Oscar winner Jane Wyman dies at 90


Jane Wyman, who won a best actress Oscar for her performance as a deaf-mute rape victim in 1948's "Johnny Belinda" and played the domineering matriarch on the hit '80s CBS series "Falcon Crest," died Monday. She was 90.

Wyman, who was married to actor and future president Ronald Reagan from 1940-48, died at her Palm Springs home, said Richard Adney of Forest Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Cathedral City, Calif. No other details were available.

Wyman also earned best actress Oscar noms for "The Yearling" (1946), "The Blue Veil" (1951) and "Magnificent Obsession" (1954). She won three Golden Globes for best actress for her work in "Belinda" and "Blue Veil" and in 1951 was given a trophy for as World Film Favorite (Female).

Wyman's icy work as Angela Channing in "Falcon Crest," a soap-styled primetime drama centering on a prosperous California wine-producing family, won her a Golden Globe in 1984. She was nominated the previous year for a Golden Globe in that category.

In 1957, Wyman was nominated for an Emmy for best continuing performance by an actress in a dramatic series for her TV show, "Jane Wyman Presents the Fireside Theatre," which ran from 1955-58. She starred in and co-produced many of the episodes.

Wyman is believed to share the record for the longest screen kiss ever when she and Regis Toomey hooked up for 3 minutes, 5 seconds in the 1941 movie "You're in the Army Now."

Wyman enjoyed a long and varied career, beginning as a singer and as a contract player at Warner Bros., where she met Reagan, who was to become the second of her three husbands.

The couple divorced in 1948, the year she won the Oscar for "Johnny Belinda." Reagan reportedly cracked to a friend: "Maybe I should name Johnny Belinda as co-respondent."

After Reagan became governor of California and then U.S. president, Wyman kept a decorous silence about her ex-husband, who had married actress Nancy Davis. In a 1968 newspaper interview, Wyman explained the reason:

"It's not because I'm bitter or because I don't agree with him politically. I've always been a registered Republican. But it's bad taste to talk about ex-husbands and ex-wives, that's all. Also, I don't know a damn thing about politics."

She and Reagan had one daughter, Maureen Reagan, who died in 2001 after a battle with cancer. She is the adoptive mother of Michael Reagan.

Wyman's more memorable other films include "The Lost Weekend" (1945), "Stage Fright" (1950), "Here Comes the Groom" (1951), "The Story of Will Rogers" (1952), "Just for You" (1952), "Pollyanna" (1960) and "How to Commit Marriage" (1969).

Wyman was born Sarah Jane Fulks on Jan. 5, 1917, in St. Joseph, Mo. Her mother was a sometime actress who brought her young daughter to Los Angeles in a bid to get her into films but was unsuccessful.

Wyman later enrolled at the University of Missouri but dropped out to become a radio singer under the name of Jane Durrell. At the time, she began to land bit parts in films under her birth name of Sarah Fulks. In 1936, she appeared in uncredited roles in "My Man Godfrey" and "Cain and Mabel," which convinced Warners to sign her to a long-term contract, and the studio changed her name.

She began to perform in a number of B-movies, including "Brother Rat" (1938) and "Brother Rat and a Baby" (1940), where she co-starred with her future husband Reagan.

During the late '30s and '40s, she performed in a number of comedies and melodramas but attracted serious notice when -- on loan to Paramount Pictures -- she played alcoholic Ray Milland's faithful girlfriend in Billy Wilder's "Lost Weekend." Wyman soon garnered better roles.

Her turn as Ma Baxter in "The Yearling" brought her first Oscar nomination. Her career soared and she was offered major roles, leading to her expressive performance as the deaf woman in "Johnny Belinda," using her eyes to convey emotions in a mesmerizing and sympathetic manner.

After 40 films at Warner Bros., Wyman achieved her first acting challenge with "Johnny Belinda." When Jack Warner saw a rough cut of the film, he ranted to the director, Jean Negulesco: "We invented talking pictures, and you make a picture about a deaf and dumb girl!"

He changed his attitude when "Johnny Belinda" received 12 Academy Award nominations and the Oscar for Jane Wyman.

After her Oscar-winning turn, Wyman's career was in ascendancy, and she was quickly courted by top directors. She starred in Alfred Hitchcock's "Stage Fright" (1950), Frank Capra's "Here Comes the Groom" (1951) and Michael Curtiz's "The Story of Will Rogers" (1952).

Her best metier, however, was the melodrama, and during the 1950s she starred in such potboilers as "The Blue Veil," where she starred as a World War I widow who lost her only child, and in Douglas Sirk's "Magnificent Obsession," where she played a woman blinded by a playboy (Rock Hudson) who then renounces his ways to become a surgeon and cure her.

Very popular with mainstream audiences, Wyman made the move to the new medium of TV, hosting NBC's "Fireside Theatre" and starring in many of the episodes. The series eventually became known as "The Jane Wyman Theatre."

She quit the show after three years, saying that "putting on a miniature movie once a week" was exhausting.

Wyman returned to the movies in 1959 with "Holiday for Lovers" and the following year starred in Disney's "Pollyanna," playing the cold aunt Polly. Wyman's last film, "Marriage," came in 1969 when she co-starred with Bob Hope and Jackie Gleason.

Among her charitable activates, Wyman presented the Jane Wyman Humanitarian Award from the Arthritis Foundation annually in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She was married three times, twice to studio music director Fred Karger. After their second divorce in 1965, she remained single.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.