Although a movie buff, I’m not all that familiar with the work of Jane Wyman. I have only seen a handful of her films — and a good number of episodes of Falconcrest, the 1980s TV drama in which she starred and for which she won a Golden Globe Award.
I’ve long wanted to see Johnny Belinda, the 1948 film for which she won an Oscar. (Guess I’ll just Netflix it). I was most impressed with her performance in All That Heaven Allows, the 1955 Douglas Sirk flick where she plays an upper-class widow who falls for a much younger man. And in the 1945 film The Lost Weekend.
All that said, I was sad today when I learned that this talented actress had died today at 93. I will most remember the class she showed, the type of class once commonplace in Hollywood and Washington, when asked about her third husband, Ronald Wilson Reagan, the nation’s 40th president.
As AP Reporter Bob Thomas put it in his obituary, when her ex-husband “became governor of California and then president of the United States, Wyman kept a decorous silence” about him (Emphasis added). As she put it, “it’s bad taste to talk about ex-husbands and ex-wives.”
The Gipper returned the favor, writing very little about their marriage in his biography, An American Life. All he said was that it “produced two wonderful children, Maureen and Michael, but it didn’t work out, and in 1948 we were divorced.”
Perhaps the Gipper learned to be publicly silent about such private matters from the “decorous silence” his first wife maintained about their marriage. And perhaps while understanding that while a union between them could not “work out,” he continued to respect her talents as an actress and her quality as a human being.
For it seems that she was indeed a great actress and an even better person. Hollywood could learn from her example.