Janis Paige Dies: Prolific Film, TV & Stage Actor Known For ‘Pajama Game’, ‘Silk Stockings’ & Soaps Was 101

Janis Paige Dies: Prolific Film, TV & Stage Actor Known For ‘Pajama Game’, ‘Silk Stockings’ & Soaps Was 101

Janis Paige, who racked up more than 100 film, TV and stage credits over six decades including The Pajama Game, Silk Stockings and Santa Barbara, died June 2 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 101.

Her friend Stuart Lambert told The Associated Press about Paige’s death.

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During her long career, Paige toured with Bob Hope and danced onscreen with Fred Astaire, along with originating the Babe Williams role in The Pajama Game on Broadway in 1954. That same year she headlined It’s Always Jan, a CBS sitcom about the problems of single-parenthood during which she usually sang a song. It lasted a single season.

Born Donna Mae Tjaden on September 16, 1922, in Tacoma, WA, she began singing in talent shows at a tender age and moved to Los Angeles after graduating high school.

Paige made her Broadway debut in 1951 opposite Jackie Cooper in the mystery comedy Remains to Be Seen but found her signature stage role three years later in the hit musical comedy The Pajama Game. Babe Williams is a union organizer in a factory who falls in love with the new superintendent. Her role was played by Doris Day in the 1957 film version.

Paige later returned to Broadway three times, including starring roles in Here’s Love (1963) and Alone Together (1984). In 1968, she played the title role in Mame as part of a replacement cast. Angela Lansbury was the original star.

Along the way she appeared in dozens of movies and television series including 1946’s Hollywood Canteen, named for the famous nightclub where Paige was discovered. Through the next five years, she appeared in several Warner Bros films, often opposite Jack Carson, Dennis Morgan and/or Robert Hutton.

“When you go on an audition as an actor, it’s not about the job,” she said in a 2005 interview for the Television Academy Foundation. “It’s about the privilege of acting. Of working in front of somebody and acting.” Watch some of that interview below.

Among her most recognizable silver-screen roles were opposite Day in Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and with Astaire and Cyd Charisse in the 1957 romp Silk Stockings, which also starred Peter Lorre and George Tobias.

Fred Astaire and Janis Paige get in the swing in 1957’s ‘Silk Stockings’
Fred Astaire and Janis Paige get in the swing in 1957’s ‘Silk Stockings’

The upstart TV medium came calling in the mid-1950s. Along with toplining It’s Always Jan, Paige guested on such popular ’50s and ’60s series in as Lux Video Theatre, Shower of Stars, Wagon Train, The Fugitive and The Red Skelton Hour.

Paige continued to work sporadically in films, but she was a familiar face on TV during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. She appeared on hit shows including All in the Family — during which she kissed Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker — Happy Days, Columbo, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Hawaii Five-O, Charlie’s Angels, The Rockford Files, Police Story, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Too Close for Comfort, Night Court, Caroline in the City and Trapper John, M.D.

She also appeared in dozens of episodes of daytime dramas General Hospital as Iona Huntington and Santa Barbara as Minx Lockridge. Her final credit was a 2001 episode of Family Law.


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