Janet Gaynor (October 6, 1906 – September 14, 1984) was an American actress.
One of the most popular actresses of the silent film era, in 1928 Gaynor became the first winner of the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performances in three films: Seventh Heaven (1927), Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) and Street Angel (1928). This was the only occasion on which an actress has won for multiple roles. This rule would be changed three years later by AMPAS. Her career continued with the advent of sound film, and she achieved a notable success in the original version of A Star Is Born (1937).
She worked only sporadically after the late 1930s. Severely injured in a 1982 vehicle collision, the incident contributed to her death two years later.
Born Laura Augusta Gainor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, her family moved west to San Francisco during her childhood. When she graduated from high school in 1923, Gaynor decided to pursue an acting career. She moved to Los Angeles, where she supported herself working in a shoe store, receiving $18 per week (2009: $230).
She managed to land unbilled small parts in several feature films and comedy shorts for two years. Finally, in 1926, at the age of 20, she was cast in the lead role in The Johnstown Flood (1926), the same year she was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars (with Joan Crawford, Dolores del Río and others). Her outstanding performance won her the attention of producers, who cast her in a series of films.
Within a year, Gaynor was one of Hollywood's leading ladies. Her performances in Seventh Heaven (the first of twelve movies she would make with actor Charles Farrell) and both Sunrise, directed by F. W. Murnau, and Street Angel (in 1927, also with Charles Farrell) earned her the first Academy Award for Best Actress in 1928. At the time, the award was awarded for multiple roles: it was given on the basis of the actor's total work over the year, and not just for one particular performance. Gaynor was not only the first, but until 1986 (when Marlee Matlin won her Oscar), she was also the youngest actress to win an Academy Award for Best Actress. At the time of their respective wins, Gaynor was 22 years old and Matlin was 21 years old.
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