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Collins, Joan (1933-)


Main image of Collins, Joan (1933-)

Someone (Oscar Levant?) once said: 'I knew Joan Collins when she was older than she is today', highlighting the remarkable way in which she seems to have hurdled the decades, with - still intact - that glamour that British film-makers hardly knew what to do with.

After three small roles, she was thoroughly noticed as sultry sexpots in I Believe in You (d. Basil Dearden/Michael Relph, 1952), Cosh Boy (d. Lewis Gilbert, 1952) and Turn the Key Softly (d. Jack Lee, 1953). There was perhaps never a suitable decade for Collins in British films, but it certainly wasn't the tweedy '50s.

Small wonder she went to Hollywood which made her a star in such films as Land of the Pharaohs (US, d. Howard Hawks, 1955) and The Virgin Queen (US, d. Henry Koster, 1955). A star, but not a superstar: that was finally achieved, in her '50s, by TV's Dynasty (1982-89), as arch-bitch Alexis Carrington, weaving a tangled web of seduction and treachery among Denver's oil-rich.

Her own life had some of the elements of such lush soaps. Born in London on 23 May 1933, the daughter of a theatrical booking agent, she married serially: to Maxwell Reed who beat her; Anthony Newley who gave her two children and put her in a dreadful film; producer Ron Kass, who presented her as 'Fontaine Khaled' in The Stud (d. Quentin Masters, 1978), and The Bitch (d. Gerry O'Hara, 1979), both from sister Jackie's novels); and Swedish businessman Peter Holm. All ended in divorce and were interspersed with high-profile romances with the likes of Warren Beatty, and in 2001 announced she would marry Peruvian theatre manager Percy Gibson, 32 years her junior. Noel Langley, who directed her in Our Girl Friday (1953), called her 'a baby temptress'; Hollywood turned her into an adult one, but, to be fair, she has kept on working when most of her contemporaries are forgotten.

In the '70s, she made a string of horror films in Britain, then a batch of sex romps, and in the '80s she was mainly seen on American TV. After all this time, she can still surprise one by being fun as well as glamorous as she does in In the Bleak Midwinter (d. Kenneth Branagh, 1996), as ... what? A star of course.

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Thumbnail image of Cosh Boy (1953)Cosh Boy (1953)

The first British X film: a controversial study of juvenile delinquency

Thumbnail image of Good Die Young, The (1954)Good Die Young, The (1954)

Cynical heist thriller that was unusually bleak for the cosy mid-50s

Thumbnail image of Human Jungle, The (1963-65)Human Jungle, The (1963-65)

Stylish drama starring Herbert Lom as an unorthodox psychiatrist

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