biography

Born in Palisades, New Jersey, on February 27, 1910, glamorous actress Joan Bennett was the daughter of stage and screen actor Richard Bennett. Unlike her sister Constance Bennett, she initially lacked an interest in performing onstage. However, when she divorced her first husband in the late 1920s, she turned to the family profession as a means to support her herself and her infant daughter. Surprisingly, Bennett found good roles quickly and became well known in a string of 1930s films. Bennett continued to work after her second marriage to writer Gene Markey and after giving birth to a second daughter. Filmgoers sometimes confused Joan Bennett with lookalike sister Constance Bennett, who was arguably a bigger star in the 1930s. In 1938, at about the time Bennett's marriage to Markey ended, she dyed her blond locks black for a lead role in the comedy Trade Winds; this set her apart from her more-famous sister and transformed her career virtually overnight.

Joan BennettJoan Bennett and Constance BennettZachary Scott and Joan Bennett

LEFT: Late 1930s studio photo. CENTER: With sister Constance Bennett in the late 1930s. RIGHT: With Zachary Scott in a play bill photo for an off-Broadway production of Bell, Book, and Candle in the summer of 1953

Bennett remained a brunette for the rest of her life and became one of the 1940s most popular film noir femme fatales. Her best film noir titles include The Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlett Street (1945). In 1940, she married her third husband, famed producer Walter Wanger, and the union produced two more daughters for Joan Bennett. She continued starring in numerous films through the late 1940s. By the turn of the decade, Bennett was nearing 40 and getting too mature to play temptresses, so she began a transition to matrons in the comedies Father of the Bride (1950) and Father's Little Dividend (1951). Unfortunately, just at that time her career hit an icy patch when Bennett's husband Walter Wanger discovered Bennett was having an affair with her agent, Jennings Lang. In a jealous rage, Wanger shot Lang. Although Lang survived the injury, the ensuing scandal and resulting bad publicity damaged Bennett's film career. Joan Bennett had no screen work for three years until she was approached by Roger Corman in 1954 to star as the villainous Mrs. Cummings in the excellent low-budget Allied Artists film noir release Highway Dragnet. Her acting career picked up somewhat later in the 1950s, mostly in television, but a big comeback would have to wait until the mid 1960s.

the films of joan bennett

Disraeli (1929)

Joan Bennett and George Arliss

With George Arliss in the Warner Bros. sound feature Disraeli

Doctors' Wives (1931)

Minna Gombell, Warner Baxter, Cecilia Loftus, and Joan Bennett

With Minna Gombell, Warner Baxter, and Cecilia Loftus in the Fox drama Doctors' Wives

Two for Tonight (1935)

Joan Bennett and Bing Crosby

With Bing Crosby in the Paramount musical Two for Tonight

The Man in the Iron Mask (1939)

Joan Bennett

From James Whale's The Man in the Iron Mask, one of Whale's last directorial efforts

The House Across the Bay (1940)

George Raft and Joan Bennett

With George Raft in the early film noir vehicle The House Across the Bay

The Son of Monte Cristo (1940)

George Sanders and Joan Bennett

With George Sanders in the swashbuckler The Son of Monte Cristo

Nob Hill (1945)

Joan Bennett and George Raft

With frequent co-star George Raft in the musical Nob Hill

Scarlett Street (1945)

Joan BennettJoan Bennett

Bennett as femme fatale Kitty March in Fritz Lang's Scarlett Street

The Macomber Affair (1947)

Joan BennettJoan Bennett

From the United Artists release The Macomber Affair

Secret Beyond the Door (1948)

Joan Bennett

As Celia Lamphere in Fritz Lang's film noir thriller Secret Beyond the Door

The Reckless Moment (1949)

Joan Bennett and James Mason

With James Mason in Columbia's film noir feature The Reckless Moment

Father of the Bride (1950)

Tom Irish, Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, Don Taylor, Joan Bennett, and Russ Tamblyn

From the MGM comedy Father of the Bride. Pictured are Tom Irish, Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, Don Taylor, Joan Bennett, and Russ Tamblyn

There's Always Tomorrow (1956)

Jane Darwell, Pat Crowley, Joan Bennett, and William ReynoldsJoan Bennett, Fred MacMurray, and Barbara Stanwyck

From the Douglas Sirk drama There's Always Tomorrow. LEFT: With Jane Darwell, Pat Crowley, and William Reynolds. RIGHT: With Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck

Desire in the Dust (1960)

Joan Bennett and Brett Halsey

With Brett Halsey in the steamy drama Desire in the Dust

Dark Shadows (1966-1971 ABC TV Series)

Jonathan Frid, Louis Edmonds, and Joan Bennett

On the set with Dark Shadows co-stars Jonathan Frid and Louis Edmonds in 1967

House of Dark Shadows (1970)

Joan Bennett

House of Dark Shadows was filmed in order to capitalize on the success of the ABC daytime series Dark Shadows. Bennett portrays matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, a wealthy widow with many skeletons in her closet

Suspiria (1977)

Joan Bennett

Bennett portrays Madame Blanc in Dario Argento's horror classic Suspiria

later years

Bennett's third marriage to Walter Wanger ended in 1965. In the 1960s, Bennett made a big comeback portraying the matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard on ABC's popular 1966-1971 gothic horror soap opera Dark Shadows. After the show left the air, Bennett went into semi-retirement, working infrequently until finally calling it a day in the early 1980s. Her last theatrically released film was Dario Argento's excellent horror flick Suspiria (1977; with Jessica Harper and Udo Kier). Sadly, Joan Bennett passed away on December 7, 1990, at the age of 80. She was survived by her fourth husband, four daughters, and thirteen grandchildren.

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filmography

FILM
Divorce Wars: A Love Story (1982) with Tom Selleck and Jane Curtin
This House Possessed (1981) with Parker Stevenson
Suddenly, Love (1978) with Cindy Williams and Lew Ayres
Suspiria (1977) with Jessica Harper and Udo Kier
The Eyes of Charles Sand (1972) with Bradford Dillman, Barbara Rush, Peter Haskell, and Adam West
Gidget Gets Married (1972) with Don Ameche, Elinor Donahue, and Paul Lynde
House of Dark Shadows (1970) with Jonathan Frid and Grayson Hall
Desire in the Dust (1960) with Raymond Burr, Martha Hyer, Brett Halsey, and Irene Ryan
Navy Wife (1956) with Gary Merrill and Martin Milner
There's Always Tomorrow (1956) with Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and William Reynolds
We're No Angels (1955) with Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, Gloria Talbott, Peter Ustinov, Basil Rathbone, and Leo G. Carroll
Highway Dragnet (1954) with Richard Conte, Mary Beth Hughes, Wanda Hendrix, and Reed Hadley
The Guy Who Came Back (1951) with Paul Douglas, Linda Darnell, and Don DeFore
Father's Little Dividend (1951) with Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, and Russ Tamblyn
For Heaven's Sake (1950) with Clifton Webb, Robert Cummings, and Joan Blondell
Father of the Bride (1950) with Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, and Russ Tamblyn
The Reckless Moment (1949) with James Mason
Hollow Triumph (1948) with Paul Henreid
Secret Beyond the Door (1948) with Anne Revere, Michael Redgrave, and Natalie Schafer
The Woman on the Beach (1947) with Robert Ryan
The Macomber Affair (1947) with Gregory Peck and Robert Preston
Colonel Effingham's Raid (1945) with Charles Coburn
Scarlet Street (1945) with Edward G. Robinson and Dan Duryea
Nob Hill (1945) with George Raft and Vivian Blaine
The Woman in the Window (1945) with Edward G. Robinson, Dan Duryea, and Raymond Massey
Margin for Error (1943) with Milton Berle and Otto Preminger
Girl Trouble (1942) with Don Ameche and Vivian Blaine
Twin Beds (1942) with George Brent and Una Merkel
The Wife Takes a Flyer (1942) with Franchot Tone
Wild Geese Calling (1941) with Henry Fonda and Ona Munson
Confirm or Deny (1941) with Don Ameche and Roddy McDowall
Man Hunt (1941) with Walter Pidgeon, George Sanders, Roddy McDowall, and John Carradine
She Knew All the Answers (1941) with Franchot Tone and Eve Arden
The Son of Monte Cristo (1940) with Louis Hayward, George Sanders, Ralph Byrd, and Clayton Moore
The Man I Married (1940) with Francis Lederer and Lloyd Nolan
The House Across the Bay (1940) with Walter Pidgeon, George Raft, and Lloyd Nolan
Green Hell (1940) with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Vincent Price, John Howard, and George Sanders
The Housekeeper's Daughter (1939) with Adolphe Menjou and Victor Mature
The Man in the Iron Mask (1939) with Louis Hayward and Albert Dekker
Trade Winds (1938) with Fredric March, Ann Sothern, and Ralph Bellamy
Artists and Models Abroad (1938) with Jack Benny
The Texans (1938) with Randolph Scott and Robert Cummings
I Met My Love Again (1938) with Henry Fonda and Tim Holt
Vogues of 1938 (1937) with Warner Baxter and Penny Singleton
Wedding Present (1936) with Cary Grant
Two in a Crowd (1936) with Joel McCrea and Nat Pendleton
Thirteen Hours by Air (1936) with Fred MacMurray, Brian Donlevy, Zasu Pitts, and John Howard
Big Brown Eyes (1936) with Cary Grant, Walter Pidgeon, and Lloyd Nolan
The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo (1935) with Ronald Colman and Colin Clive
She Couldn't Take It (1935) with George Raft and Lloyd Nolan
Two for Tonight (1935) with Bing Crosby and Thelma Todd
Mississippi (1935) with W.C. Fields, Bing Crosby, and Ann Sheridan
Private Worlds (1935) with Charles Boyer, Claudette Colbert, and Joel McCrea
The Man Who Reclaimed His Head (1934) with Claude Rains and Lionel Atwill
The Pursuit of Happiness (1934) with Francis Lederer
Little Women (1933) with Katharine Hepburn, Frances Dee, and Spring Byington
Arizona to Broadway (1933) with J. Carrol Naish
Me and My Gal (1932) with Spencer Tracy
Wild Girl (1932) with Charles Farrell and Ralph Bellamy
Weekends Only (1932) with Ben Lyon
The Trial of Vivienne Ware (1932) with Zasu Pitts
Careless Lady (1932) with John Boles and Minna Gombell
She Wanted a Millionaire (1932) with Spencer Tracy and Una Merkel
Hush Money (1931) with Myrna Loy and George Raft
Doctors' Wives (1931) with Warner Baxter and Minna Gombell
Many a Slip (1931) with Lew Ayres and Slim Summerville
Scotland Yard (1930) with Edmund Lowe
Maybe It's Love (1930) with Joe E. Brown
Moby Dick (1930) with John Barrymore
Crazy That Way (1930) with Regis Toomey
Puttin' on the Ritz (1930) with Aileen Pringle
Mississippi Gambler (1929)
Disraeli (1929) with George Arliss
Three Live Ghosts (1929) with Robert Montgomery
Bulldog Drummond (1929) with Ronald Colman

TELEVISION SERIES
Dark Shadows, 1966-1971 ABC TV series. Bennett portrayed Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Naomi Collins, Judith Collins Trask, and Flora Collins during the run of the series
Too Young to Go Steady, 1959-1960 TV series. Bennett portrayed Mary Blake

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Watch Joan Bennett in the 1954 crime thriller Highway Dragnet

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