Joan Bennett, 80, an actress of stage, screen and television for more than 50 years who evolved from a blond innocent to a brunet bombshell, and finally to an aging star of a television soap opera, died Dec. 7 after a heart attack.
She was stricken while eating dinner at her home in Scarsdale, N.Y., and was declared dead on arrival at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, N.Y.
Miss Bennett gained a reputation as a consummate, good-natured professional who also was glamorous. Some believe she did not win her fair share of leading roles. From the 1930s through the early 1950s, she played opposite many of Hollywood's leading men and worked for some of the leading directors, though she was seldom in their best pictures.
However, her 75 pictures included some memorable ones. She played Spencer Tracy's wife and Elizabeth Taylor's mother in the Vincent Minnelli-directed "Father of the Bride" and its sequel, "Father's Little Dividend," in the early 1950s. In the 1940s, she had memorable roles in three Fritz Lang films, a prostitute in "Man Hunt," a model in "The Woman in the Window" and a blackmailer in "Scarlet Street."
Her first starring role was opposite Ronald Colman in the 1929 film "Bulldog Drummond." Also that year, she appeared with George Arliss in "Disraeli," then appeared in the 1930 John Barrymore version of "Moby Dick." In the early 1930s, she appeared with Tracy in "Me and My Gal," and played Amy, one of Katharine Hepburn's sisters, in the 1933 movie "Little Women."
She also appeared in films with such diverse talents as Joe E. Brown, Adolphe Menjou, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., George Raft, Walter Pidgeon, Henry Fonda, Don Ameche, Edward G. Robinson, Charles Coburn, Robert Ryan, Robert Preston, Gregory Peck, Robert Cummings, Claude Rains, Charles Boyer, Humphrey Bogart, Bing Crosby and W.C. Fields.
Miss Bennett was born in Palisades, N.J., to parents who were both veterans of the stage, Richard Bennett and Adrienne Morrison. Her elder sister, Constance Bennett, became a Hollywood star, and another sister, Barbara Bennett, also worked as an actress.
After attending finishing schools in New England and France, Joan Bennett, at age 16, married John Marion Fox, a millionaire's son. The marriage ended in divorce after two years.
Miss Bennett made her acting debut, alongside her father, in the Broadway play "Jarnegan." Shortly after that, she was off to Hollywood. She was originally guided by her father and came on the scene as a fresh blond profile. Later, with the explosion of popularity for brunet actress Hedy Lamarr, Miss Bennett returned to her natural jet-black tresses.
The whole thing inspired Cole Porter, who included in his "Let's Face It" the lines "Let's talk of Lamarr, that Hedy so fair/Is it true that Joan Bennett wears all her old hair?"
In 1932, she married screenwriter Gene Markey. That marriage ended in divorce in 1937. She married independent producer Walter Wanger in 1940. Eleven years later, they burst on the front pages when Wanger shot and wounded her longtime agent, Jennings Lang, during an argument in a California parking lot. Wanger pleaded guilty to a charge that sent him to a prison farm for about three months. He and Miss Bennett divorced in 1965.
After her two films with Spencer Tracy in the early 1950s, Miss Bennett's film career took a downturn. Many attributed it to a lack of roles for actresses her age in the 1950s and 1960s. She was known to attribute at least some of it to the notoriety she gained at the time of the shooting, when it was claimed that Wanger referred to her agent as a "home wrecker." She said Wanger was troubled by financial reverses.
Later in her career, Miss Bennett toured nationally in several plays, including "Stage Door," "Pleasure of His Company," "Fallen Angels" and "Butterflies Are Free."
She also appeared in three TV movies, "Suddenly Love" in 1978, "A House Possessed" in 1980 and "Divorce Wars" in 1981. From 1966 to 1971, she portrayed Elizabeth Collins, who presided over a haunted castle in the television gothic soap opera "Dark Shadows." The show, which featured the trials and tribulations of a vampire, played by Jonathan Frid, became a cult classic and has been rebroadcast.
Miss Bennett published her autobiography, "The Bennett Playbill," in 1970. She said in a 1986 interview: "I don't think much of most of the films I made, but being a movie star was something I liked very much."
Survivors include her husband, David Wilde, a former critic, whom she married in 1973; four daughters; and 13 grandchildren.
JAQUELIN A. MARSHALL
Jaquelin Ambler Marshall, 85, a Washington lawyer from the early 1930s until retiring in 1984, died Dec. 6 at Suburban Hospital after a heart attack.
He spent his entire career at what became the Washington law firm of Jackson & Campbell. He specialized in trust and estate law.
Mr. Marshall, who lived in Washington, was born in Alexandria. He graduated from Western High School and the George Washington University law school.
He was a past senior warden of Christ Episcopal Church in Georgetown and past president of the Georgetown Assembly, a social group. He had been a member of the Barristers and the Chevy Chase and Lawyers clubs.
Survivors include his wife, Mabel Eve Marshall of Washington; a son, Jaquelin Jr., of Stafford, Va.; two daughters, Florence M. Calvert and Frances M. Purcell, both of Annapolis; a brother, Robert D., of Orlando, Fla.; and eight grandchildren.