Joan Bennett

Date of Birth
27 February 1910, Palisades, New Jersey, USA

Date of Death
7 December 1990, Scarsdale, New York, USA (heart attack)

Birth Name
Joan Geraldine Bennett


Eighteen-year-old Joan Bennett had intended to avoid the Bennett tradition of acting but, divorced and with a child to support, had little choice; she accepted a role in her father's play "Jarnegan", then her first leading film role in Bulldog Drummond (1929). Her popularity growing, she made 14 films under a Fox contract, mostly as vapid blonde ingenues; the best of these, Me and My Gal (1932), as a wisecracking waitress. Leaving Fox to appear in Little Women (1933), she then signed a personal contract with independent producer Walter Wanger, who managed her career from then on. When Wanger and director Tay Garnett made her a brunette for Trade Winds (1938), the seemingly trivial change drastically altered her screen image from insipid ingenue to smoldering temptress. Dark-haired for the rest of her career, she made her finest films in the 1940s with director Fritz Lang: Man Hunt (1941), _Woman in the Window, The (1945)_ and Scarlet Street (1945), becoming the queen of film-noir femme fatales. In December 1951, Wanger (by then her husband of 11 years) shot her agent in a jealous rage; the resulting scandal virtually ended Joan's film career. Aside from TV-movies, she made six more theatrical films. From 1950 through the1970s she worked steadily in theatre and TV, starring for five years in "Dark Shadows" (1966). A 1967 interviewer found her happy and contented. She last appeared in a 1986 TV documentary on Spencer Tracy.

David Wilde (14 February 1978 - 7 December 1990) (her death)
Walter Wanger (12 January 1940 - 20 September 1965) (divorced) 2 children
Gene Markey (12 March 1932 - 3 June 1937) (divorced)
John Marion Fox (15 September 1926 - 30 July 1928) (divorced) 1 child

Was pregnant with daughter Melinda Markey while filming Little Women (1933).

Daughter of actors Richard Bennett and Adrienne Morrison

Sister of actresses Barbara Bennett and Constance Bennett.

Filming on She Wanted a Millionaire (1932) was interrupted for 6 months when Joan broke her leg in a fall from a horse.

Joan sang in films with her own voice; she was never dubbed.

She was nearsighted and wore glasses when not on public view.

Daughters: Adrienne Ralston Fox (became Diana Markey) born 20 February 1928; Melinda Markey born 27 February 1934; Stephanie Wanger, born 26 June 1943; Shelley Wanger, born 4 July 1948.

Her 78 feature-length films include three bit parts in silents and 6 TV-movies.

At the time of her death, Joan had 13 grandchildren. Her first two great-grandchildren were on the way - one of her grandsons and his wife were expecting twins.

She was one of only three cast members who appeared on "Dark Shadows" (1966) from the beginning to the end. She appeared on the first episode, June 27, 1966, as well as its last, April 2, 1971.

She made five films for German director Fritz Lang, more than any other American actor or actress who worked with him (many actors reportedly disliked working with Lang).

Was offered the role of Beth McCarthy in Cocoon (1985). Director Ron Howard wanted to reunite co-star Don Ameche with one of his former leading ladies and he thought of Joan. Unfortunately, she was in frail health at the time and turn down the role, a decision she later regretted when Cocoon (1985) became one of the biggest box office hits of 1985 and spawned a sequel. The part was played by Gwen Verdon. Miss Bennett did not, in fact, turn down the role. Rather, she was talked out of taking it by her fourth husband, David Wilde. Wilde insisted that the film too closely resembled the 1956 film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). He also felt that it was beneath Miss Bennett's dignity to be working under "Opie Taylor" or "Richie Cunningham".

Her first grandchild, Amanda Anderson, was born in March, 1949 to daughter Diana.

Played Amy March in Little Women (1933) with Katharine Hepburn. She played Elizabeth Taylor's mother in Father of the Bride (1950). Taylor played Amy March in the remake: Little Women (1949).

Appeared in Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show (1971), although only in archive footage. The film that the characters in the movie go to see is Father of the Bride (1950), and a clip is show featuring Joan.

In Italy, most of her films were dubbed by Lidia Simoneschi, including Father of the Bride (1950) and its sequel Father's Little Dividend (1951). She was occasionally dubbed by Lia Orlandini, Renata Marini and Tina Lattanzi.

Finalist for the part of Scarlett O'Hara in the classic Gone with the Wind (1939). Vivien Leigh got the role at the last minute. However, the film's producer, David O. Selznick offered to cast her oldest daughter, Diana in the role of Bonnie Blue Butler, Rhett and Scarlett's daughter as a sort of consolation prize. Miss Bennett refused the offer. In reality, Diana, who was 11 years old at the time of the film's premiere, was way too old for the role - the part called for a toddler.

Grandfather Morris W. Morris (known as Lewis Morrison on stage) was of English and well-off Spanish ancestry. Joan Bennett spoke of this, in detail, in her 1970 autobiography "The Bennett Playbill". Morris was also a Captain in the Union army during the Civil War.

Granddaughter of Rose Wood and the stage actor Lewis Morrison, birth name: Morris W. Morris (1845 - 1906).

Personal Quotes
"I don't think much of most of the films I made, but being a movie star was something I liked very much."

"I feel positively like a Beatle, " Joan Bennett in response to the attention she was getting with the success of Dark Shadows.

'My film career faded. A man can go on playing certain roles till he's sixty. But not a woman' 'The golden age is gone, and with it most of the people of great taste. It doesn't seem to be any fun any more' (1984)

[on Hollywood attorney Jerry Giesler] "Whenever trouble arose in Hollywood, the first cry for legal help was, 'Get Giesler!'."

"Meryl Streep can act Polish or English or Australian but she sure as hell can't act blonde."


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