A Life between Takes
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
Joan Blondell’s stature as a person and actress was reﬂected in the enthusiasm and affection of interviewees in recalling the movie, stage play, or television series they shared. My thanks to directors Norman Jewison and Curtis Harrington, producer Nancy Malone, camera operator Michael Ferris, agent Hillard Elkins, dolly grip Chico Anzures, and actors Theodore Bikel, Alice Ghostley, and Anthony Franciosa. Actor Gloria Manon offered...
Joan Blondell has always been an enigma. As a beloved actress, she was in front of the cameras for ﬁve decades, yet was adamant in her priorities to family and home life. She made good money due to an exhausting schedule, yet was never far ahead of the bill collectors. She was one of the most reliably good actresses Hollywood has ever seen, yet she was rarely...
Chapter 1. The Next Town
When Joan Blondell published Center Door Fancyin 1972, it was labeled a novel, but everyone knew better. She maintained that virtually all events in the book were from her life. No one questioned her; the parallels were too transparent. The names were changed, but it was easy to ﬁgure out who was who. She was Nora Marten, vaudeville charmer turned movie star. David Nolan was George Barnes, cinematographer and ﬁrst husband. Jim...
Chapter 2. Starlight
When the Blondells arrived in New York for an indeﬁnite stay, they were close to destitute. Twenty-year-old Joan and eleven-year-old Gloria took odd jobs, hating every one of them. Junie had a paper route. Father Ed did a solo routine as the live act before picture shows, but he never brought in more than ten dollars for a day’s work. The reduced conditions of vaudeville...
Chapter 3. Hammer and Tongs
Thanks to George Barnes’s connections, Joan was enjoying high-class company, but she remained unostentatious, disliking showy hats, jewelry, and makeup. She went to premieres only when ordered by the studio, as she was when Union Depothad a pull-out-the-stops opening at Warner’s Hollywood Theater. It distinguished itself as a sharp, engaging drama that refused to go soft for an artiﬁcial happy ending. Joan invested the penniless chorus girl...
Chapter 4. Nearer to Heaven
Christmas 1934 was quiet on Lookout Mountain. Relatives came loaded with gifts, Joan cooked, Norman slept, and George brooded. Preoccupation with the holiday allowed Joan to postpone contemplating why George seemed distant from her and their son. They were happiest when out of town. For New Year’s Eve, they tent camped in the desert. Later in January, Joan went...
Chapter 5. Freelancing
On 31 August 1938, Joan reported back to the studio for her ﬁrst day of work with director James Flood and costar Pat O’Brien. She was now taking in $2,500 a week, the highest salary she would ever have at Warner Bros. It had been a whopping seven months since she made her last movie...
Chapter 6. The Interrupted Family
Nineteen forty-two brought on blackout shades, civil air patrols, war bonds, victory gardens, and gas shortages. Tens of thousands of women began riveting, welding, and assembling in defense industries. With husbands gone, children were left without parental supervision. Juvenile delinquency staged a comeback and reform school enrollment increased accordingly...
Chapter 7. Gulag-on-the-Hudson
Joan began work on Adventure in May of 1945 in an unambiguously sup- porting role. The production was rushed to capitalize on star Clark Gable’s decorated service as a pilot ﬂying missions over Germany and his return to the screen after a three-year absence. In Adventure, he played a marine as rest- less as the sea, with Greer Garson as his becalming love interest...
Chapter 8. Solo Rites
Joan moved quickly toward a premeditated escape. She packed mostly clothes and costumes, then stored the trunks and suitcases in a tarp-covered trailer with her Uncle Ernie and Aunt Mae in Brooklyn. Norman was spending extended time at a friend’s house, but Ellen would be leaving with her mother. The night was animated by fear, as everything had the potential to wake Mike and alert him to Joan’s ﬂight: the ﬁring ignition...
Chapter 9. Love, Matey
Playwright William Inge, who served Joan advantageously with Come Back, Little Sheba, thought she was a brilliant actress and personally selected her for a seven-month, 110-city national tour of his The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. The story of a troubled Oklahoma family in the 1920s featured loquacious...
Chapter 10. I Hear Voices
Soon after ﬁnishing season one of Here Come the Brides, Joan picked up some extra cash doing a brief turn in Warner Bros.’The Phynx. It was a supposed comedy about a rock band rescuing kidnapped “world leaders” Xavier Cugat, Johnny Weismueller, Butterﬂy McQueen, and Busby Berkeley from imprisonment behind Iron Curtain Albania. Joan played the American...
Chapter 11. Predestiny
In mid-1976, Joan taped a two-hour season premiere of the popular cop series Starsky & Hutchwith former Here Come the Bridesregular David Soul. She played an emasculating drugstore manager whose hankering for he-men ﬁgures into both the whodunit and the why-do-it. “You take Clark Gable and Ty Power—those were real men,” she said in her familiar timbre. “That’s...
Two services were planned for Joan, one in California and one in New York. Several hundred mourners packed the Forest Lawn Memorial Park’s Wee Kirk O’ the Heather in Glendale. The family arrived in limousines and sat in the front rows of the full chapel, with additional onlookers assembled outside. Family friend Alex Swan conducted the Christian Science Church...
Publication Year: 2007
OCLC Number: 816366626
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Joan Blondell