The Pajama Game Star Janis Paige Dies at 101 | Playbill

Obituaries The Pajama Game Star Janis Paige Dies at 101

Ms. Paige was one of the last remaining stars of Hollywood's Golden Age of Cinema.

Janis Paige

Stage and screen star Janis Paige died June 2 at the age of 101.

Born Donna Mae Tjaden in Tacoma, Washington, Ms. Paige got her start singing at the Hollywood Canteen, a club in Los Angeles that was set up by the film studios to entertain military personnel during World War II. Soon, she caught the attention of the powers that be, with first MGM and then Warner Brothers signing her to film contracts.

In 1944, Ms. Paige made her screen debut in Bathing Beauty, starring Esther Williams, and imitated life as a studio messenger in Hollywood Canteen before landing her first leading role in 1946, as a nightclub singer in Her Kind of Man. Frequently cast opposite Jack Carson, Ms. Paige was an ever dependable star in studios' low-budget musical comedies before making her initial exit from California, moving to New York in 1950.

Ms. Paige made her Broadway debut in the 1951 comedy mystery Remains to Be Seen, but she reached true stage stardom in 1954 when she originated the role of Babe in the musical The Pajama Game. When Ms. Paige was replaced by Doris Day in the musical's film adaptation, she returned to Hollywood, starring opposite Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in the 1957 musical Silk Stockings.

Once back in California, Ms. Paige dove into a string of successful screen projects, including the Doris Day and David Niven comedy Please Don't Eat the Daisies, the Bob Hope romantic comedy Bachelor in Paradise, and a rare dramatic turn as an institutionalized sex worker in 1963's The Caretakers.

Ms. Paige returned to the stage in 1963 to star in the short-lived Here's Love (now known as Miracle on 34th Street The Musical)but in 1968, she fully focused her energies on musical theatre. When Angela Lansbury left the original Broadway production of Mame to take the show on tour, Ms. Paige was chosen to be the first Broadway replacement in the title role. Her presence re-established, Ms. Paige then appeared in touring productions of Annie Get Your Gun, Applause, Sweet Charity, Ballroom, Gypsy, and Guys and Dolls, all to great acclaim.

In 1984, she returned to Broadway with Kevin McCarthy in the play Alone Together. On television, she appeared on Wagon Train, Burke’s Law, The Fugitive, Mannix, The Rockford Files, Happy Days, Too Close for Comfort, Caroline in the City, and the soap operas Capitol, Santa Barbara, and General Hospital. In 2020, Ms. Paige published her memoir, Reading Between the Lines.

Ms. Paige was married three times, to restaurateur Frank Martinelli Jr., television producer Arthur Stander, and Oscar winning film composer Ray Gilbert. She outlived them all, and had no immediate survivors.

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