Joan Henrietta Collins, OBE (born 23 May 1933) is an English actress, author, and columnist. Flamboyant in her personal life, she is best known in the United States for the role of the equally flamboyant Alexis Colby in the long running television series Dynasty, as well as being a favorite of Star Trek fans for her appearance as Edith Keeler in the Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever.
"Age is just a number. It's totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine.""And I kissed a lot of frogs as well, but no, I kissed a lot of frogs and now I've found my prince.""And I think of that again as I've written in several of my beauty books, a lot of health comes from the proper eating habits, which are something that - you know, I come from a generation that wasn't - didn't have a lot of food.""And I used to write novels and little stories and compositions and I - but I put them away because I started acting when I was 17. So there wasn't much time.""And then I wrote my first autobiography when I - well, it was 23 years ago. And since then I've written about one book every two years.""And we have not found any generational gap at all. If he wants to go a football game, he goes. If I want to go to a fashion show, I go. We don't have to do everything together. But we like doing most things together.""Basically, though, I believe in eating well, not eating too much but eating a variety of foods.""But I have had to give up certain things in my life. One is shopping. Two is lunch with the girls. Three is cocktail parties, and four is studying my lines.""Dynasty was the opportunity to take charge of my career rather than waiting around like a library book waiting to be loaned out.""I consider you as old as you look and feel. And in that case I feel - I feel I'm about 39, like Jack Benny.""I do it because I love acting, I love working, and whether it's radio, television, films, theater, I don't care as long as I can get out there and do it.""I don't buy into you're on the slag heap when you're 40 or 50 or 60 or 70 or whatever.""I have a lot of male friends.""I have the absolute utmost respect for soap opera actors now. They work harder than any actor I know in any other medium. And they don't get very much approbation for it.""I mean, even my dressing room at the studio has candles and cushions and cashmere rugs and things.""I really feel now like a native New Yorker. And I'm very happy here.""I received an OBE from the Queen, which probably doesn't mean anything in America but is quite nice in England - the Order of the British Empire for services to drama.""I think dieting is bad for you.""I think health is another exceedingly important thing.""I think it has something to do with being British. We don't take ourselves as seriously as some other countries do. I think a lot of people take themselves far too seriously; I find that a very tedious attitude.""I think, Larry, one of the things is I'm a very active person.""I'm extremely happy in my life. I consider myself to be very blessed.""I'm older than my sister so I started writing first. I started writing at school. I was always top of my class in composition, essays, English Lit and all of that.""I've never yet met a man who could look after me. I don't need a husband. What I need is a wife.""If life throws you a lemon - make lemonade.""Loneliness is the universal problem of rich people.""Show me a person who has never made a mistake and I'll show you somebody who has never achieved much.""The easiest way to convince my kids that they don't really need something is to get it for them.""The problem with beauty is that it's like being born rich and getting poorer.""The secret of having a personal life is not answering too many questions about it.""Well I've written four beauty books as well.""Yes, I love playing cartoony characters. Been known for that."
Collins was born in Paddington, London, the daughter of Elsa (née Bessant), a dance teacher and nightclub hostess, and Joseph William Collins, an agent whose clients would later include Shirley Bassey, the Beatles, and Tom Jones. Collins' South African—born father was Jewish and her British mother was Anglican. She has one sister, author Jackie Collins, and one brother, Bill Collins. Collins was educated at the Francis Holland School and then trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
Collins's childhood was spent in and around Maida Vale and was, according to Collins, an idyllic one with plenty of love, comfort and security. Her father, however, was also a strict disciplinarian and exerted a strong hold over her gentle mother, an attitude which came to irritate her daughters who sought to rebel against it. Collins has said of her father that 'he was detached, cold, hard, critical, difficult, acerbic, and everyone had to please him'. He said himself in his 1986 autobiography A Touch of Collins: 'I love my daughters but I am not the kind of parent who deludes himself that his children are superior to everyone else's. I did not think of them as particularly outstanding in any way'.
At the age of 17 Collins was signed to the J. Arthur Rank Film Company, a highly profitable British studio.
In 1951, she made her feature debut as a beauty contest entrant in Lady Godiva Rides Again, TCM.com and in 1952 she made her film debut in I Believe in You which was based on the book Court Circular by Sewell Stokes. She was next signed by 20th Century Fox in 1954 as their answer to MGM's Elizabeth Taylor. According to a 11 September 1954 article in Picture Post, Collins was frustrated by her time at Rank. Collins told the popular Hulton Press Weekly 'they're always carrying on about there being no women of star material in England. They don't bother to build us up. They concentrate on building the men'. She made her Hollywood debut in Howard Hawks Land of the Pharaohs (1955) and appeared in Island in the Sun (1957).
Collins was popular as a magazine pin-up in the UK throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s, with cover appearances on titles such as Span and 66.
Her notable guest appearances on American television during the 1960s and 1970s included Batman, The Virginian, Impossible, Police Woman, and the Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever".
In the 1970s Collins made several movies and then starred in the softcore film versions of her sister Jackie Collins's racy novels The Stud and The Bitch. The films were smash hits in England, becoming the most profitable films since the James Bond series. Collins has worked with some of the biggest names and movie legends in Hollywood, including Richard Burton, Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas, Gene Kelly, Laurence Harvey, Bob Hope, Dwayne Hickman, James Mason, Robert Mitchum, Eddie Albert, Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, Sir Laurence Olivier, Edward G. Robinson, Sir Ralph Richardson, Rod Steiger, James Stewart, Joanne Woodward, Jayne Mansfield, Sir John Gielgud, and Sir Nigel Hawthorne.
In 1981, Collins was offered a role in the second season of the then struggling new prime time soap opera Dynasty (1981—1989) playing Alexis, the vengeful ex-wife of tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe). Her performance is generally credited as one factor in the fledgling show's subsequent rise in the Nielsen ratings to a hit rivaling Dallas.
In 1985, Dynasty was the #1 show in the US. For her portrayal of Alexis, Collins was nominated six times for a Golden Globe Award (every year from 1982 to 1987), winning once in 1983. Upon accepting the award, Collins thanked Sophia Loren for turning down the part of Alexis. Also around this time, aged 49, she also appeared in a twelve page photo layout for Playboy magazine shot by George Hurrell.
In 1983 Collins starred in Making of a Male Model with young model-actor Jon-Erik Hexum, and in 1984 played a soap star in The Cartier Affair with David Hasselhoff. With Dynasty at the height of its success, Collins began producing and starred in the 1986 CBS miniseries Sins and Monte Carlo.
In the 2001 E! True Hollywood Story episode featuring Dynasty, former ABC executive Ted Harbert stated, "The truth is we didn't really believe that we had this thing done as a hit until Joan Collins walked down that courtroom aisle." Co-star Al Corley noted that Collins "just flew" in the role that was "tailor made...just spot on." In Dynasty producer Aaron Spelling's final press interview he said of Collins: "We didn't write Joan Collins. She played Joan Collins. Am I right? We wrote a character, but the character could have been played by 50 people and 49 of them would have failed. She made it work."
After the end of Dynasty in 1989, Collins took time off to be with her family. She rejoined her costars for The Reunion, a 1991 miniseries that concluded the series which had been left with a cliffhanger ending after its abrupt cancellation. In the 1990s Collins made several guest star appearances on series such as Roseanne, The Nanny and Will & Grace while dabbling in films like Decadence and A Midwinter's Tale. She also appeared as the main characters of films such as Mama's Back and A Royal Adventure! during this period. In 1994, at the age of 60, she launched her only exercise video, titled Joan Collins Personal Workout.
In 1990, Collins played Amanda in a revival of Noël Coward's Private Lives in the West End. She would later make her Broadway debut in the same play in 1992. In 1991 Collins also appeared in Noël Coward's 30 and played eight different women in a series of one act plays written by Coward, including an elderly Victorian spinster. She also guest starred in six episodes of Aaron Spelling's short lived prime time soap opera Pacific Palisades in 1997. During the early 1990s Joan Collins twice appeared as a celebrity guest star on the hit South African soap opera "Egoli" (City of Gold), playing the role of Catherine Sinclair. Collins was chosen as the cover model for the relaunch of the popular celebrity magazine OK! when it changed from being a monthly to a weekly. In the spring of 2000 she completed an American tour of Love Letters with the likes of George Hamilton and Stacy Keach Jr. Additionally, she appeared in a West End production of Over the Moon with Frank Langella in 2000.
In 1999, Collins was cast in the video version of musical theatre show Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She played two roles in this video: a pianist and Mrs. Potiphar, the wife of Egyptian millionaire Potiphar.
In 2000, Collins joined the cast of The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, a prequel to the 1994 Universal Studios live action film The Flintstones. She played the supporting role Pearl Slaghoople (Wilma Flintstone's mother) but the film was not a box office success.
In 2001, she costarred in the TV movie These Old Broads with Debbie Reynolds, Shirley MacLaine, and Elizabeth Taylor. The movie was written by Reynolds' daughter Carrie Fisher.
In 2002, Collins returned to soap operas in a limited run on the American daytime soap Guiding Light. She also appeared on South African television, depicting the role of South African journalist Jani Allan in a comedic spoof. In 2004 she appeared on a Dutch comedy film Alice in Glamourland (Dutch: Ellis in Glamourland) as a successful writer. Several months later she toured the United Kingdom with a revival of the play Full Circle. In 2005 she served as guest host of the popular British quiz show Have I Got News For You.
In 2005, actress Alice Krige portrayed Collins in The Making of a Guilty Pleasure, a fictionalised television movie based on the creation and behind the scenes production of Dynasty.
In early 2006, Collins toured the United Kingdom in A Evening With Joan Collins, a one-woman show in which she detailed the highs and lows of her roller coaster career and life, directed by her husband Percy Gibson. In 2006, she reunited with her Dynasty co-stars for the non-fiction special Dynasty Reunion: Catfights and Caviar. Later that year, she began a tour of North America in the play Legends! with former Dynasty co-star Linda Evans, which concluded in May 2007 after a 30-week run.
In 2005, Collins joined the cast of the hit British television series Footballer's Wives for a limited run as a glamorous magazine mogul, named Eva de Wolffe. She also guest-starred in the BBC series Hotel Babylon in 2006 as a lonely aristocrat desperate for romance.
Collins appeared in an two hour-long episode of the murder-mystery drama Marple in 2009 ("They Do It with Mirrors"). She played Ruth Van Rydock, an old friend of detective Miss Marple.
On 24 January 2010, it was announced that Collins is joining the German soap opera Verbotene Liebe (Forbidden Love) for a short run. She will play an aristocratic British woman, Lady Joan, who takes a young Prince in tow. Collins started shooting on 22 February 2010 and appeared on-screen in April 2010.
She will make her pantomime debut in Dick Whittington as Queen Rat at Birmingham Hippodrome from December 18, 2010 to January 30, 2011; starring alongside Nigel Havers, Keith Harris and Julian Clary.
Collins has acknowledged a massive following of gay fans. In an August 2007 interview with gay journalist Matthew Hays which appeared in the Canadian gay magazine Xtra!, Collins was asked why so many gay men have such a strong connection with her and her Dynasty character: "I think that gay guys--and I have many, many gay friends--like the clothes, the attitude, the ballsiness. Alexis had a man's attitude. She took no prisoners in terms of sex. If she had to use her sexual wiles to get a business deal she did that, too. She was tough in business, but looked good in a negligee."
Collins married Irish actor Maxwell Reed on 24 May 1952, and the couple divorced in 1956.
In 1959, Collins' beauty caught the eye of American actor Warren Beatty, four years her junior, after he saw her while dining at La Scala in Beverly Hills. Their affair, which would last a year and a half, led to a brief engagement and an abortion. She said of her younger paramour, "I don't think I can last much longer. He never stops; it must be all those vitamins he takes." When someone later inquired if they really had sex seven times a day, she answered, "Maybe he did, but I just lay there."
Collins married award-winning singer, actor and film composer Anthony Newley on 27 May 1963. She and Newley had two children, a daughter Tara Cynara Newley and a son, Alexander Anthony "Sacha" Newley. Collins and Newley divorced in 1970.
In March 1972, Collins married her third husband Ron Kass, who had been the president of Apple Records during the reign of the Beatles. During their marriage Collins had her third and final child, a daughter, Katyana Kennedy "Katie" Kass. Collins's marriage to Kass ended in divorce in 1983, although they remained very close until his death from cancer in 1986.
At the height of Dynasty's popularity on 3 November 1985, Collins married Swedish singer Peter Holm in a ceremony in Las Vegas. They were divorced on 25 August 1987, with the lengthy divorce proceedings garnering significant media attention, which prompted her to quip, "I don't need a husband, I need a wife." Collins left Los Angeles and returned to London.
In 2001 Collins met theatrical company manager Percy Gibson, a man 32 years her junior. They married on 17 February 2002 at Claridge's Hotel in London and later renewed their vows in 2009. The pair also appeared as contestants on the Christmas Day edition of the ITV game show All Star Mr. & Mrs. in 2009.
On 24 October 2003 Collins and her husband were among the passengers on the last transatlantic flight of British Airways Concorde which she described as the very tragic end of a beautiful bird.
After decades of flirting with British politics, on 24 May 2004 Collins joined the United Kingdom Independence Party. In October 2004 Collins stated she was not a supporter, but rather a patron, of the party.
In early 2005 Collins commented that she had rejoined the Conservative Party stating, "The Labour Party doesn't care about the British people."
She also continues to contribute as The Spectator Magazine Guest Diarist, something she has done since the late 1990s. Collins also writes occasionally for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Lady, and in the USA, Harper's Bazaar. In September 2008 Collins signed on to the Sunday Telegraph as a weekly opinions columnist through the final quarter of the year before leaving to pursue other projects.
She has commented that she was a huge supporter of former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. Collins is also a staunch monarchist, remaining loyal to the British Royal Family.
Collins has publicly supported several charities for several decades. In 1982 Collins spoke before the U.S. Congress about increasing funding for neurological research. In 1983 she was named a patron of the International Foundation for Children with Learning Disabilities, earning the foundation's highest honour in 1988 for her continuing support. Additionally, 1988 also saw the opening of the Joan Collins Wing of the Children's Hospital of Michigan. In 1990, she was made an honorary founding member of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. In 1994 Collins was awarded the lifetime achievement award from the Association of Breast Cancer Studies in Great Britain for her contribution to breast cancer awareness in the UK. In 2003 she became a patron of the Shooting Star Children's Hospice in Great Britain while continuing to support several foster children in India; something she has done for the past 25 years. Collins serves her former school, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, as the Honorary President of the Associates of RADA.
Collins has also established herself as an author. In addition to her bestselling novels (Prime Time, Love & Desire & Hate, Infamous, Star Quality, and Misfortune's Daughters) she has written five lifestyle books (The Joan Collins Beauty Book, My Secrets, My Friends' Secrets and Joan's Way: The Art of Living Well) and memoirs (Past Imperfect, Katy: A Fight for Life and Second Act). To date she has sold over 50 million copies of her books which have been translated into 30 languages.
In the 1990s Collins was embroiled in a high-profile legal battle with the publisher Random House, which was televised daily on Court TV. Collins had signed a two-book deal with the company for $4 million and they had given her a $1.2 million advance. In September 1991 Collins delivered a 690-page manuscript of a novel entitled The Ruling Passion to Random House. However, the publishing firm deemed the manuscript to be of such poor quality that they demanded the return of the $1.2 million advance they had paid to Collins, claiming she had failed to deliver completed books as per her contract. Collins countersued, arguing that her contract required her only to submit a "complete manuscript" not an "acceptable" one. Since she had turned in two novels to the publishing company, A Ruling Passion in 1991 and a second novel, Hell Hath No Fury, in 1992, as her contract stipulated, she felt Random House owed her the rest of the $4 million. She also contended that Random House had not provided the editorial assistance she had expected.
Her Random House contract, negotiated by agent Irving Lazar, required that she was to be paid even if her completed manuscripts were not published. When the case was finally heard in February 1996, a court determined that Collins could keep the advance given to her plus a further $1 million for the first completed manuscript, but that the publisher did not have to pay for the second manuscript since it was essentially a reworking of the first. The Guinness Book of World Records cites Collins as holding the record for retaining the world's largest unreturned payment for an unpublished manuscript.
Past Imperfect: An Autobiography (1978)
The Joan Collins Beauty Book (1980)
Katy: A Fight for Life, A Memoir (1982)
Portraits of a Star (1987)
My Secrets (1994)
Health, Youth and Happiness: My Secrets (1995)
Second Act: An Autobiography (1996)
My Friends' Secrets (1999)
Joan's Way: Looking Good, Feeling Great (2002)
The Art of Living Well: Looking Good, Feeling Great (2007)
Prime Time, a novel (1988)
Love and Desire and Hate, a novel (1990)
Too Damn Famous, a novel (1995)
Infamous, a novel (1996)
Star Quality, a novel (2002)
Misfortune's Daughters, a novel (2004)
By other authors
Joan Collins by John Kercher, Gallery Books (1984)
Joan Collins, Superstar: A Biography by Robert Levine, Dell Publishing (1985)
A Touch of Collins by Joe Collins, Columbus Books (1986)
Inside Joan Collins: A Biography by Jay David, Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. (1988)
Hollywood Sisters: Jackie and Joan Collins by Susan Crimp and Patricia Burstein, St. Martin's Press (1989)
Joan Collins: The Biography of an Icon by Graham Lord, Orion (2007)
Beginning in the early 1950s, Collins appeared as a teenager in a Gas Board Commercial; in the early '70s, Collins appeared in television and magazine advertisements for British Airways, in which she was referred to as their "Most Frequent Flyer of First Class", a title she has maintained, having promoted the airline for more than three decades. In 1978, she appeared alongside Leonard Rossiter in a series of Cinzano TV commercials in which the drink was spilled down her character's dress. This was named as one of the Top 100 British Adverts in a Channel 4 poll. In the mid-1980s, Collins appeared in print advertisements for Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Sanyo and was the face of Revlon's Scoundrel perfume. In 1992 she appeared in internationally broadcast television commercials for Marca Bravaria beer while also acting as the face of the perfume Spectacular. Also around this time, she starred in an advert for the Rover Metro. Since 2000 she has appeared in TV ads for UK retailer Marks & Spencer, Olympus cameras, Old Navy and Marriott hotels. In 2007 Collins fronted two high-profile advertising campaigns. The first was as the face of skincare company Cellex-C's Ageless 15 Skin Serum. The second was as the face of the British Royal Mail's Christmas campaign. In 2008, Collins took part in an online and print advertising campaign for the Dorchester Hotel in London and a Christmas television commercial, once again, for Marks & Spencer. In 2010, Collins was named the face of Alexis Bittar Jewelry for Spring Fashion Week.
In 1959, she performed "It's Great Not To Be Nominated" at the Academy Awards with actresses Angela Lansbury and Dana Wynter. In 1962 she sang "Let's Not Be" in the film The Road to Hong Kong with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Collins teamed up with Peter Sellers and her then-husband Anthony Newley in 1963 to record the album Fool Britannia, which made the UK Top 10. In 1968 she sang a zodiac-themed duet with Newley, titled "Chalk & Cheese," in Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?
In a 1983 episode of Dynasty, she performed "The Boys in the Back Room", a Marlene Dietrich song from the 1930s film Destry Rides Again. She next sang "The Last Time I Saw Paris" in the TV miniseries Monte Carlo in 1986. In 2001, Collins performed several musical numbers in These Old Broads with Debbie Reynolds and Shirley MacLaine, and that same year appeared in Badly Drawn Boy's music video for "Pissing in the Wind."
In the 1980s, Joan Collins released a solo 7" single with a live recording of her citing John Lennons "Imagine" supported by the London Symphony Orchestra, in the Netherlands.