This somewhat battered cover was sent to Miss J. Gaynor, C/- United Artists, Hollywood, California and has a roller cancel on the green 1d Queen Elizabeth and the red 2d KGVI stamps, ASHFIELD/ 945 AM/ 19 JUL/ 1941 with the slogan MINIMUM LETTER/ RATE TO U.S.A. 3D/ ADDRESSEE PAYS/ DOUBLE/ DEFICIENCY. In addition there was a delay in sending as shown by the handstruck ASHFIELD/ 22 JL (41)/ N.S.W cancel. The probable reason for the delay was because of a purple boxed instruction: RETURNED FOR/ ADDITIONAL POSTAGE/ ( )ORT PAID 1d (in pencil)/ Postal Department/ Cmwlth of Australia, which has been pencilled out, perhaps when the slogan was read by the postal authorities, and the letter was sent on its way (Figure 1).
The reverse shows the sender as Miss P. Ferguson, 22 Norton St., Ashfield and the identical, except for the date of 21 JUL, 1941), roller cancel as on the front was repeated. This would almost certainly authenticate the reasoning for the delay given above (Figure 2).
Janet Gaynor was born Laura Augusta Gainor on October 6, 1906, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When Janet was a child her family moved to California. After high school she enrolled in secretarial school and worked in a shoe store. Janet decided to try acting and began getting work as an extra in films. She was offered a contract with 20th Century Fox in 1925. Her big break came when she landed the lead role in the 1926 drama The Johnstown Flood. Janet appeared in twelve films with Charles Farrell including Sunny Side Up and High Society Blues. They became one of Hollywood’s most popular duos.
Janet was easily able to make the transition from silent to sound films. In 1929 she was the winner of the first Academy Award for Best Actress for her cumulative work in Seventh Heaven, Sunrise, and Street Angel. That same year Janet married Jesse Peck, an attorney. They divorced in 1933. Her success continued with starring roles in Change Of Heart, State Fair, and Small Town Girl. By 1934 she was the top female box-office star in the country. She was nicknamed “The World’s Sweetheart”. Unhappy with the roles Fox was giving her she walked out on her contract in 1936. Janet starred in the 1937 drama A Star is Born and was nominated for another Oscar. An autographed postcard of Janet Gaynor is shown in Figure 3.
An Ipswich City Council website describes Gaynor’s interesting association with Australia. Australia’s first television broadcast actually occurred on 10 April 1934, 22 years, 5 months and 1 week earlier than Bruce Gyngell’s perfunctory performance, when an image of the well-known and glamorous American film star Janet Gaynor (1906-1984) was transmitted over the air from the heart of Brisbane to the provincial city of Ipswich, Queensland. This historic television transmission was sent from an experimental laboratory set up by Thomas Elliot at the Old Windmill Observatory on Wickham Terrace in Brisbane to one viewer, a Tom Biddle, in a small cottage in Ipswich, almost 40 km to the west.
Brisbane therefore holds the historical record as the first place in Australia, and the southern hemisphere, from which a television signal was transmitted, and Ipswich holds the equally indisputable record as the first place in Australia, and the Southern hemisphere, to receive a television signal of Janet Gaynor, the first face on Australian television. I am not sure that this is not disputed, but it makes a good story!
However this is not the only connection of Janet Gaynor to Australia, and the stage is again set in Queensland, at Camp Moorooka USASOS [US Army Service of Supply] Staging Camp, Moorooka, Brisbane, during World War Two. The American servicemen at the camp were entertained in their recreation hall by many well known entertainers, including Artie Shaw and Janet Gaynor.
Not the usual fan club actor envelope!