Joan Bennett
Primary Series Role: Elizabeth Collins Stoddard 1966-1971

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Other Characters: Naomi Collins 1795 (pictured), Judith Collins Trask 1897, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard 1970 Parallel Time, Flora Collins 1840, Flora Collins 1841 Parallel Time, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard House of Dark Shadows

The staunch matriarch of the present day Collins family, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard is a dour widow, tormented by guilt over the disappearance of her husband Paul Stoddard over 18 years previously. Reclusive and headstrong, she refused to leave the grounds of the Collinwood mansion for years. Fiercely protective of her family and an astute businesswoman, Elizabeth's composed visage masks an altogether more vulnerable woman, who lives in fear that the shadows of her past will return to haunt her.

Joan Geraldine Bennett was born on 27 February 1910, in Palisades, New Jersey. Born into a family of actors dating back to the 18th Century, Joan's parents were busy jobbing actors throughout her childhood, often away on touring theatre engagements. Her first stage appearance was made at the tender age of 4, followed by her first film appearance at the age of 5. The Valley of Decision also starred her father, with many members of the Bennett family also participating.

Occasional roles followed over the coming years, and at the age of 16 she married Jack Marion Fox, a man 10 years her senior. The relationship was an unhappy one, which brought Joan a daughter, Adrienne, in 1928. The couple divorced later the same year. Faced with the task of bringing up a daughter alone, Joan reluctantly turned to acting as a full-time profession.

1929 brought her first leading film role in
Bulldog Drummond, the success of which brought a contract with Fox, under which she completed 14 feature films. She left Fox in 1933 to film Little Women, a role that she found to be a personal favourite. Signing a contract with personal manager Walter Wanger, she continued to star in motion pictures. A change in hair colour from blonde to brunette for Trade Winds (1938) drastically revamped her career, bringing her roles as tempestuous film noir vixens and a new screen persona. The coming years saw some of her finest work, including a fruitful collaboration with the legendary director Fritz Lang.

Joan's numerous film credits included roles in
Moby Dick (1930), Me and My Gal (1932), The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), The Son of Monte Cristo (1940), Scarlet Street (1945), The Woman on the Beach (1947), Secret Beyond the Door (1948), The Reckless Moment (1949), Father of the Bride (1950), There's Always Tomorrow (1956), Desire in the Dust (1960) and Suspiria (1977).

Joan married Walter Wanger in 1941. In 1950, Joan famously crossed swords with the infamous gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. On Valentine's Day 1950, Joan, enraged by comments Hoppa had made about her husband, sent a giftwrapped deoderized skunk to Hedda, attaching a note that read: "Won't you be my Valentine? No one else will. I stink, and so do you! Love, Joan." Not to be beaten, Hedda kept the skunk and named it Joan.

In 1951, Wanger shot Joan's agent in a jealous rage and the scandal that followed adversely affected her career. The couple divorced in 1965. Having only made sporadic appearances over the past decade, Dan Curtis scored a major coup in enlisting Bennett's talents as part of the original cast of Dark Shadows, and she remained one of the few cast members to span the show's entire run on ABC-TV.

In 1970, she co-authored a personal biography and history of her family titled
The Bennett Playbill. Following Dark Shadows she entered retirement, making occasional cameos and nostalgia-related appearances, including many appearances at Dark Shadows conventions throughout the 1980s. Joan died of a heart attack on 7 December 1990, at her home in Scarsdale, New York.

In a
Dark Shadows interview during the 1980s, Joan obligingly slipped into the character of Elizabeth, reassuring fans that 'she' was the mother of Victoria Winters.

Joan also has the distinction of being the only regular Dark Shadows cast member to be represented with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an honour bestowed in 1960.

Photographs · Click on the thumbnails to view the full-size image

Joan Bennett pictured during the 1930s ...................... .................    

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