Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Janet Martin: Republic Star

Dark-haired songstress Janet Martin enjoyed quite a push from Republic Pictures, who kept her under contract from July 31, 1943 through October 28, 1948 with enough confidence to refrain from casting her in their bread-and-butter B-Westerns and serials, specialty turns in Roy Rogers oaters excepted. Yes, 14-year-old Janet Martin was given a buildup worthy of, say, a Deanna Durbin at Universal. We mention Deanna because Janet, a coloratura in her own right, was Republic's answer to the insanely popular songbird. And she came to the studio with quite a provenance:

Born Valya Valentina Tetlacov in, some sources claim, Moscow, USSR, she was the daughter of Czarist folk-singer Myra Sokolskaya. The latter, who went on to appear in Republic's Northwest Outpost (1947) and probably other walk-ons, acted as her daughter's agent upon signing with Republic. The youngster explained to the press why she changed her billing to “Janet Martin”:

“By being plain Janet Martin I avoid political arguments. As Valya Sokolskaya. I would be expected to either defend or castigate the policies of Stalin, Molotov and other Russians. With a non-political name like Janet Martin I ran just relax and talk about other things—even 'Blondie and Dagwood.'”

"I'm not expected to star in grim productions like the Dostoievsky Brothers turned out,” she added prophetically.

Alas, despite quite a bit of hub-bub and starring roles in Republic action fare, the name Janet Martin does not resonate today. Was she perhaps too similar to “Mrs. Republic Pictures,” Vera Ralston, to get the final push toward stardom?

1 comment:

  1. Her father's last name was Tretchakov. He and her mother separated when they were living outside New York City. He eventually went on to operating an Art Gallery under the name of Peter Paul in New york City. She was not born in Russia. Her father and mother left after the revolution some time before 1920. Valya (Janet) was born in the east and came here with her mother and older sister Tanya in the early 30's.