Joan Blondell


"I don't know what the secret to longevity as an actress is. It's more than talent and beauty. Maybe it's the audience seeing itself in you." ~ Joan

Joan Blondell was born Rose Joan Blondell on August 30, 1906, in New York, New York. Her parents were vaudeville entertainers and she began performing with them when she was a toddler. In 1926 she won fourth place in the Miss America pageant. The following year Joan was working at a library when she was brutally raped by a policeman. She appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies and starred in several Broadway shows. After making a few short films she was offered a contract with Warner Brothers. Her first movie at the studio was Sinner's Holiday with James Cagney. She became one of Hollywood's busiest actresses often making eight films a year. Although she rarely played the lead role her wisecracking characters made her popular with audiences during the depression. Joan married cinematographer George Barnes in 1932. She had several abortions before giving birth to a son named Norman. Joan divorced George in 1936 and married actor Dick Powell. They had a daughter, Pamela Ellen, and Dick adopted Norman. The couple worked together in the musicals Dames and Gold Diggers of 1937.


Their marriage ended in 1944 after he began an affair with actress June Allyson. Joan married producer Mike Todd but he had a gambling problem and became abusive. She once accused him of trying to push her out of window. In 1950 Joan filed for bankruptcy and divorced Mike. She received an Academy Award nomination in 1952 for her performance in the drama The Blue Veil. Now in her forties she was having trouble getting movie roles so she returned to the stage in a production of The Rope Dancers. During the 1960s she became a familiar face on television and made guest appearances on shows like The Twilight Zone and The Lucy Show. She starred in the series Here Comes The Bride and was nominated for two Emmy awards. Joan also wrote a novel called Center Door Fancy which was loosely based on her own experiences in Hollywood. One of her final roles was playing a waitress in the hit musical Grease. Joan died on December 25, 1979, from leukemia. She was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Her son, Norman Powell, has become a successful producer.