Jane Wyatt – Reluctant Paragon of Virtue

Day 97 of Colourisation Project – August 12

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Who doesn’t remember Father Knows Best?  Three-time Emmy Award-winner, Jane Wyatt was born this day, August 12, 1910. A household name in the 1950s when Television was first introduced to the American public, Wyatt endeared herself to audiences in her role of Margaret Anderson, a devoted wife and mother and a paragon of virtue and reason.

OK, if you are anything less than a baby boomer, you are forgiven for not knowing her. Wyatt was an American actress best known for her role as the archetypal 1950s housewife and mother on the NBC and CBS television comedy series, Father Knows Best. Earning the actress a spot in American pop-culture history, it portrayed the life of an idealized middle class family from America’s Midwest. It ran with great success on TV from 1954 to 1960.

Jane Wyatt

Publicity still – Jane Wyatt – Colourised by Loredana Crupi

Younger readers may remember her as Amanda Grayson, the human mother of Spock on the science fiction television series Star Trek in the 1960s. She later reprised the role in the 1986 film, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

After starting out on Broadway, Wyatt made her film debut in 1934’s One More River, and continued to land film roles through the 1940s. Many consider her performance in Frank Capra’s fantasy Lost Horizon (1937) her crowning achievement on the big screen.

Other notable appearances in the 1940s were in None but the Lonely Heart (1944), Boomerang! (1947), and the classic anti-Semitism saga, Gentleman’s Agreement (1947).

In the 1950s her film career stalled when she found herself on Hollywood’s blacklist, due to her outspoken opposition to the anticommunist House Un-American Activities Committee. However at around this time she turned to the new medium of television, landing the role of the matriarch in Father Knows Best.

Not totally comfortable with the show’s portrayal of women’s role in society, she did express some dissatisfaction with the boundaries of her role, but also an understanding: “I got frustrated at times. I was never shown reading a book. On the other hand, what kind of a show would we have had if mom was off having a career? I think for the time, it was OK.” Despite her discomfort, she won three consecutive Emmys for her performances.

Though Wyatt never reached the heights of many of Hollywood’s Golden Era starlets, her place in show business legend was well and truly cemented by Father Knows Best.

Jane Wyatt died of natural causes in 2006 at her home in Bel-Air, California at the age of 96.

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“I never vacuumed at home wearing my pearls. In fact, I never vacuumed at all. I was always working at the studio. I would have gone crazy staying at home like Margaret Anderson, and my family knew that.”  Jane Wyatt

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This entry was posted in Colorization, Colourisation, Film, Opus Loredana, Photography, Television, Women in Film & TV and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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