Janis Paige, star of ‘The Pajama Game’ on Broadway, dead at 101

Janis Paige

Actress Janis Paige, who starred in the 1954 Broadway production of “The Pajama Game,” died June 2. She was 101.

>> Read more trending news

Paige, who danced with Fred Astaire in “Silk Stockings,” toured with Bob Hope in his USO tours to entertain soldiers and appeared in numerous films, died at her Los Angeles home, The New York Times reported.

Her death was confirmed by Stuart Lampert, a longtime friend, according to the newspaper.

Paige played two memorable roles on television during the 1970s, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In an episode of “All in the Family,” she played an attractive diner waitress to tries to get Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) to cheat on his wife. He also played a former love of Lou Grant (Ed Asner) on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

In 1968, Paige replaced Angela Lansbury on Broadway in the production of “Mame,” playing the lead character for nearly two years, the entertainment news website reported.

Paige was born Donna Mae Tjaden on September 16, 1922, in Tacoma, Washington. She made her mark in movies when she was 22 in the 1944 film “Hollywood Canteen.” She would appear in 17 films over the next seven years, the Times reported.

Paige starred in her own television series, “It’s Always Jan,” in 1955-56, playing a widowed nightclub singer, according to the newspaper.

She made her mark on the stage, cast as Katherine “Babe” Williams in “The Pajama Game” along with John Raitt, the Times reported. The play won three Tony Awards in 1955 and ran for more than 1,000 performances over 15 months, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“We were the happiest bunch of people you ever saw in your life because everybody said we were going to be a flop,” Paige said in a 1990 interview. “A show about a pajama factory? And we were a smash. It was a special time -- it will never come again.”

When the play was adapted for film, producers at Warner Bros. decided that Doris Day would play Paige’s role.

“For the movie, they needed a box office name,” Paige told The Associated Press years later. “They wanted Frank Sinatra to play John Raitt’s role. Frank considered it and turned it down. I would have played my role.

“I never get devastated about things like that. I’m lucky to have had the show. I always felt that way. There’s nothing like the original.”

In “Silk Stockings,” Paige and Astaire spoofed movie gimmicks in the musical number “Stereophonic Sound,” the AP reported. One routine included the couple swinging from a chandelier.

“I was one mass of bruises. I didn’t know how to fall,” Paige told the Miami Herald in 2016. “I didn’t know how to get down on a table -- I didn’t know how to save myself because I was never a classic dancer.”

In the 1960 film comedy, “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” Paige had a strong supporting role as an actress who memorably slaps David Niven for giving her a bad review, The Washington Post reported.

In a 2017 essay in The Hollywood Reporter, Paige wrote that during the 1940s, when she was 22, Alfred S. Bloomingdale, the department store heir, allegedly tried to rape her after inviting her to dinner and then to his apartment in Los Angeles. Paige said she escaped from Bloomingdale, who died in 1982, by biting him and running down six flights of stairs.

“Maybe there’s a special place in hell” for men like him, Paige wrote. “Even at 95, I remember everything.”

Comments on this article