Joan Woodbury

Last updated

Joan Woodbury
Joan Woodbury in The Desperadoes.jpg
Woodbury in The Desperadoes (1943)
Joan Elmer Woodbury

(1915-12-17)December 17, 1915
DiedFebruary 22, 1989(1989-02-22) (aged 73)
Other namesNana Martínez
Years active1934–1964
(m. 1938;div. 1969)

Ray Mitchell
(m. 1971)

Joan Elmer Woodbury (December 17, 1915 – February 22, 1989) was an American actress beginning in the 1930s and continuing well into the 1960s.


Early life

Woodbury was born in Los Angeles, California on December 17, 1915. Her father was Elmer Franklin Woodbury, and her mother was born Joan Meta Hadenfeldt, whose father, Charles Hadenfeldt, had emigrated to the US from Germany. Elmer owned various hotels, including the La Casa Grande and Maryland hotels in Pasadena and the Hotel Richelieu in downtown Los Angeles. Her mother had been at Pasadena's Tournament of Roses six times 'Rose Queen' and had been in vaudeville. [1] When she was five years old, she and her mother appeared in Oliver Morosco's The Half Breed. [2]

When she was four years old, Joan had an 18-year-old live-in governess, Marie Sandow. In 1922, when she was six, she was selected for the leading role in a series of children's fairy story films; an article about this in the San Francisco Chronicle commented, "Joan Woodbury has been known for some time as America's 100 Percent Child, and has been photographed, sketched and painted by many artists." [3] She first studied for seven years in a convent, later trained in dance, and eventually graduated from Hollywood High School. Woodbury began dancing for the Agua Caliente dance company and, at 19, decided to attempt a career in acting.

Joan Woodbury performing 'Toreador' dance, from 'There Goes My Girl', ca. 1930, Sam Hood Joan Woodbury in There goes my girl, ca 1930.jpg
Joan Woodbury performing 'Toreador' dance, from 'There Goes My Girl', ca. 1930, Sam Hood

She moved to Hollywood and that same year received her first acting role in the 1934 film Eight Girls in a Boat , which was uncredited. Another uncredited role followed, with her first credited role being in the 1934 film One Exciting Adventure , which starred Binnie Barnes. Her first major role, billed as Nana Martinez, was in a Hopalong Cassidy movie The Eagle's Brood . Woodbury appeared in 15 films from 1934 through 1935, of which 10 were uncredited.

Career rise

In 1936, her career began to become more successful, with appearances in eight films that year, of which five were uncredited. However, of the three roles that were credited, Woodbury made an impact, and caught the attention of studios. Her mixture of Danish, British, and Native American heritage gave her an exotic appearance, and allowed her to be cast in many different ethnicities, from Hispanic to French and Asian. By 1937, her career had taken off, mostly in B-movies such as Living on Love and Bulldog Courage , but also with her receiving many credited roles.

Woodbury in The Rogues Tavern (1936) Joan Woodbury in Rogue's Tavern.jpg
Woodbury in The Rogues Tavern (1936)

In 1937, Woodbury starred in her first of several credited Charlie Chan films, titled Charlie Chan on Broadway . She also began appearing in numerous Westerns, portraying the heroine opposite some of the 1930s' biggest cowboy actors, to include William Boyd of Hopalong Cassidy fame, Roy Rogers, and Johnny Mack Brown. Woodbury appeared in 50 films from 1937 to 1945, almost all of which were credited. Her most memorable of that period was her lead role in the serial Brenda Starr, Reporter , in 1945.

Personal life

On December 17, 1938, Woodbury married actor and producer Henry Wilcoxon, with whom she had three daughters: Wendy Joan Robert, [4] Heather Ann (named after Heather Angel), and Cecilia Dawn "CiCi" (named after Cecil B. DeMille). [5] They divorced in 1969. [6] After the marriage, according to film critic Don Daynard, she "continued her career but never graduated from the minors", featuring in such films as Barnyard Follies , In Old Cheyenne , and Brenda Starr, Reporter. [7] She married actor Ray Mitchell in 1971, and they remained together until her death.

Founding of the Valley Players Guild and retirement

From 1946, her career declined, more due to her desire to spend more time with her family than her not having acting offers. She founded the company Valley Players Guild in Palm Springs, California with her husband Ray Mitchell. The Valley Players Guild staged plays featuring veteran actors and actresses.[ citation needed ]

In addition to managing their company, she continued to act on occasion, with her biggest role after 1946 being a credited part in the 1956 epic The Ten Commandments , starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, and Anne Baxter. Her last film appearance was a supporting role in the movie The Time Travelers (1964).

In 1963–1964, Woodbury was on the television program Adventure in Art on KCHU-TV, [8] a UHF station in San Bernardino, California. [9] The program consisted of "26 dramatized and illustrated series of exciting adventures in the world of art." [8]

When Woodbury retired, she had appeared in 81 films, though a newspaper article published in 1963 reported that she had appeared in more than 300 films. [8] Woodbury eventually settled in Desert Hot Springs, California, where she was residing at the time of her death at the age of 73. [10]

Partial filmography

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Wilcoxon</span> British actor

Harry Frederick Wilcoxon, known as Henry Wilcoxon, was an actor born in Roseau, Dominica, British West Indies, and who was a leading man in many of Cecil B. DeMille's films, also serving as DeMille's associate producer on his later films.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Barbara Pepper</span> American actress (1915–1969)

Barbara Pepper was an American stage, television, radio, and film actress. She is best known as the first Doris Ziffel on the sitcom Green Acres.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edward Brophy</span> American actor (1895–1960)

Edward Santree Brophy was an American character actor and comedian, as well as an assistant director and second unit director during the 1920s. Small of build, balding, and raucous-voiced, he frequently portrayed dumb cops and gangsters, both serious and comic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Barnes (cinematographer)</span> American cinematographer

George S. Barnes, A.S.C. was an American cinematographer active from the era of silent films to the early 1950s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jean Rogers</span> American actress (1916–1991)

Jean Rogers was an American actress who starred in serial films in the 1930s and low–budget feature films in the 1940s as a leading lady. She is best remembered for playing Dale Arden in the science-fiction serials Flash Gordon (1936) and Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joyce Compton</span> American actress (1907–1997)

Olivia Joyce Compton was an American actress.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Minerva Urecal</span> American vaudevillian and actress (1894–1966)

Minerva Urecal was an American stage and radio performer as well as a character actress in Hollywood films and on various television series from the early 1950s to 1965.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Meeker</span> American actor (1904–1984)

George Meeker was an American character film and Broadway actor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Raymond Walburn</span> American actor

Raymond Walburn was an American character actor of stage and screen who appeared in dozens of Hollywood movie comedies and an occasional dramatic role during the 1930s and 1940s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Julie Bishop (actress)</span> American actress (1914–2001)

Julie Bishop, previously known as Jacqueline Wells, was an American film and television actress. She appeared in more than 80 films between 1923 and 1957.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lucien Littlefield</span> American actor (1895–1960)

Lucien Littlefield was an American actor who achieved a long career from silent films to the television era. He was noted for his versatility, playing a wide range of roles and already portraying old men before he was of voting age.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marion Burns</span> American actress (1907–1993)

Marion Burns was an American film actress of the 1930s. She is best known for having starred opposite John Wayne in the 1935 film The Dawn Rider and opposite him again that same year in Paradise Canyon, as well as a large supporting role in Me and My Gal (1932) starring Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Cleveland</span> Canadian-American actor (1885–1957)

George Alan Cleveland was a Canadian film actor. He appeared in more than 180 films between 1930 and 1954.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dorothea Kent</span> American actress (1916–1990

Dorothea Kent was an American film actress. She appeared in more than 40 films between 1935 and 1948. A former model, she often played dumb sidekicks of the heroine, and rarely played the lead. In addition to her credited roles, she also had roles in six other films, including her last role in the 1948 film The Babe Ruth Story.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marjorie Weaver</span> American actress

Marjorie Weaver was an American film actress of the 1930s through the early 1950s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nana Bryant</span> American actress (1888–1955)

Nana Irene Bryant was an American film, stage, and television actress. She appeared in more than 100 films between 1935 and 1955.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grace Bradley</span> American actress (1913–2010)

Grace Bradley was an American film actress who was active in Hollywood during the 1930s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paul Stanton (actor)</span> American character actor (1884–1955)

Paul Stanton was an American character actor and bit-part player in American films.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carol Hughes (actress)</span> American actress (1910–1995)

Carol Hughes was an American actress. She is best remembered for her leading roles opposite Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, and for her role as Dale Arden in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sarah Edwards (actress)</span> American actress (1881–1965)

Sarah Edwards was a Welsh-born American film and stage actress. She often played dowagers or spinsters in numerous Hollywood movies of the 1930s and 1940s, mostly in minor roles.


  1. Wagner, Laura (Spring 2015). "Joan Woodbury: Queen of the B's". Films of the Golden Age (80): 62–63.
  2. "Woodbury". The Hotel World. 92 (19): 15. 30 April 1921. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  3. "S.F. Child Is Selected for Lead in Fairy Story Films". San Francisco Chronicle. California, San Francisco. 22 October 1922. p. 7. Retrieved 11 August 2016 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  4. On 21 June 1940, at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Hollywood, Joan and Henry's daughter, first named Wendy Joan Wilcoxon, was christened Wendy Joan Robert Wilcoxon in memory of Henry's brother Robert Owen Wilcoxon who had been killed at the Dunkirk Evacuation three weeks earlier
  5. Daynard, Don Henry Wilcoxon in Peter Harris (ed.) The New Captain George's Whizzbang #13 (1971), pp. 4, 7
  6. Henry Wilcoxon and Katherine Orrison, Lionheart in Hollywood, p.351
  7. Daynard, Don Henry Wilcoxon in Peter Harris (ed.) The New Captain George's Whizzbang #13 (1971), pp. 2-7
  8. 1 2 3 "KCHU to Present Versatile Star in Art Adventure Series". The San Bernardino County Sun. California, San Bernardino. 23 September 1963. p. 16. Retrieved 11 August 2016 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  9. "KCHU/18, San Bernardino CA". The History of UHF Television. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  10. "Woodbury, Joan (1915–1989)", Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women Through the Ages. Gale. 2007. Retrieved January 9, 2013 from HighBeam Research