- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jane Wyman, an Academy Award winner for her performance as the deaf rape victim in “Johnny Belinda,” star of the long-running TV series “Falcon Crest” and Ronald Reagan’s first wife, died yesterday.

“I have lost a loving mother, my children Cameron and Ashley have lost a loving grandmother, my wife, Colleen, has lost a loving friend she called Mom, and Hollywood has lost the classiest lady to ever grace the silver screen,” son Michael Reagan said.

Miss Wyman died early yesterday at her Palm Springs home, said Richard Adney of Forest Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Cathedral City. Her age was listed as 93 in several reference books; however, other sources, including the official family Web site www.jane-wyman.com, say she was 90.

Miss Wyman’s film career spanned from the 1930s, including “Gold Diggers of 1937,” to 1969’s “How to Commit Marriage,” co-starring Bob Hope and Jackie Gleason. From 1981 to 1990 she played Angela Channing, a Napa Valley winery owner who maintained her power with a steely will on CBS’ “Falcon Crest.”

Her marriage in 1940 to fellow Warner Bros. contract player Ronald Reagan was celebrated in the fan magazines as one of Hollywood’s ideal unions. While he was in uniform during World War II, her career ascended, signaled by her 1946 Oscar nomination for “The Yearling.” The couple divorced in 1948, the year she won the Oscar for “Johnny Belinda.”

After Mr. Reagan became governor of California and then president, Miss Wyman kept silent about her ex-husband, who had married actress Nancy Davis. In a 1968 newspaper interview, she explained the reason: “It’s not because I’m bitter or because I don’t agree with him politically. I’ve always been a registered Republican,” Miss Wyman said. “But it’s bad taste to talk about ex-husbands and ex-wives, that’s all.”

A few days after Mr. Reagan died on June 5, 2004, she broke her silence, saying: “America has lost a great president and a great, kind and gentle man.”

In Mr. Reagan’s autobiography “An American Life,” the index shows only one mention of Miss Wyman, and it runs for only two sentences. “That same year I made the Knute Rockne movie, I married Jane Wyman, another contract player at Warners,” he wrote. “Our marriage produced two wonderful children, Maureen and Michael, but it didn’t work out, and in 1948 we were divorced.” The final divorce decree was issued in 1949.

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