Beautiful in an Elizabeth Taylor-Jean Simmons way and once more famous for the men she had bedded than anything else, sexy, savory Joan Collins soared to super stardom as the conniving Alexis Carrington on the popular, campy 1980s ABC prime-time soap opera “Dynasty”. The daughter of a theatrical booking agent, she studied at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for 18 months and made her film debut as a beauty pageant contestant in “Lady Godiva Rides Again” (1951). After playing primarily erring juveniles in Britain, Collins ventured to Hollywood and immediately capitalized on her sultry appeal in “The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing” (1955), portraying Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, the femme fatale whose involvement with prominent architect Stanford White brought about his shocking murder in early 20th Century NYC. She acted in many forgettable films throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s but did have the distinction of appearing with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in the last of their ‘road’ movies, “The Road to Hong Kong” (1961).
Collins showed herself to great effect on TV during 1967, guest-starring on two episodes of “Batman” (ABC) and delivering a memorably radiant portrayal of 1930s suffragette Edith Keeler in “The City on the Edge of Forever”, a two-part “Star Trek” (NBC) episode, then disappeared from the small screen to resume making run-of-the-mill features. Though she continued to work, her career was without any real momentum until deliciously naughty performances in “The Stud” (1978) and “The Bitch” (1979), movies made from the novels of her sister Jackie, thrust her back in the public eye. Collins returned to the London stage in “The Last of Mrs Cheney” (1980-81) before the success of “Dynasty” opened a whole new world of opportunity. Playboy beckoned, featuring her as “50 Is Beautiful”, and she debuted her Joan Collins Fashion Eyewear Line in 1985. She also branched out as executive producer (as well as star) of two CBS miniseries, “Sin” and “Monte Carlo” (both 1986).
Collins had already written three books when she followed in sister Jackie’s footsteps and published her first novel, “Prime Time” (1988), setting the stage for her grand drama with Random House. The publisher signed her to a two-book deal that guaranteed her $4 million but reneged on receipt, suing her for return of a $1.3 million advance. The high profile case revealed her purple prose as laughable, but the jury vindicated her, though giving credit for just one book, calling the second one in question a rehash of the first. The 90s saw Collins embrace the work of the late Noel Coward, playing Amanda Prynne in “Private Lives” on the London stage and in her 1992 Broadway debut. The raven-haired beauty also associate produced and starred in “Collins and Coward” (A&E, 1992), performing three of his one-act plays. She gave her signature diva role a new spin as a frosty agent in Kenneth Branagh’s “A Midwinter’s Tale” (1996) but could not save “Pacific Palisades” (Fox, 1997) for old pal and “Dynasty” executive producer Aaron Spelling.
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Filed Under: Actor Profile