Mostly remembered as an Oscar-winning actress (and former wife of Ronald Reagan) Jane Wyman was also a pretty good singer. Although she was never a major recording star, she was talented enough to work as a songbird — a big band singer — early in her career, and she found a lot of musical spots in her movies through the years.
Born as Sarah Jane Mayfield (later Fulks) in St. Joseph, Missouri, she first arrived in Hollywood as a teenager in the early 1930s, looking to break into movies. Things didn’t go too well at first but she was able to find work as a band singer, and later tried movies again. Over the next few years she didn’t exactly set fire to Hollywood, mostly filling small parts that were often uncredited, but by late in the decade she was beginning to find featured roles.
Jane Wyman’s 1940 marriage to Ronald Reagan occurred during a period that saw her rising success as an actress, with a number of co-starring parts in successful movies. During the 1940s and 1950s she was nominated for an Oscar four times, winning for 1949’s Johnny Belinda, and also found herself appearing in several well-regarded movies that gave her the chance to sing. In fact, her duet with Bing Crosby of the Oscar-winning “In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening” (from 1951’s Here Comes The Groom) remains one of her most memorable performances.
Although Jane continued to sing when and where she could, it didn’t really play much of a part in her later career, which included more movies and eventually a lot of appearances on TV. In addition to guest starring in dramas, she often appeared on variety or talk shows and even hosted her own show for a while. And of course, many will remember her for her long stint on Falcon Crest, which ended in 1990. She was pretty much retired in the years that followed, and was in her nineties (sources vary) when she died in 2007.
Bing Crosby & Jane Wyman – “In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening”
Gonna be a quick one today, so I guess that’s why I’m calling it a ‘half-day off’. I had minor surgery on one of my sasquatch-size feet (15EEE) and it’s pretty tough to work on the computer while keeping my foot elevated. (Although I am using my tablet for a few simpler things..)
Anyhow, I won’t bore you with any more of the details, but I thought I would at least report in and post an appropriate song.
Chet Atkins – “Big Foot”
Even those of us who were not around in the 1930s still remember seeing (or at least reading about) old movies featuring the famous singing duo of Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. They were super-stars in their era, teaming up in countless musical films and operettas that sold a lot of tickets. In fact, they were so valuable that MGM had replacements lined up for them, so the story goes. But even though Douglas McPhail and Betty Jaynes had a measure of success as themselves, they never got a chance to replace the big-name stars.
McPhail was a Los Angeles native whose strong baritone voice helped him gain notice while he was still in his teens, and he began finding small spots in mid-1930s musicals. Before long he was under contract to MGM and showing up in featured parts, but with the understanding that he was the back-up for Nelson Eddy. Eventually he teamed up professionally — and romantically — with Betty Jaynes (a teenager from Tennessee whose real name was Betty Jayne Schultz).
Of course, the newly-married couple never actually fulfilled their alternate destiny, but they did have several good years of performing, showing up either separately or together in several Hollywood musicals. (Below is a video excerpt from one of them, 1939’s Babes In Arms, which starred Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. McPhail is the lead singer, but Betty is right there with the others. The same movie was the source of one of their best duets — “Where Or When” — which also features a late refrain by Judy Garland.)
Unfortunately things began to go downhill, both career-wise and personally. The couple divorced in 1941 and McPhail grew very depressed from his lack of roles, with the added burden of his heavy drinking. After an earlier suicide attempt failed, he poisoned himself and died in 1944, only thirty years old. Betty pretty much disappeared into private life, and would be in her nineties now.
Douglas McPhail & Betty Jaynes (w/ Judy Garland) – “Where Or When”