Joan Woodbury Profile

Joan Woodbury
Joan Woodbury
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(Joan Elmer Woodbury)
17 December 15 is born in Los Angeles, California. Her father, Elmer Woodbury, is part owner of the La Casa Grande and Maryland Hotels in Pasadena. Her mother, Joan Hedenfeldt Woodbury, was the first queen of Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses in 1907 at the age of 34; she later appeared on the Orpheum circuit.
20 resides in San Francisco with her family, where her father owns a hotel on Market Street
22 - 33 is educated in San Francisco in a convent. She will later write a book about her experience there, Yes, Sister.
c. Early 30s her mother takes her to Hollywood to make movies. She is mascot of the Hollywood High football team and works out with the squad during her three years there.
c. 35 gains acclaim as a dancer at the Auga Caliente Casino in Mexico
36 is noted as a composer of songs and poetry. An expert dancer, she creates and interprets her own dances, speaks five languages, designs her own clothes, and is a champion fencer. In addition to all of this, she is an accomplished horsewoman and has won many blue ribbons for her performances in horseshows.
4 May 36 is chosen premiere ballerina for the Corps de Ballet’s forthcoming performances of Opera Under the Stars at the Hollywood Bowl’s Grand Opera Festival, which is scheduled for June. The ballet ensembles will be presented with approximately 200 colorfully costumed artists and features the presentation of Aida on the nights of June 23 and 24 and Carmen on June 25 and 26. In addition to the famous individual stars of the cast, there are a full orchestra and about one hundred men and women in the ensemble, for the most part trained operatic choral singers.
36 is friends with future actress Dorothy Fay. One day she joins Fay and her mother for lunch just long enough to say that she is on her way to the airport to meet Tex Ritter and his horse. Fay has no idea who Ritter is but doesn’t want to say so. In 1938 Fay will make her film debut in a Western opposite Buck Jones and will later star with Ritter.
November 36 films Song of the Gringo in which she has the principal feminine role and radio singing cowboy Tex Ritter makes his motion picture debut. Both she and Tex have songs to sing, and one of her own compositions, “You Are Reality,” is featured. Also, her interpretation of the Mexican folk dance is a distinctive feature of the picture.
April 37 advertisers for Corona typewriter
7 June 37 is recognized by critics as a talented poetess
if R.K.O. exercises its option on her, she can be loaned out to three studios immediately. If they don’t, she can go out and get the jobs herself. She already signed with Monogram for a film.
15 July 37 models a gown of pale blue mousseline trimmed with black lace. The lace forms a panel up the front and is also appliquéd on the shoulders.
photographed for newspapers across the country, she brings the South Seas to Hollywood with her colorful garb of cotton print. It is done in colors of turquoise blue, yellow, flame and white, and she wears flame-colored raffia-colored flowers in her dark brown hair.
1 August 37 carrying on the idea originally sponsored by the WAMPAS (Western Association Of Motion Picture Advertisers) that was discarded for years, Hollywood's motion picture makers selected from a list of 430 their thirteen baby stars for 1938. These "lucky thirteen," named at the instance of the North American Newspaper Alliance, were chosen by the casting directors of the leading film studios, who see in this group of girls the future stars of the screen. This is the first of an annual selection to be made by the production officials. Acting as the committee for the film companies were Fred Datig of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Joseph Egli of Cecil B. De Mille Productions, Robert Palmer of R. K.O. Radio, Robert Mayo of Columbia, Lew Schreiber of Twentieth Century-Fox, Max Axno of Warner Brothers-First National, Charles Richards of Selznick-International, Robert Mclntyre of Samuel Goldwyn Studios, and Dan Kelley of Universal. No casting official was permitted to select starlets from his own studio and was given two weeks in which to study tests and performances by the candidates from rival companies. The "lucky thirteen," who are to be groomed for stardom during the 1938-39 film, season, which starts this week, are: Joan Woodbury, Mary McGuire, Jane Bryan, Mary Russell, Jacqueline Wells, Phyllis Brooks, Betty Jaynes, Helen Troy, Olympe Bradna, Barbara Read, Sigrid Gurie, Franciska Gaal, and Margaret Tallichet.
3 August 37 is off to Ensenada for a two-week vacation after completing Forty Naughty Girls, her 4th picture in 3 months
9 August 37 in celebration of its first birthday, the American Air Cadet Corps last week elected Joan Woodbury as its honorary colonel. She received her commission at their headquarters at Metropolitan Airport in Van Nuys. She also bears the distinction of being the first girl enrolled as an active student pilot in the Corps, sharing that honor with Miss Ray Rambeau and Miss Jean Pike, Canada's youngest aviatrix, who is taking an advance course. The Corps, under the supervision of National Commander J. Keperreis, has trained a large number of cadets in Southern California in the various phases of aviation.
19 August 37 is photographed clearing the hurdles with inches to spare
1 October 37 poses for Lois Leeds’ beauty column in a bathing suit, doing an exercise to help keep the waistline and hips trim
26 October 37 attends the circus, which just arrived in Hollywood
10 November 37 she believes every popular song has its “rhythmologica” moment and unless it is introduced at this certain period, it simply will not “click.” Over 20 years ago a Mexican dance number was written called “El Capiate de Alei.” The song enjoyed a meager popularity and then fell into discard. Recently, she accidentally discovered the song while searching for a new rhumba tune. When she introduced it at Agua Caliente, it became an overnight sensation.
11 November 37 columnist Charles G. Sampas writes: “Joan Woodbury asked for ‘something different’ to wear for her Spanish dance in Living on Love. So, studio stylists held a huddle and turned up with a creation of black leopard skin and 200 yards of gold clothes. Rumor, via the press agent vine, says that Joan’s satisfied. Let’s all hope so. We’d hate to think Joan isn’t satisfied…”
6 January 38 columnist Jimmy Fidler pens: “Joan Woodbury, one of the most promising young actresses in Hollywood, is playing her first leading role in Broadway After Midnight. She started her career as a Spanish dancer in the famous resort hotel at Agua Caliente and landed her first screen bits as a dancer. Ironically, she is scoring her present success as a dramatic actress, yet her one burning ambition is still to be a dancing star. And today, I found her bubbling over with excitement, for an accident has given her ambition a new lease on life. A bit player who was scheduled to do a torrid rhumba in the picture had to withdraw from the cast because of illness. Joan begged and cajoled until finally she was given a chance to pinch hit—and she did the dance so well that the entire script has been revised to give her other dancing scenes.”
7 January 38 a poll of leading Hollywood directors, including Cecil B. DeMille and Ernst Lubitsch, name a group of young film players whose star will rise during 1938 in motion pictures, and she is in the top 10, making the cut due to her versatility as a dancer and as an actress
27 January 38 shares her secret for making fudge: use an egg beater instead of a spoon to beat the mixture; it will be lots creamier
11 February 38 demonstrates exercises for beauty column columnist Lois Leeds
11 March 38 in great physical shape, she is again used by Lois Leeds to demonstrate physical exercises in her column
18 May 38 learns a special rumba for her upcoming film, Passport Husbands
2 June 38 columnist Paul Harrison writes: “Joan Woodbury broke into pictures as a Spanish dancer and usually plays Latin roles, but her ancestry is Danish, English, and Indian. When she finished a Spanish dance for Passport Husbands, we walked over to the studio coffee shop, and I learned about castanets. The first thing I learned, having accidentally brushed them off the counter, is that they’re both valuable and fragile. You'd have thought I’d dropped a Stradivarius. They weren't harmed, though. Castanets are made from long seasoned wood of the Spanish olive tree, and you can buy a practice set for $25. Joan’s cost $50, but were a great bargain. She got them in Mexico City, but the best castanets in the world are made right here in L.A. Record price for a set of them is $800.”
25 June 38 is feeling much better after an auto crash in which she suffered bruises/was seriously injured. She lost control of her car and collided with a telephone pole.
1 August 38 attends Smiley Burnette’s “fence painting” fiesta. Other guests handed buckets of whitewash and a brush to go to work on Smiley’s fence are Hugh Herbert, Roy Rogers, and Merna Kennedy.
Early November 38 actress Lynn Bari introduces her to actor Henry Wilcoxon on the 20th Century-Fox lot where they are filming the “Camera Devil” series / Dangerous Cargo / Chasing Danger. But scarcely were the how-do-you-do’s exchanged than they went into a scene in which Joan sinks a knife into Henry and callously leaves him weltering in a pool of chocolate-syrup blood. Born in the West Indies, Wilcoxon was imported to the States from the British stage by Cecil B. DeMille. He purchased a house in Beverly Hills and plans to sail the seas on his yacht, Wander Lure the Second.
27 November 38 Wilcoxon watches her in a dance number and asks her out dancing that night. They attend the Rudy Vallee opening at a popular nightclub. He proposes, and she accepts. They drive to the bride’s home and awaken her mother to gain her consent.
May Mann of the Ogden Standard-Examiner visits actor Henry Wilcoxon on the set at 20th Century-Fox. While the two talk, Joan Woodbury, who plays a feminine lead in Henry’s picture, is acting before the camera, glancing over at the two from time to time. Finally, the director, actor Ricardo Cortez, asks Mann and Wilcoxon to leave because they are right in the line of Woodbury’s vision and are disturbing her. Mann and Wilcoxon leave, laughing about being thrown off the set. It never occurs to Mann that the actor and actress are in love. Two days later Mann will find herself scooped when reading a headline: “Stars Fall in Love on Set of New Film Together.” The more Mann thinks about it, she realizes that Wilcoxon might have given her a hint. He mentioned that he sold his Beverly Hills home and purchased a ranch in the valley north of Bel Air. He said he planned on settling down and raising horses and poultry and cultivating the land.
28 November 38 Louella Parsons reports that Joan and Henry will throw a cocktail party for their intimate friends and announce their intention to wed on December 17, the bride-to-be’s birthday. “I wonder if all Hollywood will be as surprised as I was over this announcement. I was under the impression that Henry was still married to Sheila Garrett, but he and Mrs. Wilcoxon were divorced 18 months ago after a brief reconciliation staged after his return from England several years ago.” It will be a church wedding. The bride’s business representative, Gene Mann, will give her away. Tony Marsh will serve as best man.
1 December 38 before a capacity crowd at the Cocoanut Grove, Rudy Vallee proved again that the hand that waves the baton also can deal a solid punch to hecklers. Dashing off the bandstand after his show had been interrupted time and again by shouted insults from a ringside table, the orchestra leader thrilled stay-up-laters, including many Hollywood stars, by taking a punch at his annoyer, said to be a prominent New York cigar manufacturer. The battle was over with one blow, for waiters and guests stepped between the two men, and the heckler was soon escorted out of the room, but not before the crowd, 100% sympathetic to Vallee, had cheered the orchestra leader for his outburst. Loretta Young and Binnie Barnes, sitting ringside with Gordon Oliver and John McLean, jumped up and clapped their hands in approval. Other stars, including Mary Brian and Anthony Averill, Joan Woodbury and Henry Wilcoxon, and Edward Arnold also witnessed the dramatic climax to the evening's entertainment. After the excitement had died down, Vallee expressed regret over the incident. "I feel like an ass when I do a thing like that," he said, "but I had sent two of my boys over to ask him to be quiet, and he kept right on. It made me so mad that I couldn't help doing what I did. I didn’t really hit him. I just shoved him."
10 December 38 she and Henry Wilcoxon take out a license to wed on December 17, her birthday. He gives his age as 33; she, as 22. “It all started three and a half weeks ago when Henry and I were introduced on a movie lot. We immediately fell in love. He proposed a few nights later.”
14 December 38 Harrison Carroll reports: “If Joan Woodbury and Henry Wilcoxon go through with their plans to marry December 17, they will have one of Hollywood’s oddest honeymoons. Both are working at 20th Century-Fox in Chasing Danger. The picture will not be finished by December 17, so the newlyweds will have to carry on in their roles—which call for them to hate each other.”
17 December 38 marries Henry Wilcoxon on her 22nd birthday with many of their colony friends present. She wears the same gown worn by her mother, Mrs. Joan Hedenfeldt Woodbury, 34 years ago, together with a shower of 300 flowing strands of silver, first used by an aunt, Mrs. Henry Melone of San Francisco.
19 December 38 the couple begins honeymooning at an undisclosed location
8 January 39 tells reporters: “If you had asked me a month ago how to recognize romance I'd have been at a loss for words. I had never had a chance to recognize it for the simple reason I had never experienced it. Of course, I had many good friends—but nothing serious. That is, until I met Henry. The first time I knew of my feelings toward him was when I started to blow my lines when he was around. I have always prided myself in the fact that I always knew my lines perfectly — until now. Ours was a whirlwind romance. We both fell in love suddenly and thoroughly. And that's the way I always wanted my romance to be.”
16 June 39 Louella Parsons announces that Mr. and Mrs. Wilcoxon are getting the nursery ready
28 December 39 daughter Wendy Joan is delivered by Caesarian operation while Henry hurries from his studio to the hospital in costume and grease paint. The 6-pound, 13-ounce girl will have to wait 21 years before her citizenship status can be determined. Henry was expecting his final American citizenship papers to arrive before the stork, but not so. Joan will be off work for a year and a half.
25 March 40 the Bo Rons actor’s agency in Hollywood calls her every morning at 6:00 a.m. to remind her to get up and feed the baby
16 August 40 will get a part in the new Marx Brothers film Go West, after being off a year and a half after her daughter’s birth
15 September 40 returns to films after an 18-month absence
22 October 40 have you danced the Bajan yet? She and her husband created such a dance and have given Arthur Murray the right to feature it at his dancing schools.
41 has few pretensions about her art and disdains any sort of star treatment. While being interviewed for the leading role in the independently produced Paper Bullets, she ignores the fact that the producers can’t afford any office furniture and sits on the floor. Later, claiming never to have made more than $300 dollars a week as an actress, she will be remembered as a thorough professional, treating even the shabbiest assignment as a job of importance.
9 September 41 credit her with the most unusual wrap in Hollywood. It’s a 250-year-old red and gold velvet garment originally used as a schoolboy’s dress coat in Egypt.
16 September 41 is inked by Columbia for double duty as actress and dance directress
29 September 41 presents her mother with a new apartment building in the valley
27 November 41 tells columnist Jimmy Fidler about an embarrassing moment she had last week. She went to an art exhibit and stood, puzzled and fascinated, before a surrealist painting. Finally, turning to a man who stood nearby, she asked: “What in heaven’s name is it? It looks like a fried egg slipping off a mountain.” “That,” answered the man with considerable asperity, “is a sunburst over the desert.” She made a mock bow. “You’re a genius to figure it out,” she said. “Not necessarily,” snapped he. “But I know what I was painting.”
7 December 41 she’s giving a month’s free rent to tenants of her apartment house who become parents
17 February 42 her husband is due to report for active duty with the Coast Guard on the 10th, so she is giving up the family ranch and will move into town. She and her mother plan to go into the real estate business, with Joan taking time off to accept picture engagements.
21 March 42 she entertains 25 of her husband’s shipmates at their Lake Enchanto ranch every weekend, providing food, horses, hunting, and fishing
25 March 42 Louella Parsons reports rumbles are heard; Joan and Henry are feuding
26 March 42 Louella writes: “I am sorry to have printed a rumor that Joan Woodbury and Henry Wilcoxon were divorcing. Apparently it is not true.”
5 March 42 she leases a house at San Pedro to be near her husband, who is still in the Coast Guard
30 April 42 turns down three Broadway offers so that she can be near her hubby while he’s in the Coast Guard on the West Coast
25 May 42 Oh buoy! With movie beauties to “rescue,” Coast Guard crews at Long Beach present a breeches buoy contest at a Home Defense Exposition. Photographed pulling her ashore in a rehearsal are Chief Boatswain’s Mate Henry Wilcoxon and Boatswain Malcolm MacGuire. Six Coast Guard shop crews are judged on rigging and operation of buoys.
10 June 42 evidently a lot of good-natured rivalry exists between the Atlantic and Pacific fleets, main units of the U.S. Navy. When the studio announced plans for producing Sweetheart of the Fleet, starring her and Jinx Falkenburg, the studio was flooded with mail from gobs asking, “Which fleet?”
13 March 43 is named defendant in a $19,523 suit filed by her mother, Mrs. Joan Woodbury, who contends that her daughter owes her that amount under an overdue promissory note
15 November 43 her mother sues her for $20,000 on a promissory note, and the case is set for trial in January. Mrs. Woodbury, her lawyer says, advanced the money for the training and education of her daughter.
27 January 44 while hubby’s in the Coast Guard, she opens a dancing school
45 while staring in the Columbia serial Brenda Starr, Reporter, she keeps the film from going over budget by performing a complicated five-minute scene in a single take — which earns her a spontaneous round of applause from the crew members.
She will later laughingly recall: “It was made during the war and everybody was hungry, including me. My former husband had gone off to war. I was left with a little daughter. So you grabbed anything you could grab and, believe me, you were very grateful for anything that came long. This was a 13-episode thing, in 21 days! The only reason they gave me the role was the fact I could learn dialogue fast enough to do everything in one take. The most memorable thing is, on the last night, the back of the set was one solid bar and there wasn’t an inch of space between one bottle and the next. Everybody was waiting for the wrap-up so we could have a party! But I had 19 pages of dialogue on a telephone, with nobody talking back to me. It’s great if an actor talks back, you can at least ad lib on his ad libs. When you have nobody talking back, you’ve got nobody to ad lib you. So I’d look at a page and say, ‘Okay, let’s do it,’ pick up the phone and we’d shoot it. I shot all 19 sequences in one take because they were going to kill me if I didn’t with all that booze waiting, and I proceeded to get bombed after that. Sam (Katzman, producer) at least realized it was cheaper to hire a stunt lady than break my leg. So I didn’t fall out of windows…I didn’t have any fun at all. I didn’t care to do any more serials with scripts like a telephone book."
6 April 45 she and Henry have kissed and made up
23 March 46 her father dies in Los Angeles
30 September 46 she and hubby are expecting the stork’s second visit to their house
6 May 47 Jimmie Fidler reports the Joan Woodbury and Henry Wilcoxon heir will arrive next Thursday via Caesarian
8 May 47 gives birth at Hollywood Hospital to her second child, a girl to be named Heather Ann, who weighs in at 6 pounds
20 September 49 her husband’s paintings will be exhibited in Los Angeles in the fall. She is photographed posing for him out in the country, on the station wagon’s fold-down back door, her hair in pigtails, and the family pooch on her lap.
16 October 49 attends opening night at the Laguna Playhouse with her husband. Also attending are Jessie Royce Landis, Cecil Kellaway, Barbara Britton and her husband, and Porter Hall.
27 October 49 expects her third child at the end of next June
1 November 49 is off to New York to visit her husband, who is ill in the hospital
4 December 49 Erskine Johnson reports that she and her husband have organized a square dancing group, Stars on the Cob. The group is composed of young film stars who donate their time and talent to entertain at hospital wards and raise money for the Lou Gehrig Foundation, among other worthy charities. Besides her and her husband, the original members are Jane Powell and Geary Steffan, Barbara Britton and her husband, and Mr. and Mrs. Lex Barker. Sixteen future members and their caller, Sid Pickens, will go to Empress Hall in London on February 13—the first American folk-dancing group ever to go abroad. They will receive $28,000 for the two weeks. Among those going are Jane Powell, Shelia Ryan, Rhonda Fleming, Jeanne Cagney, John Howard, Douglas Dick, Roddy McDowell and Amanda Blake.
c. 50 she and her husband organize and stage plays in their living room with an audience of 18 pals. The Wilcoxon Group Players soon graduates to a little theater in Santa Monica, where they put on cut-down versions of Brigadoon and other hits.
20 March 50 Erskine Johnson pens: “Red Face Department: Henry Wilcoxon touring the South, introduced himself to the manager of a small theater in Macon, Ga. The theater man said he once lived in Hollywood and dated a pretty young thing named Joan Woodbury.”
25 May 50 her third daughter, Cecilia Dawn, is born by emergency Caesarian section at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. The baby weighs in at 5 pounds, one and one half ounces. Husband Henry Wilcoxon is noted as production assistant to Cecil B. DeMille.
14 January 51 star charades: Joan Woodbury, Ann Rutherford, and Ellen Corby will represent the motion picture colony against three members of the U.S. Air Force on “Movietown” over KTLA. Dick Lane is the host.
28 April 51 is noted ordering breast of capon at Wilton's Skyroom
December 51 she and her husband present what they claim to be the country’s only professional nativity play
19 April 53 attends the Academy Awards ceremony with her husband to cheer award to Cecil B. DeMille, who wins the Best Picture award for his The Greatest Show on Earth
4 May 53 riders in Palm Springs can now eat right in the saddle at a ride-in restaurant. Organized for Circus Week, the idea will be continued. First customers are actors and actresses Roddy McDowell, Henry Wilcoxon, Joan Woodbury, and Barbara Britton. The horses won’t be forgotten; they have their own trough.
May 53 she and her husband organize a new little theater in the church. Their actors are booked to present a regular, modern-dress, non-religious drama in 132 churches in southern California—not in the auditorium next to the church, but right in the sanctuary. The plays take the place of services. The churches feel a message can be gotten over better in the form of entertainment. The group performs a play written by Henry Wilcoxon, Where is Thy Victory, about a man in the year 2600 A.D. who thinks he can live forever. She tells the press: “The Methodist Church had heard about our nativity play and said they wanted to present our new one. They didn’t want a Biblical costume play, but a modern dress drama with a message. So we presented it at the church in Inglewood. Everyone was so enthusiastic; we now have 132 bookings that will keep us busy on Sundays for two years. A television station wants to televise the play, too.”
23 August 53 vacations on Catalina with her family. Horseback riding over the island trails is their chief diversion.
15 April 55 she and her husband have been buying a certain television-advertised breakfast food at the insistence of their daughter, 7-year-old- Heather. The other day she told them; “Now I have to write a slogan.” “Why,” asked her father. “So we all can win 10 glamorous days in Hollywood,” answers she.
8 March 57 is the featured speaker at the kickoff event for a major campaign put on by the National Safety Council. An active PTA worker, she will speak on “The Golden Rule—Our Answer to the Accident Problem.”
2 January 62 her daughter Cecilia makes her acting debut. She helps her mother and father produce films and plays.
63 retires from films and helps found the Valley Players Guild in Palm Springs. She will be in more than 120 of its productions over the next 25 years.
20 November 69 her mother dies at the age of 97 in a Santa Monica hospital; funeral arrangements are pending at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Hollywood Hills
? divorces Wilcoxon. He will die in Los Angeles on March 6, 1984.
20 October 71 marries actor Charles Raymond Mitchell in Las Vegas
7 January 72 the Valley Players Guild presents The Pleasure of His Company at Cathedral City. The show has a five-weekend run. The group presents six works each season.
21 April 72 is the director for the Valley Players Guild presentation of The Rainmaker. The show will have a five-weekend run.
19 April 74 Simon and Laura, a comedy by Alan Melville, one of Britain’s top comedy authors, begins a five-weekend run at the Valley Players Guild Theater in Cathedral City. Starring with her are husband Ray Mitchell, Sam Pfaff, and Barbara Feldman.
19 June 75 as production manager, she writes a letter to the Desert Sentinel thanking the paper for support given to the Valley Players Guild through its 30-week season
22 February 89 dies in Desert Hot Springs, California, from respiratory complications
Author: Cheryl Messina
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