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Saturday, 23 April 2016

Janet Blair born 23 April 1921

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. 

Born Martha Janet Lafferty in Altoona, Pennsylvania (she took her acting surname from Blair County, Pennsylvania), Blair was the daughter of musically oriented parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred B. Lafferty. Her father led the choir and sang solos in his church, and her mother played both piano and organ. She had a brother, Fred Jr., and a sister, Louise. Raised in the public school system, she sang in the church choir during her youth and adolescence. The inspiration and talent were 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. Whilst singing 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, 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 The Boss Said 'No' (1942), until her big break in the movies arrived.  

Usually appearing in a frothy musical or light comedy, she was seeded second, however, to another redhead, Rita Hayworth, when it came to Columbia's dispensing out musical leads. Janet, nevertheless, continued promisingly paired up with George Raft in the mob-oriented tune-fest, 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). 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).  

During World War II she appeared as the pin-up girl in the March 1944 issue of Yank Magazine. In the late 1940s, Blair had star billing in the crime drama I Love Trouble as well as in The Fuller Brush Man, a comedy with Red Skelton, but was dropped by Columbia and did not return to pictures for several years. 

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.
During 1959 Blair recorded an album of standards entitled Flame Out! for the Dico label. Here's "They Can't Take That Away From Me." 

Janet met Nick Mayo 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. She also returned to films on occasion. 

After her second divorce, Janet laid off touring in musicals and settled in Hollywood to raise her two teenage children while looking for TV work. She found a steady paycheck paired up with Henry Fonda on the sitcom, The Smith Family (1971), playing another of her patented loyal wives. She also found scattered work on such TV shows as Marcus Welby, M.D. (1969), Switch (1975), Fantasy Island (1977), and The Love Boat (1977). Her last guest showing was on the Murder, She Wrote (1984) episode, Murder, She Wrote: Who Killed J.B. Fletcher? (1991). Janet died at age 85 in Santa Monica, California, after developing pneumonia.

(Info edited from Wikipedia & IMDB bio)
Janet Blair sings "To Me" from the 1947 film "The Fabulous Dorseys". This video contains both scenes of her singing the song.


boppinbob said...

For Janet Blair – Flame Out (1959) go here;

1. Get out of town
2. Autumn leaves
3. Glad to be unhappy
4. They can't take away from me
5. Good morning heartache
6. The gentleman is a dope
7. Don't explain
8. I get along without you very well
9. Do nothing’ till you hear from me
10. Then you've never been blue
11. In love in vain
12. Lover man or where can you be

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

I love Janet Blair! Thanks for this!

Kevin said...


Hit Parade said...

Please re-up this album.

boppinbob said...

Sorry for the delay, took ages to find the file.