Martha Janet Lafferty
April 23, 1921
Altoona, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||February 19, 2007 85) (aged|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
(m. 1943;div. 1950)
(m. 1953;div. 1971)
Janet Blair (born Martha Janet Lafferty; April 23, 1921 – February 19, 2007) was a big-band singer who became a popular American film and television actress.
Janet Blair was born Martha Janet Lafferty on April 23, 1921, in Altoona, Pennsylvania, the daughter of musically oriented parents,Mr. and Mrs. Fred B. Lafferty. Her father led the choir and sang solos in his church, and her mother played both piano and organ. She had a brother, Fred Jr., and a sister, Louise.
Blair began her acting career on film in 1941, being placed under contract to Columbia Pictures. Before that, she was a featured singer in the Hal Kemp Orchestra.During World War II, she appeared as the pin-up girl in the March 1944 issue of Yank magazine. She made a string of successful pictures, although she is today best remembered for playing Rosalind Russell's sister in My Sister Eileen (1942) and Rita Hayworth's best friend in Tonight and Every Night (1945). In the 1947 film The Fabulous Dorseys , Blair returned to her musical roots, portraying a singer. In the late 1940s, Blair had star billing in the crime drama I Love Trouble and the comedy The Fuller Brush Man (both 1948), but was dropped by Columbia and did not return to pictures for several years.
She made a rare dramatic appearance in the British horror film Night of the Eagle (1962). She played the wife of Tony Randall in the comedy Boys' Night Out , a motion picture released in the same year, which starred James Garner and Kim Novak.
In 1950, Blair took the lead role of Nellie Forbush in the U.S touring production of the stage musical South Pacific , making more than 1,200 performances in three years."[I] never missed a performance", she noted proudly. During the tour, she also married her second husband, producer-director Nick Mayo, and they became parents of Amanda and Andrew.
Blair also starred in the Broadway comedy You Never Can Tell in 1953.
Blair was a star musical performer in premier nightclubs and supper clubs such as the Empire Room at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
In 1955, Blair starred as Venus in a live production of One Touch of Venus on NBC-TV.
Blair appeared on television in various variety-show guest appearances—saying, "I think I appeared on the Milton Berle Show more than any other guest"—and hosted, with John Raitt and Edie Adams, the 1958 summer replacement for the Dinah Shore Chevy Show for the vacationing star Dinah Shore. She was a cast member during the 1956–1957 TV season on Caesar's Hour , a comedy-variety series starring Sid Caesar.
She appeared as a guest panelist on the June 9, 1957, episode of What's My Line? .
On television in 1971, Blair co-starred with Henry Fonda in The Smith Family ,a comedy-drama series on ABC featuring Ron Howard as their son. Her last performance on television was in a 1991 episode of Murder, She Wrote , starring Angela Lansbury.
On radio, Blair co-starred with George Raft in "Broadway," a 1942 episode of Lux Radio Theatre on CBS.
Blair recorded an album of standards entitled Flame Out! for the Dico label,which included ballads such as "Don't Explain" and "Then You've Never Been Blue."
Blair was married twice. Her first marriage was to musical arranger and conductorLouis Ferdinand Busch on July 12, 1943, at Lake Arrowhead, California. The two had met four years earlier when Blair sang for Hal Kemp's band and Busch was Kemp's pianist and arranger. They divorced in March 1950. Two years later, Blair wed television producer Nick Mayo, with whom she later had two children, Andrew and Amanda. The couple remained together for 19 years, until their divorce in 1971. Blair was a Republican and campaigned for Thomas Dewey in the 1944 presidential election. On February 19, 2007, Blair died at the age of 85 at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, succumbing to complications from pneumonia. She was cremated.
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