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Last Updated: Monday, 10 September 2007, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Obituary: Jane Wyman
Jane Wyman in her heyday
Jane Wyman: Queen of the sub-plots
Jane Wyman, who has died at the age of 90, was one of Hollywood's leading actresses in the 1940s and 1950s and the first wife of Ronald Reagan.

She became a household name as Ray Milland's long-suffering girlfriend in Billy Wilder's 1945 feature The Lost Weekend.

Among her most famous films was the 1948 film Johnny Belinda where her performance as a deaf mute won her an Oscar.

Studies before studios

Wyman used several names. She was born of a single mother on 5 January 1917, in Missouri. She was immediately adopted by her neighbours, the Faulks family, and christened Sarah Jane. The family moved to Southern California when Mrs Faulks, an actress, was widowed in 1928.

With director, Douglas Sirk
With director, Douglas Sirk
But attempts by both to break into movies failed, and mother and daughter returned home to Missouri where Sarah Jane went to school and then on to university.

She worked as a manicurist and telephonist before breaking into show business as a radio singer, using the name Jane Durrell.

It was in 1936 that she signed a long-term contract to Warner Brothers, appearing in both A and B pictures under the name Jane Wyman.

Marriage to Ronald Reagan

While her career was in its infancy she met Ronald Reagan. They starred opposite each other in the 1938 film Brother Rat and its sequel Brother Rat and a Baby.

They married in 1940 and had two children, a daughter Maureen and an adopted son, Michael, who went on to become a nationally-syndicated radio talk show host.

Though Ronald Reagan went on to become President, Wyman outshone him as an actor and their marriage lasted some eight years. Both married again.

Jane Wyman on TV
Jane Wyman later became a TV star
Jane Wyman played various supporting roles, often as a brassy blonde. Then she changed her hair colour, and stopped being what she herself termed "queen of the sub-plots".

Though still not a superstar, she worked her way into films with some of Hollywood's greatest talents such as Bing Crosby, with whom she sang in the musicals Just For You and, most notably, Here Comes the Groom.

Her later films showed that she could handle melodrama and light comedy equally well. She gained Oscar nominations for her performances in the 1951 film The Blue Veil, and the 1954 Magnificent Obsession.

Wyman made more than 70 films before becoming a television star. She also co-produced the series Fireside Theatre, also known as Jane Wyman Presents and Jane Wyman Theatre, which ran from 1956 to 1958.

She won a Golden Globe for her role as Angela Channing in Falcon Crest, a popular television drama of the 1980s.

She was initially unsure about taking on the power-hungry businesswoman after being well-known for a string of self-sacrificing characters, saying: "She goes straight through everything like a Mack Truck".

But the show, a contemporary of primetime soap hits Dallas and Dynasty, ran for nine seasons.

Oscar-winning actress Wyman dies
10 Sep 07 |  Entertainment

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