Joan Blondell featured in the August 1936 edition of Photoplay Magazine
Rose Joan Blondell
(1906-08-30)August 30, 1906
|Died||December 25, 1979(1979-12-25) (aged 73)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale|
|Children||2, including Norman S. Powell|
After winning a beauty pageant, Blondell embarked upon a film career. Establishing herself as a sexy, wisecracking blonde, she was a pre-Code staple of Warner Bros. pictures, and appeared in more than 100 movies and television productions. She was most active in films during the 1930s, and during this time, she co-starred with Glenda Farrell in nine films, in which the duo portrayed gold diggers. Blondell continued acting in major film roles for the rest of her life, often in small character roles or supporting television roles. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in The Blue Veil (1951).
Near the end of her life, Blondell was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in John Cassavetes's Opening Night (1977). She featured in roles in two more films — Grease (1978) and The Champ (1979) — released shortly before her death from leukemia.
Rose Joan Blondell was born in New York to a vaudeville family, and gave her birthdate as August 30, 1909. Her father, Levi Bluestein, a vaudeville comedian, known as Ed Blondell, was born in Poland to a Jewish family in 1866. He toured for many years starring in Blondell and Fennessy's stage version of The Katzenjammer Kids. Blondell's mother was Kathryn ("Katie") Cain, born April 13, 1884, in Brooklyn, of Irish American parents. Her younger sister, Gloria Blondell, also an actress, was briefly married to film producer Albert R. Broccoli. Blondell also had a brother, Ed Blondell, Jr.
Her cradle was a property trunk as her parents moved from place to place and she made her first appearance on stage at the age of four months when she was carried on in a cradle as the daughter of Peggy Astaire in The Greatest Love. Her family comprised a vaudeville troupe, the "Bouncing Blondells".
Joan had spent a year in Honolulu (1914–15)  and six years in Australia and had seen much of the world by the time her family, who had been on tour, settled in Dallas, Texas, when she was a teenager. Under the name Rosebud Blondell, she won the 1926 Miss Dallas pageant, was a finalist in an early version of the Miss Universe pageant in May 1926, and placed fourth for Miss America 1926 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in September of that same year. She attended Santa Monica High School, where she acted in school plays and worked as an editor on the yearbook staff. While there, she went by the name Rosebud Blondell. She attended what is now the University of North Texas, then a teacher's college, in Denton, where her mother was a local stage actress.
Around 1927, she returned to New York, worked as a fashion model, a circus hand, a clerk in a store, joined a stock company to become an actress, and performed on Broadway. In 1930, she starred with James Cagney in Penny Arcade on Broadway. Penny Arcade lasted only three weeks, but Al Jolson saw it and bought the rights to the play for $20,000. He then sold the rights to Warner Bros. with the proviso that Blondell and Cagney be cast in the film version. Placed under contract by Warner Bros., she moved to Hollywood, where studio boss Jack L. Warner wanted her to change her name to "Inez Holmes", but Blondell refused. She began to appear in short subjects, and was named as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1931.
Blondell was paired with James Cagney in such films as Sinners' Holiday (1930) – the film version of Penny Arcade – and The Public Enemy (1931), and was one-half of a gold-digging duo with Glenda Farrell in nine films. During the Great Depression, Blondell was one of the highest-paid individuals in the United States. Her stirring rendition of "Remember My Forgotten Man" in the Busby Berkeley production of Gold Diggers of 1933, in which she co-starred with Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, became an anthem for the frustrations of the unemployed and the government's failed economic policies. In 1937, she starred opposite Errol Flynn in The Perfect Specimen. By the end of the decade, she had made nearly 50 films. She left Warner Bros. in 1939.
In 1943, Blondell returned to Broadway as the star of Mike Todd's short-lived production of The Naked Genius, a comedy written by Gypsy Rose Lee. She was well received in her later films, despite being relegated to character and supporting roles after 1945, when she was billed below the title for the first time in 14 years in Adventure, which starred Clark Gable and Greer Garson. She was also featured prominently in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) and Nightmare Alley (1947). In 1948, she left the screen for three years and concentrated on theatre, performing in summer stock and touring with Cole Porter's musical, Something for the Boys. She later reprised her role of Aunt Sissy in the musical version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the national tour, starred opposite Tallulah Bankhead in the play Crazy October (which closed on the road) and played the nagging mother, Mae Peterson, in the national tour of Bye Bye Birdie.
Blondell returned to Hollywood in 1950. Her performance in her next film, The Blue Veil (1951), earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She played supporting roles in The Opposite Sex (1956), Desk Set (1957), and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957). She received considerable acclaim for her performance as Lady Fingers in Norman Jewison's The Cincinnati Kid (1965), garnering a Golden Globe nomination and National Board of Review win for Best Supporting Actress. John Cassavetes cast her as a cynical, aging playwright in his film Opening Night (1977). Blondell was widely seen in two films released not long before her death, Grease (1978) and the remake of The Champ (1979) with Jon Voight and Rick Schroder. She also appeared in two films released after her death, The Glove (1979) and The Woman Inside (1981).
Blondell also guest-starred in various television programs, including three 1963 episodes as the character Aunt Win in the CBS sitcom The Real McCoys, starring Walter Brennan and Richard Crenna. She appeared in a 1964 episode ("What's in the Box?") of The Twilight Zone. She guest-starred in the episode "You're All Right, Ivy" of Jack Palance's circus drama, The Greatest Show on Earth, which aired on ABC in the 1963–64 television season. Her co-stars in the segment were Joe E. Brown and Buster Keaton. In 1965, she was in the running to replace Vivian Vance as Lucille Ball's sidekick on the hit CBS television comedy series The Lucy Show. Unfortunately, after filming her second guest appearance as Joan Brenner (Lucy's new friend from California), Blondell walked off the set right after the episode had completed filming when Ball humiliated her by harshly criticizing her performance in front of the studio audience and technicians.
Blondell continued working on television. In 1968, she guest-starred on the CBS sitcom Family Affair, starring Brian Keith. She also replaced Bea Benaderet, who was ill, for one episode on the CBS series Petticoat Junction. In that installment, Blondell played FloraBelle Campbell, a lady visitor to Hooterville, who had once dated Uncle Joe (Edgar Buchanan) and Sam Drucker (Frank Cady). That same year, Blondell co-starred in all 52 episodes of the ABC Western series Here Come the Brides, set in the Pacific Northwest of the 19th century. Her co-stars included singer Bobby Sherman and actor-singer David Soul. Blondell received two consecutive Emmy nominations for outstanding continued performance by an actress in a dramatic series for her role as Lottie Hatfield.
In 1971, she followed Sada Thompson in the off-Broadway hit The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, with a young Swoosie Kurtz playing one of her daughters.
In 1972, she had an ongoing supporting role in the NBC series Banyon as Peggy Revere, who operated a secretarial school in the same building as Banyon's detective agency. This was a 1930s period action drama starring Robert Forster in the titular role. Her students worked in Banyon's office, providing fresh faces for the show weekly. The series was replaced midseason.
In 1974, Blondell played the wife of Tom D'Andrea's character in the television film, Bobby Parker and Company, with Ted Bessell in the starring role as the son of Blondell and D'Andrea. Coincidentally, D'Andrea had earlier played Jim Gillis, the television husband of Blondell's younger sister, Gloria Blondell, in the NBC sitcom The Life of Riley.
Blondell has a motion pictures star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to the film industry. Her star is located at 6311 Hollywood Boulevard. In December 2007, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City mounted a retrospective of Blondell's films in connection with a new biography by film professor Matthew Kennedy and theatrical revival houses such as Film Forum in Manhattan have also projected many of her films recently.
Blondell was married three times, first to cinematographer George Barnes in a private wedding ceremony on January 4, 1933, at the First Presbyterian Church in Phoenix, Arizona. They had one child — Norman Scott Barnes, who became an accomplished producer, director, and television executive — and divorced in 1936.
On September 19, 1936, she married her second husband, actor, director, and singer Dick Powell. They had a daughter, Ellen Powell, who became a studio hair stylist, and Powell adopted her son by her previous marriage under the name Norman Scott Powell. Blondell and Powell were divorced on July 14, 1944. Blondell was less than friendly with Powell's next wife, June Allyson, although the two women would later appear together in The Opposite Sex (1956).
On July 5, 1947, Blondell married her third husband, producer Mike Todd, whom she divorced in 1950. Her marriage to Todd was an emotional and financial disaster. She once accused him of holding her outside a hotel window by her ankles. He was also a heavy spender who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars gambling (high-stakes bridge was one of his weaknesses) and went through a controversial bankruptcy during their marriage. An often-repeated myth is that Mike Todd "dumped" Joan Blondell for Elizabeth Taylor, when in fact, Blondell left Todd of her own accord years before he met Taylor.
Blondell died of leukemia in Santa Monica, California, on Christmas Day, 1979, with her children and her sister at her bedside. She is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.
|1929||Broadway's Like That||Vitaphone Varieties release 960 (December 1929)
Cast: Ruth Etting, Humphrey Bogart, Mary Philips:50
|1930||The Devil's Parade||Vitaphone Varieties release 992 (February 1930)
Cast: Sidney Toler:52
|1930||The Heart Breaker||Vitaphone Varieties release 1012–1013 (March 1930)
Cast: Eddie Foy, Jr.:53
|1930||An Intimate Dinner in Celebration of Warner Bros. Silver Jubilee|
|1931||How I Play Golf, number 10, "Trouble Shots"||Vitaphone release 4801
Cast: Bobby Jones, Joe E. Brown, Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.:226
|1933||Just Around the Corner|
|1941||Meet the Stars #2: Baby Stars|
|1965||The Cincinnati Kid Plays According to Hoyle|
|1961||The Untouchables||Hannah 'Lucy' Wagnall||Guest star, "The Underground Court"|
|1964||The Twilight Zone||Phyllis Britt||Guest Star, "What's in the Box", Season 5/Episode 24|
|1968–70||Here Come the Brides||Lottie Hatfield||52 episodes, Two consecutive Prime time Emmy nominations for outstanding continued performance by an actress in a dramatic series.|
|1971||McCloud - ″Top of the World, Ma!″||Ernestine White||Guest star, playing Bubba White's (Bo Svenson) mother|
|1972-73||Banyon||Peggy Revere||8 episodes, ran a secretarial school that provided Banyon with a new trainee secretary every episoded|
|1979||The Rebels||Mrs. Brumple||Miniseries|
- Obituary Variety, December 26, 1979.
- "Joan Blondell, Actress, Dies at 70; Often Played Wisecracking Blonde". The New York Times. December 26, 1979. Archived from the original on November 20, 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-30.
- The Republic. Columbus, Indiana. October 7, 1971. Page 26 Archived February 16, 2018, at the Wayback Machine "The Katzenjammer Kids will be presented in Franklin this evening, the company having passed through here this morning on the way to that place. "Eddie Blondell's true name is Levi Bluestein and he was a resident of Columbus many years ago, living with his father at the foot of Washington street."
- The Republic from Columbus, Indiana on January 21, 1903 · Page 8 Archived February 16, 2018, at the Wayback Machine "HE IS NOW A WEALTHY MAN Married Eight Years Ago to the Beautiful Woman Who Contributes Greatly to His Success A Brief Sketch, ; Edward and Libbie Blondell, in private life Mr. and Mrs. Levi Blue-stein, arrived here this afternoon by way of the Big Four and were at once taken to the home of L. Silverman..."
- The Republic from Columbus, Indiana on January 29, 1906 · Page 1 Archived February 16, 2018, at the Wayback Machine "No allowance was made for alimony, but Mrs. Blondell seemed to be satisfied. The Blondells, who in private life were Mr. and Mrs. Levi Bluestein, have been annoyed by a case of incompatibility of temper for a long time. They were formerly a member Katzenjammer Kids' company..."
- "Blondell and Fennessy's hurricane of fun and frolic, The Katzenjammer Kids". loc.gov. Archived from the original on 16 February 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
- "A Guide to the Belknap Playbills and Programs Collection". www.library.ufl.edu. Archived from the original on 19 October 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
- Billboard, Vol. XVII, No. 6, February 11, 1905 Archived April 19, 2015, at the Wayback Machine "Tbe Katzenjammer Kids, Blondell & Fennessy, mgrs.: Columbns, O., 6-8; Ubrlchsvllle 9;. Alliance 10; Loraln 11; Bellevne 13; Norwalk. 14; Gallon 16; Mansfield IT; Canton 18."
- Page 7 — Indianapolis Journal 30 March 1904 — Hoosier State Archived 16 February 2018 at the Wayback Machine "YOU GET A SCREAM I YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO MISS IT BLONDELL & FENNESSY'S BIG LAUGH MAKER THE KATZENJAMMER KIDS BY PERMISSION NEW YORK JOURNAL"
- Variety (November 1916) Archived 2017-03-18 at the Wayback Machine "Rowland & Clifford, a western producing firm, have also a production in preparation under the title of "The Katzenjammer Kids," securing the rights from Blondell & Fennessy. Both shows are scheduled to play over the International, with the Hill production to be ready by Jan. 1."
- Iowa City Press-Citizen from Iowa City, Iowa on December 9, 1903 Archived February 17, 2018, at the Wayback Machine "LONDEU FENNESSY'S Hurricane of Fun and Frolic m THE .Don't Miss Tliem Secure Seats Early"
- The Sun from Chanute, Kansas on January 28, 1904 · Page 8 Archived May 5, 2018, at the Wayback Machine "The Hit of the Season Blondell & Fennessy's Hurricane of Fun and Frolic. The Katzenjammer KIDS DON'T MISS THEM , ALL STAR CAST"
- The Sun from Chanute, Kansas on January 29, 1904 · Page 8 Archived May 5, 2018, at the Wayback Machine "Tuesday, February 2nd The Hit of the Season Blondell & Fennessy's Hurricane of Fun and Frolic. The Katzenjammer"
- The Plain Speaker from Hazleton, Pennsylvania on March 30, 1905 Archived February 17, 2018, at the Wayback Machine "Friday, March 3i BLONDELL & FENNESSY'S Hurricane of Fun and Frolic, The Katzenjammer Kids DON'T MISS THEM 'IT IS TO LAUGH" ALL STAR CAST."
- The Chanute Daily Tribune from Chanute, Kansas on January 30 Archived 2018-02-16 at the Wayback Machine "THE HIT OF THE SEASON. Blondell & Fennessy's Hurricane of Fun and Frolic, "THE KATZENJAMMER KIDS." New Songs, Catchy Music, Funny Comedian Pretty Girls."
- Palladium-Item from Richmond, Indiana · Page 7 Archived 2018-02-16 at the Wayback Machine "BLONDELL & FENNESSY'S Hurricane of Fun and Frolic. KATZENJAMMER KIDS DON'T MISS THEM. Secure Seats Farly. "IT IS TO LAUGH." All Star Cast."
- Kennedy, Matthew (28 September 2009). "Joan Blondell: A Life between Takes". Univ. Press of Mississippi. Retrieved 5 May 2018 – via Google Books.
- "Billboard". Billboard Publications. 5 May 2018. Archived from the original on 5 May 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018 – via Google Books.
- "Indianapolis Journal 9 January 1900 — Hoosier State Chronicles: Indiana's Digital Historic Newspaper Program". newspapers.library.in.gov. Archived from the original on 16 February 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
- "Grave Spotlight - Joan Blondell". www.cemeteryguide.com. Archived from the original on 2 January 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
- Rathbun, Joe (December 10, 1944). "Joe's Radio Parade". Sunday Times Signal. p. 23. Archived from the original on May 4, 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Punahou School Alumni Directory, 1841-1991. White Plains, NY: Harris Publishing Company, 1991.
- Santa Monica High School Yearbook 1925
- Joan Blondell at the Internet Broadway Database
- Kennedy, Matthew (2007). Joan Blondell, a life between takes. University Press of Mississippi. p. 34.
- "Hollywood Walk of Fame - Joan Blondell". walkoffame.com. Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
- Kennedy, Matthew (2007). Joan Blondell, a life between takes. University Press of Mississippi. p. 10.
- Kennedy, Matthew (1993). "Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes". University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781628461817. Missing or empty
- Critchlow, Donald T. (21 October 2013). "When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 5 May 2018 – via Google Books.
- Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3rd ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-7864-7992-4. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
- "Joan Blondell". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-08-30.
- Liebman, Roy (2003). Vitaphone Films: A Catalogue of the Features and Shorts. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0786446971.
- Here Come the Brides - 'The Complete 2nd Season': Shout!'s Street Date, Cost, Packaging Archived 2011-11-12 at the Wayback Machine TVShowsonDVD.com 2001-11-07
- Here Come the Brides - Official Press Release, Plus Rear Box Art & Revised Front Art Archived 2011-11-14 at the Wayback Machine TVShowsonDVD.com 2006-03-07
- "Joan Blondell In 'Lady Eve' On WHP 'Star Time'". Harrisburg Telegraph. September 21, 1946. p. 17. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved October 7, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Matthew Kennedy, Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes (University Press of Mississippi, 2007) ISBN 1-57806-961-0
- Oderman, Stuart, Talking to the Piano Player 2. BearManor Media, 2009. ISBN 1-59393-320-7.
- Grabman, Sandra, Plain Beautiful: The Life of Peggy Ann Garner. BearManor Media, 2005. ISBN 1-59393-017-8.