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Joan Bennett

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Also Known As: Died: December 7, 1990
Born: February 27, 1910 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: Palisades, New Jersey, USA Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Personable, extremely pretty and prolific star of a wide range of films in the 1930s and 40s. Bennett began her film career as a demure blonde ingenue (e.g. in George Cukor's "Little Women" 1933, William K. Howard's breathtaking "The Trial of Vivienne Ware" 1932). Raoul Walsh's delightful "Me and My Gal" (1932), though, did give her an offbeat chance to indulge in sharp wisecracking. Early on her acting abilities seemed a bit modest, but Bennett's warm speaking voice and quietly piquant charm gave her considerable appeal as a screen personality.Gregory LaCava's pioneering study of mental health problems, "Private Worlds" (1935), gave Bennett an unusually good acting opportunity, and the sensitivity and vulnerability she brought to the role showed the increasing resonance she was bringing to her screen work. If she never did possess the acting bravura of Hollywood's most intense dramatic divas, Joan Bennett was nonetheless intriguing, likable and highly watchable, her sometimes aloof, serene presence highly effective at suggesting muffled passion. In 1938 she followed the trend of going brunette and parting one's hair in the middle (inspired by Hedy Lamarr's strong first Hollywood impression), and the...

Personable, extremely pretty and prolific star of a wide range of films in the 1930s and 40s. Bennett began her film career as a demure blonde ingenue (e.g. in George Cukor's "Little Women" 1933, William K. Howard's breathtaking "The Trial of Vivienne Ware" 1932). Raoul Walsh's delightful "Me and My Gal" (1932), though, did give her an offbeat chance to indulge in sharp wisecracking. Early on her acting abilities seemed a bit modest, but Bennett's warm speaking voice and quietly piquant charm gave her considerable appeal as a screen personality.

Gregory LaCava's pioneering study of mental health problems, "Private Worlds" (1935), gave Bennett an unusually good acting opportunity, and the sensitivity and vulnerability she brought to the role showed the increasing resonance she was bringing to her screen work. If she never did possess the acting bravura of Hollywood's most intense dramatic divas, Joan Bennett was nonetheless intriguing, likable and highly watchable, her sometimes aloof, serene presence highly effective at suggesting muffled passion. In 1938 she followed the trend of going brunette and parting one's hair in the middle (inspired by Hedy Lamarr's strong first Hollywood impression), and the look stuck. "Trade Winds" (1938) was an enjoyable Tay Garnett romp, and "The Housekeeper's Daughter" (1939) gave Bennett a good Hal Roach comedy, but she soon developed into a sultry, brunette fixture who proved outstanding in several 1940s films noirs. Sometimes sympathetic, sometimes a femme fatale, Bennett acted in a quartet of Fritz Lang thrillers, "Manhunt" (1941), "Woman in the Window" (1944), "Scarlet Street" (1945) and "Secret Beyond the Door" (1948), which represent some of her best work in film.

Bennett also appeared in a wide variety of other films during this time, ranging from the semi-musical period drama, "Nob Hill" (1945) to the interesting Hemingway adaptation "The Macomber Affair" (1947), which traded in on her more seductive noir roles. As middle age approached, Bennett shifted to the role of witty and nurturing mother in Vincente Minnelli's comedies "Father of the Bride" (1950) and "Father's Little Dividend" (1951). She was also especially fine as a mother whose family is jeopardized in Max Ophuls's unusual noir, "The Reckless Moment" (1949).

Her career was short-circuited in 1951 after her husband, producer Walter Wanger, shot her agent, Jennings Lang, accusing the latter of being a "homewrecker". She was offered few film roles after that (Douglas Sirk's "There's Always Tomorrow" 1956, in which she supported Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray), though she returned to the stage in several national tours. Later in life Bennett could be seen in a leading role on TV on the highly enjoyable cult Gothic soap opera, "Dark Shadows" (1966-71) and her last film appearance was in Dario Argento's cult horror film, "Suspiria" (1976).

Daughter of famed stage (and occasionally screen) actor Richard Bennett, sister of fellow film star Constance Bennett, and also sister of actress Barbara Bennett; she was married to Wanger (her second husband) from 1940 to 1965.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Divorce Wars: A Love Story (1982) Adele Burgess
3.
 This House Possessed (1981) Rag Lady
4.
 Suddenly, Love (1978) Mrs Graham
5.
 Suspiria (1977) Miss Blank
6.
 Gidget Gets Married (1972) Claire Ramsey
7.
 Eyes Of Charles Sand, The (1972) Aunt Alexandra
8.
 House of Dark Shadows (1970) Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
9.
 Desire in the Dust (1960) Mrs. Marquand
10.
 Navy Wife (1956) Peg Blain
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1915:
Had a bit part in father Richard Bennett's medium-length film, "The Valley of Decision"
1928:
Stage debut (with father) in "Jarnegan"
1928:
Film acting debut in "Power"
1929:
First major film performance in "Bulldog Drummond"
1938:
Became a brunette, adopting a "Hedy Lamarr look" for the film "Trade Winds," at suggestion of producer Walter Wanger; kept her hair dark for the rest of her career
1941:
First film with director Fritz Lang, "Man Hunt"
:
Was one of the partners involved in forming the independent production company, Diana Productions (which also included Lang)
1951:
Involved in Hollywood scandal when then-husband producer Walter Wanger, shot and wounded her agent, Jennings Lang, in a Los Angeles parking lot
1954:
Returned to films after a three-year absence to act in "Highway Dragnet"
:
Returned to stage in national tours of "Susan and God," "Bell, Book and Candle," "Once More With Feeling," "The Pleasure of His Company" and "Never Too Late"
1966:
TV soap opera debut as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard on "Dark Shadows"; also acted in a feature film based on the series, "House of Dark Shadows" (1970)
1976:
Last film, "Suspiria"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

St Margaret's School: Waterbury , Connecticut -
L'Hermitage: -

Notes

"I don't think much of most of the films I made. But being a movie star was something I liked very much." --Joan Bennett in 1986. (NEW YORK POST, December 10, 1990)

"If it happened today, I'd be a sensation. I'd be wanted by all studios for all pictures." --Joan Bennett in a 1981, discussing the 1951 scandal (NEW YORK TIMES obituary, December 9, 1990

A contemporary verse when Joan Bennett turned brunette went, "Let's sing of Lamarr, that Hedy so fair/Is it true that Joan Bennett wears all her old hair?"

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
John Marion Fox. Married c. 1926; divorced c. 1928.
husband:
Gene Markey. Producer, author, screenwriter. Married in 1932; divorced in 1937.
husband:
Walter Wanger. Producer. Married in 1940; divorced in 1965.
husband:
David Wilde. Film and theater critic, publisher. Married from 1973 until her death.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Richard Bennett. Actor, director. Born in 1873; died in 1944; divorced from Bennett's mother in 1925.
mother:
Adrienne Morrison. Actor. Born in 1883; died in 1940; lineage went back five generations to strolling players in 18th-century England.
sister:
Constance Bennett. Actor. Born in 1904; died in 1965; popular star of the 1920s and 30s in such films as "What Price Hollywood?" (1932) and "Topper" (1937).
sister:
Barbara Bennett. Actor. Born in 1906; died in 1958.
daughter:
Diana Anderson. Born c. 1928; father, John Marion Fox.
daughter:
Melinda Bena. Father, Gene Markey.
daughter:
Stephanie Guest. Father, Walter Wanger.
daughter:
Shelley Wanger. Father, Walter Wanger.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Bennett Playbill"

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