The Info List - Joan Davis

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Joan Davis
Joan Davis
(June 29, 1912 – May 22, 1961) was an American comedic actress whose career spanned vaudeville, film, radio, and television. Remembered best for the 1950s television comedy I Married Joan, Davis had a successful earlier career as a B-movie
actress and a leading star of 1940s radio comedy. Born Josephine Davis in Saint Paul, Minnesota, she was the only child of LeRoy Davis and Nina Mae (née Sinks) Davis, who were married in St. Paul on November 23, 1910.[1] Davis had been a performer since childhood. She appeared with her husband Si Wills in vaudeville.[2]


1 Career

1.1 Films 1.2 Radio 1.3 Television

2 Death 3 Filmography 4 Award nominations 5 See also 6 References 7 Further reading 8 External links

Career[edit] Films[edit]

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Davis' first film was a short subject for Educational Pictures
Educational Pictures
called Way Up Thar (1935), featuring a then-unknown Roy Rogers. Educational's distribution company, Twentieth Century-Fox, signed Davis for feature films. Tall and lanky, with a comically flat speaking voice, she became known as one of the few female physical clowns of her time. Perhaps best known for her co-starring turn with Bud Abbott
Bud Abbott
and Lou Costello in Hold That Ghost
Hold That Ghost
(1941), she had a reputation for flawless physical comedy. Her pantomime sequence in Beautiful But Broke (1944) was a slapstick construction-site episode. She also featured in Tail Spin
Tail Spin
(1939) as a supporting actor, for the women's Bendix Air Race circuit. She co-starred with Eddie Cantor
Eddie Cantor
in two features, Show Business (1944) and If You Knew Susie (1948). Radio[edit]

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Joan Davis
Joan Davis
entered radio with an August 28, 1941, appearance on The Rudy Vallee Show and became a regular on that show four months later.

Swan Soap
Swan Soap
ad featuring Davis' radio show, 1945

Davis then began a series of shows that established her as a top star of radio situation comedy throughout the 1940s. When Vallee left for the Coast Guard in 1943, Davis and Jack Haley
Jack Haley
became the co-hosts of the show. With a title change to The Sealtest Village Store, Davis was the owner-operator of the store from July 8, 1943, to June 28, 1945, when she left to do Joanie's Tea Room on CBS from September 3, 1945, to June 23, 1947.[3] Sponsored by Lever Brothers
Lever Brothers
on behalf of Swan Soap, the premise had Davis running a tea shop in the little community of Smallville. The supporting cast featured Verna Felton. Harry von Zell was the announcer, and her head writer was Abe Burrows, formerly the head writer (and co-creator) of Duffy's Tavern
Duffy's Tavern
and eventually a legendary Broadway playwright. The tea shop setting continued in Joan Davis
Joan Davis
Time, a CBS Saturday-night series from October 11, 1947, to July 3, 1948. With Lionel Stander
Lionel Stander
as the tea shop manager, the cast also included Hans Conried, Mary Jane Croft, Andy Russell, the Choraliers quintet, and John Rarig and his Orchestra. Leave It to Joan ran from July 4 to August 22, 1949, as a summer replacement for Lux Radio
Theater and continued from September 9, 1949, to March 3, 1950. She was also heard on CBS July 3 through August 28, 1950. She was a frequent and popular performer on Tallulah Bankhead's legendary radio variety show, The Big Show (1950–52).[2] Davis was also a regular on Eddie Cantor's Time to Smile program.[4] Television[edit]

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Davis was the star of the unsold pilot Let's Join Joanie, which was recorded in 1950. The proposed series was a television adaptation of Leave It to Joan. When I Love Lucy
I Love Lucy
premiered in October 1951 on CBS Television
and became a top-rated TV series, sponsors wanted more of the same with another actress who was not afraid of strenuous physical comedy.[citation needed] I Married Joan
I Married Joan
premiered in 1952 on NBC, casting Davis as the manic wife of a mild-mannered community judge (Jim Backus), who got her husband into wacky jams with or without the help of a younger sister, played by her real-life daughter, Beverly Wills. I Married Joan
I Married Joan
did not achieve the ratings success enjoyed by I Love Lucy, but during its first two years, it received moderately successful ratings, even cracking the top 25 for the 1953–1954 season.[citation needed] However, by the start of its third year, not only were the ratings beginning to slip, but Davis began experiencing heart trouble. As a result, the series was canceled in the spring of 1955.[2] I Married Joan experienced greater success in off-network syndication; it was one of the earliest series to take advantage of that avenue. After Davis's death in the spring of 1961, I Married Joan
I Married Joan
was pulled from syndication until litigation over her estate---including her residuals from the show's syndicated reruns---could be settled in court (an issue complicated by the deaths of all of her next of kin in 1963), according to the Los Angeles Times. In 1956, a year after I Married Joan
I Married Joan
had ended its primetime run, Davis was approached by ABC to star in The Joan Davis
Joan Davis
Show. The premise of this proposed series had Davis playing a musical comedy entertainer who had raised a daughter on her own. Davis used her real name as the lead character. Veteran character actress Hope Summers
Hope Summers
was cast as Joan's housekeeper, and Wills was signed to play Joan's daughter, also named Beverly. Ray Ferrell was cast as Joan's grandson Stevie. In the pilot, Joan was introduced to her five-year-old grandson for the first time and was trying to convince Beverly, despite her hectic show-business schedule and her somewhat zany personality, that she was a loving and responsible grandmother. The pilot did not sell as a series for ABC. It was forgotten among Davis' television work until many years later when the Museum of Television and Radio
in New York discovered the program and added it to its collection.[5] Death[edit] On May 22, 1961, Davis died of a heart attack at the age of 48 at her home in Palm Springs, California.[6][7] She was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery mausoleum in Culver City, California.[3] On October 24, 1963, Davis' mother, daughter Beverly Wills, and two grandchildren were all killed in a house fire in Palm Springs.[6] Joan Davis
Joan Davis
has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for her contribution to the motion picture industry at 1501 Vine Street
Vine Street
and one for radio in the 1700 block of Vine.[8] Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes

1935 Way Up Thar Jennie Kirk Short subject

1935 Millions in the Air Singer

1936 Bunker Bean Mabel, Bunker's Secretary Uncredited

1937 The Holy Terror Lili

1937 On the Avenue Miss Katz – Dibble's Secretary

1937 Time Out for Romance Midge Dooley

1937 The Great Hospital Mystery Flossie Duff Alternative title: Dead Yesterday

1937 Angel's Holiday Strivers

1937 Sing and Be Happy Myrtle

1937 You Can't Have Everything


1937 Wake Up and Live Spanish Dancer

1937 Thin Ice Orchestra Leader Alternative titles: Lovely to Look at Der Komet

1937 Life Begins in College Inez Alternative titles: Life Begins at College The Joy Parade

1937 Love and Hisses Joan

1938 Sally, Irene and Mary Irene Keene

1938 Josette May Morris

1938 My Lucky Star Mary Dwight

1938 Hold That Co-ed Lizzie Olsen Alternative title: Hold That Girl

1938 Just Around the Corner Kitty

1939 Tail Spin Babe Dugan

1939 Skinny the Moocher The Maid Uncredited

1939 Too Busy to Work Lolly

1939 Day-Time Wife Joyce Applegate

1940 Free, Blonde and 21 Nellie

1940 Sailor's Lady Myrtle

1940 Manhattan Heartbeat Edna Higgins

1941 For Beauty's Sake Dottie Nickerson

1941 Hold That Ghost Camille Brewster Alternative title: Oh, Charlie

1941 Sun Valley Serenade Miss Carstairs

1941 Two Latins from Manhattan Joan Daley

1942 Yokel Boy Molly Malone Alternative title: Hitting the Headlines

1942 Sweetheart of the Fleet Phoebe Weyms

1943 He's My Guy Madge Donovan

1943 Two Señoritas from Chicago Daisy Baker

1943 Around the World Joan Davis

1944 Beautiful But Broke Dottie Duncan

1944 Show Business Joan Mason

1944 Kansas City Kitty Polly Jasper

1945 She Gets Her Man Jane "Pilky" Pilkington

1945 George White's Scandals of 1945 Joan Mason

1946 She Wrote the Book Jane Featherstone

1948 If You Knew Susie Susie Parker

1950 The Traveling Saleswoman Mabel King Producer

1950 Love That Brute Mamie Sage

1950 Let's Join Joanie

Unaired CBS pilot

1951 The Groom Wore Spurs Alice Dean

1952 Harem Girl Susie Perkins

1952 to 1955 I Married Joan Joan Stevens 99 episodes Producer

Award nominations[edit]

Year Award Category

1953 Emmy Awards Best Comedienne

See also[edit]

Golden Age of Television Let's Join Joanie
Let's Join Joanie
(failed pilot with Joan Davis)


^ "Joan was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 29, 1912. Joan’s birth certificate is interesting in that it was altered some 32 years after it was originally filed. It has been stamped with a notation along the bottom edge reading, “Amended by State Registrar pursuant to affidavit filed on _____,” with the date 2-11-44 written by hand. Asterisks indicate three areas of the document that were amended. The birth date, originally recorded as July 4, 1912, was crossed out by hand and changed to June 29. No middle name had been recorded on the original document; “Donna” was subsequently written between the first and last names, with a caret to indicate its placement. The spelling of Joan’s mother’s maiden name was also corrected. The original document was filled out by Rose Labon, who delivered baby Josephine at the family’s residence at 275 Bates Avenue." Joan Davis: America's Queen of Film, Radio
and Television
by David C. Tucker (Biography, pg. 3), McFarland (March 24, 2014),ASIN B00JH2B0ZG, ISBN 978-0786477845/ISBN 0786477849. ^ a b c Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507678-8.  ^ a b Tucker, David C. (2007). The Women Who Made Television
Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms. McFarland. pp. 30; 78–79. ISBN 978-0-7864-8732-5.  ^ Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio
Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows, pg. 335. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4. ^ " Joan Davis
Joan Davis
Show, The pilot (TV)". The Paley Center for Media. Retrieved February 3, 2015.  ^ a b Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence; McNeilly, Donald (2007). Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. Routledge. pp. 297–298. ISBN 0-415-93853-8.  ^ " Television
Comedienne Joan Davis
Joan Davis
Dies At 53". St. Petersburg Times. UPI. May 24, 1961. Retrieved September 30, 2012.  ^ "Joan Davis". Los Angeles Times Hollywood Star Walk. Retrieved February 3, 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

Ohmart, Ben. Hold That Joan – The Life, Laughs & Films of Joan Davis. Albany: BearManor Media, 2007. ISBN 1-59393-046-1 Rapp, Philip. The Television
Scripts of Philip Rapp. Albany: BearManor Media, 2006. ISBN 1-59393-070-4. Karol, Michael. Sitcom Queens: Divas of the Small Screen. iUniverse, 2006. pp. 22–24. ISBN 0-595-40251-8.

External links[edit]

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Joan Davis
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Joan Davis
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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 43014846 LCCN: no90026178 GND: 133005054 MusicBrainz: 6262de86-1ee4-45f0