Janis Paige


Actor
Janis Paige

About

Also Known As
Donna Mae Tjaden
Birth Place
Tacoma, Washington, USA
Born
September 16, 1922

Biography

An enthusiastic singer from childhood, Janis Paige was discovered by a talent scout while performing at the Hollywood Canteen, which quickly led to a career in movies. As a contract player for Warner Brothers, she graced such musicals as, appropriately enough, "Hollywood Canteen" (1944), "The Time, the Place and the Girl" (1946) and "Romance on the High Seas" (1948). Paige's spirited wor...

Photos & Videos

Romance on the High Seas - Lobby Cards
Please Don't Eat the Daisies - Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Family & Companions

Ray Gilbert
Husband
Composer.

Biography

An enthusiastic singer from childhood, Janis Paige was discovered by a talent scout while performing at the Hollywood Canteen, which quickly led to a career in movies. As a contract player for Warner Brothers, she graced such musicals as, appropriately enough, "Hollywood Canteen" (1944), "The Time, the Place and the Girl" (1946) and "Romance on the High Seas" (1948). Paige's spirited work during this period registered positively with the public, even if most of her pictures were formula exercises that rarely exceeded their expectations. After a brief period as a freelancer at the beginning of the 1950s, Paige found her true fame as a stage actress, impressing Broadway patrons in "Remains to be Seen" (1951-52) and the comic blockbuster "The Pajama Game" (1954-56), where she gave one of her trademark performances as a sexy union leader who falls in love with a factory supervisor. While the stage took on a special importance for her, Paige periodically reappeared on the silver screen, with "Silk Stockings" (1957) showcasing her appeal at its peak. She also briefly toplined her own sitcom and was a regular presence on TV programs of several genres. While not considered a top flight star in most circles, Paige was one of the true iron ladies of show business, boasting a career more than seven decades in duration, and was still delighting audiences on stage in her nineties.

A native of Tacoma, WA, Janis Paige was born Donna Mae Tjaden on Sept. 16, 1922. Gifted with an aptitude for singing, she was performing for audiences by age five and appeared with the Tacoma Opera Company in her teens. Upon finishing high school, Paige's mother moved her daughter to Los Angeles in the hope of establishing an entertainment career for the girl. While showcasing her vocal abilities at the fabled Hollywood Canteen, Paige's talent and beauty impressed a scout and she made her film debut in the Esther Williams vehicle "Bathing Beauty" (1944). A contract with Warner Brothers followed, along with roles in the studio's all-star extravaganza "Hollywood Canteen" (1944), as well as "Her Kind of Man" (1945) and "Of Human Bondage" (1946). Paige was well-utilized in Warner musicals like "The Time, the Place and the Girl" (1946), "Love and Learn" (1947), and "Romance on the High Seas" (1948), and while no match for their glossy counterparts from MGM, they possessed a laid-back appeal that went down well with audiences of the time. While she was a consistently engaging presence and able performer, Paige remained relegated to the studio's second tier productions and after the completion of "The House Across the Street" (1949), her relationship with Warners came to an end.

Entering the 1950s as a freelancer, Paige journeyed to Italy to star in the crime drama "Fugitive Lady" (1950), while also gracing the routine likes of "This Side of the Law" (1950) and "Two Gals and a Guy" (1951). By that point, Paige's movie career was largely going nowhere, but she soon shifted gears and concentrated on live stage work, a move that not only brightened her prospects, but also generated her most lasting fame. Paige made a splashy Broadway debut in the comedy "Remains to be Seen" (1951-52) and really hit her stride as union spitfire Babe Williams in the first year's run of the hugely successful musical farce "The Pajama Game" (1954-56). In 1954, she also began what turned out to be a regular guesting gig on "The Bob Hope Show" (NBC, 1952-1975), appearing in a number of the comedian's specials during his long association with NBC. Capitalizing on her newfound notoriety, Paige accepted an offer to headline her own sitcom, "It's Always Jan" (CBS, 1955-56), but the program was not renewed for a second season. She returned to movies with a memorable part in the Fred Astaire/Cyd Charisse outing "Silk Stockings" (1957), a splendidly colorful musical variation on "Ninotchka," where she nearly stole the show with her "Satin and Silk" number. The same year's film version of "The Pajama Game" gave her role to Doris Day, but no bad blood existed between the two actresses and Paige went on to co-star in Day's comedy hit "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" (1960).

Paige's achievements were also honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and she became a fixture in Bob Hope's annual globetrotting USO variety shows. She graced the London stage in a local production of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" (1961) and reunited with Hope in the suburban farce "Bachelor in Paradise" (1961). The following year, she wed her third husband, songwriter Ray Gilbert, best known for the Oscar winning favorite "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" from "Song of the South" (1946), and enjoyed an offbeat dramatic performance as a troubled prostitute in "The Caretakers" (1963). Frequent guest star outings on various television programs kept Paige's small screen profile active during this period and she returned to the Great White Way in "Here's Love" (1963-64), a musical take on "Miracle on 34th Street." The low-grade Western "Welcome to Hard Times" (1967) offered her little of interest, but the following year presented a new engagement on Broadway when Paige took over from Angela Lansbury as the star of the musical-comedy sensation "Mame" (1966-1970). She also continued her live performing in smaller scale efforts, including "The Gingerbread Lady."

After a hiatus from film and television work during the late 1960s and early '70s, Paige was regularly busy, guesting on both sitcoms and dramas, and was a regular on the short-lived crime show "Lanigan's Rabbi" (NBC, 1976-77). In 1976, Gilbert died, leaving Paige with control of the Ipanema Music Corporation, which she continued to supervise. However, Paige also kept her SAG card active via a pair of quickly cancelled sitcoms, "Gun Shy" (CBS, 1983) and "Baby Makes Five" (ABC, 1983), as well as a recurring part on the last season of "Trapper John, M.D." (CBS, 1979-1985). She also made her Broadway bow alongside Kevin McCarthy in "Alone Together" (1984-85) and had a run on the soap opera "Santa Barbara" (NBC, 1984-1993). After a 27-year gap, Paige made a one-shot return to movies with a supporting role in the little seen drama "Natural Causes" (1994). After almost six decades, Paige retired from film and television assignments in 2001. Thanks to an unfortunate health scare, Paige was almost not heard again, period. She enlisted professional help to deal with a break in her voice, but the treatment ended up leaving Paige speechless. With the aid of experts at Vanderbilt University and a new instructor, her abilities returned after several years of work and she took to the stage once again. Her one-woman show featured Paige singing various classic songs and discussing memorable times from her life. Paige was praised for the charm and vitality on display throughout the production, which she first performed in 2010 and continued doing right through her eighties and nineties.

By John Charles

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Natural Causes (1994)
No Man's Land (1984)
Maggie Hodiak
The Other Woman (1983)
Mrs Barnes
Angel on My Shoulder (1980)
Dolly Blaine
Valentine Magic on Love Island (1980)
Madge
Lanigan's Rabbi (1976)
Kate Lanigan
The Turning Point of Jim Malloy (1975)
Lonnie
The Return of Joe Forrester (1975)
Welcome to Hard Times (1967)
Adah
Follow the Boys (1963)
Liz Bradville
The Caretakers (1963)
Marion
Bachelor in Paradise (1961)
Dolores Jynson
Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960)
Deborah Vaughn
Silk Stockings (1957)
Peggy Dayton
Fugitive Lady (1951)
Barbara Clementi
Mister Universe (1951)
Lorraine
Two Gals and a Guy (1951)
Della Oliver/Sylvia Latour
This Side of the Law (1950)
Nadine Taylor
One Sunday Afternoon (1949)
Virginia Brush
The Younger Brothers (1949)
Kate Shepherd
The House Across the Street (1949)
Kit Williams
Always Together (1948)
Character in movie
Winter Meeting (1948)
Peggy Markham
Romance on the High Seas (1948)
Elvira Kent
Wallflower (1948)
Joy [Linnett]
Cheyenne (1947)
Emily Carson
Love and Learn (1947)
Jackie
Of Human Bondage (1946)
Sally Athelny
Her Kind of Man (1946)
Georgia King
The Time, the Place and the Girl (1946)
Sue Jackson
Two Guys from Milwaukee (1946)
Polly
Bathing Beauty (1944)
Janis
Hollywood Canteen (1944)
Studio guide

Cast (Special)

Lana Turner: Hollywood's Screen Siren (1999)
You're the Top: The Cole Porter Story (1990)
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's Women I Love - Beautiful but Funny (1982)
Maisie (1960)
Maisie Ravier

Cast (Short)

So You Want to Be in Pictures (1947)
Herself
I Won't Play (1944)

Life Events

Photo Collections

Romance on the High Seas - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Romance on the High Seas (1948), starring Doris Day. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Please Don't Eat the Daisies - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960), starring Doris Day and David Niven.

Videos

Movie Clip

Follow The Boys (1963) - A Cheap Rolls-Royce Shooting pretty clearly on the waterfront in Cannes, Americans Liz and Bonnie (Janis Paige, Connie Francis) have just met, miffed because the ship carrying their men has been diverted to Italy, joined by French Michele (Dany Robin) and another yank Toni (Paula Prentiss), and improvising, early in Follow The Boys, 1963.
Follow The Boys (1963) - It's An Italian Baby Stranded in an Italian village with car trouble (Eric Pohlmann their farmer host), aiming to meet the U.S. Navy ship carrying their beaus, French Michele (Dany Robin) and Americans Liz, Toni and Bonnie (Janis Paige, Paula Prentiss and Connie Francis, born Concetta Rosemarie Franconero, in Newark, NJ), pull together, in MGM’s Follow The Boys, 1963.
Silk Stockings (1957) - Stereophonic Sound American producer Steve (Fred Astaire) and Hollywood aqua-musical star Peggy (Janis Paige) aim to convince the Paris press that her lack of acting skill is no impediment to a modern movie hit, with a Cole Porter original, in MGM’s re-make of Ninotchka, Silk Stockings, 1957.
Hollywood Canteen (1944) - Dead Ringer For Joan Crawford As fictional Sgt. Nolan, Dane Clark is transfixed by young Janis Paige (who was a popular regular attraction at the real club) who won't give up her name, then having better luck with Joan Crawford, in the Warner Bros' story about the Hollywood Canteen, 1944.
Bachelor In Paradise (1961) - Really Dry Gibson Janis Paige is Dolores, estranged wife of the developer and by far the most forward of the women Niles (Bob Hope, famous playboy writer working under cover in a typical American planned community) will meet, in Bachelor In Paradise, 1961, co-starring Lana Turner.
Two Guys From Milwaukee (1946) - It's The Royal Seal Dennis Morgan is Prince Henry, gone incognito in New York, having his mustache removed at a barber shop, as his pal, Cabbie Buzz (Jack Carson) pawns his royal cigarette case, and we meet Buzz’s gal, manicurist Connie (Joan Leslie) and her pal Polly (Janis Paige), in Two Guys From Milwaukee, 1946.
Two Guys From Milwaukee (1946) - Aren't You Lauren Bacall? Manicurist Connie (Joan Leslie) drags boyfriend Buzz (Jack Carson) along to see off now former-prince Henry (Dennis Morgan), catching the plane for Milwaukee, and she tricks them both, and Warner Bros. executes the only known Bogart-Bacall cameo, the finalè in Two Guys From Milwaukee, 1946.
Winter Meeting (1948) - Hundreds Of Intimate Friends Poet Susan (Bette Davis) is acting as the date for socialite friend Stacy (John Hoyt) who’s set up his sexy secretary Peggy (Janis Paige) with bored WWII naval hero Slick, James (Jim) Davis (later TV’s Jock Ewing), in his first scene in his widely-panned movie debut, Winter Meeting, 1948.
Please Don't Eat The Daisies (1960) - Us Broads Own The World On location at Sardi’s, Broadway, David Niven as professor turned-critic Mackay receives angry and publicity-minded performer Deborah (Janis Paige), then his wife Kate (Doris Day) who advises him to take his medicine, early in Please Don’t Eat The Daisies, 1960, from the Jean Kerr book.
Time, The Place And The Girl, The (1946) - I Happened To Walk Down First Street The tune is by Arthur Schwartz and Leo Robin, Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson are New York night club producers, Angela Greene and Janis Paige their partners, trying to keep their show from being shut down by snooty neighbors, in Warner Bros.' The Time, The Place And The Girl, 1946.
Time, The Place And The Girl, The (1946) - Company Under The Table Martha Vickers is the young opera singer being charmed by scheming producer Dennis Morgan, Cuddles Sakall (using his own nickname) is her impresario granddad being all-but assaulted by Janis Paige, the girlfriend of producing partner Jack Carson, in The Time, The Place And The Girl, 1946.
Romance On The High Seas - She's Just A Singer Mrs. Kent (Janis Paige) at the travel agency locking down her vacation when Georgia (Doris Day, her first scene) arrives, coaxing agent (William Bakewell) into helping pretend she can afford a trip, early in Romance On The High Seas, 1948.

Trailer

One Sunday Afternoon (1948) -- (Original Trailer) A dentist in turn-of-the-century New York thinks he may have married the wrong girl in Raoul Walsh's musical version of the stage hit One Sunday Afternoon (1948).
Hollywood Canteen -- (Original Trailer) Half of Hollywood pitches in to help a serviceman and a starlet find love at the Hollywood Canteen (1944)
Follow the Boys (1963) - (Original Trailer) If Connie Francis and Paula Prentiss want to return to Where The Boys Are, they'll have to Follow The Boys (1963) in this similar follow-up.
Of Human Bondage (1946) - (Original Trailer) Paul Henreid is the medical student in love with Eleanor Parker's Cockney waitress in the second version of Of Human Bondage (1946).
Romance on the High Seas -- (Original Trailer) Singer Doris Day gets mixed up in a series of romantic problems during a Caribbean cruise in Romance on the High Seas (1948) featuring "It's Magic" and other songs by Jule Styne & Sammy Cahn.
Please Don't Eat The Daisies - (Original Trailer) Jean Kerr's book Please Don't Eat The Daisies (1960) was made into this hit film starring Doris Day and David Niven.
Silk Stockings - (Original Trailer) A straitlaced Soviet agent is seduced by the romantic allure of Paris in Silk Stockings (1957), starring Fred Astaire & Cyd Charisse.
Bachelor in Paradise - (Original Trailer) A writer moves into a housing development to study married couples in Bachelor in Paradise (1961) with Bob Hope & Lana Turner.
Her Kind Of Man - (Original Trailer) A reporter comes between a gangster and his mistress during the Roaring Twenties in Her Kind Of Man (1946) starring Dane Clark and Zachary Scott.
Winter Meeting - (Original Trailer) A repressed poetess (Bette Davis) and an embittered war hero help each other cope with their problems in Winter Meeting (1948).
Wallflower - (Original Trailer) A young woman gets in trouble in when she tries out her sister's flirtatious ways in Wallflower (1948).
Younger Brothers, The - (Original Trailer) The Younger Brothers (1949) try to go straight, but their lawless past comes back in the form of a vengeful detective.

Companions

Ray Gilbert
Husband
Composer.

Bibliography