JOAN COLLINS (AKA Dame Joan Henrietta Collins, DBE) was born 23 May 1933. She is an English actress/writer, who grew up in London during the Second World War. After making her stage debut in A Doll’s House at the age of 9, she trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. After eighteen months, she was signed to an exclusive contract by the Rank Organization 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). 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).
In 1980 she appeared on stage, playing the title role in a revival of The Last of Mrs. Cheyney. But it was in 1981 that her career really took off. She landed the plum role of “Alexis Carrington Colby,” the vengeful ex-wife of John Forsythe’s character, in the television soap opera Dynasty, winning a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in 1982. She later received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Since the late 1970s, Collins has written several autobiographies as well as books on beauty tips. Despite a protracted legal battle with publishers Random House in the 90s, she has continued to write fictional, non-fictional and autobiographical books.
Collins has been married five times, first to Irish actor Maxwell Reed, after he raped her. They divorced in 1956. She then married Anthony Newley in 1963, followed by Ron Kass in 1972; she had two children with Newley and a third with Kass. That marriage ended in divorce in 1983. In 1985, Collins married Swedish singer Peter Holm in a ceremony in Las Vegas. They were unceremoniously divorced in 1987. She married Percy Gibson, 30 years her junior, in 2002 at Claridge’s Hotel in London. Collins maintains residences in London, Los Angeles, New York and France, describing her life as being “that of a gypsy”. Because of her many marriages, tumultuous affairs (She became pregnant by Warren Beatty and had an abortion) plus her roles as a sex kitten, she has often been referred to as “The British Open!”
I first saw Joan Collins playing the scheming princess in LAND OF THE PHAROHS starring Jack Hawkins. She tramped around the pyramids in a dazzling array of slinky outfits, massive wigs and outlandish make-up. The most memorable moment in all of cinematic history was hers. When the pharaoh died, protocol had it that his burial take place within the Royal Tomb. Joan and 100 eunuchs where present to conduct the ceremony. Once the king was buried, Joan turned to leave, only to discover that one by one all the exits were being sealed. She suddenly realized she was going to be buried alive. She screamed in horror! But then you can see a thought cross her mind, “Okay if I am going to die anyway, at least I am going out with a bang. I’m gonna fuck every man in this place.” But her joy quickly turned to grief when she realized that all the men around her were eunuchs, who had about as much interest in her as a turnip. At this point Truth and Illusion intersected. And Joan’s heartbreaking anguish at seeing the throng of “Castrati” was movie magic. Nothing before or since in all of cinematic history has ever quite achieved this degree of verisimilitude, wherein the actress and the part became one.
I don’t know if anyone remembers much about DYNASTY, but it was so popular in its heyday, that the plot points made the newspapers, especially when that newspaper was the National Enquirer. And because of that, scripts for the shows were top-secret documents, rivaled only by directives from the Pentagon. So when I got cast as Joan’s lawyer in the opening of the 7th season, I was not given a script, for fear I would sell it to the Enquirer. Instead I was sent several pages of speeches with no context or cues. I still recall the director asking the cast, including Miss Collins, to run the scene prior to blocking. The cast went through the dialogue until there was a pause, at which point the director would nod at me, and I would blurt out a line. According to the script, at the end of the previous season, Joan’s character had been thrown in jail, where she had been ravished by Lesbians for the entire hiatus. But at the opening of the new season, she emerged from jail in a little Chanel outfit, in full make-up with nary a hair out of place. (A couple of those dykes must had been hair dressers.)
At one point the director had Joan and I pass each other in an elaborate cross in the courtroom scene. After the 10th take, we stood together awaiting further instruction. I joked, “We have to stop meeting like this.” She turned on me, delivering a look that said, “You don’t speak unless spoken to!” She marched over to the director, and after a little chat, the blocking was changed so that I came nowhere near her.
She was photographed in Monte Carlo in 2012 under a gigantic wig and massive shoulder pads. I suspect it must have taken an entire squadron of surgeons, stylists and sycophants, to put her back together again. She is famously quoted as saying, “After a certain age, you get the face you deserve.” Prophetic words indeed, as I looked upon the face of this little old lady dressed up as the iconic Joan Collins of yesteryear.