Pick a Janet Gaynor movie, almost any one of the nearly 40 features she starred in from 1926 through 1938. Watch it, and you will find that in the course of that picture, Gaynor is manhandled. Time and again, the diminutive star is hoisted onto shoulders, gathered up in bear hugs and waggled from side to side, bent over knees and spanked, savagely throttled, playfully knocked off barstools, or swung around dance floors while her feet dangle uselessly in midair. Surely no other movie star inspired such a consistently grabby oeuvre — save, perhaps, for Shirley Temple, Gaynor’s contemporary (though 22 years her junior) and fellow Fox moneymaker. That comparison may dredge up some creepy feelings, but a large part of Gaynor’s appeal was her capacity to embody a spunky living doll to whom it was safe to ascribe adult passions. At a time when degradation pervaded the national consciousness, Gaynor wielded her loaded physicality — round, dark eyes set in a dimpled, full-moon face, and the dainty stature of a pixie — to project youthful innocence and optimism through even the most debasing vicissitudes. It was a deceptively profound talent, one that propelled her to stardom in silents, then transitioned her safely to sound (despite a voice that wavered somewhere between Margaret Dumont and Betty Boop) and, in the end (as with Temple), brought her up against a... More >>>
Gaynor: Donít you just want to reach out and grab her?