Joan Bennett: Wikis


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Joan Bennett

in The Son of Monte Cristo (1940)
Born Joan Geraldine Bennett
February 27, 1910(1910-02-27)
Palisades Park, New Jersey, U.S.
Died December 7, 1990 (aged 80)
Scarsdale, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1916–1982
Spouse(s) John Marion Fox (1926–1928) (divorced) 1 child
Gene Markey (1932–1937) (divorced)
Walter Wanger (1940–1965) (divorced) 2 children
David Wilde (1978–1990)

Joan Geraldine Bennett (February 27, 1910 – December 7, 1990) was an American stage, film and television actress. Besides acting on the stage, Bennett appeared in more than 70 motion pictures from the era of silent movies well into the sound era. She is possibly best-remembered for her film noir femme fatale roles in director Fritz Lang's movies such as The Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945).

Bennett had three distinct phases to her long and successful career, first as a winsome blonde ingenue, then as a sensuous brunette femme fatale and, finally, as a warmhearted wife/mother figure. Her screen career was damaged by scandal in the early 1950s, after her third husband shot and injured her agent, who he thought was having an affair with Bennett,[1] which she adamantly denied.[2]

In the 1960s, she achieved success for her portrayal of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard on TV's Dark Shadows, for which she received an Emmy nomination. For her final movie role, as Madame Blanc in Suspiria (1977), she received a Saturn Award nomination.


Early life

She was born in Palisades Park, New Jersey, the third of three daughters of actor Richard Bennett and actress/literary agent Adrienne Morrison. Her older sisters were actress Constance Bennett and actress/dancer Barbara Bennett, who was the mother of Morton Downey, Jr. Part of a famous theatrical family, Bennett's maternal grandfather was Jamaica-born Shakespearean actor Lewis Morrison, who embarked on a stage career in the late 1860s. He was of English and Spanish ancestry.[3] On the side of her maternal grandmother, actress Rose Wood, the profession dated back to traveling minstrels in 18th century England.

Bennett first appeared in a silent movie as a child with her parents and sisters in her father's drama The Valley of Decision (1916), which he adapted for the screen. She attended Miss Hopkins School for Girls in Manhattan, then St. Margaret's, a boarding school in Waterbury, Connecticut, and L'Hermitage, a finishing school in Versailles, France.

On September 15, 1926, she and John M. Fox were married in London. They were divorced on July 30, 1928 in Los Angeles.[4] They had one child, Adrienne Ralston Fox (born February 20, 1928, later named Diana Bennett Markey,[5] then Diana Bennett Wanger)[6]


from the trailer for Disraeli (1929)

Bennett's stage debut was at age 18, acting with her father in Jarnegan (1928), which ran on Broadway for 136 performances and for which she received good reviews. By age 19, she had become a movie star through such roles as Phyllis Benton in the mystery/thriller talkie Bulldog Drummond starring Ronald Colman, which was her first important role, and Lady Clarissa Pevensey opposite George Arliss in the biopic Disraeli (both 1929).

She moved quickly from movie to movie throughout the 1930s. Bennett appeared as a blonde (her natural hair color) for several years. She starred in the role of Dolores Fenton in the United Artists musical Puttin' on the Ritz (1930) opposite Harry Richman and as Faith Mapple, his beloved, opposite John Barrymore in an early sound version of Moby Dick (1930) at Warner Brothers Studios.

Under contract to Fox Film Corporation, she appeared in several movies. Receiving top billing, she played the role of Jane Miller opposite Spencer Tracy in She Wanted a Millionaire (1932). She was billed second, after Tracy, for her role as Helen Riley, a personable waitress who trades wisecracks, in Me and My Gal (1932).

from the trailer for Little Women (1933)

On March 16, 1932, she married screenwriter/film producer Gene Markey in Los Angeles,[7] but the couple divorced in Los Angeles on June 3, 1937.[8] They had one child, Melinda Markey (born February 27, 1934).

Bennett left Fox to play Amy, a pert sister competing with Katharine Hepburn's Jo in Little Women (1933), which was directed by George Cukor for RKO. This movie brought Bennett to the attention of independent film producer Walter Wanger, who signed her to a contract and began managing her career. She played the role of Sally MacGregor, a psychiatrist's young wife slipping into insanity, in Private Worlds (1935) with Claudette Colbert, Charles Boyer, and Joel McCrea. Wanger and director Tay Garnett persuaded Bennett to change her hair from blonde to brunette for her role as Kay Kerrigan in the scenic Trade Winds (1938) opposite Fredric March.

from the trailer for The Woman in the Window (1944)

With her change in appearance, Bennett began an entirely new screen career as her persona evolved into that of a glamorous, seductive femme fatale. She played the role of Princess Maria Theresa in The Man in the Iron Mask (1939) opposite Louis Hayward, and the role of the Grand Duchess Zona of Lichtenburg in The Son of Monte Cristo (1940) opposite Hayward.

During the search for an actress to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, Bennett was given a screen test and impressed producer David O. Selznick. She was briefly considered a front-runner for the role, but Selznick eventually turned his attention to Vivien Leigh.

On January 12, 1940, Bennett and Walter Wanger were married in Phoenix.[9] They were divorced in September 1965 in Mexico.[10] They had two children together, Stephanie Wanger (born June 26, 1943) and Shelley Wanger (born July 4, 1948).

In Scarlet Street (1945)

Combined with her sultry eyes and husky voice, Bennett's new brunette look gave her an earthier, more arresting persona. She won praise for her performances as Brenda Bentley in the crime/drama The House Across the Bay (1940), also featuring George Raft, and as Carol Hoffman in the anti-Nazi drama The Man I Married, a film in which Francis Lederer also starred.

She then appeared in a sequence of highly regarded film noir thrillers directed by Fritz Lang, with whom she and Wanger formed their own production company. Bennett appeared in four movies under Lang's direction, including as Cockney prostitute Jerry Stokes in Man Hunt (1941) opposite Walter Pidgeon, as mysterious model Alice Reed in The Woman in the Window (1944) with Edward G. Robinson, and as vulgar blackmailer Katharine "Kitty" March in Scarlet Street (1945) another film with Robinson.

from the trailer for Father of the Bride (1950)

Bennett was the shrewish, cuckolding wife, Margaret Macomber in Zoltan Korda's The Macomber Affair (1947) opposite Gregory Peck, as the deceitful wife, Peggy, in Jean Renoir's The Woman on the Beach (also 1947) opposite Robert Ryan and Charles Bickford, and as the tormented blackmail victim Lucia Harper in Max Ophuls's The Reckless Moment (1949) opposite James Mason. Then, easily shifting images again, she changed her screen persona to that of an elegant, witty and nurturing wife and mother in two classic comedies directed by Vincente Minnelli.

from the trailer for Father's Little Dividend (1951)

She made a number of radio appearances from the 1930s to the 1950s, performing on such programs as The Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show, Duffy's Tavern, and the anthology series Lux Radio Theater.

With the increasing popularity of television, Bennett made five guest appearances in 1951, which includes an episode of Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca's Your Show of Shows.
In 1958, she appeared as the mother in the short-lived television comedy/drama Too Young to Go Steady to teenagers played by Brigid Bazlen and Martin Huston.


For twelve years, Bennett was represented by agent Jennings Lang. She and the onetime vice-president of the Sam Jaffe Agency, who now headed MCA's West Coast television operations, met on the afternoon of December 13, 1951, to talk over an upcoming TV show.[2]

Bennett parked her Cadillac convertible in the lot at the back of the MCA offices, at Santa Monica Boulevard and Rexford Drive, across the street from the Beverly Hills Police Department, and she and Lang drove off in his car. Meanwhile, her husband Walter Wanger drove by at about 2:30 p.m. and noticed his wife's car parked there. Half an hour later, he again saw her car there and stopped to wait. Bennett and Lang drove into the parking lot a few hours later and he walked her to her convertible. As she started the engine, turned on the headlights and prepared to drive away, Lang leaned on the car, with both hands raised to his shoulders, and talked to her.

In a fit of jealousy, Wanger walked up and twice shot and wounded the unsuspecting agent. One bullet hit Jennings in the right thigh, near the hip, and the other penetrated his groin. Bennett said she did not see Wanger at first. She said she suddenly saw two livid flashes, then Lang slumped to the ground. As soon as she recognized who had fired the shots, she told Wanger, "Get away and leave us alone." He tossed the pistol into his wife's car.

She and the parking lot's service station manager took Lang to the agent's doctor. He was then taken to a hospital, where he recovered. The police, who had heard the shots, came to the scene and found the gun in Bennett's car when they took Wanger into custody. Wanger was booked and fingerprinted, and underwent lengthy questioning.

"I shot him because I thought he was breaking up my home," Wanger told the chief of police of Beverly Hills. He was booked on suspicion of assault with intent to commit murder. Bennett denied a romance, however. "But if Walter thinks the relationships between Mr. Lang and myself are romantic or anything but strictly business, he is wrong," she declared. She blamed the trouble on financial setbacks involving film productions Wanger was involved with, and said he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.[2] The following day Wanger, out on bond, returned to their Holmby Hills home, collected his belongings and moved. Bennett, however, said there would not be a divorce.[11]

On December 14, Bennett issued a statement in which she said she hoped her husband "will not be blamed too much" for wounding her agent. She read the prepared statement in the bedroom of her home to a group of newspapermen while TV cameras recorded the scene.[12]

"I hope Walter will not be blamed too much," she said. "He has been very unhappy and upset for many months, because of money worries, and because of his present bankruptcy proceedings which threaten to wipe out every penny he has ever made during his long and successful career as a producer. We have lived together in my Holmby Hills home some 11 years, together with our two children who love Walter dearly. Jennings Lang has been my agent and close friend for a long time. Walter and I have been close friends of Jennings and his wife Pam and saw them often. I feel confident that Walter would never have given voice to the suspicions expressed by him in the newspapers were it not for the fact that he has been so mentally upset with the complexities of the financial burden he has been carrying for a long time. I never dreamed a marriage that has been as successful as ours for 12 years with a family so lovely as ours would ever be involved in so unhappy a situation. Knowing Hollywood as I do, knowing how good, wholesome, and sincere, by far and away a majority of motion picture people are, I want to express my deep regret that this incident will add to the erroneous opinion entertained by so many."

On the same page of the Los Angeles Times appeared the first statement issued by Jennings Lang, which was given out by his wife, Pam.[13]

"I am bewildered by the unfortunate and unprovoked event that has occurred. I have represented Miss Bennett for many years as her agent, and can only state that Walter Wanger misconstrued what was solely a business relationship. Since there are families and children concerned, I hope this whole regrettable incident can be forgotten as quickly as possible."

Wanger's attorney, Jerry Giesler, mounted a "temporary insanity" defense. He then decided to waive his rights to a jury and threw himself on the mercy of the court.[14] Wanger served a four-month sentence in the County Honor Farm at Castaic, 39 miles north of Downtown Los Angeles,[15] quickly returning to his career to make a series of successful films.

Meanwhile, Bennett went to Chicago to appear on the stage in the role as the young witch Gillian Holroyd in Bell, Book and Candle,[16] then went on national tour with the production.

Bennett made only five movies in the decade that followed, as the shooting incident was a stain on her career and she became virtually blacklisted. Blaming the scandal that occurred for destroying her career in the motion picture industry, she once said, "I might as well have pulled the trigger myself." Although Humphrey Bogart, a longtime friend of Bennett's, pleaded with the studio on her behalf to keep her role as Amelie Ducotel in We're No Angels (1955), that movie proved to be one of her last.

As the movie offers dwindled after the scandal, Bennett continued touring in stage successes, such as Susan and God, Once More With Feeling, The Pleasure of His Company and Never Too Late. Her next TV appearance was in the role as Bettina Blane for an episode of General Electric Theater in 1954. Other roles include Honora in Climax! (1955) and Vickie Maxwell in Playhouse 90 (1957).

She starred on Broadway in the comedy Love Me Little (1958), which ran for only eight performances.

Later years

in TV's Dark Shadows

Despite the shooting scandal and the damage it caused Bennett's career, she and Wanger remained married until 1965. She continued to work steadily on the stage and in television, including her guest role as Denise Mitchell in an episode of TV's Burke's Law (1965).

Bennett was a cast regular on the gothic daytime television soap opera Dark Shadows, which attracted a major cult TV following, for its entire five year run, 1966 to 1971, receiving an Emmy Award nomination in 1968 for her performance as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, mistress of the haunted Collinwood Mansion. In 1970, she appeared as Elizabeth in House of Dark Shadows, the feature film adaptation of the series. She declined to appear in the sequel Night of Dark Shadows however, and her character Elizabeth was mentioned as being recently deceased.

Her autobiography, The Bennett Playbill, written with Lois Kibbee, was published in 1970.[17]

Other TV guest appearances include Bennett's roles as Joan Darlene Delaney in an episode of The Governor & J.J. (1970) and as Edith in an episode of Love, American Style (1971). She starred in five made-for-TV movies between 1972 and 1982.

Bennett also appeared in a few more movie roles, most notably as Madame Blanc in Italian director Dario Argento's horror thriller Suspiria (1977), for which she received a 1978 Saturn Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

On February 14, 1978, she and retired publisher/movie critic David Wilde were married in White Plains, New York.[18] Their marriage lasted until her death.

Celebrated for not taking herself too seriously, Bennett said in a 1986 interview, "I don't think much of most of the films I made, but being a movie star was something I liked very much."[19]


Joan Bennett died at age 80 from a heart attack at her home in Scarsdale, New York.[20] She is interred in Pleasant View Cemetery, Lyme, Connecticut,[21] with her parents.

She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her work in Motion Pictures, at 6310 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood.


Joan Bennett appeared in a large number of motion pictures, as well as network television productions, series work and made-for-TV movies, which are listed here in their entirety.

Year Film Role Notes
1916 The Valley of Decision unborn soul
1923 The Eternal City Page uncredited
1928 Power a dame
1929 The Divine Lady extra uncredited
Bulldog Drummond Phyllis Benton
Three Live Ghosts Rose Gordon
Disraeli Lady Clarissa Pevensey
The Mississippi Gambler Lucy Blackburn
1930 Puttin' on the Ritz Delores Fenton
Crazy That Way Ann Jordan
Moby Dick Faith Mapple, his beloved
Maybe It's Love Nan Sheffield
Scotland Yard Xandra, Lady Lasher
1931 Many a Slip Pat Coster
Doctors' Wives Nina Wyndram
Hush Money Joan Gordon
1932 She Wanted a Millionaire Jane Miller
Careless Lady Sally Brown
The Trial of Vivienne Ware Vivienne Ware
Week Ends Only Venetia Carr
Wild Girl Salomy Jane
Me and My Gal Helen Riley
1933 Arizona to Broadway Lynn Martin
Little Women Amy
1934 The Pursuit of Happiness Prudence Kirkland
The Man Who Reclaimed His Head Adele Verin
1935 Private Worlds Sally MacGregor
Mississippi Lucy Rumford
Two for Tonight Bobbie Lockwood
She Couldn't Take It Carol Van Dyke
The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo Helen Berkeley
1936 Big Brown Eyes Eve Fallon
Thirteen Hours by Air Felice Rollins
Two in a Crowd Julia Wayne
Wedding Present Monica "Rusty" Fleming
1937 Vogues of 1938 Wendy Van Klettering
1938 I Met My Love Again Julie
The Texans Ivy Preston
Artists and Models Abroads Patricia Harper
Trade Winds Kay Kerrigan
1939 The Man in the Iron Mask Princess Maria Theresa
The Housekeeper's Daughter Hilda
1940 Green Hell Stephanie Richardson
The House Across the Bay Brenda Bentley
The Man I Married Carol Hoffman
The Son of Monte Cristo Grand Duchess Zona of Lichtenburg
1941 She Knew All the Answers Gloria Winters
Man Hunt Jerry Stokes
Wild Geese Calling Sally Murdock
Confirm or Deny Jennifer Carson
1942 The Wife Takes a Flyer Anita Woverman
Twin Beds Julie Abbott
Girl Trouble June Delaney
1943 Margin for Error Sophia Baumer
1944 The Woman in the Window Alice Reed
1945 Nob Hill Harriet Carruthers
Scarlet Street Katharine "Kitty" March
1946 Colonel Effingham's Raid Ella Sue Dozier
1947 The Macomber Affair Margaret Macomber
The Woman on the Beach Peggy
1948 Secret Beyond the Door... Celia Lamphere
Hollow Triumph Evelyn Hahn
1949 The Reckless Moment Lucia Harper
1950 Father of the Bride Ellie Banks
For Heaven's Sake Lydia Bolton
1951 Father's Little Dividend Ellie Banks
The Guy Who Came Back Kathy Joplin
1954 Highway Dragnet Mrs. Cummings
1955 We're No Angels Amelie Ducotel
1956 There's Always Tomorrow Marion Groves
Navy Wife Peg Blain
1960 Desire in the Dust Mrs. Marquand
1970 House of Dark Shadows Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
1977 Suspiria Madame Blanc

Television programs

  1. Nash Airflyte Theatre (1951) episode: Peggy
  2. Your Show of Shows (1951) 1 episode
  3. Danger (1951) episode: A Clear Case of Suicide
  4. Somerset Maugham TV Theatre (1951) episode: Smith Serves
  5. Somerset Maugham TV Theatre (1951) episode: The Dream
  6. General Electric Theater (1954) episode: You Are Young Only Once ... Bettina Blane
  7. The Best of Broadway (1954) episode: The Man Who Came to Dinner ... Lorraine Sheldon
  8. Climax! (1955) episode: The Dark Fleece ... Honora
  9. The Ford Television Theatre (1955) episode: Letters Marked Personal ... Marcia Manners
  10. The Ford Television Theatre (1956) episode: Dear Diane ... Marion
  11. Playhouse 90 (1957) episode: The Thundering Wave ... Vickie Maxwell
  12. The DuPont Show of the Month (1957) episode: Junior Miss ... Grace Graves
  13. Pursuit (1958) episode: Epitaph for a Golden Girl
  14. Too Young to Go Steady (1959) (own series) ... Mary Blake
  15. Mr. Broadway (1964) episode: Don't Mention My Name in Sheboygan ... Mrs. Kelsey
  16. Burke's Law (1965) episode: Who Killed Mr. Colby in Ladies' Lingerie? ... Denise Mitchell
  17. Dark Shadows (1966-1971) (series regular, 386 episodes) ... Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
  18. The Governor & J.J. (1970) episode: Check the Check ... Joan Darlene Delaney
  19. Love, American Style (1971) episode segment: Love and the Second Time ... Edith
  20. Dr. Simon Locke (1972) episode: The Cortessa Rose ... Cortessa

Made-for-TV movies

  1. Gidget Gets Married (1972) ... Claire Ramsey
  2. The Eyes of Charles Sand (1972) ... Aunt Alexandra
  3. Suddenly, Love (1978) ... Mrs. Graham
  4. This House Possessed (1981) ... Rag Lady
  5. Divorce Wars: A Love Story (1982) ... Adele Burgess

As herself

Short subject

  • Screen Snapshots (1932)
  • Hollywood on Parade No. A-12 (1933)
  • The Fashion Side of Hollywood (1935)
  • Hollywood Party (1937)
  • Screen Snapshots Series 19, No. 9: Sports in Hollywood (1940)
  • Hedda Hopper's Hollywood, No. 6 (1942)
  • Screen Actors (1950) (uncredited)

Listen to



  1. ^ Erickson, Hal Biography (Allmovie)
  2. ^ a b c Los Angeles Times, Dec. 14, 1951, "Joan Bennett Sees Mate Shoot Agent --- 'Thought He Was Breaking Up My Home,' Says Wanger --- Jennings Lang Hit by Two Bullets; Actress Denies Any Romance," p. 1
  3. ^ Bennett, Joan; Lois Kibbee (1970). The Bennett Playbill. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 
  4. ^ Los Angeles Times, July 31, 1928, "Daughter Of Actor Divorced --- Joan Bennett Fox Wins Decree on Charges of Mate's Intoxication," p. A 20
  5. ^ Los Angeles Times, Aug. 22, 1936, "Wins Fight Over Daughter's Surname --- Child Given New Name --- Young Daughter Becomes Diana Markey Under Court Decision," p. 3
  6. ^ Los Angeles Times, Apr. 18, 1944, "Wanger Moves to Adopt Child of Joan Bennett," p. 2
  7. ^ "Bennett Sister Weds Here --- Actress Becomes Scenarist's Bride," Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1932, p.A 2
  8. ^ "Actress' Marital Tie Cut --- Joan Bennett Granted Divorce From Gene Markey, Writer", Los Angeles Times, June 4, 1937, p.3
  9. ^ "Joan Bennett and Wanger Marry in Phoenix Elopement - Actress and Producer Make Trip by Auto; Announce They'll Return to Hollywood Today", Los Angeles Times, January 13, 1940, p.1
  10. ^ "Joan Bennett Divorced", New York Times, Sep. 21, 1965, p. SU 3_3
  11. ^ Los Angeles Times, Dec. 15, 1951, "Detectives Shadowed Joan For Months, Says Wanger --- Film Producer Tells Reasons for Jealousy; Divorce Discussed," p. 1
  12. ^ Los Angeles Times, Dec. 15, 1951, "Joan Bennett Hopes Wanger 'Won't Be Blamed Too Much' --- Statement Cites Film Producer's Money Worries," p. A
  13. ^ Los Angeles Times, Dec. 15, 1951, "Jennings Lang Bewildered by Wanger Action," p. A
  14. ^ Los Angeles Times, April 15, 1952, "Wanger Fate Will Rest On Transcript --- Producer to Escape Open Trial by Letting Judge Decide Case on Grand Jury Evidence," p. 1
  15. ^ Los Angeles Times, Sep. 13, 1952, "Wanger to Be Released From County Jail Today," p. A 1
  16. ^ Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1952, "Joan Bennett to Play Witch if Wanger Trial Is on Time," p. 4
  17. ^ "Her Father's Daughter --- The Bennett Playbill By Joan Bennett and Lois Kibbee", New York Times, Nov. 29, 1970, p.322
  18. ^ "Notes on People", New York Times, February 16, 1978, p.C 2
  19. ^ Flint, Peter B. (9 Dec.), "Joan Bennett, Whose Roles Ripened From Sweet to Siren, Dies at 80", The New York Times: A52 
  20. ^ Social Security Death Index, Name: Joan Bennett, Birth: 27 Feb 1910, SSN: 568-16-0948, Issued: California, Death: 07 Dec 1990, Last Residence: 10583 (Scarsdale, Westchester Co., NY).
  21. ^ New York Times, Dec. 9, 1990, "Joan Bennett, Whose Roles Ripened From Sweet to Siren, Dies at 80," p. 52

Further reading

External links

Simple English

Joan Bennett
File:Joan Bennett in The Woman in the Window
from the trailer for The Woman in the Window (1944)
Born Joan Geraldine Bennett
February 27, 1910(1910-02-27)
Palisades Park, New Jersey
Died December 7, 1990 (aged 80)
Scarsdale, New York
Years active 1916 - 1982
Spouse John Marion Fox (1926-1928)
Gene Markey (1932-1937)
Walter Wanger (1940-1965)
David Wilde (1978-1990)

Joan Geraldine Bennett (February 27, 1910December 7, 1990) was an Emmy-nominated American film actress who appeared in more than 70 Hollywood films from the silent era to talkies, from color to the advent of television and epic films. She may be best known and loved for her film noir femme fatale roles in films by director Fritz Lang.



Joan Bennett had three distinct phases to her long and successful career, first as a winsome blonde ingenue, then as a brunette femme fatale and, finally, as a warm-hearted wife/mother figure.

Early life

Born in Palisades, N.J., she was part of a famous theatrical family with a lineage dating back to traveling minstrels in 18th century England. Her father was actor Richard Bennett, her mother, actress Adrienne Morrison, and her sisters, actress Constance Bennett and dancer, Barbara Bennett. Joan first acted onstage with her father at age 18 and by 19 had become a movie star courtesy of her roles in such movies as Bulldog Drummond (1929) and Disraeli (1929). She moved quickly from film to film throughout the 1930s, appearing with John Barrymore in his version of Moby Dick (1930) and playing Amy to Katharine Hepburn's Jo in Little Women (1933). Of the three Bennett sisters, Joan would achieve the greatest fame.


(1933)]] Contracted to 20th Century Fox, Joan Bennett appeared as a blonde ingenue in several films including Puttin' on the Ritz in 1930 and Me and My Gal in 1932, before leaving this studio to appear in Little Women (1933). The latter film brought Bennett to the attention of producer Walter Wanger, who signed her to a contract and eventually (in 1940) married her.

Wanger managed Bennett's career, and with director Tay Garnett convinced her to change her hair from blonde (her natural color) to brunette. With this change her screen persona evolved into that of a glamorous seductive, femme fatale and she began to attract attention in a series of highly acclaimed film noirs by director Fritz Lang. During the search to find an actress to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, Bennett was tested and impressed producer David O. Selznick. She was briefly considered to be a front runner for this part but Selznick eventually turned his attention to Paulette Goddard, who was then rejected in favour of Vivien Leigh.

In the 1940s Bennett appeared in four films directed by Fritz Lang with whom she and Wanger had formed their own film company. Three of these films, Man Hunt (1941), The Woman in the Window (1945), and Scarlet Street (1945) established her as a film noir femme fatale and leading Hollywood actress. She also worked with noted directors Jean Renoir in The Woman on the Beach (1947) and Max Ophüls in The Reckless Moment. Other highlights of the more mature phase of her career include the role of Spencer Tracy's wife and Elizabeth Taylor's mother in both Father of the Bride (1950) and Father's Little Dividend (1951).

Scandal & later years

In 1950, Bennett changed agents. In 1951 Wanger shot and injured Bennett's new MCA agent, Jennings Lang (1915-1996), with whom she had allegedly begun an affair. The resulting scandal hurt her career much more than Wanger's, according to the double standards toward women of the time. Wanger's attorney, Jerry Giesler, mounted a "temporary insanity" defense and Wanger served a four-month sentence at the Castaic Honor Farm two hours' drive north of Los Angeles, quickly returning to his film career to make a string of intelligent hit films. Bennett, meanwhile was forced to flee to Chicago to appear in theater, and later in television because the scandal was too great a stain on her film career and the film studios were already floundering in the 1950s as it was. Though Humphrey Bogart, a longtime friend of Bennett's, pleaded with the studios on her behalf to keep her role in We're No Angels following the shooting scandal, that film proved to be one of Bennett's last. Wanger and Bennett remained married until 1965.

Bennett continued to work steadily in theatre and television and was a cast member of the television series Dark Shadows for its entire five year run, from 1966 until 1971, receiving an Emmy Award nomination for her performance therein. Bennett also appeared in a few more films, most notably the cult horror thriller from Italian director Dario Argento's Suspiria. In the last decades of her life, she was married to David Wilde, a Yale graduate and film critic. Bennett died from a heart attack in Scarsdale, New York at the age of 80, and was buried in Pleasant View Cemetery, Lyme, Connecticut.

Joan Bennett was survived by 4 daughters (Diana Fox, Melinda Markey, and Shelley and Stephanie Wanger) and 13 grandchildren.

Bennett has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for services to Motion Pictures, at 6310 Hollywood Boulevard.


  • The Valley of Decision (1916)
  • The Eternal City (1923)
  • Power (1928)
  • The Divine Lady (1929)
  • Bulldog Drummond (1929)
  • Three Live Ghosts (1929)
  • Disraeli (1929)
  • The Mississippi Gambler (1929)
  • Puttin' on the Ritz (1930)
  • Crazy That Way (1930)
  • Moby Dick (1930)
  • Maybe It's Love (1930)
  • Scotland Yard (1930)
  • Many a Slip (1931)
  • Doctors' Wives (1931)
  • Hush Money (1931)
  • She Wanted a Millionaire (1932)
  • Careless Lady (1932)
  • The Trial of Vivienne Ware (1932)
  • Week Ends Only (1932)
  • Wild Girl (1932)
  • Me and My Gal (1932)
  • Arizona to Broadway (1933)
  • Little Women (1933)
  • The Pursuit of Happiness (1934)
  • The Man Who Reclaimed His Head (1934)
  • Private Worlds (1935)
  • Mississippi (1935)
  • Two for Tonight (1935)
  • She Couldn't Take It (1935)
  • The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo (1935)
  • Big Brown Eyes (1936)
  • Thirteen Hours by Air (1936)
  • Two in a Crowd (1936)
  • Wedding Present (1936)
  • Vogues of 1938 (1937)
  • I Met My Love Again (1938)

  • The Texans (1938)
  • Artists and Models Abroads (1938)
  • Trade Winds (1938)
  • The Man in the Iron Mask (1939)
  • The Housekeeper's Daughter (1939)
  • Green Hell (1940)
  • The House Across the Bay (1940)
  • The Man I Married (1940)
  • The Son of Monte Cristo (1940)
  • She Knew All the Answers (1941)
  • Man Hunt (1941)
  • Wild Geese Calling (1941)
  • Confirm or Deny (1941)
  • The Wife Takes a Flyer (1942)
  • Twin Beds (1942)
  • Girl Trouble (1942)
  • Margin of Error (1943)
  • The Woman in the Window (1944)
  • Nob Hill (1945)
  • Scarlet Street (1945)
  • Colonel Effingham's Raid (1946)
  • The Macomber Affair (1947)
  • The Woman on the Beach (1947)
  • Secret Beyond the Door.. (1948)
  • Hollow Triumph (1948)
  • The Reckless Moment (1949)
  • Father of the Bride (1950)
  • For Heaven's Sake (1950)
  • Father's Little Dividend (1951)
  • The Guy Who Came Back (1951)
  • Highway Dragnet (1954)
  • We're No Angels (1955)
  • There's Always Tomorrow (1956)
  • Navy Wife (1956)
  • Desire in the Dust (1960)
  • House of Dark Shadows (1970)
  • Suspiria (1977)

Short subjects

  • Screen Snapshots (1932)
  • The Fashion Side of Hollywood (1935)
  • Hollywood Party (1937)
  • Hedda Hopper's Hollywood No. 6 (1942)

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