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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Jane Wyman Has Passed at 90

Esteemed actress, Jane Wyman, a 1948 Academy Award winner for Best Actress has passed away at the age of 90. The one time wife of future president Ronald Reagan received her Oscar for her performance as a deaf-mute rape victim in Johnny Belinda. She was also known for her role as matriarch, Angela Channing on TV's night time drama, Falcon Crest.

Wyman was a well known name in entertainment for more than fifty years. First as a singer in a swing band, then as an actress in movies during the height of the "Hollywood Golden Age" and studio era, followed by her work in network television. Although she is closely identified by her strong roles and distinctive hair style, she started out as a ditsy, bleach blonde, character actress playing third or forth banana who was a best friend to the female lead or scatter brained girlfriend to the second male lead. It wasn't until she started insisting on greater opportunities that she was able to present herself and her natural tresses in the style she preferred. She once commented on her simple coiffed hair saying, "I've worn the Dutch-bob since I was three years old. It certainly helped my career from an identity standpoint". In fact, during her busiest years on the screen (silver or otherwise) no one else was more identified by their hair than she.

Regarding her taking on the challenging lead role in Johnny Belinda Wyman once said, "It was my biggest chance yet, and I was determined to make the most of it. I was determined to act from the inside out, to disregard all surface effects, and delve into the character of a sturdy woman who endured hardship stoically and who concealed a deeply emotional nature under a frosty, pragmatic exterior. I meditated on the role at great length; I wanted to get to the bottom of this woman's psyche. And in doing so I dredged up all the early hardships and disappointments in my own life, looking constantly for some points of reference that would link our respective inner schemes". I guess it worked, because even though Irene Dunne was the favorite to win for her role in I Remember Mama, it was Wyman who went home with gold that night.

I never had the opportunity to work with Ms. Wyman, let alone meet her, but I wish I had. You just don't see actresses like her any more. The kind of actresses that take on any job they're given and make the best of it. An actress who doesn't rest on the laurels or in the comfort of a "type", but one who pushes for tougher roles, the ones that will challenge them. The type of actress who is still viable as a lead well into her 60s and beyond. Jane Wyman will be missed.

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