Brenda Joyce Poster


Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trivia (9) | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 25 February 1917Excelsior Springs, Missouri, USA
Date of Death 4 July 2009Santa Monica, California, USA  (complications from pneumonia)
Birth NameBetty Graffina Leabo
Nickname Graftina
Height 5' 4" (1.63 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Best remembered as the second talking-era "Jane" (following Maureen O'Sullivan) of the durable Tarzan jungle film series and the only one in the sound era to play the role opposite two different Tarzan's (Johnny Weissmuller and Lex Barker, lovely Brenda was born Betty Leabo in Missouri, raised in Los Angeles, and nicknamed "Graftina" by her father when she was a girl. Attending UCLA for four years, the lovely blonde became a photographer's model to help pay her tuition. A 20th Century-Fox talent scout noticed a fashion layout of her and immediately signed her on.

The studio changed her name to "Brenda Joyce" after silent star Alice Joyce and immediately gave her an impressive movie debut with The Rains Came (1939) starring Tyrone Power and Myrna Loy in which she received fine reviews. Building her up to the public as a sexy single girl, she was subsequently showcased in Here I Am a Stranger (1939) opposite Richard Greene and partnered with John Payne in Maryland (1940).

The studio didn't take kindly to her impulsive 1941 marriage to army husband Owen Ward and supposedly punished her by relegating her to "B" films. Three children were the result of this first marriage -- Pam, Timothy and Beth. Brenda eventually lost interest in her career, but was coaxed back to the film set when brunette Maureen O'Sullivan left the Tarzan series and Johnny Weissmuller approved the athletic beauty as his new blonde swinging mate. Beginning a four-year excursion with the film Tarzan and the Amazons (1945), Brenda continued on as Jane after Weissmuller left (actor Lex Barker took over), but finally decided enough was enough. Brenda left after her fifth movie, Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949), and just walked away -- never to return.

Following her movie career, Brenda moved to the Washington D.C. area and worked with the Refugee Services for nearly 10 years in which she helped displaced persons find employment and places to live. This line of work eventually had her relocate to the Carmel, California area and she worked with Catholic Resettlement in Seaside, California (near Monterey). Besieged by personal and health problems in later years, she endured a painful divorce from Ward in 1960 after 19 years of marriage. She was then married and divorced twice more. Suffering from dementia in her twilight years, she stayed with her children at various stages until she was forced to be institutionalized in a nursing home in Santa Monica, California. Brenda died there of complications from pneumonia in 2007.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (3)

Owen Ward (18 January 1941 - 1960) (divorced) (3 children)
Bemis (? - ?) (divorced)
Howard Mager (? - ?) (divorced)

Trivia (9)

Succeeded Maureen O'Sullivan as the character Jane in "Tarzan" productions towards the end of the 1940s.
Has three children: Pamela Ann, Timothy Owen and Beth Victoria.
Brenda was not proud of her work in the Tarzan features and has lived in relatively anonymity since she left Hollywood in 1949.
Once certified as having the longest hair in Hollywood - 39 inches - outranking Katharine Hepburn and Veronica Lake.
Took her stage name from silent screen vamp Alice Joyce.
According to an in-depth article by David Ragan for Classic Images (June 2010), Gene Tierney was Brenda's closest Hollywood friend and her maid of honor when she married Owen Ward in 1941.
Brenda was married three times. Her first husband, Owen Ward, was the father of her three children. The marriage lasted 19 years. Her second (to a naval officer named Bemis) and third (to a one-time Beverly Hills business manager of Elizabeth Taylor and Ginger Rogers named Howard Mager) were much shorter and also ended in divorce.
Her eldest child, daughter Pam, was born on November 9, 1942, and was once publicized as "Hollywood's First War Baby".
In 1948 Brenda Joyce was announced for a role in the forthcoming 20th Century-Fox Picture Down to the Sea in Ships (1949). But she decided to retire at that time and leave Hollywood, eventually not appearing in the film.

Personal Quotes (2)

I didn't live near the studios in the hopes of "crashing" the gates. My ambition was to always be active in "little theater" and also to be a professor of Speech and Drama at U.C.L.A.
I was never enamored of Hollywood and films. The only good friend I had at 20th Century-Fox was Gene Tierney. Also, the Publicity Department people became good friends.

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