||Lydia||Episode: "To Steal a King"|
|1973||Mannix||Georgia Durian||Episode: "A Way to Dusty Death"|
|1974||Police Story||Harry's Wife||Episode: "A Dangerous Age"|
|Doc||Guest||Episode: "The Other Woman"|
|Police Story||Mrs. Driscoll||Episode: "Vice: 24 Hours"|
|1976||The Mary Tyler Moore Show||Charlene Maguire||Episode: "Menage-a-Lou"|
|All in the Family||Denise||2 episodes|
|All's Fair||Barbara||Epispde: "Jealousy"|
|The Nancy Walker Show||Guest||Episode: "Dear Dr. Dora"|
|1976–1977||Lanigan's Rabbi||Kate Laniga||5 episodes|
|1977||The Betty White Show||Wilma||Episode: "Mitzi's Cousin"|
|1977–1980||Eight Is Enough||Aunt Vivian||5 episodes|
|1978||The Love Boat||Phyllis Morrison||Episode: "A Selfless Love / The Nubile Nurse / Parents Know Best"|
|Alice||Ruth||Episode: "The Cuban Connection"|
|Fantasy Island||Charlotte||Episode: "The Beachcomber / The Last Whodunit"|
|Hawaii Five-O||Minnie Cahoon||Episode: "The Case Against Philip Christie"|
|Charlie's Angels||Joan Sayers||Episode: "Angels Ahoy"|
|The Rockford Files||Miriam||Episode: "A Three-Day Affair with a Thirty-Day Escrow"|
|All in the Family||Denise||Episode: "Return of the Waitress"|
|1980||Valentine Magic on Love Island||Madge||Romantic comedy made-for-TV-film directed by Earl Bellamy.|
|Angel on My Shoulder||Dolly Blaine||Fantasy film made-for-TV-film directed by John Berry.|
|1981||Fantasy Island||Mabel Martin||Episode: "High Off the Hog / Reprisal"|
|Happy Days||Angela||Episode: "Mother and Child Reunion"|
|Bret Maverick||Mandy Packer||2 episodes|
|Flamingo Road||Jenny||Episode: "The Powers That Be"|
|Lewis & Clark||Rose||Episode: "The Family Affair"|
|1982||Too Close for Comfort||Irene Miller||Episode: "The Last Weekend"|
|Romance Theatre||Estelle||5 episodes|
|1983||Matt Houston||Lauren Calder||Episode: "The Purrfect Crime"|
|St. Elsewhere||Dee Mackaluso||Episode: "Remission"|
|Gun Shy||Nettie McCoy|
|Fantasy Island||Brian's Mother||Episode: "The Devil Stick / Touch and Go"|
|The Other Woman||Mrs. Barnes||Made-for-TV-Move directed by Melville Shavelson.|
|Baby Makes Five||Blanche Riddle||5 episodes|
|Trauma Center||Guest||Episode: "Trail's End"|
|1984||Night Court||Eleanor Brandon||Episode: "Welcome Back, Momma"|
|No Man's Land||Maggie Hodiak||Made-for-TV-film directed by Rod Holcomb.|
|We Think the World Is Round||Nina (voice)||Animated made-for-TV-film directed by Rudy Larriva.|
|1985||Rockhopper||Helen Larabee||Adventure made-for-TV-film directed by Bill Bixby.|
|1985–1986||Trapper John, M.D.||Catherine Hackett||15 episodes|
|1987||Capitol||Laureen Clegg||Episode: "Episode #1.1268"|
|1989||Mission: Impossible||Katherine Foster||Episode: "The Haunting"|
|General Hospital||Aunt Iona Huntington||Recurring|
|1990||Shades of L.A.||Ruth Lockwood||Episode: "Where There's No Will, There's a Weigh-In"|
|1990–1993||Santa Barbara||Minx Lockridge||106 episodes|
|1992||Room for Two||Charlotte Agnoletti||Episode: "Whose Mouth Is It Anyway?"|
|1995||Legend||Delilah Pratt||Episode: "Clueless in San Francisco"|
|1997||Caroline in the City||Loretta||Episode: "Caroline and the Bad Trip"|
|2001||Family Law||Ann Fox||Episode: "The Quality of Mercy"|
|1951–1952||Remains to Be Seen||Jody Revere||Morosco Theatre (October 3, 1951 – March 22, 1952)||Directed by Bretaigne Windust, written by Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse, and produced by Leland Hayward.|
|1952||Remains to Be Seen||Jody Revere||National Tour, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland Summer 1952|
|1954–1955||The Pajama Game||Babe Williams||St. James Theatre (May 13, 1954 – June 23, 1955)|
|1959||High Button Shoes||Unknown||State Fair of Texas in Dallas at Fair Park|
|1963–1964||Here's Love||Doris Walker||Shubert Theatre (October 3, 1963 – July 25, 1964)|
|1967||Born Yesterday||Billie Dawn||Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, NJ|
|1967||Sweet Charity||Charity||Kenley Players, Various Ohio Cities Summer 1967|
|1969||Mame||Mame Dennis||National Tour Various U.S. Cities|
|1970||Gypsy||Mama Rose||Hershey Community Theater (August 17–22, 1970)||With Jack Haskell.|
|1971||Applause||Margo Channing||Performed in Johannesburg, South Africa.|
|1973||Born Yesterday||Billie Dawn||Country Dinner Playhouse (July 17, 1973 – August 19, 1973)|
|1974||Desk Set||Bunny Watson||Thunderbird Dinner Theatre||Directed by Robert Bruce Holley.|
|1974||Gypsy||Mama Rose||National Tour Summer 1974|
|1975||Annie Get Your Gun||Annie Oakley||National tour|
|1975||The Gingerbread Lady||Evy||Candlelight Dinner Playhouse (August 19, 1975–unknown)||Replacement for Carolyn Jones.|
|1978||Guys and Dolls||Adelaide||National tour|
|1984–1985||Alone Together||Helene Butler||Music Box Theatre (October 21, 1984 – January 12, 1985)||Directed by Arnold Mittelman, written by Lawrence Roman, originally produced at the Whole Theatre Company, and produced by Arnold Mittelman and Lynne Peyser.|
|1987||Happy Birthday, Mr. Abbott! or Night of 100 Years||Unknown||Palace Theatre (June 22, 1987)|
|1987||The Gingerbread Lady||Evy||Equity Library Theater||Directed by Geoffrey C. Shlaes.|
|1988||Alone Together||Helene Butler||Coconut Grove Playhouse, Miami, FL ( Summer1988)|
|1989||The Gingerbread Lady||Evy||Coconut Grove Playhouse||Directed by Jack Allison.|
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