Mostly remembered as an Oscar-winning actress (and former wife of Ronald Reagan) Jane Wyman was also a pretty good singer. Although she was never a major recording star, she was talented enough to work as a songbird — a big band singer — early in her career, and she found a lot of musical spots in her movies through the years.
Born as Sarah Jane Mayfield (later Fulks) in St. Joseph, Missouri, she first arrived in Hollywood as a teenager in the early 1930s, looking to break into movies. Things didn’t go too well at first but she was able to find work as a band singer, and later tried movies again. Over the next few years she didn’t exactly set fire to Hollywood, mostly filling small parts that were often uncredited, but by late in the decade she was beginning to find featured roles.
Jane Wyman’s 1940 marriage to Ronald Reagan occurred during a period that saw her rising success as an actress, with a number of co-starring parts in successful movies. During the 1940s and 1950s she was nominated for an Oscar four times, winning for 1949’s Johnny Belinda, and also found herself appearing in several well-regarded movies that gave her the chance to sing. In fact, her duet with Bing Crosby of the Oscar-winning “In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening” (from 1951’s Here Comes The Groom) remains one of her most memorable performances.
Although Jane continued to sing when and where she could, it didn’t really play much of a part in her later career, which included more movies and eventually a lot of appearances on TV. In addition to guest starring in dramas, she often appeared on variety or talk shows and even hosted her own show for a while. And of course, many will remember her for her long stint on Falcon Crest, which ended in 1990. She was pretty much retired in the years that followed, and was in her nineties (sources vary) when she died in 2007.