Joan Blondell

Infobox actor
name = Joan Blondell

imagesize = 150px
caption = Scene from the trailer of
"Broadway Gondolier" (1935)
birthname = Rose Joan Blondell
birthdate = birth date|1906|8|30|mf=y
birthplace = New York City, New York
deathdate = Death date and age|1979|12|25|1906|8|30
deathplace = Santa Monica, California
spouse = George Barnes (1933-1936)
Dick Powell (1936-1944)
Mike Todd (1947-1950)

Rose Joan Blondell, known as Joan Blondell, (August 30, 1906December 25, 1979) was an Oscar-nominated American actress. Considered a sexy wisecracking blonde, she was a pre-Hays Code staple of Warner Brothers and appeared in more than 100 movies and television productions.

Early life

Blondell was born to a vaudeville family in New York City. Her father, known as Eddie Joan Blondell, Jr. (né Blustein), was born in Indiana in 1866 to French parents, and was a vaudeville comedian and one of the original Katzenjammer Kids. Blondell's mother was Kathryn ("Katie") Cain, born April 13, 1884, in Brooklyn of Irish American parents. Her younger sister, Gloria, also an actress, [imdb|0089052|Gloria Blondell] was briefly married to film producer Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli (the future producer of the James Bond film series) and bears a strong resemblance to her older sister, Joan. Blondell also had a brother, the namesake of her father and grandfather.

Joan had seen much of the world by the time her family settled in Dallas, Texas when she was a teenager. Under the name Rosebud Blondell she won the 1926 Miss Dallas pageant and placed fourth for Miss America in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in September of that same year. She was a student attending what is now the University of North Texas, then a teacher's college, in Denton north of Dallas, where her mother was a local stage actress, and Joan did some work as a fashion model. Around 1927, she returned to New York to become an actress, and performed on Broadway. In 1930, she starred with James Cagney in "Penny Arcade". [ibdb|32322]


"Penny Arcade" only lasted three weeks, but Al Jolson saw it and bought the rights to the play for $20,000. He then sold the rights to Warner Brothers with the proviso that Blondell and Cagney be cast in the film version. Placed under contract by Warners, she moved to Hollywood where studio boss Jack Warner wanted her to change her name to "Inez Holmes", but Blondell refused. She began to appear in short subjects, and in 1931 was named as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars.

During the 1930s Joan Blondell would embody the Depression era gold-digger, and with her huge blue eyes, blonde hair and wise cracking personality, became a crowd favourite. She appeared in more Warners films than any other actress, and referred to herself as "Warner's workhorse." The popularity of her films made a great contribution to the studio's profitability.

Blondell was paired with James Cagney in such films as "Sinners' Holiday" (1930) – the film version of "Penny Arcade" – and "The Public Enemy" (1931), and was one half of a gold-digging duo with Glenda Farrell in nine films. During the Great Depression, Blondell was one of the highest paid individuals in the United States. Her stirring rendition of "Remember My Forgotten Man" in the Busby Berkeley production of "Gold Diggers of 1933", in which she co-starred with Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers, became an anthem for the frustrations of the unemployed and President Herbert Hoover's failed economic policies. (Even though she was cast in many of the classic Warners musicals, she was not a singer, and in the Forgotten Man number, she mostly talked and acted her way through the song.) In 1937, she starred opposite Errol Flynn in "The Perfect Specimen", from a screenplay by the then "hot" playwright Lawrence Riley and others.

By the end of the decade, she had made nearly 50 films, despite having left Warners in 1939. Continuing to work regularly for the rest of her life, Blondell was well received in her later films, despite being relegated to character and supporting roles after the mid-1940s, and received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in "The Blue Veil" (1951). She was also featured prominently in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (1945), "Nightmare Alley" (1947), "Desk Set" (1957), "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" (1957) and "The Cincinnati Kid" (1965). Blondell was widely seen in two films released not long before her death, "Grease" (1978) and the remake of "The Champ" (1979) with Jon Voight and Rick Schroder. In addition, John Cassavetes cast her as a cynical, aging playwright in his film "Opening Night" (1977). She also starred in the ABC TV series "Here Come the Brides" set in the 19th century Pacific Northwest.

Blondell has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to Motion Pictures, at 6309 Hollywood Boulevard. In December 2007, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City mounted a retrospective of Blondell's films in connection with a new biography by film professor Matthew Kennedy.

Private life

Blondell first married cinematographer George Barnes in a private wedding ceremony on 4 January 1933 at the First Presbyterian Church in Phoenix, Arizona. They had one child – Norman S. Powell who became an accomplished producer, director, and television executive – and divorced in 1936. On 19 September 1936, she married her second husband, actor, director, and singer Dick Powell. They had a daughter, Ellen Powell, who became a studio hair stylist, and Powell adopted her son by her previous marriage. Blondell and Powell were divorced on 14 July 1944.

On 5 July 1947, Blondell married her third husband, producer Mike Todd, whom she divorced in 1950. Her marriage to Todd was an emotional and financial disaster. She once accused him of holding her outside a hotel window by her ankles. He was also a heavy spender who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars gambling (high-stakes bridge was one of his weaknesses). He went through a controversial bankruptcy during their marriage. An often-repeated myth is that Mike Todd "dumped" Joan Blondell for Elizabeth Taylor. In actuality, Blondell left Todd of her own accord two years before he met Taylor.

She died of leukemia in Santa Monica, California at the age of 73 with her children and her sister at her bedside. She is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

She wrote a "roman à clef" novel entitled "Center Door Fancy" (New York: Delacorte Press, 1972), a thinly disguised autobiography.



* "The Office Wife" (1930)
* "Sinners' Holiday" (1930)
* "Other Men's Women" (1931)
* "Millie (film)" (1931)
* "Illicit" (1931)
* "God's Gift to Women" (1931)
* "The Public Enemy" (1931)
* "My Past" (1931)
* "Big Business Girl" (1931)
* "Night Nurse" (1931)
* "The Reckless Hour" (1931)
* "Blonde Crazy" (1931)
* "Union Depot" (1932)
* "The Greeks Had a Word for Them" (1932)
* "The Crowd Roars" (1932)
* "The Famous Ferguson Case" (1932)
* "Make Me a Star" (1932)
* "Miss Pinkerton" (1932)
* "Big City Blues" (1932)
* "Three on a Match" (1932)
* "Central Park" (1932)
* "Lawyer Man" (1933)
* "Broadway Bad" (1933)
* "Blondie Johnson" (1933)
* "Gold Diggers of 1933" (1933)
* "Goodbye Again" (1933)
* "Footlight Parade" (1933)
* "Havana Widows" (1933)
* "Convention City" (1933)
* "I've Got Your Number" (1934)
* "He Was Her Man" (1934)
* "Smarty" (1934)
* "Dames" (1934)
* "Kansas City Princess" (1934)
* "Traveling Saleslady" (1935)
* "Broadway Gondolier" (1935)
* "We're in the Money" (1935)
* "Miss Pacific Fleet" (1935)
* "Colleen" (1936)
* "Sons o' Guns" (1936)
* "Bullets or Ballots" (1936)
* "Stage Struck" (1936)
* "Three Men on a Horse" (1936)
* "Gold Diggers of 1937" (1936)
* "The King and the Chorus Girl" (1937)
* "Back in Circulation" (1937)
* "The Perfect Specimen" (1937)
* "Stand-In" (1937)
* "There's Always a Woman" (1938)
* "Off the Record" (1939)
* "East Side of Heaven" (1939)
* "The Kid from Kokomo" (1939)
* "Good Girls Go to Paris" (1939)
* "The Amazing Mr. Williams" (1939)
* "Two Girls on Broadway" (1940)
* "I Want a Divorce" (1940)
* "Topper Returns" (1941)
* "Model Wife" (1941)
* "Three Girls About Town" (1941)
* "Lady for a Night" (1942)
* "Cry Havoc" (1943)
* "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" (1945)
* "Don Juan Quilligan" (1945)
* "Adventure" (1945)
* "The Corpse Came C.O.D." (1947)
* "Nightmare Alley" (1947)
* "Christmas Eve" (1947)
* "For Heaven's Sake" (1950)
* "The Blue Veil" (1951)
* "The Opposite Sex" (1956)
* "Lizzie" (1957)
* "Desk Set" (1957)
* "This Could Be the Night" (1957)
* "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" (1957)
* "Angel Baby" (1961)
* "Advance to the Rear" (1964)
* "The Cincinnati Kid" (1965)
* "Ride Beyond Vengeance" (1966)
* "Waterhole #3" (1967)
* "Stay Away, Joe" (1968)
* "Kona Coast" (1968)
* "Big Daddy" (1969)
* "The Phynx" (1970)
* "Support Your Local Gunfighter!" (1971)
* "Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood" (1976)
* "The Baron" (1977)
* "Opening Night" (1977)
* "Grease" (1978)
* "The Champ" (1979)
* "The Glove" (1979)
* "The Woman Inside" (1981)

hort Subjects

* "The Heart Breaker" (1930)
* "Broadway's Like That" (1930)
* "The Devil's Parade" (1930)
* "An Intimate Dinner in Celebration of Warner Bros. Silver Jubilee" (1930)
* "How I Play Golf, by Bobby Jones No. 10: Trouble Shots" (1931)
* "Just Around the Corner" (1933)
* "Hollywood Newsreel" (1934)
* "" (1941)
* "The Cincinnati Kid Plays According to Hoyle" (1965)


*Matthew Kennedy, "Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes" (University Press of Mississippi, 2007)

External links

*tcmdb name|id=17721|name=Joan Blondell
*amg name|2:6812
* [ Photographs of Joan Blondell]
* [ Joan Blondell Q&A with Biographer Matthew Kennedy]


NAME= Blondell, Joan
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Blondell, Rose Joan
DATE OF BIRTH= August 30, 1906
PLACE OF BIRTH= New York City, New York
DATE OF DEATH= December 25, 1979
PLACE OF DEATH= Santa Monica, California

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