Janis Paige

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Janis Paige
Janis Paige It's Always Jan.jpg
Born Donna Mae Tjaden
(1922-09-16) September 16, 1922 (age 93)
Tacoma, Washington, US
Occupation Actress, singer
Years active 1944–2001
Spouse(s) Frank Martinelli, Jr.
(m. 1947-1951; divorced)
Arthur Stander
(m. 1956-1957; divorced)
Ray Gilbert
(m. 1962-1976; his death)

Janis Paige (born September 16, 1922) is an American film, musical theatre and television actress.

Early life and career[edit]

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 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 Paige was crowned "Miss Damsite" and participated at the ground-breaking ceremony for the McNary Dam, on the Columbia River, alongside Cornelia Morton McNary, the Senator's widow, and Oregon's governor, Earl Snell.[1]

Stardom came in 1954 with her role as "Babe" in the Broadway musical The Pajama Game. She was given the December 1954 cover of Esquire magazine, 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 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 so Day was paired with Raitt.[2] After 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).

Musical theatre[edit]

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,[3] 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." [4] She also 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 non-musical play, Alone Together[5] 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,"[6] and she enjoyed the role so much she played it again in 1988 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, this time with Robert Reed.[7]


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 of Gunsmoke 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.[8]

Paige made her live dramatic TV debut June 27, 1957, in "The Latch Key" on Lux Video Theatre.[9] 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.

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.

She also appeared on 87th Precinct, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, Trapper John, M.D., All in the Family, Columbo and 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 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). 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.

Selected films[edit]

Documentary/short subjects[edit]

Selected television work[edit]

Stage work[edit]


  1. ^ Hermiston Herald, 17-April-1947
  2. ^ Total Theater, For Janis Paige, It's Today Interview with Michael Portantiere, March, 2013, archived [1]
  3. ^ R.T. Jordan, But Darling, I'm Your Auntie Mame!: The Amazing History of the World's Favorite Madcap Aunt Kensington Books. 2004, ISBN 0758204825, pp. 142-143
  4. ^ Mary Campbell, Associated Press, archived at Daytona Beach Morning Hearald, June 29, 1968.
  5. ^ Janis Paige at The Official Masterworks Broadway Site
  6. ^ Campbell, Mary Janis Paige is back on Broadway AP Syndicated, Nov 21, 1984, archived at The Dessert News
  7. ^ Sheffield, Skip "Alone Together" draws veteran talent to Coconut Grove stage Boca Raton News, May 12, 1988
  8. ^ "Wesley Hyatt, "Comedy Time"". tvparty.com. Retrieved November 13, 2010. 
  9. ^ Saunders, Ann Wardell (June 23, 1957). "Looking 'n Listening". The San Bernardino County Sun. p. 22. Retrieved March 24, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read

External links[edit]