1920s Actress Janet Gaynor, the First Best Actress Oscar Winner

February 2, 2022

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science hosted their very first awards presentation in 1929, no one knew that they would be setting the bar for future movie accolades. Nor did they know that winning an Academy Award would, in the coming years, soon represent the pinnacle of an actor’s work. 

A colorized photo of a young Janet Gaynor. (hometowntohollywood.com)

At that 1929 awards presentation, a young and talented actress named Janet Gaynor humbly accepted the Oscar to become the very Best Actress winner at an Academy Awards celebration. Let’s take a look at the career of 1920s and 1930s actress Janet Gaynor, the first Best Actress Oscar winner. 

Janet Gaynor Was a Reluctant Actress

Did you know that Janet Gaynor starred in the original "A Star Is Born"? Later, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and Lady Gaga all reprised her role. (popsugar.com)

Janet Gaynor, whose real name was Laura Augusta Gainor, was born in Philadelphia in 1906. Her father worked as a theatrical painter, and he taught his young daughter to sing and dance as soon as she could walk and talk. By the time she was old enough for school, she was good enough to star in all the school plays. After her parents divorced, she moved with her mother to Chicago, then to San Francisco, and eventually to Los Angeles. The move to LA, in fact, was done so that Janet could find work in the burgeoning film industry in Hollywood. But Gaynor wasn’t sure she was good enough for the big screen. She enrolled in a secretarial school and took a job in a shoe store, but her mother and stepfather continued to encourage her to go to auditions.