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Jane Bryan Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (2)  | Spouse (1)  | Trivia (11)

Overview (4)

Born in Los Angeles, California, USA
Died in Pebble Beach, California, USA
Birth NameJane O'Brien
Nickname Punky

Mini Bio (2)

Warner was grooming Bryan for stardom in the late 1930s when she met and married the love of her life, Justin Dart, head of the Rexall Drug empire. An ardent Republican, he became one of Ronald Reagan's most trusted advisors.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jbacks3

Endearing to watch and a moving, understated presence on the silver screen, demure-looking Jane Bryan showed great promise as a contract player at Warner Brothers in the late 30s. Queen of the Warners' lot Bette Davis took a strong liking to Jane and, in fact, served as her mentor during Jane's brief stay. The budding hopeful made quite a dent in strong drama playing sad-edged, rather doomed young ladies, but, in the end, love and marriage won out. In 1940 Jane she waved a fond and permanent goodbye to the studio that practically handed her a career on a silver platter. Beating the odds placed on her at the time, her marriage to wealthy industrialist Justin Whitlock Dart, Sr. on New Year's Eve in 1939 endured, lasting until his death 44 years later. She never looked back and never expressed regrets.

The Los Angeles native was born on June 11, 1918, and christened Jane O'Brien, the daughter of lawyer James Matthew and wife Irene (Murray) O'Brien. She had two brothers, Donald and William. Her interest in acting developed while quite young. Warners' contract player Jean Muir and her Hollywood Theatre Workshop took the star-struck teenager under their wing and it wasn't long before the studio had the freckled, fresh-faced teen signing on the dotted line...and renaming her Jane Bryan.

Wasting no time having her apprentice in small parts, Warners introduced her to film audiences as a prime young suspect in one of their Perry Mason "B" mystery films. The Case of the Black Cat (1936) starred handsome Ricardo Cortez taking on the role of the invincible defense attorney (his only shot at the character), with June Travis by his side as altruistic "gal Friday" Della Street. Jane appeared front-and-center as the suspicious-acting daughter of an affluent murder victim. She next appeared in The Captain's Kid (1936), which was more a vehicle for young Sybil Jason who, at the time, was being touted by Warners as the next Shirley Temple, as well as the Civil War biographical short Under Southern Stars (1937).

Jane's fourth film was memorable for several reasons. Not only did it serve notice to Hollywood of her impending status, but Marked Woman (1937) was Jane's first film with Bette Davis. Davis did not listen to the rumors that the young aspirant was being served up as a studio-devised threat or bargaining chip. Instead she warmed up to Jane, who was playing Davis' naive, ill-fated younger sister in the film, and became a benevolent mentor in the process. The two remained friends long after Jane left the studio. Jane managed to hold her own in the picture with a cast that included Humphrey Bogart and Lois Lane (of the famous Lane Sisters).

Following yeoman dramatic work in the "B" programmer The Cherokee Strip (1937) co-starring Dick Foran, a featured part in another Davis/Bogart drama, Kid Galahad (1937), which had her playing the daughter of fight promoter Edward G. Robinson, and the estranged daughter of noble sufferer Kay Francis in the soaper Confession (1937), Jane showed she could handle a lighter side in the change-of-pace comedy crimer A Slight Case of Murder (1938) in which she again appeared with Edward G. Robinson, as his daughter.

Typically cast in heavier dramas and given sweet-sounding, non-flashy names such as Mary, Betsy, Connie, Marie and Betty, these roles could have have been easily overlooked had it not been for the talent of the young lady playing them. Bette Davis humorously remarked that she once hid Jane's face in a pillow to keep her from stealing one of their scenes together. Jane, in fact, went on to boost other notable Davis pictures -- The Sisters (1938) and The Old Maid (1939), the latter in which Jane discreetly stole a scene or two from battling stars Davis and Miriam Hopkins.

Fate stepped in with Jane's introduction to Warner Bros. couple Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman. Top-billed for the first time, she was romantically paired with Reagan in the obviously-titled Girls on Probation (1938) as another sweet innocent who is guilty of a crime via association (she is caught wearing a stolen dress!). She also appeared with both Reagan and Wyman in the popular Warner Bros. comedy Brother Rat (1938). Jane forged an especially tight bond with the couple and the friendship would ultimately affect her life long after she left the movies.

Jane continued fine-tuning her career with starring roles in the small-town drama The Man Who Dared (1939), the crime thriller Each Dawn I Die (1939) with Warners' "king" James Cagney, and in the dramedy These Glamour Girls (1939), playing the fiancé of Lew Ayres who secretly pines for Richard Carlson. Her most acclaimed role, however, was in the drama We Are Not Alone (1939) in which she co-stars with Paul Muni and won the National Board of Review acting award for her extremely moving and sympathetic portrayal of a German woman whose life intertwines tragically with that of Muni's. Noël Coward supposedly called her the finest movie actress working today after viewing this picture.

Rounding out things were two final pictures -- Invisible Stripes (1939), in which she was surrounded by the powerhouse male casting of George Raft, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden, and the "Brother Rat' comedy sequel Brother Rat and a Baby (1940), again showcasing friends Reagan and Wyman. And then her less-than-20-pictures career was over.

Fate stepped in when Jane met and subsequently married Walgreen executive and future businessman Justin Dart, Sr. (1907-1984) on New Year's Eve of 1939. Dart, 11 years her senior, later successfully took over the struggling Rexall Drug chain (1945). Quietly walking away, Jane's abrupt choice was not a difficult one. Shy, reticent and self-effacing in nature, she was hardly the public speaker and avoided publicity even during her peak movie years. The couple first resided in Chicago and Boston before moving permanently to the Los Angeles area (Bel-Air) in the mid-1940s. Raising three children, Guy, Jane and Stephen, Jane became a recognized philanthropist and patron of the arts. Devoted to civic affairs and her charity work, she avoided interviews at all costs. An extensive traveler who enjoyed taking part on archeological expeditions, Jane was governor at one time of the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.

Despite their political differences at the time, the ardent Republican couple remained quite close to actor and staunch Democrat Ronald Reagan and they remained in his inner circle after she left Hollywood. The friendship grew stronger with Reagan's marriage to second wife Nancy Reagan in 1952. A gregarious and outspoken industrialist, Dart was instrumental in persuading Reagan to enter politics in the early 1960s. He was also influential in Reagan switching his political party status to Republican and coaxing the Governor of California to run for the U.S. presidency in 1980. Dart became a trusted advisor and part of the president's "kitchen cabinet" during the Reagan years.

Dart eventually sold his stake in Rexall in 1978, having acquired larger ones in Avon and Duracell, among others, which later became the conglomerate known as Dart Industries. He died in 1984 at age 76, and Jane typically lived out the rest of her life without fanfare. She died in 2009, two decades after her husband, at her Pebble Beach, California home following an extended illness at age 90.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Justin Dart Sr. (31 December 1939 - 26 January 1984) ( his death) ( 3 children)

Trivia (11)

Devout Roman Catholic who was married to industrialist Justin Dart.
Does not give interviews.
Served on the Federal Arts Commission in Washington.
She and her husband convinced their friend Ronald Reagan to run for governor of California.
Was a protégée of Bette Davis, and they remained close friends after her retirement.
Her stepson, Justin Dart Jr. (1930-2002), was a powerful activist for disability rights and helped write the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Jane's husband, Justin Dart, was a former All-American football player and heir to the Walgreens Drugstore chain which his first wife Ruth's father Charles Walgreen had founded. At Walgreens Dart was responsible for the innovation of the pharmacy counter at the back of the drug store.
She and her husband amassed a large collection of about 70 artworks that Jane later donated to the Monterey Museum of Art. They are housed in the Jane and Justin Dark Wing in La Mirada, a branch facility of the museum.
Warner Bros. friend Bette Davis married her second husband, Arthur Farnsworth, at Jane and her husband's Arizona ranch in 1940.
Jane's daughter, also named Jane, became the wife of John Campbell, who was an assistant to John Ehrlichman during the Nixon administration, in 1972.
She and her husband were licensed pilots and flew company planes all over the country on various business trips.

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