Joan Bennett

Actor
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 ... Read more »
Born: 02/26/1910 in Palisades, New Jersey, USA

Filmography

Actor (60)

Divorce Wars 1981 - 1982 (TV Show)

Actor

Suspiria 1977 (Movie)

Miss Blank (Actor)

Dark Shadows 1965 - 1971 (TV Show)

Actor

House of Dark Shadows 1970 (Movie)

Elizabeth Stoddard (Actor)

Desire in the Dust 1960 (Movie)

Mrs Marquand (Actor)

Too Young To Go Steady 1959 - 1960 (TV Show)

Actor

There's Always Tomorrow 1956 (Movie)

Marion Groves (Actor)

The Man Who Came to Dinner 1954 - 1955 (TV Show)

Actor

We're No Angels 1955 (Movie)

Amelie Ducotel (Actor)

The Nash Airflyte Theater 1950 - 1951 (TV Show)

Actor

Scarlet Street 1945 (Movie)

Kitty March (Actor)

The Woman in the Window 1943 (Movie)

Alice Reed (Actor)

Margin For Error 1942 (Movie)

(Actor)

The Man in the Iron Mask 1938 (Movie)

(Actor)

Vogues of 1938 1936 (Movie)

(Actor)

Private Worlds 1934 (Movie)

(Actor)

Little Women 1932 (Movie)

(Actor)

Big Brown Eyes (Movie)

Eve Fallon (Actor)

Bulldog Drummond (Movie)

Phyllis Benton (Actor)

Colonel Effingham's Raid (Movie)

Ella Sue Dozier (Actor)

Confirm or Deny (Movie)

Jennifer Carson (Actor)

Disraeli (Movie)

Lady Clarissa Pevensey (Actor)

Father of the Bride (Movie)

Ellie Banks (Actor)

Father's Little Dividend (Movie)

Ellie Banks (Actor)

For Heaven's Sake (Movie)

Lydia Bolton (Actor)

Gidget Gets Married (TV Show)

Actor

Green Hell (Movie)

Stephanie Richardson (Actor)

Man Hunt (Movie)

Jerry (Actor)

Maybe It's Love (Movie)

Nan Sheffield (Actor)

Me and My Gal (Movie)

Helen Riley (Actor)

Mississippi (Movie)

Lucy Rumford (Actor)

Nob Hill (Movie)

Harriet Carruthers (Actor)

Puttin' on the Ritz (Movie)

Dolores Fenton (Actor)

Scotland Yard (Movie)

Lady Lasher (Actor)

Secret Beyond the Door (Movie)

Celia Lamphere (Actor)

She Knew All the Answers (Movie)

Gloria Winters (Actor)

She Wanted a Millionaire (Movie)

Jane Miller (Actor)

Suddenly, Love (TV Show)

Actor

The Divine Lady (Movie)

Extra (Actor)

The Eyes of Charles Sand (TV Show)

Actor

The House Across the Bay (Movie)

Brenda Lucky Bentley (Actor)

The Housekeeper's Daughter (Movie)

Hilda (Actor)

The Macomber Affair (Movie)

Margaret Macomber (Actor)

The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo (Movie)

Helen Berkeley (Actor)

The Man Who Reclaimed His Head (Movie)

Adele Verin (Actor)

The Man from Yesterday (Movie)

(Actor)

The Mississippi Gambler (Movie)

Lucy Blackburn (Actor)

The Reckless Moment (Movie)

Lucia Harper (Actor)

The Texans (Movie)

Ivy Preston (Actor)

The Wife Takes a Flyer (Movie)

Anita Woverman (Actor)

This House Possessed (TV Show)

Actor

Trade Winds (Movie)

Kay Kerrigan (Actor)

Twin Beds (Movie)

Julie Abbott (Actor)

Two for Tonight (Movie)

Bobbie Lockwood (Actor)

Valley of Decision (Movie)

An "unborn soul" (Actor)

Wedding Present (Movie)

Monica "Rusty" Fleming (Actor)

Week-Ends Only (Movie)

Venetia Carr (Actor)

Wild Geese Calling (Movie)

Sally Murdock (Actor)

Wild Girl (Movie)

Salome Jane Clay (Actor)

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 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.

Relationships

Diana Anderson

Daughter
born c. 1928 father, John Marion Fox

Melinda Bena

Daughter
father, Gene Markey

Richard Bennett

Father
born in 1873 died in 1944 divorced from Bennett's mother in 1925

Barbara Bennett

Sister
born in 1906 died in 1958

Constance Bennett

Sister
born in 1904 died in 1965 popular star of the 1920s and 30s in such films as "What Price Hollywood?" (1932) and "Topper" (1937)

John Fox

Husband
married c. 1926 divorced c. 1928

Stephanie Guest

Daughter
father, Walter Wanger

Gene Markey Screenwriter

Husband

Gene Markey

Husband
married in 1932 divorced in 1937

Adrienne Morrison

Mother
born in 1883 died in 1940 lineage went back five generations to strolling players in 18th-century England

Walter Wanger

Husband
married in 1940 divorced in 1965

Shelley Wanger

Daughter
father, Walter Wanger

David Wilde

Husband
married from 1973 until her death

EDUCATION

L'Hermitage

finishing school

St Margaret's School

Waterbury , Connecticut
boarding school

Milestones

1976

Last film, "Suspiria"

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)

1954

Returned to films after a three-year absence to act in "Highway Dragnet"

1951

Involved in Hollywood scandal when then-husband producer Walter Wanger, shot and wounded her agent, Jennings Lang, in a Los Angeles parking lot

1940

First film with director Fritz Lang, "Man Hunt"

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

1929

First major film performance in "Bulldog Drummond"

1928

Film acting debut in "Power"

1928

Stage debut (with father) in "Jarnegan"

1915

Had a bit part in father Richard Bennett's medium-length film, "The Valley of Decision"

Was one of the partners involved in forming the independent production company, Diana Productions (which also included Lang)

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"

Bonus Trivia

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"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)

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"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

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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?"

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