Family & Companions
This blonde actress, who has been on stage since her youth, developed into a fine character player of both comedy and drama, capable of a wide range from hard-as-nails dames to overbearing mothers to dull matrons to fraught, nervous Nellies. Her older brother Dick was already a working actor when their mother entered two-year old Joyce Van Patten in a Shirley Temple look-alike contest, which she won. Within four years, she was appearing on Broadway in "Love's Old Sweet Song." Over the course of the next fifty-odd years, Van Patten graced numerous plays including "Desk Set" (1952), with Shirley Booth and several of Neil Simon's efforts, including "I Ought to Be in Pictures" (1982, as the father's girlfriend), "Brighton Beach Memoirs" (1983, as the aunt) and "Rumors" (1989) and "Jake's Women" (1992). She has also proven a fine replacement for such actresses in Ellen Burstyn in "Same Time, Next Year" and Judith Ivey in "A Fair Country" (in 1996).
In 1941, Van Patten made her screen debut alongside her brother in "Reg'lar Fellers," a decidedly 'B' programmer in which they were amongst the youths trying to warm the heart of a dour lady. Van Patten's career gathered its real steam after she became a young adult. She has a supporting role to Kim Stanley in "The Goddess" (1958) and played Peter Sellers' dull fiancee in "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas" (1968). Van Patten was the sweetly Southern rival to Lucille Ball's "Mame" (1974) and was the chair of the local little league who hoped to see Walter Matthau fail in "The Bad News Bears" (1976). "St. Elmo's Fire" (1985) cast her as wife to her real-life ex-husband Martin Balsam and among her maternal roles are "The Falcon and the Snowman" (1985), as parent to Timothy Hutton, and "Blind Date" (1987), as Kim Basinger's mom.
Van Patten also remained quite active in television. In 1956, she was in the original cast of the CBS daytime drama "As the World Turns" playing Janice Turner, the potential daughter-in-law of whom matriarch Nancy Hughes does not approve. She left the show after a year to join her brother in the NBC soap "Young Doctor Malone." In 1963, Van Patten headed for Hollywood, where she made an unsold pilot for a comedy skit show co-starring Paul Mazursky. She found regular employment as a member of the company of "The Danny Kaye Show" (CBS, 1964-67), although she did not appear in every episode. Her next regular gig was as Herb Edelman's wife, often exasperated by his friendship with Bob Denver, on "The Good Guys" (CBS, 1968-70) before she was tapped for the short-lived "The Don Rickles Show" (CBS, 1972) and "The Mary Tyler Moore Comedy Hour" (CBS, 1979). More recently. Van Patten spent two seasons (1995-96) as the takes-no-prisoners mother-in-law on The WB sitcom "Unhappily Ever After."
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Was child model at age eight months
Won Shirley Temple look-alike contest
Began acting on Broadway in "Love's Old Sweet Song"
Feature film debut, "Reg'lar Fellers"
Was regular on the CBS daytime drama "As the World Turns"
Made unsold pilot for potential variety series partnered with Paul Mazursky
TV-movie debut, "But I Don't Want to Get Married" (ABC)
Was regular on the CBS sitcom "The Don Rickles Show"
Cast as Sally Cato the rival to "Mame"
Appeared in the regular role of Mary's secretary in "The Mary Tyler Moore Comedy Hour" (CBS)
Portrayed the diner owner Grace in the HBO remake of "Bus Stop"
Cast as Kim Basinger's mother in "Blind Date"
Last film role for seven years, "Trust Me"
Returned to films in "Infinity"
Appeared in the Broadway revival of "Ring Round the Moon"
Guest-starred in ABC's "Desperate Housewives"
Appeared in "Marley & Me" opposite Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Appeared in the ensemble comedy "Grown Ups," about five friends who reunite for a Fourth of July holiday weekend; film starred Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider