Joan Woodbury Poster


Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trivia (14) | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (4)

Born in Los Angeles, California, USA
Died in Desert Hot Springs, California, USA  (respiratory complications)
Birth NameJoanne Woodbury
Nickname Queen of the B's

Mini Bio (1)

Tall, provocative actress Joan Woodbury (aka Nana Martinez) was born Joanne Elma Woodbury in Los Angeles on December 17, 1915. Of Danish, English and Indian heritage, she was educated for seven years in a convent. Trained in dance, she was already performing in her mid-teens by the time she graduated from Hollywood High School. A solo dancer at one point with the Agua Caliente dance company, she broke into films at age 19, her exotic beauty being her "in" to the picture business.

For many years Joan was relegated to atmospheric bit parts as assorted dancing girls, barmaids, secretaries and the like. Once she progressed to co-starring roles, her characters often provided a foreign allure (Hispanic, French, Asian) playing femmes with such desirous names as Lolita, Dolores and Toto. She managed to churn out a feisty score of ladies and girlfriends for about a decade and a half (1934-1949).

Joan was featured in a number of "Charlie Chan" entries of the 1930s, particularly Charlie Chan on Broadway (1937) wherein she turned heads performing a very sultry dance routine. A resilient western player as well, she appeared opposite a number of cowboy heroes including William Boyd when she played her memorable role as Dolores in the second Hopalong Cassidy film, The Eagle's Brood. Joan also played opposite Roy Rogers and Johnny Mack Brown among others. Her her first co-starring role, in fact, came opposite sagebrush star Tim McCoy (in a dual role) in Bulldog Courage (1935). One of her finest moments in the limelight has to be her titular role in the Columbia serial Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945), in which she gave a fine, spirited performance as the intrepid heroine.

After retiring from films in the 1960s, she became a stage producer and director of grand and light operas for the Redlands (California) Bowl. Married twice -- to actor/producer Henry Wilcoxon and then actor Ray Mitchell -- Joan and her second husband subsequently co-founded the Palm Springs-based Valley Players Guild, staging plays that featured other veteran performers. She died of a respiratory ailment in 1989 and was survived by three children from her first marriage to Wilcoxon.

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

Spouse (2)

Ray Mitchell (20 October 1971 - 22 February 1989) (her death)
Henry Wilcoxon (17 December 1938 - 1969) (divorced) (3 children)

Trivia (14)

She was the great-niece of the founder of Woodbury Soap.
Her mother was the third queen of the Rose Parade.
For six years she was a producer and and director of both grand and light operas for the Redlands (California) Bowl.
She and her second husband, actor Ray Mitchell co-founded the Valley Players Guild Theatre in Palm Springs, California.
Occasionally wrote magazine and newspaper articles for her local Palm Springs (CA) area.
Had three children from her marriage to actor Henry Wilcoxon: Wendy, Heather and Cecilia. Cecilia was named after Cecilia de Mille, the daughter of director Cecil B. DeMille, with whom Henry was a close associate.
Suffered from tuberculosis when she died in Desert Hot Springs.
Appeared in her first film at age 6 in The Half Breed (1922) starring Wheeler Oakman. Her first professional lead was in the Hopalong Cassidy western The Eagle's Brood (1935) billed as "Nana Martinez".
Later taught workshops at UC and also produced, directed and acted in the annual Nativity play for the Wilcoxon Group Players.
According to Laura Wagner's article on Joan in Film of the Golden Ages, Spring 2015 issue, Joan was considered a child prodigy. At three she was performing in concert. At six she was fluent in two languages; was an excellent child horsewoman; and danced and played the piano.
Father Elmer owned a hotel; mother Joan Hedenfeldt, a one-time vaudevillian, was a Pasadena Tournament of Roses Queen of 1907. Her parents divorced when Joan was 10. Following this Joan's mother entered her daughter into a convent and pursued a European operatic career for several years before returning.
An artist, photographer and photo collector, she later had special exhibitions of her art work. In 1963 she hosted a local series "Adventure in Art" on KCHU-TV.
Was chosen to be premiere ballerina for the Corps de Ballet's Opera Under the Stars at the Hollywood Bowl Grand Opera Festibval in 1936.
Opened a dance school in 1944. Jennifer Jones became a student.

Personal Quotes (2)

The pace of B's was more to my liking. We seldom had retakes, which bore me to death, and there was never time for the star temperament and such nonsense that goes on during the filming of a big picture.
I don't blame the studios [for typecasting me]. I certainly didn't look much like the girl next door. A cameraman once told me I had the longest face in the picture business.

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