Joan Leslie

Happy birthday to actress JoanLeslieJoan Leslie, born Jan. 26, 1925 in Detroit, MI. In the mid-1930s, Leslie, born Joan Brodel, and her two older sisters, Betty and Mary, toured the vaudeville circuit as The Three Brodels to help support their family during the Great Depression. In 1936, Joan signed with MGM and made her film debut in Camille (1936), but her dialog scenes were cut and the studio eventually let her go because they couldn’t find enough suitable roles, so she went back to her family in New York and worked as a model and in radio. When her sister Mary got a contract with Universal in the late 1930s, the family moved to Hollywood where Joan was able to work as a freelance actress, getting small parts in a handful of films. In 1941, she signed with Warner Bros. and changed her name to Joan Leslie because it was felt Joan Brodel was too similar to Joan Blondel. That same year, she got her big break in the film noir blockbuster High Sierra (1941) with Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino, as well as appearing opposite Gary Cooper in Sergeant York (1941), which received 11 Oscar nominations. As a rising star, she appeared in films such as, The Male Animal (1942) with Olivia de Havilland, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) with James Cagney, The Hard Way (1943) with Ida Lupino, The Sky’s the Limit (1943) with Fred Astaire, and Rhapsody in Blue (1945) with Robert Alda. But by the mid-1940s, Leslie wanted more serious and mature roles, which she wasn’t getting due to her young age and wholesome image, so she left Warners. Moving to Eagle-Lion and then RKO, Leslie expanded her range appearing in films like Northwest Stampede (1948) with James Craig and Hellgate (1952) with Sterling Hayden. She also appeared in two noir films, Repeat Performance (1947) with Louis Hayward and Born to be Bad (1950) with Mel Ferrer and Joan Fontaine. In the mid-1950s, Leslie turned her energies to raising her twin daughters, and only made occasional appearances on television for the remainder of her career. Her last role was in the TV movie Fire in the Dark (1991). She spent her later years designing clothes and performing charity work. Leslie died on October 12, 2015 at age 90.

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