Oscar Actors: Blondell, Joan, Supporting Actress Nominee, The Blue Veil (1951)

Joan Blondell, born on August 30, 1906, performed in movies and on television for half a century.

After winning a beauty pageant, Blondell embarked upon a film career. Establishing herself as a sexy wisecracking blonde, she was under contract at Warner, appearing in more than 100 films and TV productions. She was most active in films during the 1930s, during which she co-starred with Glenda Farrell in nine films, in which the duo portrayed gold-diggers.

Blondell was paired with James Cagney in Sinners’ Holiday (1930), the film version of Penny Arcade, and The Public Enemy (1931), and was one half of a gold-digging duo with Glenda Farrell in nine films.

During the Great Depression, Blondell was one of the highest-paid individuals in the US. Her stirring rendition of “Remember My Forgotten Man” in the Busby Berkeley production of Gold Diggers of 1933, in which she co-starred with Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, became an anthem for the frustrations of the unemployed and the government’s failed economic policies.

In 1937, she starred opposite Errol Flynn in The Perfect Specimen.  By the end of the decade, after making nearly 50 films, she left Warner.

In 1943, Blondell returned to Broadway as the star of Mike Todd’s short-lived production of The Naked Genius, a comedy written by Gypsy Rose Lee.

She was well received in later films, despite being relegated to character and supporting roles after 1945, when she was billed below the title for the first time in 14 years in Adventure, which starred Clark Gable and Greer Garson.  She was also featured in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) and Nightmare Alley (1947).

In 1948, she left the screen for three years and concentrated on theatre, performing in summer stock and touring with Cole Porter’s musical, Something for the Boys.

Blondell returned to Hollywood in 1950. Her performance in The Blue Veil (1951), earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

She played supporting roles in The Opposite Sex (1956), Desk Set (1957), and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957).

She received acclaim for her performance as Lady Fingers in Norman Jewison’s The Cincinnati Kid (1965), starring Steve McQueen, garnering a Golden Globe nomination and National Board of Review win for Best Supporting Actress.

John Cassavetes cast her as a cynical, aging playwright in his film Opening Nigh (1977). Blondell was seen in two films not long before her death, Grease (1978) and the remake of The Champ (1979) with Jon Voight and Rick Schroder.

She also appeared in two films released after her death, The Glove (1979) and The Woman Inside (1981).

Blondell died from leukemia on December 25, 1979, at the age of 73.