Janis Paige

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Janis Paige
Paige, publicity picture for MGM studios in 1944
Donna Mae Tjaden

(1922-09-16) September 16, 1922 (age 101)
Occupation(s)Actress, singer
Years active1944–2001
Known forPajama Game, It's Always Jan
Political partyRepublican
  • Frank Martinelli Jr.
    (m. 1947; div. 1951)
  • Arthur Stander
    (m. 1956; div. 1957)
  • (m. 1962; died 1976)

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.

Janis Page in 1944

Early life[edit]

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,[1][2] 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.[3] 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.[4]

Film roles[edit]

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.[5]


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.[6]

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.[7]

Return to film[edit]

After six years away, Paige returned to Hollywood in Silk Stockings (1957), which starred Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse,[5] the Doris Day/David Niven comedy Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960),[3] 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 with dog Squeakie in 1960

Musical theater[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,[8] 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."[9]

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.[10] 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",[11] and she enjoyed the role so much, she played it again in 1988 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, this time with Robert Reed.[12]

Television host and roles[edit]

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.[13]

Janis Paige in It's Always Jan

Paige made her live dramatic TV debut June 27, 1957, in "The Latch Key" on Lux Video Theatre.[14] 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.[5]

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 was given a star in the Motion Picture section of the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6624 Hollywood Boulevard on February 9, 1960.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Paige has been married three times. She married Frank Louis Martinelli Jr., a restaurateur, in 1947; they divorced in 1951.[16] She married Arthur Stander, a television writer and creator of It's Always Jan, in 1956 and divorced him the next year.[17][18] Paige married composer and music publisher Ray Gilbert in 1962. They remained married until his death on March 3, 1976.[17] All of Paige's marriages were childless.

Paige is a Republican who supported the campaign of Dwight Eisenhower during the 1952 presidential election.[19]

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.[20]

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.[21]


Paige (pictured left), with Lana Turner and Bob Hope in 1960


Year Title Role Notes
1944 Bathing Beauty Janis Musical film directed by George Sidney.[22]
Hollywood Canteen Studio Guide Musical romantic comedy film directed by Delmer Daves.[23]
1946 Her Kind of Man Georgia King Crime film noir directed by Frederick De Cordova.[24]
Of Human Bondage Sally Athelny
Two Guys from Milwaukee Polly Comedy film directed by David Butler.[28]
The Time, the Place and the Girl Sue Jackson
1947 Love and Learn Jackie Comedy film directed Frederick de Cordova.[30]
Cheyenne Emily Carson Romantic western film directed by Raoul Walsh.[31]
Always Together Polly
1948 Winter Meeting Peggy Markham Drama film directed by Bretaigne Windust & written by Catherine Turney[33] from the novel of the same title by Grace Zaring Stone under the pseudonym Ethel Vance.[34]
Wallflower Joy Linnett Comedy film directed by Frederick de Cordova.[35]
Romance on the High Seas Elvira Kent
One Sunday Afternoon Virginia Brush
  • Musical film directed by Raoul Walsh.[38]
  • Based on James Hagan's play of the same name, which was produced on Broadway in 1933.[39][40]
1949 The Younger Brothers Kate Shepherd Western directed by Edwin L. Marin.[41]
The House Across the Street Kit Williams Comedy film directed by Richard L. Bare.[42]
1950 Fugitive Lady Barbara Clementi
This Side of the Law Nadine Taylor Film noir directed by Richard L. Bare.[45][46]
1951 Mister Universe Lorraine Comedy–romantic sports film directed by Joseph Lerner.[47]
Two Gals and a Guy Della Oliver / Sylvia Latour
1957 Silk Stockings Peggy Dayton Metrocolor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer CinemaScope musical film adaptation[49] of the 1955 stage musical of the same name,[50] which itself was an adaptation of the film Ninotchka.[51]
1960 Please Don't Eat the Daisies Deborah Vaughn Metrocolor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer CinemaScope comedy film directed by Charles Walters[52] and partly inspired by the book of the same name by Jean Kerr.[53]
1961 Bachelor in Paradise Dolores Jynson Metrocolor romantic comedy film directed by Jack Arnold.[54]
1963 Follow the Boys Liz Bradville Comedy film directed by Richard Thorpe.[55]
The Caretakers Marion Drama produced and directed by Hall Bartlett[56] and based on the novel of the same name by Dariel Telfer.[57]
1967 Welcome to Hard Times Adah Western film directed by Burt Kennedy.[58] and based on the novel of the same name by E. L. Doctorow.[59]
1994 Natural Causes Mrs. MacCarthy Action–drama thriller film directed by James Becket.[60]

Documentary/short subjects[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1944 I Won't Play Kim Karol / Sally Short drama film directed by Crane Wilbur.[61]
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.[63]
2021 Journey to Royal: A WWII Rescue Mission Herself Documentary film by Christopher Johnson and Mariana Coku.


Year Title Role Notes
1949–1950 Bonnie Maid's Versatile Varieties Herself
  • Contract role
  • "Bonnie Maid" dressed in plaid kilts for sponsor Bonnie Maid Linoleum.
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.[64]
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.[65][66]
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.[64]
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"
1975 Gibbsville Lonnie
Police Story Irene
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.[69]
Angel on My Shoulder Dolly Blaine Fantasy film made-for-TV-film directed by John Berry.[70]
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.[71][72][73][74][75]
Baby Makes Five Blanche Riddle 5 episodes[76]
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.[77]
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.[78]
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"


Year Title Role Venue Notes
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.[79][80]
1952 Remains to Be Seen Jody Revere National Tour, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland Summer 1952
1954–1955 The Pajama Game Babe Williams[81] St. James Theatre (May 13, 1954 – June 23, 1955)
1959 High Button Shoes Unknown State Fair of Texas in Dallas at Fair Park[84]
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
1968 Mame Mame Dennis[91]
1969 Mame Mame Dennis[91] National Tour Various U.S. Cities
1970 Gypsy Mama Rose Hershey Community Theater (August 17–22, 1970) With Jack Haskell.[94]
1971 Applause Margo Channing Performed in Johannesburg, South Africa.[95]
1973 Born Yesterday Billie Dawn Country Dinner Playhouse (July 17, 1973 – August 19, 1973)[96]
1974 Desk Set Bunny Watson[97] Thunderbird Dinner Theatre[97] Directed by Robert Bruce Holley.[97]
1974 Gypsy Mama Rose National Tour Summer 1974
1975 Annie Get Your Gun Annie Oakley National tour[95]
1975 The Gingerbread Lady Evy Candlelight Dinner Playhouse (August 19, 1975–unknown) Replacement for Carolyn Jones.[98]
1978 Guys and Dolls Adelaide National tour[99]
1979 Ballroom Bea National tour[7]
1984–1985 Alone Together[99] 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.[100]
1987 Happy Birthday, Mr. Abbott! or Night of 100 Years Unknown Palace Theatre (June 22, 1987)[101][102]
1987 The Gingerbread Lady Evy Equity Library Theater Directed by Geoffrey C. Shlaes.[103]
1988 Alone Together[99] Helene Butler Coconut Grove Playhouse, Miami, FL ( Summer1988)
1989 The Gingerbread Lady Evy Coconut Grove Playhouse Directed by Jack Allison.[104]


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External links[edit]