Joan Leslie (b. 1925)

Joan Leslie
Joan Leslie
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Joan Leslie was a petite redhaired film and television actress who became extremely popular during the 1940's and 1950's. She appeared in over 40 movies, specialising in wholesome girl-next-door roles, often as the leading man's sweetheart, and she starred with some of Hollywood's biggest names such as Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper and James Cagney.


She was born Joan Agnes Theresa Sadie Brodel in Detroit, Michigan on January 26, 1925 into a devout Catholic family. She had two older sisters, Betty and Mary, and when Joan was just nine the three girls formed a singing and dancing vaudeville act called The Brodel Sisters. A year later Joan was earning a living as a child model in advertising and at the age of eleven in 1936 she appeared in her first movie, with an uncredited role in George Cukor's romantic drama 'Camille'.

Still a young teenager her exceptional talent was evident and she appeared as Joan Brodel in several films in the late 1930's such as 'Men with Wings', in 1938 and 'Winter Carnival' and 'Two Thoroughbreds' in 1939 before she was signed in 1940 aged just 15 by Warner Brothers who changed her acting name to Joan Leslie.

Her first role under her new name was in 1941 as the young crippled girl Velma in 'High Sierra' with Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino. In the same year she was Gary Cooper's love interest, Gracie Williams, in 'Sergeant York' and then again in 1941 she appeared with Bogart in the circus movie 'The Wagons Roll at Night'.

In 1942, she added to her growing reputation when she played Mary Cohan, the wife of James Cagney's George Cohan, in 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' and in 1943 she sang and danced with Fred Astaire in 'The Sky's the Limit'. She was still only seventeen and in fact celebrated her eighteenth birthday on the set.

After appearing as herself with her sister, Betty Broden, in 'Hollywood Canteen' in 1944 Joan continued her successful career and for the next few years she appeared as the love interest in well received movies such as 'Where Do We Go from Here?' in 1945, the Busby Berkeley directed musical 'Cinderella Jones' in 1946 and 'Repeat Performance' the following year.

Her career path changed markedly in 1947 when renewal negotiations over her contract with Warner Brothers broke down and she suddenly found that good movies were hard to come by. She joined Republic Pictures, who specialised in 'B' movies and after 1947 she made only seven more pictures, none of which approached the production and casting quality of her earlier movies. Her later films include 'Born to Be Bad' in 1950, 'Flight Nurse' and 'Jubilee Trail', both in 1954 and her last movie, 'The Revolt of Mamie Stover' in 1956.


After this Joan, who had married Dr. William Caldwell in 1950, retired from the movie business to devote more time to raising her twin daughters.

She never appeared in another movie but did appear in television commercials and also also made occasional guest appearances in such TV shows as 'Murder, She Wrote' and 'Charlie's Angels'. In the latter part of her life she devoted much time to humanitarian work and to a new career as a dress designer.

Joan Leslie died on October 12, 2015, in Los Angeles. She was aged 90 years.

Joan Leslie Academy Awards

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Joan Leslie Filmography

Camille (uncredited)
Men with Wings (uncredited)
Nancy Drew ... Reporter (uncredited)
Love Affair (uncredited)
Winter Carnival (as Joan Brodel)
Two Thoroughbreds
Laddie (as Joan Brodel)
High School (uncredited)
Young as You Feel (as Joan Brodel)
Star Dust (uncredited)
Susan and God (uncredited)
Military Academy (as Joan Brodel)
Foreign Correspondent (uncredited)
Alice in Movieland
High Sierra
The Great Mr. Nobody
The Wagons Roll at Night
Thieves Fall Out
Sergeant York
Nine Lives Are Not Enough
The Male Animal
Yankee Doodle Dandy