Janet Gaynor (born Laura Augusta Gainor; October 6, 1906 September 14, 1984) was a highly successful American actress of the silent film and early talkie eras.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in San Francisco, Gaynor started acting when she was sixteen years old and was known for winning the first-ever Best Actress Academy Award. Due to the rules that year, she won for three different films she had made in the previous two years: 7th Heaven, Street Angel, and Sunrise. All three went on to be regarded as classics of the silent era. (Also notable is that she was only twenty-two when she won, making her the youngest Best Actress winner until Marlee Matlin won for Children of a Lesser God a whopping fifty-eight years later.) She was also nominated for the original version of A Star Is Born (1937), starting the good luck charm that has allowed three out of four actresses who played the role to be nominated for an Oscar for it.
She retired from acting in 1939 after marrying costume designer Adrian, though she briefly returned to it in the 1950s. Later in her life, she became a successful oil painter. She died in 1984, from injuries she suffered in a car accident two years earlier.
Janet Gaynor films listed on this wiki include:
- 7th Heaven (1927)
- Sunrise (1927)
- Street Angel (1928)
- Lucky Star (1929)
- Sunny Side Up (1929)
- Daddy-Long-Legs (1931)
- State Fair (1933)
- The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935)
- A Star Is Born (1937)
This actress provides examples of:
- Ambiguously Bi / Ambiguously Gay: Was rumored to be one or the other and was said to have gotten married to hide this fact.
- The Beard: What people said she was for her second husband Adrian, an openly gay fashion designer, though they did have a child and remained content in marriage until his death.
- Dyeing for Your Art: Wore a heavy blonde wig with a stiff, unmoving hairstyle in Sunrise to completely take away any sexual appeal the Wife might have had. People were apparently outraged at the time, having become used to seeing Gaynor with her trademark dark brown hair.
- The Ingenue: One of her staple roles. She later started getting more variety in the talkie era when she started to chafe at being typecasted so much.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: In 7th Heaven and attempted in Street Angel
- One Head Taller: Possibly the Trope Codifier for film. Gaynor was 5'0", so any leading man that stood next to her automatically seemed much taller. Sometimes this made for dramatic moments onscreen, like when a murderous Charles Farrell looms over her in Sunrise.
- Romance on the Set: Charles Farrell and her dated for three years as they made various pictures together, though they never got married.
- Stage Name: Her birth name was Laura Augusta Gainor.
- Those Two Actors: With Charles Farrell. They made twelve pictures together.