Joan Davis

Active - 1935 - 1961  |   Born - Jun 29, 1907 in St. Paul, MN  |   Died - May 22, 1961 in Palm Springs, CA  |   Genres - Comedy, Musical, Romance

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Comedienne Joan Davis was the daughter of a Minnesota-based train dispatcher. A performer in local amateur productions since the age of 3, Joan sang, danced and clowned at summer camps, amusement parks, and small-time vaudeville houses, marrying her "straight man" Si Willis in 1931. While performing in Los Angeles, Joan strenuously campaigned for an opportunity to appear before the cameras; her first film was the 1935 educational two-reeler Way Up Thar, directed by Mack Sennett and co-starring several members of Buster Keaton's family. This led to her first feature film, Millions in the Air (1935). After a desultory RKO contract, Joan and her husband returned to vaudeville; she was rediscovered for pictures by 20th Century-Fox's Darryl F. Zanuck, who cast Joan in raucous Martha Raye-like slapstick roles in such films as Sonja Henie's Thin Ice (1937), the Ritz Bros.' Kentucky Moonshine (1938) and Alice Faye's Tail Spin (1939). In 1941, she became a regular on Rudy Vallee's radio program, and was memorably co-starred with Abbott and Costello in Hold That Ghost (1941). During the 1940s, Joan was top billed in several energetic "B" efforts like Kansas City Kitty (1944) and He Gets Her Man (1945), and was promoted to star of her own top-rated radio series for Sealtest dairy products. After her film career ended with the bottom-barrel Columbia farce Harem Girl, Joan formed her own production company to produce the popular TV sitcom I Married Joan, which ran from 1952 through 1955 on the networks, then seemingly forever in reruns. Co-starring on I Married Joan as Joan's sister was the actress' daughter, Beverly Wills. Joan Davis died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 53, shortly after completing the pilot film for a new TV series.

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