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'Father Knows Best' Actress Jane Wyatt


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'Father Knows Best' Actress Jane Wyatt

by Dennis McLellan

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Jane Wyatt

LOS ANGELES, California -- Jane Wyatt, a three-time Emmy Award-winner for her portrayal of the patient and understanding housewife and mother on the classic 1950's family situation comedy, "Father Knows Best," died Friday, October 20 in her sleep of natural causes at her Los Angeles home, her grandson Nicholas Ward said. She was 96.

Wyatt made her first appearance on the New York stage in "Give Me Yesterday" in 1931 and in 1933 succeeded Margaret Sullivan in "Dinner at Eight" on Broadway. While acting with Lillian Gish in "Joyous Season" in 1934, she signed a short-term contract with Universal Pictures. She agreed, on condition she could spend half each year in the theater.

She made her screen debut that same year playing the heroine's supportive sister in James Whale's "One More River." Her first female on-screen lead was in "Great Expectations." Other films included "We're Only Human" and "The Luckiest Girl in the World." In 1945, she starred on Broadway opposite Franchot Tone in "Hope for the Best."

Wyatt appeared in more than 30 movies as both a leading and supporting player, including "None But the Lonely Heart" with Cary Grant, "Gentleman's Agreement" with Gregory Peck, "Canadian Pacific" with Randolph Scott, "Task Force" with Gary Cooper, "Boomerang" with Dana Andrews and "Pitfall" with Dick Powell.

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1947's 'Gentleman's Agreement' stars (L-R) Gregory Peck, Dorothy

McGuire, Jane Wyatt and Albert Dekker

Never a star, Wyatt enjoyed career longevity with her reliable portrayals of genteel, understanding women. Among the notable films: "Buckskin Frontier" with Richard Dix, "No Minor Vices" with Dana Andrews, "Canadian Pacific" with Randolph Scott, "Criminal Lawyer" with Pat O'Brien, "My Blue Heaven" with Betty Grable and Dan Dailey.

Her most memorable screen role was the ethereal Shangri-la beauty who enchants Ronald Colman in "Lost Horizon," Frank Capra's 1937 film version of the James Hilton novel. When Capra chose her for the role, her reputation was made. Moviegoers were entranced by the scene

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