Joan Bennett Profile
* Films air on 8/15
Born in Palisades, N.J., she was part of a famous theatrical family that also included her father, actor Richard Bennett; her mother, actress Adrienne Morrison; and sisters, actresses Barbara and Constance Bennett. Joan first acted onstage with her father at age 18 and by 19 had become a movie star courtesy of her roles in such movies as Bulldog Drummond (1929) and Disraeli (1929). She moved quickly from film to film throughout the 1930s, appearing with John Barrymore in his version of Moby Dick (1930) and playing Amy to Katharine Hepburn's Jo in Little Women (1933). The latter film brought Bennett to the attention of producer Walter Wanger, who signed her to a contract and eventually (in 1940) married her.
The second phase of the Bennett career reached its apex in the mid-1940s, when she played deadly dames for director Fritz Lang in The Woman in the Window (1945), Scarlet Street (1945) and The Woman on the Beach (1947). Highlights of the more mature phase of her career include the role of Spencer Tracy's wife and Elizabeth Taylor's mother in both Father of the Bride (1950) and Father's Little Dividend (1951). Later in her career Bennett enjoyed success in the TV series Dark Shadows and in the cult horror thriller from Italian director Dario Argento, Suspiria (1977).
Bennett had a lively personal life, taking the first of three husbands at age 16, becoming a mother at 17 and a divorcee at 18. Scandal struck in 1951 when husband Wanger shot her agent, Jennings Lang, in a jealous fit and served a short jail term. The couple was reunited upon Wanger's release and remained married until his death in 1968.
by Roger Fristoe