Today marks the 84th birthday of the beautiful and charming Jeanne Crain, one of this blogger's favorite stars of the Golden Age. Instead of trying to cram an entire life and/or career into a few paragraphs, I decided to honor the birthday of this lovely lady by highlighting, via timeline, one of the more eventful years of her long and illustious life, 1945.
January Jeanne began production on State Fair, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about an Iowa farm family finding love and success at their annual state fair. Crain's Margy Frake would cement her place as 20th Century-Fox's resident sweet and pretty girl next door. As a result of the overwhelming success of State Fair, Crain was named a Star of Tomorrow by a Motion Picture Herald survey and received a new and more lucrative contract at Fox.
Spring Jeanne appeared as herself in the Fox 2 reel featurette All Star Bond Rally, a morale booster for the war effort. Also on board were Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Betty Grable.
May Production began on the Technicolor melodrama Leave Her to Heaven, in which Jeanne played second lead to star Gene Tierney. The film reportedly garnered Fox it's highest box office receipts to that date and raised even further Crain's rank at the studio.
August Principal production concluded on Leave Her to Heaven. On August 29, State Fair made it's world premiere in Des Moines, Iowa, with the New York opening the following week.
September Immediately after the week of premieres for State Fair, young Crain began production on Centennial Summer, a musical with songs by Jerome Kern. Fox wanted to ride the coattails of popularity for period family musicals established the previous year by Meet Me in St. Louis over at MGM. Along with Cornel Wilde and Linda Darnell, Crain starred in a musical film in which none of the primary leads knew how to sing!(they were all dubbed).
November Principal filming wrapped on Centennial Summer. Crain was then seriously discussed by top Fox brass for the title role in the upcoming My Darling Clementine. But in a memo to the films director John Ford, studio head Darryl Zanuck declared that the minor role was much too small for "the biggest box office attraction on the lot" at that time. As a matter of fact, Crain's fan mail during this period was second only to Betty Grable, whose fan base was still large but whose box office appeal was slipping.
December Leave Her to Heaven premiered at Christmastime. About a week later on New Years Eve, Jeanne married Paul Brinkman, an Errol Flynn look-alike who was a minor actor under the name Paul Brooks at RKO. Crain's mother, Loretta was completely against the union, and reportedly was a source of strain on the marriage, which produced seven children.
January, 1946 After a short honeymoon in Death Valley, Jeanne returned home to begin production on what would be her first big starring moment, Margie, where for the first time she carried a picture by herself. According to the films director, Henry King, Crain appeared so youthful during production, that he replaced the University of Nevada co-eds, hired to surround the star, with girls from local Reno High School.
Jeanne Crain continued to make her mark in Hollywood, eventually even earning an Oscar nomination for her role in the racially charged drama Pinky in 1949. There were bigger, more ostentatious stars than Crain but her comely features, shapely figure and winning smile will forever endear her to those of us who sometimes enjoy a little less flamboyance. I realize that 13 months were actually discussed in relation to this portion of Miss Crain's life and career but somehow the header, Jeanne Crain: Thirteen Months in the Life, just didn't roll off the tongue. Call it literary license.