Rose Joan Blondell
August 30, 1906
New York City, U.S.
|Died||December 25, 1979 (aged 73)|
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale|
|Children||2, including Norman Powell|
|Relatives||Gloria Blondell (sister)|
Rose Joan Blondell (August 30, 1906 – December 25, 1979)[a] was an American actress who performed in film and television for 50 years.
Blondell began her career in vaudeville. After winning a beauty pageant, she embarked on a film career, establishing herself as a Pre-Code staple of Warner Bros. Pictures in wisecracking, sexy roles, appearing in more than 100 films and television productions. She was most active in film during the 1930s and early 1940s, and during that time co-starred with Glenda Farrell, a colleague and close friend, in nine films. Blondell continued acting on film and television for the rest of her life, often in small, supporting roles. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance 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 Opening Night (1977). She was featured in two more films, the blockbuster musical Grease (1978) and Franco Zeffirelli's The Champ (1979), which was released shortly before her death from leukemia.
Rose Joan Blondell was born in New York City to a vaudeville family; her birthdate was August 30, 1906 but was misrepresented as 1909 by Blondell earlier in her career and sometimes later conflated with the true year, including in her obituaries. 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 Catherine (known as "Kathryn" or "Katie") Caine, born in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York (later Brooklyn, New York City), on April 13, 1884, to Irish-American parents. Joan's younger sister, Gloria Blondell, also an actress, was married to film producer Albert R. Broccoli. Joan also had a brother, Ed Blondell, Jr.
Joan's cradle was a property trunk as her parents moved from place to place. 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 (1914–1915) and six months in Australia and had seen much of the world by the time her family stopped touring and settled in Dallas, Texas, when she was a teenager. Using the stage name "Rosebud" (acquired several year before, while a student at Chicago's Elmwood School, following her onstage portrayal of a rose during a show entitled 'In a Garden of Girls'), Blondell 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 year. She attended Santa Monica High School, where she acted in school plays and edited the school yearbook. While there, she gave her name as Rosebud Blondell, and when she attended North Texas State Teacher's College (now the University of North Texas) in Denton, Texas in 1926–1927, 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, named Sinners' Holiday (1930). 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.: 34 She began to appear in short subjects and was named as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1931.
Blondell was paired several more times with James Cagney in films, including The Public Enemy (1931) and Footlight Parade (1933), 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 unemployed people 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 theater, 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 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 sitcom The Real McCoys.
Also in 1963, Blondell was cast as the widowed Lucy Tutaine in the episode "The Train and Lucy Tutaine" on the series Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews.
In March 1964, she appeared with Bill Demarest in the The Twilight Zone episode "What's in the Box". The following month Blondell, Joe E. Brown and Buster Keaton guest-starred in "You're All Right, Ivy", the final episode of the short-lived circus drama The Greatest Show on Earth, as well as the directorial debut of its star Jack Palance. 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 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). The same year, Blondell co-starred in all 52 episodes of the ABC series Here Come the Brides 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 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 title role. Her students worked in Banyon's office, providing fresh faces for the show weekly. The series was replaced midseason.
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. More recently her films have been screened by revival houses such as Film Forum in Manhattan, the UCLA Film and Television Archive in Los Angeles, the Hippodrome Cinema in Bo'ness, Scotland, and at the 2019 Lumière Film Festival in Grand Lyon, France.
She wrote a novel titled Center Door Fancy (New York: Delacorte Press, 1972), which was a thinly disguised autobiography with veiled references to June Allyson and Dick Powell.: 10
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. Blondell and Barnes divorced in 1936.
On September 19, 1936, she married actor Dick Powell. They had a daughter, Ellen, who later became a studio hair stylist. Powell legally adopted Blondell’s son Norman, who later became a producer, director, and television executive. Blondell and Powell divorced on July 14, 1944.
On July 5, 1947, Blondell married producer Mike Todd. Her marriage to Todd was an emotional and financial disaster that ended in divorce in 1950. 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 left Blondell for Elizabeth Taylor, when in fact, she had 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 was cremated and her ashes interred in a columbarium at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. She was 73 years old.
|1930||The Office Wife||Katherine Mudcock|||
|1931||Other Men's Women||Marie|||
|1931||Illicit||Helen Dukie Childers|||
|1931||God's Gift to Women||Fifi|||
|1931||The Public Enemy||Mamie|||
|1931||My Past||Marian Moore|||
|1931||Big Business Girl||Pearl|||
|1931||Night Nurse||B. Maloney|||
|1931||The Reckless Hour||Myrtle Nichols|||
|1931||Blonde Crazy||Ann Roberts|||
|1932||Union Depot||Ruth Collins|||
|1932||The Greeks Had a Word for Them||Schatze Citroux|||
|1932||The Crowd Roars||Anne Scott|||
|1932||The Famous Ferguson Case||Maizie Dickson|||
|1932||Make Me a Star||Flips Montague|||
|1932||Miss Pinkerton||Miss Adams|||
|1932||Big City Blues||Vida Fleet|||
|1932||Three on a Match||Mary Keaton|||
|1933||Lawyer Man||Olga Michaels|||
|1933||Broadway Bad||Tony Landers|||
|1933||Blondie Johnson||Blondie Johnson|||
|1933||Gold Diggers of 1933||Carol King|||
|1933||Goodbye Again||Anne Rogers|||
|1933||Footlight Parade||Nan Prescott|||
|1933||Havana Widows||Mae Knight|||
|1933||Convention City||Nancy Lorraine||Lost film|
|1934||I've Got Your Number||Marie Lawson|||
|1934||He Was Her Man||Rose Lawrence|||
|1934||Kansas City Princess||Rosie Sturges|||
|1935||Traveling Saleslady||Angela Twitchell|||
|1935||Broadway Gondolier||Alice Hughes|||
|1935||We're in the Money||Ginger Stewart|||
|1935||Miss Pacific Fleet||Gloria Fay|||
|1936||Sons o' Guns||Yvonne|||
|1936||Bullets or Ballots||Lee Morgan|||
|1936||Stage Struck||Peggy Revere|||
|1936||Three Men on a Horse||Mabel|||
|1936||Gold Diggers of 1937||Norma Perry|||
|1937||The King and the Chorus Girl||Dorothy Ellis|||
|1937||Back in Circulation||Timmy Blake|||
|1937||The Perfect Specimen||Mona Carter|||
|1938||There's Always a Woman||Sally Reardon|||
|1939||Off the Record||Jane Morgan|||
|1939||East Side of Heaven||Mary Wilson|||
|1939||The Kid from Kokomo||Doris Harvey|||
|1939||Good Girls Go to Paris||Jenny Swanson|||
|1939||The Amazing Mr. Williams||Maxine Carroll|||
|1940||Two Girls on Broadway||Molly Mahoney|||
|1940||I Want a Divorce||Geraldine Brokaw|||
|1941||Topper Returns||Gail Richards|||
|1941||Model Wife||Joan Keathing Chambers|||
|1941||Three Girls About Town||Hope Banner|||
|1942||Lady for a Night||Jenny Blake|||
|1942||Cry 'Havoc'||Grace Lambert|||
|1945||A Tree Grows In Brooklyn||Aunt Sissy|||
|1945||Don Juan Quilligan||Margie Mossrock|||
|1947||The Corpse Came C.O.D.||Rosemary Durant|||
|1947||Christmas Eve||Ann Nelson|||
|1950||For Heaven's Sake||Daphne|||
|1951||The Blue Veil||Annie Rawlins||nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1956||The Opposite Sex||Edith Potter|||
|1957||Desk Set||Peg Costello|||
|1957||This Could Be the Night||Crystal|||
|1957||Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?||Violet|||
|1961||Angel Baby||Mollie Hays|||
|1964||Advance to the Rear||Easy Jenny|||
|1965||The Cincinnati Kid||Lady Fingers||National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress|
nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
|1966||Ride Beyond Vengeance||Mrs. Lavender|||
|1967||Winchester '73||Larouge||TV movie|
|1967||The Spy in the Green Hat||Mrs. "Fingers" Steletto|
|1968||Stay Away, Joe||Glenda Callahan|||
|1968||Kona Coast||Kittibelle Lightfoot|||
|1971||Support Your Local Gunfighter!||Jenny|||
|1975||The Dead Don't Die||Levinia||TV movie|
|1976||Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood||Landlady|||
|1976||Death at Love House||Marcella Geffenhart|
|1977||Opening Night||Sarah Goode||nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture|
|1979||Battered||Edna Thompson||NBC TV movie|
|1979||The Champ||Dolly Kenyon|||
|1979||The Glove||Mrs. Fitzgerald|
|1981||The Woman Inside||Aunt Coll||posthumous release|
|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||episode: "The Underground Court"|
|1963||The Virginian||Rosanna Dobie||episode: "To Make This Place Remember"|
|1963||Wagon Train||Ma Bleecker||episode: "The Bleecker Story"|
|1963||The Real McCoys||Aunt Winn||season 6, episodes 21 & 22|
|1964||The Twilight Zone||Phyllis Britt||episode: "What's in the Box"|
|1964||Bonanza||Lillian Manfred||episode: "The Pressure Game"|
|1965||Petticoat Junction||Florabelle Campbell||season 5 episode 22|
|1965||The Lucy Show||Joan Brenner||episodes: "Lucy and Joan" & “Lucy the Stunt Man”|
|1965||My Three Sons||Harriet Blanchard||episode: "Office Mother"|
|1968–1970||Here Come the Brides||Lottie Hatfield||52 episodes|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (1969–70)
|1971||McCloud||Ernestine White||episode: "Top of the World, Ma"|
|1972–1973||Banyon||Peggy Revere||8 episodes|
|1973||The Rookies||Mrs. Louise Darrin||episode: "Cry Wolf"|
|1976||Starsky & Hutch||Mrs Pruitt||episode "The Las Vegas Strangler"|
|1978||The Love Boat||Ramona Bevans||episode: "Ship of Ghouls"|
|1979||The Rebels||Mrs. Brumple||TV movie|
|1979||Fantasy Island||Naomi Gittings||Bowling; Command Performance||TV movie|
|1946||Hollywood Star Time||The Lady Eve|
David Manners, Joan Blondell, Ina Claire, Madge Evans from The Greeks Had a Word for Them, 1932
David Manners, Madge Evans, Joan Blondell, Ina Claire from The Greeks Had a Word for Them, 1932
James Cagney, Ann Dvorak, and Joan Blondell in The Crowd Roars, 1932
Joan Blondell, Eric Linden, and James Cagney in The Crowd Roars, 1932
Gold Diggers of 1933 : Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, and Aline MacMahon
Footlight Parade, 1933
Footlight Parade, 1933
With her Children, 1944
Here Come the Brides, 1969
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
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 of Katzenjammer Kids' company....
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.
I love flowers, particularly roses, which I grow in our own garden at Beverly Hills, and one of my chief interests is in the business of my brother, Ed Blondell, Jr., who is a florist in Los Angeles. Ed is the only one of our family who is a non-professional. Gloria, my sister, is in pictures, too, although thus far it has never been our good fortune to work together. Maybe that will happen some day. Ed did a little trouping in vaudeville before he settled down to a commercial life. [...] As they say in vaudeville, 'everybody knows everybody else at least for a week,' and it was my good fortune to know most of the headliners of the period [...] To all of these good folks I was 'Rosebud' Blondell. That name was acquired when at the Elmwood school in Chicago the students put on a show called 'In a Garden of Girls,' and I impersonated a rose and danced. A few old friends still call me Rosebud, but in the family the nickname has been shortened to 'Buddie' or 'Bud.' and that's pretty much in general use by all the Blondells.
Following is a list of the thirteen starlets of 1931: Joan Blondell, First National. Constance Cummings, Columbia studio. Frances Dade, United Artists. Sidney Fox, Universal. Frances Dee, Paramount. Rochelle Hudson, R. K. O. Anita Louise, Universal. Joan Marsh, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Marian Marsh, Warner Brothers. Karen Morley, M. G. M. Marion Shilling, Pathe. Barbara Weeks, United Artists. Judith Wood, Paramount.
TWILIGHT ZONE—9:30 p. m., Ch. 3, 12 'What's In the Box?' The 'box' is a TV set, the villain of the piece. Bill Demarest is very good as a harassed man, bedeviled by a nagging wife (Joan Blondell). He sees himself on this strange TV set, but his wife, watching simultaneously, can't see him and believes he's nuts.
GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (9 p. m., Channel 34) — 'You're All Right, Ivy.' The big news in tonight's episode is that the combination of excellent performances from such old pros as Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown and Joan Blondell, plus the directorial debut of series star Jack Palance, doesn't alter the essential character of the series. The problems still outweigh the fun.
In 'Joan Blondell: The Bombshell From 91st Street,' the Museum of Modern Art pays tribute to her long career with a series of 13 films. On Friday 'Footlight Parade,' a rapid-fire musical, and the very rarely shown 'Blue Veil' will be introduced by Matthew Kennedy, the author of a new biography, 'Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes.'
Night Nurse (William Wellman, 1931) & Hold Your Man (Sam Wood, 1933). Hard-boiled and delicious, working gal pals Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell handle the low life, while Jean Harlow's equally tough floozy sticks by her criminal boyfriend Clark Gable. February 17. [...] Me and My Gal (Raoul Walsh, 1932) & Central Park (John G. Adolfi, 1932). Spencer Tracy's insouciant flatfoot romances Joan Bennett's saucy hash-slinger in a delightfully lumpen comedy; homeless cutie Joan Blondell teams with jobless hunk Wallace Ford for a series of madcap adventures on the wild side of New York's most famous park. March 2.
James Cagney and Jean Harlow in 'The Public Enemy' (1931). Above, Bette Davis, Joan Blondell and Ann Dvorak in 'Three On a Match' (1932).
Always a super-trouper, rarely a stand-alone star, Joan Blondell is an unexpected choice to be the focus of a full-dress Barbara Stanwyck/Greta Garbo-style UCLA Film & Television Archive career retrospective. But here she is front and center in "Blonde Crazy: Joan Blondell," a five-week, 14-film tribute beginning Friday at the Hammer Museum's Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood, big as life, twice as sassy and something of a revelation.
The historic Hippodrome cinema will be screening a season of rule-breaking Hollywood movies starting with the Jimmy Cagney and Joan Blondell 1931 comedy Blonde Crazy this weekend.
D'abord Blonde Crazy en 1931. Les ingrédients du style pré-code s'y trouvent réunis: tempo vif de la mise en scene, inventivité du récit et des dialogues, crudité des situations. Ces films sont courts et denses, lucides et gorgés de vie. Filmé avec aisance et simplicité, Blonde Crazy est porté par un duo d'acteurs dont on ressent le plaisir qu'ils ont a jouer ensemble, jusque dans les intonations de leurs répliques spirituelles: Joan Blondell et James Cagney.
PHOENIX, Ariz., Jan. 4 (AP) [...] Miss Blondell and Barnes were married here today by the Rev. Dr. Charles S. Polling, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, in his study. [...] Miss Blondell and Barnes, who met in 1931, when he was a cameraman for a picture in which she starred, were reported married in the state of Washington several months ago. They denied the report on their return from a vacation trip but recently Miss Blondell, questioned by a friend, tacitly admitted a ceremony had been performed. Barnes's divorce from his former wife became final before Christmas.
Norman Scott Powell is 6. Has been Dick's legally adopted son since January, 1938, when George Barnes (Joan's first husband and a good pal of Dick's) relinquished all claim to him.
Joan Blondell of the movies, who has obtained final divorce decree from George Barnes, cameraman, interlocutory decree having been granted a year ago. Hollywood is speculating on whether she will marry Dick Powell, actor.
Hollywood, Sept. 19—Thousands of curious jammed the docks at nearby San Pedro tonight as Joan Blondell and Dick Powell, popular motion-picture couple, were married aboard their honeymoon ship.
Veteran Hollywood Producer/Director/Network Executive Notrman S. Powell passed away on Jun 16th at the age of 86...The son of Hollywood Golden Age stars Jon Blondell and Dick Powell, Norman graduated from the Lawrenceville School and Cornell University.
LOS ANGELES, July 14 (AP)—Joan Blondell, actress, got a divorce in four minutes today from Dick Powell, singer, on her testimony that he had been guilty of numerous acts of cruelty, including a demand that she 'get the hell out of the house.' [...] She said he insisted on using their home for his office, that two telephones were ringing almost constantly, and that she was unable to get any rest or privacy. Mr. Powell did not appear to oppose the divorce.