Saturday, October 17, 2015

Joan Leslie, 1925-2015

Joan Leslie in the background left with James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Joan Leslie, an actress of the 1940s whose career high point was probably acting with James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, has died at the age of 90.

Leslie started her acting career as a child during the Depression, eventually making her way to Hollywood and getting some small uncredited juvenile roles, as well as a few that have her credited under her birth name, Joan Brodel. She wound up at Warner Bros. in 1941, appearing that first year in such classic movies as High Sierra and Sergeant York. Even with the success of Yankee Doodle Dandy, Leslie's career never became as big as it probably should have. A look at her credits in the following years shows that she worked steadily at Warner Bros, but didn't get the plum roles that the studio was offering at that time. Of course, she wasn't old enough to take the roles that Bette Davis or newly-acquired Joan Crawford had. But it's interesting to think about what she might have brought to the role of Veda opposite Crawford in Mildred Pierce. Blyth was three years younger, so the earlier scenes when Veda is clearly a juvenile might have been a bit more out of place for Leslie, but she was still only 20 at the time.

Leslie married in 1950 and retired from movies after the birth of her twin daughters. She was married for 50 years until her husband's death.

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