Golden Age Era Actress Passes Away

Janis Paige, a celebrated Hollywood star with a career spanning 60 years, passed away from natural causes at her Los Angeles home at the age of 101. The Golden Age icon’s death on Sunday was confirmed by her longtime friend Stuart Lampert on Monday.

Paige, who performed with comedy legend Bob Hope in Vietnam and danced with Fred Astaire, has been remembered fondly across social media. One admirer wrote on X (formerly Twitter), “What a life. Now that is stardom. From Bob Hope to Fred Astaire. It didn’t get better than that for Janis Paige, I bet.”

Paige made her Broadway debut alongside Jackie Cooper in the mystery-comedy “Remains to be Seen” and appeared three years later in the hit musical “The Pajama Game” with John Raitt. Her film credits include the Bob Hope comedy “Bachelor in Paradise,” the Doris Day comedy “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” and “Follow the Boys.”

In 2018, Paige joined the #MeToo movement by sharing her story of being assaulted at 22 by the late department-store heir Alfred Bloomingdale. She wrote, “I could feel his hands, not only on my breasts but seemingly everywhere. He was big and strong, and I began to fight, kick, bite, and scream.” She added, “At 95, time is not on my side, and neither is silence. I simply want to add my name and say, ‘Me too.’”

Paige’s career breakthrough came during World War II when she sang an operatic aria for servicemen at the Hollywood Canteen, leading to a brief role in “Bathing Beauty” and a contract with Warner Bros. Her initial salary was $150 a week, a significant sum compared to her mother’s earnings during the Great Depression.

Her career saw her rise to $1,000 weekly, starring in films like “Two Guys from Milwaukee,” “The Time, the Place and the Girl,” and “Romance on the High Seas,” Doris Day’s film debut. Paige adopted her stage name from her grandfather’s surname and entertainer Elsie Janis, who performed for troops in World War I.

After her Warner Bros. contract ended in 1949, MGM’s Arthur Freed cast her in “Silk Stockings” alongside Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. The film featured the memorable Cole Porter number “Stereophonic Sound,” which required her to perform challenging physical feats, leaving her bruised and battered.

Paige continued to perform into her 80s, opening a show called “The Third Act” in San Francisco’s Plush Room in 2003. Critics noted her vitality and spirit, qualities that outshone many younger performers.

Born in Tacoma, Washington, Paige faced a tough childhood after her father deserted the family. Her mother worked tirelessly at the Bank of Tacoma, and Paige’s drive for success was fueled by her desire to support her mother.

After leaving Warner Bros., Paige found success on television, starring in “It’s Always Jan” and appearing in series like “Flamingo Road,” “Santa Barbara,” “Eight Is Enough,” “Capitol,” “Fantasy Island,” and “Trapper John, M.D.” She played a memorable role in “All in the Family” and took over for Angela Lansbury in “Mame” on Broadway in 1968.

Paige also toured with shows like “Gypsy,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Born Yesterday,” and “The Desk Set.” Her last Broadway appearance was in “Alone Together” in 1984. She continued to entertain troops with Bob Hope, performing in Cuba, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam during the 1960s.

In 2020, Paige published her autobiography, “Reading Between the Lines: A Memoir,” recounting her experiences with stars like Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Lucille Ball. Paige’s personal life included brief marriages to restaurateur Frank Martinelli and writer-producer Arthur Stander, before marrying songwriter Ray Gilbert in 1962. Gilbert, who won an Oscar for “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” passed away in 1976, after which Paige managed his music company.