Joan Henrietta Collins, OBE (born 23 May 1933), is an English actress, author and columnist. Born in Paddington and brought up in Maida Vale, Collins grew up during the Second World War. After making her stage debut in A Doll's House at the age of 9, she was trained as an actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. After eighteen months at the drama school, she was signed to an exclusive contract by the Rank Organisation and appeared in various British films.
At the age of 22, Collins headed to Hollywood and landed sultry roles in several popular films, including The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955) and Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (1958). While she continued to make films in the US and the UK throughout the 1960s, her career languished in the 1970s, where she appeared in a number of horror flicks. Near the end of the decade, she starred in two films based on best-selling novels by her younger sister Jackie Collins: The Stud (1978) and its sequel The Bitch (1979). Returning to her theatrical roots, she played the title role in the 1980 British revival of The Last of Mrs. Cheyney and later had a lead role in the 1990 revival of Noël Coward's Private Lives. In 1981, Collins landed Alexis Colby, the role for which she is perhaps best known, in the long-running 1980s television soap opera Dynasty.
By the time the soap opera had been cancelled, Collins followed in her sister's footsteps and published her first novel Prime Time (1988) which became a bestseller despite critical pans. Although retrieving publication issues with Random House in 1996, she has since published many books: both fictional, non-fictional and autobiographical. Flamboyant in her personal life and in roles she pursues, Collins continues to act in theatre, film and television in a career that has spanned more than 60 years.
Collins was born in Paddington, London, the daughter of Elsa Collins (née Bessant), a dance teacher and nightclub hostess, and Joseph William Collins (died 1988), an agent whose clients would later include Shirley Bassey, the Beatles and Tom Jones. Her father, a native of South Africa, was Jewish, and her British mother was Anglican. She has one sister, author Jackie Collins, and one brother, Bill Collins. Collins was educated at the Francis Holland School and then trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
At the age of 17 Collins was signed to the J. Arthur Rank Film Company, a British film studio.
She made her feature debut as a beauty contest entrant in Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951) and had a number of other minor film appearances in the UK. She was next signed by 20th Century Fox in 1955 as their answer to MGM's Elizabeth Taylor. She actually screen tested for the title role in Cleopatra which eventually went to Taylor. According to an article in Picture Post, Collins was frustrated by her time at Rank. Collins told the popular Hulton Press Weekly 'they're always carrying on about there being no women of star material in England. They don't bother to build us up. They concentrate on building the men'. She made her Hollywood debut in Howard Hawks's Land of the Pharaohs (1955) and appeared in Island in the Sun (1957).
Collins was popular as a magazine pin-up in the UK throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s, with cover appearances on titles such as Span and 66.
Her notable guest appearances on American television during the 1960s and 1970s included Batman, The Virginian, Mission: Impossible, Police Woman and the notable Star Trek episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever".
In the 1970s Collins made several films and then starred in the softcore film versions of her sister Jackie Collins's racy novels The Stud and The Bitch. The films were extremely financially successful, The Stud, made for $600,000 went on to gross over $20,000,000 internationally. Collins has worked with some of the biggest names and film legends in Hollywood, including Richard Burton, Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas, Gene Kelly, Laurence Harvey, Bob Hope, Dwayne Hickman, James Mason, Robert Mitchum, Eddie Albert, Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, Sir Laurence Olivier, Edward G. Robinson, Sir Ralph Richardson, Rod Steiger, James Stewart, Joanne Woodward, Jayne Mansfield, Sir John Gielgud and Sir Nigel Hawthorne.
In 1981, Collins was offered a role in the second season of the then struggling new soap opera Dynasty (1981–89) playing Alexis, the beautiful but vengeful ex-wife of tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe). Her performance is generally credited as one factor in the fledgling show's subsequent rise in the Nielsen ratings to a hit rivaling Dallas.
In 1985, Dynasty was the #1 show in the United States, beating out Dallas which ranked at #2. For her portrayal of Alexis, Collins was nominated six times for a Golden Globe Award (every year from 1982 to 1987), winning once in 1983. Upon accepting the award, Collins thanked Sophia Loren for turning down the part of Alexis. At the age of 50 Collins appeared in a twelve page photo layout for Playboy magazine shot by George Hurrell.
In 1983 Collins starred in Making of a Male Model with young model-actor Jon-Erik Hexum, and in 1984 played a soap star in The Cartier Affair with David Hasselhoff. With Dynasty at the height of its success, Collins began producing and starred in the 1986 CBS miniseries Sins and Monte Carlo.
In the 2001 E! True Hollywood Story episode featuring Dynasty, former ABC executive Ted Harbert stated, "The truth is we didn't really believe that we had this thing done as a hit until Joan Collins walked down that courtroom aisle." Co-star Al Corley noted that Collins "just flew" in the role that was "tailor made...just spot on." In Dynasty producer Aaron Spelling's final press interview he said of Collins: "We didn't write Joan Collins. She played Joan Collins. Am I right? We wrote a character, but the character could have been played by 50 people and 49 of them would have failed. She made it work."
After the end of Dynasty in 1989, Collins took time off to be with her family. She rejoined her co-stars for Dynasty: The Reunion, a 1991 miniseries that concluded the series which had been left with a cliffhanger ending after its abrupt cancellation. In the 1990s Collins made several guest star appearances on series such as Roseanne, The Nanny and Will & Grace while dabbling in films like Decadence and A Midwinter's Tale. She also appeared as the main characters of films such as Mama's Back and Annie: A Royal Adventure! during this period. In 1994, at the age of 60, she launched her only exercise video, titled Joan Collins Personal Workout.
In 1990, Collins played Amanda in a revival of Noël Coward's Private Lives in the West End. She would later make her Broadway debut in the same play in 1992. In 1991 Collins also appeared in Noël Coward's Tonight at 8:30 and played eight different women in a series of one act plays written by Coward, including an elderly Victorian spinster. She also guest starred in six episodes of Aaron Spelling's short lived prime time soap opera Pacific Palisades in 1997. In 1990 also, Collins appeared in writer-director Michael Feeney Callan's television series, My Riviera, hosting friends around her home and favourite locales in the South of France. During the early 1990s Joan Collins twice appeared as a celebrity guest star on the hit South African soap opera "Egoli" (City of Gold), playing the role of Catherine Sinclair. Collins was chosen as the cover model for the relaunch of the popular celebrity magazine OK! when it changed from being a monthly to a weekly. In the spring of 2000 she completed an American tour of Love Letters with the likes of George Hamilton and Stacy Keach Jr. Additionally, she appeared in a West End production of Over the Moon with Frank Langella in 2000.
In 1999, Collins was cast in the video version of musical theatre show Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She played two roles in this video: a pianist and Mrs. Potiphar, the wife of Egyptian millionaire Potiphar.
In 2000, Collins joined the cast of The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, a prequel to the 1994 Universal Studios live action film The Flintstones. She played the supporting role Pearl Slaghoople (Wilma Flintstone's mother) but the film was not a box office success.
In 2001, she costarred in the TV film These Old Broads with Debbie Reynolds, Shirley MacLaine and Elizabeth Taylor. The film was written by Reynolds' daughter Carrie Fisher.
In 2002, Collins returned to soap operas in a limited run on the American daytime soap Guiding Light. She also appeared on South African television, depicting the role of South African journalist Jani Allan in a comedy spoof. In 2004 she appeared on a Dutch comedy film Alice in Glamourland (Dutch: Ellis in Glamourland) as a successful writer. Several months later she toured the United Kingdom with a revival of the play Full Circle. In 2005 she served as guest host of the popular British quiz show Have I Got News For You. In 2005, actress Alice Krige portrayed Collins in Dynasty: The Making of a Guilty Pleasure, a fictionalised television film based on the creation and behind the scenes production of Dynasty.
In early 2006, Collins toured the United Kingdom in An Evening With Joan Collins, a one-woman show in which she detailed the highs and lows of her roller coaster career and life, directed by her husband Percy Gibson. In 2006, she reunited with her Dynasty co-stars for the non-fiction special Dynasty Reunion: Catfights and Caviar. Later that year, she began a tour of North America in the play Legends! with former Dynasty co-star Linda Evans, which concluded in May 2007 after a 30-week run.
In 2005, Collins joined the cast of the hit British television series Footballer's Wives for a limited run as a glamorous magazine mogul, named Eva de Wolffe. She also guest-starred in the BBC series Hotel Babylon in 2006 as a lonely aristocrat desperate for romance.
Collins appeared in a two hour episode of the murder-mystery drama Marple in 2009 ("They Do It with Mirrors"). She played Ruth Van Rydock, an old friend of detective Miss Marple.
On 24 January 2010, it was announced that Collins was joining the German soap opera Verbotene Liebe (Forbidden Love) for a short run. She played an aristocratic British woman, Lady Joan, who takes a young prince in tow. Collins started shooting on 22 February 2010 and appeared on-screen in April 2010.
She made her pantomime debut in Dick Whittington as Queen Rat at the Birmingham Hippodrome during the 2010 Christmas season, starring alongside Nigel Havers, Keith Harris and Julian Clary.
Family and personal life
Collins has been married five times, firstly to Irish actor Maxwell Reed, whom she married on 24 May 1952 and divorced in 1956. Collins married award-winning singer, actor and film composer Anthony Newley on 27 May 1963. She and Newley had two children, a daughter Tara Cynara Newley and a son, Alexander Anthony "Sacha" Newley. Collins and Newley divorced in 1970. In March 1972, Collins married her third husband Ron Kass, who had been the president of Apple Records during the reign of the Beatles. During their marriage Collins had her third and final child, a daughter, Katyana Kennedy Kass. Collins's marriage to Kass ended in divorce in 1983, although they remained very close until his death from cancer in 1986. At the height of Dynasty's popularity on 3 November 1985, Collins married Swedish singer Peter Holm in a ceremony in Las Vegas. They were divorced on 25 August 1987, with the lengthy divorce proceedings garnering significant media attention, prompting Collins to quip, "I don't need a husband, I need a wife" and that Holm was "a bit of a loser", with Collins successfully enforcing her prenuptial agreement. In 2001 Collins met theatrical company manager Percy Gibson, 32 years her junior. They married on 17 February 2002 at Claridge's Hotel in London and later renewed their vows in 2009. The pair also appeared as contestants on the Christmas Day edition of the ITV game show All Star Mr. & Mrs. in 2009.
By her daughter Tara Newley, Collins has two grandchildren and by her son Sacha Newley has a further grandchild.
Collins maintains residences in London, Los Angeles, New York and the South of France, describing her life as being "that of a gypsy".
After decades of flirting with British politics, on 24 May 2004 Collins joined the UKIP party.
In early 2005 Collins commented that she had rejoined the Conservative Party stating, "The Labour Party doesn't care about the British people."
She also continues to contribute as The Spectator magazine guest diarist, something she has done since the late 1990s. Collins also writes occasionally for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Lady, and in the USA, Harper's Bazaar. In September 2008 Collins signed on to the Sunday Telegraph as a weekly opinions columnist through the final quarter of the year before leaving to pursue other projects.
She has commented that she was a huge supporter of former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. Collins is also a staunch monarchist, stating "I'm a big monarchist and I love the Queen."
Collins has publicly supported several charities for several decades. In 1982 Collins spoke before the U.S. Congress about increasing funding for neurological research. In 1983 she was named a patron of the International Foundation for Children with Learning Disabilities, earning the foundation's highest honour in 1988 for her continuing support. Additionally, 1988 also saw the opening of the Joan Collins Wing of the Children's Hospital of Michigan, Detroit, Michigan, USA. In 1990, she was made an honorary founding member of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. In 1994 Collins was awarded the lifetime achievement award from the Association of Breast Cancer Studies in Great Britain for her contribution to breast cancer awareness in the UK. Collins is patron of Fight for Sight (U.K.), in 2003 she became a patron of the Shooting Star Children's Hospice in Great Britain while continuing to support several foster children in India; something she has done for the past 25 years. Collins serves her former school, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, as the Honorary President of the RADA Associates.
Collins has also established herself as an author. In addition to her bestselling novels (Prime Time, Love & Desire & Hate, Infamous, Star Quality, and Misfortune's Daughters) she has written six lifestyle books (The Joan Collins Beauty Book, My Secrets, My Friends' Secrets, Joan's Way: The Art of Living Well and "The Joan Collins Cook Book") and memoirs (Past Imperfect, Katy: A Fight for Life and Second Act). To date she has sold over 50 million copies of her books which have been translated into 30 languages.
In the 1990s Collins was embroiled in a high-profile legal battle with the publisher Random House, which was televised daily on Court TV. Collins had signed a two-book deal with the company for $4 million and they had given her a $1.2 million advance. In September 1991 Collins delivered a 690-page manuscript of a novel entitled The Ruling Passion to Random House. However, the publishing firm deemed the manuscript to be of such poor quality that they demanded the return of the $1.2 million advance they had paid to Collins, claiming she had failed to deliver completed books as per her contract. Collins countersued, arguing that her contract required her only to submit a "complete manuscript" not an "acceptable" one. Since she had turned in two novels to the publishing company, A Ruling Passion in 1991 and a second novel, Hell Hath No Fury, in 1992, as her contract stipulated, she felt Random House owed her the rest of the $4 million. She also contended that Random House had not provided the editorial assistance she had expected.
Her Random House contract, negotiated by agent Irving Lazar, required that she was to be paid even if her completed manuscripts were not published. When the case was finally heard in February 1996, a court determined that Collins could keep the advance given to her plus a further $1 million for the first completed manuscript, but that the publisher did not have to pay for the second manuscript since it was essentially a reworking of the first. The Guinness Book of World Records cites Collins as holding the record for retaining the world's largest unreturned payment for an unpublished manuscript.
In 1959, she performed "It's Great Not To Be Nominated" at the Academy Awards with actresses Angela Lansbury and Dana Wynter. In 1962 she sang "Let's Not Be" in the film The Road to Hong Kong with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Collins teamed up with Peter Sellers and her then-husband Anthony Newley in 1963 to record the album Fool Britannia, which made the UK Top 10. In 1968 she sang a zodiac-themed duet with Newley, titled "Chalk & Cheese."
In a 1983 episode of Dynasty, she performed "The Boys in the Back Room", a Marlene Dietrich song from the 1930s film Destry Rides Again. She next sang "The Last Time I Saw Paris" in the TV miniseries Monte Carlo in 1986. In 2001, Collins performed several musical numbers in These Old Broads with Debbie Reynolds and Shirley MacLaine, and that same year appeared in Badly Drawn Boy's music video for "Pissing in the Wind."
In the 1980s, Joan Collins released a solo 7" single with a live recording of her citing John Lennons "Imagine" supported by the London Symphony Orchestra, in the Netherlands.
In 1997, Collins was granted the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in honour of her contribution to the arts and ongoing charity work.
Photograph was taken in 1955 and Hand Color Tinted by artist Margaret A. Roges.