February 13, 2022

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Joan Blondell: Facts, Career, Cause of Death

Joan Blondell lived for 73 years, a majority of which was spent entertaining half of the viewers with her skills and charming the other half with her blonde hair, blue eyes, and shapely figure. Blondell died more than forty years ago and here am I expected to write some 1000-odd words about her. Indeed she was a legend.

She was born in New York City

Joan Blondell was born in Manhattan in New York, in 1906. She was born before the invention of airplanes and her featured image in this post is in black-and-white, now you get the picture. She was born in a family of comedians. No, this is not to say her parents were a joke. On the contrary, her father was born in Poland of Jewish while her mother was born by parents who were born in Ireland.

Joan was literally born on the stage. On a moving stage as her parents toured the whole country performing. And then the family toured the world in which the lass Joan spent six solid years in Australia. By the time the family settled in Dallas, Texas, she has seen so much of the world, far more than seasoned diplomats would manage in their lifetime.

Joan Blondell began her career aged 4 months

Four months. She was four months old when she began her career; she was cast as the infant daughter of some character in some stage performance. Joan’s first credit screen appearance was in 1929 aged over twenty. But by this time she had dozens of stage appearances in her name and a handful of pageantry successes:

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Miss Dallas 1926, winner.

Miss America 1926, fourth.

Miss Universe 1926, finalist.

Joan Blondell appeared in more than 100 movies in a career that spanned half a century. Radio drama, short films, feature films, television shows and drama, theater performances, all Joan did them. Nearly 60 of these movies were shot in the 1930s in an astonishing average of more than five screen appearances per year.

Blondell’s last credit came in 1979 in the miniseries “The Rebels”. It was retirement; age didn’t stop her. She died and only death separated her from her eternal soulmate, acting.

Some of her notable credits include: “The Blue Veil” (1951 for which she got an Oscar nomination), “Gold Diggers of 1933”, “The Opposite Sex” (1956), “Opening Night” (1977) and a guest-star in the CBS sitcom “Family Affair” (1968).

For her contributions in Hollywood, Blondell has a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Children, marriages and divorces

Joan Blondell got married three times. She was married for the first time in 1933 to George Barnes, a cinematographer. He was a colleague of Hitchcock and was most active in the era of “silent films”, so you might not know him. This marriage lasted three years and produced a son, Norman Scott Barnes who was later adopted by his future step-father and took the surname Powell.

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Powell was born in Los Angeles by parents who make a living on-screen and adopted by a multi-faceted entertainer. There was only one direction he would go for the average child in this situation and we’re not saying that Powell was average. He went on to make name and money as a director, producer, and executive producer.

Joan married the actor, singer, director, and studio executive, Dick Powell the same year that she divorced Barnes. The two had a daughter, Ellen Powell, and Dick adopted her son from her earlier marriage. The marriage lasted eight years and ended like the first – in divorce.

After this divorce, Blondell took her time and didn’t marry for three years. She married the producer of “Around the World in 80 Days” Mike Todd. The marriage lasted for three disastrous years in which Todd once threatened to throw Blondell off a high building window, in which he lost money in gambling and forced the family into bankruptcy.

Blondell must have passed through fire in this marriage for she never remarried.

Joan Blondell: Cause of death

Joan died of the blood cancer disease called leukemia. She quietly passed away on Christmas day. There is no indication that Joan suffered before her demise. In her last year on earth, she appeared in three films and one television series.

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Writing in her biography, published “Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes”, in 2007, Professor Matthew Kennedy wrote that despite her sex appeal and gold-digging roles in movies, “Privately, she was unerringly loving and generous, while her life was touched by financial, medical, and emotional upheavals.”

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