Lane Bradbury: A Life of Meaning and Purpose


Last Update: 2008
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Prolific stage, film and television actress Janette Lane Bradbury utilized her childhood love of wonder and whimsy to build a substantial acting career that has spanned nearly 50 years. Inspired as a tot by magical visions of dancing elves and fairy princesses, the shy little girl began taking ballet lessons at age five with Dorothy Alexander, founder of The Atlanta Ballet, and later joined the company at age 12. In the late 1950s, Lane left the sylvan setting of her youth and went to New York City to continue her studies. It was there that she soon became interested in acting, as well.

As a teenager, Lane auditioned for the world famous Actors Studio and was admitted as the youngest member in history to achieve that honor. Seeing her intense, energy-driven performances at the Studio, Elia Kazan cast her as “Jolly” in the Broadway drama, J.B., where Lane emoted alongside such stellar actors as Raymond Massey and Pat Hingle. She went from that show to originating the part of Dainty June in Gypsy (co-starring with the inimitable Ethel Merman), as well as essaying other important stage roles in Night of the Iguana (with a typically captious Bette Davis) and Marathon ‘33.

Moving to L.A. in the mid 1960s with her husband, actor/director Lou Antonio, Lane began a highly visible career as a guest-star on countless television series. Her long list of credits stretches over 35 years and includes roles in Gunsmoke, Kung Fu, In The Heat of the Night, Police Story, The Rockford Files, Alias Smith and Jones, Iron Horse, The Partridge Family, McCloud, The Mod Squad, Medical Center, and many others. Lane also appeared in several theatrical movies, including 1974’s Academy Award winning Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Hawaii, Consenting Adults and the 1975 Yul Brynner Sci-fi film, The Ultimate Warrior. In the early 70s, one of her most memorable roles came as Sally Field‘s troubled teenage sister in the acclaimed TV movie, Maybe I’ll Come Home in the Spring.

In recent years, Lane has channeled her deep social consciousness and creative energy into her current position as artistic director of L.A.’s Valkyrie Theater of Dance, Drama & Film, a non-profit organization she founded to utilize the arts to benefit at-risk teenagers. Mentoring with a staff of professional filmmakers and artists in music, dance and drama, Lane and her organization are teaching the students at Valkyrie the skills and techniques they need to turn negative lives into wholly positive and productive ones.

A soft-spoken Southern Lady with a genteel and warmhearted spirit, Lane Bradbury has faced the myriad challenges that life has brought her with the sweet, if determined, resolve of a true “Steel Magnolia”. She recently met with John O’Dowd to share her story of how a little girl from Georgia danced and dreamed her way into an incredibly fascinating life…a life of meaning and purpose.

“I was born outside of Atlanta, Georgia, in a beautiful area with lots and lots of woods. My father was an architect who later designed the governor’s mansion in Atlanta, as well as many of the buildings surrounding the State Capitol. My mother was a homemaker and a child ‘taker’ and what I mean is that she took me and my younger siblings, Lynda and Tommy, everywhere. She was very much a ‘hands-on’ Mom. Lynda and I took ballet lessons starting at the age of five, piano and riding lessons at seven, Brownies, Girl Scouts…you name it. Lynda started playing the clarinet and I started playing the flute in elementary school, and my brother took piano lessons (which he hated). Later, he took flying lessons, which he seeemed to like better.You can see why I call my mother a child taker. She was one busy mom.

The two things I remember most about my childhood were riding horses and dancing. I think my very first memory was listening to music and dancing on our sofa which, in my mind, was a stage. I remember one specific time I was dancing and I looked down at my dress and it wasn’t very pretty so I went into my bedroom and changed into a Sunday dress so I could look more like a fairy—a beautiful fairy dancing on the stage. That’s one of my very first memories. Then, at the age of five my mother took me to see a dress rehearsal of the Atlanta Civic Ballet. I remember seeing what looked to be elves and fairies sitting in the audience with us. Though they were just the other children waiting to go on stage, I thought they were real. When mother asked me if I wanted to take ballet, I said yes because I thought that meant that I would be able to see the fairies and elves up close. At five, I started taking ballet classes with Dorothy Alexander, who was the founder of the Atlanta Ballet. I thought the fairies and elves would take one look at me and know that I was one of them and they would make me their fairy princess. Where does this come from, I wonder, in a child? It is such a strong memory for me.

Miss Dorothy’s house was up on a hill and in order to get there you had to walk through what looked to me like a little, magical ‘fairyland’ of plants and fish ponds. In the ballet studio there were bay windows that overlooked the gardens and there was a silver bar that Miss Dorothy asked us to put our hands on. I remember thinking, ‘Well, now, where are all the fairies?’ I saw a green curtain hanging on the wall and I thought they must be behind the curtain and that they were going to come out and tell me that I was their princess! (laughs) They didn’t actually do that but something about dance and music enchanted me from the start because I kept coming back. Eventually I became a member of the Atlanta Ballet when I was twelve.

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