Janet Gaynor (1906-84)

Janet Gaynor
Janet Gaynor
Search Amazon for Janet Gaynor

Janet Gaynor was a leading Hollywood actress during the 1920s and 1930s. She started her career as an extra in silent movies but went on to give some masterful performances in such Silent classics as '7th Heaven' in 1927 and 'Street Angel' the following year. Based on the strength of those two films plus Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans' in 1927, Janet received the very first Academy Award for best actress. This was the first and only time an actress won the Oscar for multiple roles.

Janet had a pleasing speaking voice and she successfully moved into Talkies, achieving a notable success in the original version of 'A Star Is Born' (1937), for which she received a second Best Actress Academy Award nomination.


She was born Laura Augusta Gainor on October 6, 1906, in Germantown, Philadelphia. She was the second of two daughters. Whilst she was still very young she was taught by her father how to sing and dance and as soon as she could she began acting in school plays.

When she was 8 her parents divorced and Janet and her sister moved with their mother first to Chicago and then to San Francisco where Janet attended San Francisco Polytechnic High School. After graduating in 1923 she decided to pursue a career in acting and she moved with her family to Los Angeles.

Movie Actress

Janet worked briefly in a shoe store and later as a theatre usher whilst making the rounds of the studios. She managed to obtain some work as an extra in Hal Roach comedy shorts such as 'All Wet' in 1924 and 'The Haunted Honeymoon' the following year and also a lead in a two-reel western, and she eventually succeeded in being signed to a five year contract by Fox in 1926.

Her first important role was in 'The Johnstown Flood' in 1926 when her performance as Anna Burger caught the attention of studio executives and she soon began to be cast in leading roles including 'The Shamrock Handicap', 'The Blue Eagle', The 'Midnight Kiss' and 'The Return of Peter Grimm', all in1926. Jane very quickly became the biggest star on Fox's books and her star quality was confirmed in 1929 when she won the Best Actress Academy Award Oscar for her work in three films, 7th Heaven' and 'Sunrise' in 1927 and 'Street Angel' the following year. It was the first year of Academy Awards (not yet called Oscars) and it is the first and only time that an actress has won the Oscar for multiple roles.


Janet was one of very few leading ladies who successfully changed over to sound movies at the end of the 1920s. For a number of years she received top billing and the choice of the best roles. She starred in such films as 'Delicious' and 'Merely Mary Ann' in 1931 and 'Adorable' and 'State Fair'in 1933.

She often co-starred with romantic lead Charles Farrell. As a screen couple they became extremely popular and they became known as "America's favorite lovebirds." In 1934 Janet was Hollywood's top box-office attraction.

During the 1930s, Janet continued to be cast in good roles in leading films such as 'State Fair' in 1933 and the comedy 'The Farmer Takes a Wife' in 1935, which catapulted her leading man, Henry Fonda, to Hollywood fame.

Leaving Fox 1935

When Fox Films and 20th Century Pictures were merged in 1935 by Darryl F. Zanuck to form Twentieth Century Fox, Janet made the decision to leave the studio. She played the leading role in the MGM movie 'Small Town Girl' and then joined the recently formed Selznick International Pictures. It proved to be an inspired move and in 1937 she was again nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her role in 'A Star Is Born', co-starring Frederick March.

After two more films for MGM, 'The Young in Heart' and 'Three Loves Has Nancy', she left the film industry on her marriage to Hollywood costume designer Gilbert Adrian in 1939.

Most of Janet's later years were spent with her husband on their Brazilian ranch. She made several appearances on radio and TV and had a role in one more film, 'Bernardine' in 1957.


Jane was married three times, firstly in 1929 to lawyer Jesse Lydell Peck. The marriage ended in 1933.

In 1939 she married Hollywood costume designer Adrian with whom she had a son in 1940. The marriage ended when Adrian died from a stroke in 1959.

Janet then married in 1964 stage producer and old friend, Paul Gregory, the marriage ending with her death.

Janet Gaynor died on September 14, 1984 as a result of injuries sustained in a serious car accident in San Francisco.

Janet Gaynor Academy Awards

One Win:
Best Actress ... 7th Heaven' and 'Sunrise'(1927) and 'Street Angel(1928)
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Actress ... A Star is Born (1933).

Janet Gaynor Filmography

Cupid's Rustler (uncredited)
Young Ideas (uncredited)
All Wet (Short)
The Haunted Honeymoon (Short) (uncredited
Dangerous Innocence (uncredited)
The Burning Trail (uncredited)
The Teaser (uncredited)
The Plastic Age(uncredited)
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (uncredited)
The Crook Buster (Short) (uncredited)
Flaming Flappers (Short)(uncredited)
A Punch in the Nose (Short) (uncredited)
The Johnstown Flood
Oh! What a Nurse! (uncredited)
The Gunless Bad Man (Short)
Ridin' for Love (Short)
Skinner's Dress Suit
Away Foster (Short) (uncredited)
The Shamrock Handicap
The Galloping Cowboy
The Fire Barrier (Short)
The Man in the Saddle
Don't Shoot (Short)
The Midnight Kiss
Pep of the Lazy J (Short)(uncredited)
The Blue Eagle
The Return of Peter Grimm
Martin of the Mounted (Short) (uncredited)
Lazy Lightning (uncredited)
The Stolen Ranch
45 Minutes from Hollywood (Short)(uncredited)
7th Heaven
The Horse Trader (Short) (uncredited)
With Love and Hisses (Short)
Two Girls Wanted
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Street Angel
4 Devils
Lucky Star
Happy Days
Sunnyside Up