Altoona, Pennsylvania, USA
Place of Death
Santa Monica, California, USA
Cause of Death
Complications Of Pneumonia
Claim to Fame
My Sister Eileen
Profile Bio Text
When it came to bright and polished, they didn`t get much spiffier than singer/actress Janet Blair -- perhaps to her detriment in the long haul. At Columbia, she was usually overlooked for the roles that might have tested her dramatic mettle. Nevertheless, she pleased audiences as a pert and perky co-star to a number of bigger stars ranging from George Raft and Cary Grant to Red Skelton and the Dorsey Brothers.
Of Irish descent, she was born Martha Janet Lafferty in Altoona, Pennsylvania, in 1921. Raised there in the public school system, she sang in the church choir during her youth and adolescence. The inspiration and talent was evident enough for her to pursue singing as a career by the time she graduated. At age 18 she was a lead vocalist with Hal Kemp`s band at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles. While with Kemp`s outfit Janet met and subsequently married the band`s pianist Lou Busch, a respected musician, songwriter and later ragtime recording artist.
A Columbia Pictures talent scout caught her behind the microphone and spotted fine potential in the pretty-as-a-picture songstress. The death of Kemp in a car accident in December of 1940 and the band`s eventual break-up signaled a life-changing course of events. She signed up with Columbia signed for up to $100 a week and moved to Los Angeles while her husband found work as a studio musician. Janet made an immediate impression in her debut film as the feisty kid sister of Joan Blondell and Binnie Barnes in Three Girls About Town (1941) and also dallied about in the movies Two Yanks in Trinidad (1942) and Blondie Goes to College (1942) until her big break in the movies arrived.
Star Rosalind Russell made a pitch for Janet to play her co-lead in My Sister Eileen (1942) as her naive, starry-eyed younger sister (Eileen) who carried aspirations of being a big-time actress. The film became an instant hit and Janet abruptly moved up into the "love interest" ranks. Usually appearing in a frothy musical or light comedy, she was seeded second, however, to another redhead, Rita Hayworth, when it came to Columbia dispensing out musical leads. Janet nevertheless continued promisingly paired up with George Raft in the mob-oriented tunefest Broadway (1942); alongside Don Ameche in the musical Something to Shout About (1943), and opposite Cary Grant in the comedy-fantasy Once Upon a Time (1944), one of his lesser known films. She played second lead to Ms. Hayworth in Tonight and Every Night (1945) and was right in her element when asked to co-star with bandleaders Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey in their biopic The Fabulous Dorseys (1947). A rare dramatic role came her way in the Glenn Ford starrer Gallant Journey (1946), but again she was relegated to playing the stereotyped altruistic wife. In retrospect, the importance of her roles, although performed quite capably, were more supportive and decorative in nature, and lacked real bite. By the time the derring-do "B" swashbuckler The Black Arrow (1948) rolled out, Columbia had lost interest in their fair maiden and Janet had lost interest in Hollywood.
A new decade brought about a new career direction. Putting together a successful nightclub act, she was spotted by composer Richard Rodgers, and made a sparkling name for herself within a short time. Rodgers & Hammerstein`s "South Pacific" starring Mary Martin was the hit of the Broadway season and Janet dutifully took on the lead role of Ensign Nellie Forbush when the show went on tour in 1950. She gave a yeoman performance - over 1,200 in all -- within a three-year period. Following this success she made her Broadway debut in the musical "A Girl Can Tell" in 1953. She went on for decades appearing in such tuneful vehicles as "Anything Goes," "Bells Are Ringing," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Mame" and "Follies".
Her career, however, took second place after marrying second husband, producer/director Nick Mayo in 1953, and raising their two children Amanda and Andrew. The couple met when he stage managed "South Pacific" and went on to co-own and operate Valley Music Theatre in Woodland Hills, California during the mid-1960s. There she played Maria in "The Sound of Music" and "Peter Pan" opposite Vincent Price`s Dr. Hook, among others. Her second marriage lasted until the late 60s.
TV`s "Golden Age" proved to be a viable medium for her. A promising series role came to her in 1956 when she replaced Emmy-winning Nanette Fabray as Sid Caesar`s femme co-star on "Caesar`s Hour" (1954) but she left the sketch-based comedy show after only one season because she felt stifled and underused. She also returned to films on occasion appearing opposite her The Fuller Brush Man (1948) co-star Red Skelton in another of his slapstick vehicles Public Pigeon No. One (1957); as Tony Randall`s wife in the domestic comedy Boys` Night Out (1962) starring Kim Novak; in the exce
Couple Profile Source
Full Name at Birth
Martha Jean Lafferty
Has Detailed Data (New)
Janet Blair (April 23, 1921 – February 19, 2007) was a big band singer who went on to become a popular American film and television actress.
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