Filled Under: Janis Paige
Janis Paige, born Donna Mae Tjaden on September 16, 1922, in Tacoma, Washington, began singing in public at age five in local amateur shows. She moved to Los Angeles after graduating from high school and was hired as a singer at the Hollywood Canteen during World War II. A Warner Brothers agent saw her potential and signed her to a contract. One of her first film roles was co-starring in the Warner Brothers film, “Hollywood Canteen” (1944), where she plays a Warner Brothers messenger girl working at the canteen. She went on to co-star in low budget musicals, often paired with Dennis Morgan or Jack Carson. She later co-starred in adventures and dramas, in which she felt out of place. Following her role in “Two Gals and a Guy” (1951), she decided to leave Hollywood. She appeared on Broadway and was a huge hit in a 1951 comedy-mystery play, “Remains to Be Seen”, co-starring Jackie Cooper. Paige also toured successfully as a cabaret singer. Stardom came in 1954 with her role as ‘Babe’ in the Broadway musical “The Pajama Game”. After a six years, Paige returned to Hollywood to appear in “Silk Stockings” (1957) with starred Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, the Doris Day comedy “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” in 1960, and in “Bachelor in Paradise” (1961) with Bob Hope. She also had a rare dramatic role as ‘Marion’, an institutionalized prostitute, in “The Caretakers” in 1963. Paige returned to Broadway in 1963 in the short-lived “Here’s Love”, and as one of a succession of actresses playing the title role in the musical “Mame”. Paige also appeared in touring productions of musicals such as “Annie Get Your Gun”, “Applause”, “Ballroom”, “Gypsy: A Musical Fable”, and “Guys and Dolls”.
Janis Paige starred in her own CBS situation comedy, “It’s Always Jan”, co-starring Merry Anders during the 1955-1956 television season. The 26-week program was set in New York City, centering around Paige as Jan Stewart, a widowed mother, and her two female roommates played by Anders and Patricia Bright. She also appeared as troubadour ‘Hallie Martin’ in the 1964 “Fugitive” episode “Ballad For a Ghost”. Paige had a recurring role as “Auntie V”, Tom Bradford’s erstwhile sister, in “Eight Is Enough”.
Paige also appeared on “The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom”, “Trapper John, M.D.”, “All in the Family”, “Columbo ” and “Caroline in the City”. During the 1980s and 1990s she had roles on soap operas such as “General Hospital”, “Capitol”, and “Santa Barbara”. In 1982 she appeared on “St. Elsewhere” as a female flasher who stalked the hallways of the hospital to ‘cheer up” the male patients’. Although her character said she was “celebrating her 50th birthday,” Ms. Paige was actually 60 at the time of filming.
Janis Paige has been married three times. The first time to Frank Louis Martinelli Jr, restaurateur. They were married in 1947 and divorced in 1950. In 1956 she married Arthur Stander, a television writer and creator of “It’s Always Jan”. They divorced 1957. Her third marriage was in 1962 to Ray Gilbert, a composer and music publisher. They remained married until his death in 1976. Paige has no children.