Janis Paige

Active - 1944 - 2020  |   Born - Sep 16, 1922   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Musical, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American singer/actress Janis Paige was singing in public from age 5 in local amateur shows. Journeying from her native Washington to Los Angeles after high school, Paige secured a job as vocalist at the Hollywood Canteen, a studio-sponsored gathering spot for servicemen. It was only logical, then, that her first feature film upon being signed by Warner Bros. would be Hollywood Canteen (1944). A few musicals aside, Paige didn't get to sing much in her subsequent films, appearing mostly as ingenues and second leads. She left for Broadway in 1950, where she scored a hit in the popular comedy-mystery Remains to Be Seen, in which she costarred with then-husband Jackie Cooper. A few seasons later, Paige enjoyed her biggest hit in the Tony-Winning musical comedy The Pajama Game. Back in Hollywood, Paige watched as her stage roles went to bigger actresses (the star of the filmization of Pajama Game was her old rival at Warners, Doris Day), but she managed to secure one memorable movie role as an Esther Williams-like aquatic movie star in 1957's Silk Stockings. Janis was permitted one strong number, "Stereophonic Sound," with costar Fred Astaire, and copped most of the film's laughs as she slapped herself in the head to get the water out of her ears during interviews. The actress was a fixture of television from the early '50s onward, starring in the sitcom It's Always Jan and featured in recurring roles on such series as Eight is Enough, Trapper John MD, and Lanigan's Rabbi. Perhaps her most conspicuous prime-time TV role was as the waitress who conducted a brief affair with Archie Bunker on All in the Family. Daytime TV fans have been treated to Paige's talents on such serials as General Hospital, Capitol, and Santa Barbara, while devotees of summer stock theatre will remember the actress as star of straw-hat productions of Gypsy and Pajama Game in the '60s. As busy off-camera as on, Janis Paige was the founder of the Sunset Plaza Civic Association; and after the death of her composer husband Ray Gilbert (who penned "Zip-i-dee-Doo-Dah"), Paige was placed in charge of Gilbert's Ipanema Music Company.

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