Jan Clayton (1917 - 1983)

Jan Clayton
1917 - 1983
updated March 18, 2020
Jan Clayton, mother to 4 children, was born on August 26, 1917. She married Robert Warren Lerner and they later divorced. They gave birth to Robin Lerner, Karen Lerner, and Joseph Clayton Lerner. She married Russell Hayden and they later divorced. They gave birth to Sandra Jane Hayden. Jan would also marry George Greeley and they later divorced. She died on August 28, 1983 in Los Angeles, California at age 66.

I met her when I was fifteen years old in April 1959 when she sang a song for me on the Ed Sullivan Show called "What the Use of Wond'rin'" from Carousel which she originated on Broadway. The next time I met her she was appearing in the original production of "Follies' on Broadway in 1971. Then we became very close from then on. We played cards, shared dinners, went to shows, went upstate to see the fall foliage. She sent about 75 letters and cards and we swapped presents for birthdays and Christmas and other occasions. She even sang at a party and her longtime accompanist [who was my vocal coach] Jack Prenner played for her. I loved her very much and constantly miss her. She was exceptionally witty and bright. I told her she would publish a book and her name would be on the cover of it. She questioned my psychic ability, so I told her that the cab driver would confirm my ability. The cab driver said, "I never met you before! You don't know me!" So I startled the both of them when I told him that he had a walk-on in "LUTHER" on Broadway and that when he was in the chorus of a musical in the 1950's in Kansas City he was in love with the star of the show and that was a secret he never revealed to anyone. He was flabbergasted and said, "Wow! She really is psychic because I was madly in love with Jan Clayton!" And Jan said, "You were madly in love with me? Want to go out on a date?" He immediately exchanged phone numbers. She did publish a great book with a friend of her and her name is on the cover. Bewitched, Bothered and Bedeviled" a book about lyricist Lorenz Hart.
Jan Clayton
Born August 26, 1917
Tularosa, New Mexico, U.S.
Died August 28, 1983 (aged 66)
West Hollywood, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress and Singer
Years active 1935–81
(1) Russell Hayden (married 1938–43, divorced)
1 Daughter: Sandra Hayden
(2) Robert Lerner (married 1946–58, divorced)
3 Children: Daughter: Robin Lerner, Daughter: Karen Lerner. Son: Joseph Lerner.
(3) George Greeley (married 1966–68, divorced)
Jan Clayton (August 26, 1917 – August 28, 1983) was a film, musical theater, and television actress. She starred in the popular 1950s TV series Lassie.
Born near Alamogordo, New Mexico, the only child of two schoolteachers, Clayton started singing by age four.
Clayton was one of the original stars of the classic TV show Lassie, playing Ellen Miller from 1954 to 1957.
She did a series of movies with William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy.
Jan Clayton made several films for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, FATHER WAS A PRINCE and THIS MAN'S NAVY and an unbilled role in 1948 as a singing inmate in The Snake Pit. Earlier, however, she had been selected to play the role of Julie Jordan in the original 1945 Broadway production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic Carousel. Clayton can be heard on the original cast recordings of both Carousel (1945) and the 1946 film version of Kern's 1927 musical play Show Boat. The Show Boat album was the first American production of the show to be recorded with its original cast. In May 1954, Clayton guest-starred in ABC's sitcom Where's Raymond? starring Ray Bolger as a song-and-dance man, Raymond Wallace. She played Francine Tremont, an actress and wife of a banker. In the story line, Francine is in town to make a special appearance with Bolger.In 1954, Clayton was one of the many guest stars in a television spectacular tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein, The General Foods 25th Anniversary Show, which featured all the then-surviving stars (except Alfred Drake) of all the classic Broadway musicals that the team had written (1943–1954). Clayton and John Raitt, in full makeup and costume, performed "If I Loved You" (also known as the Bench Scene) from Carousel. It was the first opportunity for millions of viewers to see a scene from the musical, since none of the film versions of the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musicals had yet been released. Clayton during this period also played herself in an appearance on Peter Lawford's short-lived NBC sitcom Dear Phoebe.
While starring in Show Boat, Clayton met Robert Lerner, an heir to the women's clothing shops bearing his name. They were married and moved to California, where Lerner attended Loyola Law School and Clayton concentrated on mothering. "We had three children in three years", she said in a 1976 interview with People magazine. "Then came Lassie"; "I took it because I was dying to work."
Clayton would become best known to TV audiences as Jeff Miller's (Tommy Rettig) mother on the television series Lassie (aka Jeff's Collie in syndication re-runs). Clayton played the first four seasons of Lassie, from September 1954 to December 1957, as Ellen Miller, a war widow living on her father-in-law's farm with her preteen son, Jeff, and her late husband's cantankerous old father, Gramps (played by the Canadian-born George Cleveland).
Clayton brought her extensive acting experience on Broadway to the Lassie series, portraying in her character Ellen the traits of a loving mother with a wide range of heartfelt emotions ranging from sorrow and tragedy to great comedic relief. There were only a few times in Lassie when Clayton exhibited her impressive singing talents, most notably in the episode "The Gypsys" (Season 2, Ep. 15) in which she sang the song "Marushka". Despite Lassie doing well with the TV audiences, Tommy Rettig sought release from his contract in the popular series' fourth season. Clayton quit the production as well at that time. "My home life was being absolutely wrecked," she explained. "I had four children and a husband, and I was always working".
The sudden death of George Cleveland hastened the departure of the remaining cast. In the episode "Transition." Ellen and Jeff start a new life in the city after selling the farm to the Martin family (co-starring Cloris Leachman and Jon Shepodd) and giving Lassie to little Timmy Martin (played by child actor Jon Provost). Clayton appeared in only one more Lassie episode after those cast changes. In "Timmy's Family", broadcast originally in December 1957, she guest-starred in a supporting role to Lassie's new family. Following her departure from Lassie, Clayton in 1959 starred in a TV pilot called "The Jan Clayton Show", a sitcom in which she portrayed a college English teacher. She produced and starred the next year in "The Brown Horse" another proposed series about a woman trying to pay for her daughter's college tuition by working in a San Francisco restaurant. Then, in 1961, she again starred in a comedy pilot based on Bess Streeter Aldrich's book Cheers for Miss Bishop. None of those three pilots was ever "picked up" or purchased by a sponsor for production as a weekly series. Clayton also performed in the 1961 episode "The Prairie Story" on NBC's Wagon Train. The episode, written by Jean Holloway, examines how the harsh prairie causes havoc in the lives of some of the women on the wagon train. Robert Horton starred in this episode, which aired three months after the death of Ward Bond.
In the 1962 episode "St. Louis Woman" on NBC's The Tall Man, Clayton performed in the role of Janet Harper, a widow engaged to Tom Davis ( Canadian-born Russ Conway), a friend of Sheriff Pat Garrett (Barry Sullivan). While Tom is away from Lincoln, New Mexico, the setting of The Tall Man, on a cattle drive, Janet begins to show a romantic interest in Garrett. Roger Mobley appears in this episode as David Harper, Janet's young son.
In "The Man Who Wouldn't Die", a 1967 episode of the syndicated series Death Valley Days, Clayton was cast as the Margaret Wilbarger, the sister of Texas pioneer Josiah Wilbarger, who lived for 11 years after being scalped by the Comanche. Don Collier played Wilbarger, for whom Wilbarger County, Texas, is named, along with Wilbarger's brother.
Clayton was posthumously inducted into the New Mexico Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2012.
Personal life
Clayton's first husband was western actor Russell Hayden. The couple married in 1938 and had one daughter, Sandra Jane Hayden, who was born in 1940 but died at the age of 16 in an automobile accident on September 22, 1956. While driving her mother's Cadillac, Sandra ran through a stop sign and collided with another car. Prior to her daughter's tragic death, Clayton had divorced Russell Hayden in 1943. Three years later she married Robert Lerner, an attorney and brother of famed Broadway lyricist Alan Jay Lerner. Their marriage, which ended in 1958, produced two daughters and a son: Robin (b. 1948), Karen (b. 1949), and Joe (b. 1950). Clayton married for a third and final time in 1966 to pianist and film/television composer George Greeley.
Jan Clayton died of cancer in West Hollywood, California, on August 28, 1983, just two days after her 66th birthday. Her ashes are buried next to the gravesite of her father at Fairview Cemetery in Tularosa, New Mexico.

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Jan Clayton
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Jane, Jane Byrol Clayton, Jan Byrol (Clayton)
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Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California 90060
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Jan Clayton was born on
Jan Clayton died on in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California United States
Jan Clayton was born on
Jan Clayton died on in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California United States
Colon cancer
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College graduate.


Actress, singer, dancer. Author. Lecturer.

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May 16, 1921 - Oct 9, 1981


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Jan Clayton & Russell Hayden

Jan Clayton


1912 - 1981


Jul 11, 1940 - Sep 22, 1956
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Jan Clayton & George Greeley

Jan Clayton


Jul 23, 1917 - May 26, 2007


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Jan Clayton, who played Tommy Rettig's mother in the original ''Lassie'' television series, died of cancer and other diseases Sunday at her home in West Hollywood. She was 66 years old.
Miss Clayton, a native of Tularosa, N. M., graduated from Tularosa High School in 1935 and studied music and drama at Gulf Park College for Women in Gulfport, Miss.
She arrived in Hollywood after appearing in talent shows. Her first film role was ''In Old Mexico.''
Miss Clayton also had several roles on Broadway, playing Julie in the original production of ''Carousel.'' Roles in such hits as ''Show Boat,'' ''South Pacific,'' ''Guys and Dolls,'' ''Auntie Mame'' and ''Kiss Me Kate'' followed. Nominated for Emmy
In ''Lassie,'' she played Ellen Miller, the mother of Jeff Miller - the character played by Tommy Rettig - from 1954 to 1957. The series earned three Emmy awards and Miss Clayton was nominated for an Emmy.
In recent years, she served on the National Council of the United Service Organizations Inc., touring the world.

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1917 - 1983 World Events

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In 1917, in the year that Jan Clayton was born, Dutch exotic dancer Mata Hari was convicted and executed as a German spy. Since Mata Hari, born Margaretha Geertruida "Margreet" MacLeod, was a citizen of the Netherlands (which remained neutral in World War 1), she could travel freely in Europe. Her travels (and her romantic entanglements) raised suspicion and she was arrested by the French and found guilty. There is still controversy about her guilt although her name has become synonymous with a seductive female spy.

In 1925, by the time she was only 8 years old, on November 28th, radio station WSM broadcast the Grand Ole Opry for the first time. Originally airing as “The WSM Barn Dance”, the Opry (a local term for "opera") was dedicated to honoring country music and in its history has featured the biggest stars and acts in country music.

In 1949, by the time she was 32 years old, on April 4th, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was established. Twelve nations originally signed the North Atlantic Treaty - the United States, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Canada, and Portugal. Greece, Turkey, and West Germany later joined. Today, there are 26 nations in NATO.

In 1954, when she was 37 years old, on May 17th, the Supreme Court released a decision on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The ruling stated that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students was unconstitutional thus paving the way for integration in schools.

In 1983, in the year of Jan Clayton's passing, on August 30th, the Soviet Union claimed that a South Korean Boeing 747 jetliner (Flight 007), bound for Seoul from New York City, had strayed into Soviet airspace. Saying that they believed it to be a U.S. spy plane, the passenger jet was shot down by a Soviet SU-15 fighter - after it had tracked the airliner for two hours. All 269 passengers (including a U.S. Representative from Georgia) and crew were killed.

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c. 1954 - Unknown

Other Claytons

Feb 12, 1969 - Jan 21, 2003
Nov 30, 1900 - March 1978
Jul 29, 1900 - November 1984
Oct 2, 1914 - Dec 1, 2000
Mar 31, 1913 - September 1954
Feb 10, 1962 - Jan 10, 1996
Feb 11, 1921 - April 1986
Apr 21, 1892 - Jan 9, 1989
May 8, 1928 - Apr 1, 1998
Oct 24, 1904 - November 1971
May 7, 1958 - Nov 11, 1992
Jul 2, 1921 - October 1984
Dec 2, 1887 - July 1973
Nov 7, 1933 - Aug 25, 2006
Jul 8, 1904 - Dec 4, 1987
May 4, 1901 - November 1977
May 8, 1910 - May 1991
May 18, 1894 - August 1980
Jun 7, 1913 - April 1975
Feb 22, 1892 - June 1974

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Apr 7, 1920 - Apr 17, 2010
Sep 1, 1889 - August 1970
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Sep 27, 1914 - Jun 20, 1992
Sep 16, 1911 - October 1977
Jul 28, 1898 - October 1980
Mar 2, 1919 - March 1985
Apr 15, 1916 - November 1978
Jan 24, 1915 - January 1979
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May 7, 1897 - April 1964
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