Joan Rice – by Someone who knew her well

 

Only a couple of says ago, I managed at last to have a chat on the phone with Angelo – who had been in a relationship with Joan Rice in the early seventies – and indeed who had been her partner, when together,  they set up the very successful ‘Joan Rice Bureau’ which dealt with the letting of property in and around their home in Maidenhead.

He told me that Joan was a very nice, kind and warm person who continued her acting career even then – quite a while after her film career had ended – and she used to go off on tour with a new play quite often and during those times Angelo arranged for staff to be brought in to run the business.

He also said that, for a time, Joan’s son came to live with them. By my calculations at that time he would have been  about 17 years old. Sadly he died before Joan did.

Joan Rice and Angelo in Scotland

 

Joan Rice and Angelo in Scotland 2

During that time, they holidayed together with friends above in Scotland – I have been able to let Angelo have the email hopefully to put him in contact with Alan who appears in the picture. These pictures and the email in fact came from my good friend Tony, who has his own Blog dedicated to Joan Rice – but the sunject of which is the Walt Disney film ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men; from 1952 in which Joan starred and probably played her greatest and most famous role.

While with Joan, Angelo remembers she did make another film ‘The Horror of Frankenstein’ in 1970 – which would be made at Bray Studios for Hammer Films which was just down the road from where Joan lived.

Angelo kept in contact with Joan Rice, and when he eventually moved away to the South West, she would often come and visit him and his wife down there. They remained great friends.

He said that Joan also became good friends with Frances ‘Frankie’ Day a former cabaret star and actress who actually had had a spell on the panel of ‘Whats My Line’ in the early fifties. Frankie also lived in Maidenhead.

These are all lovely memories of Joan Rice from someone who knew her very well indeed. Angelo is a very pleasant man to talk with and I thank him very much for his conversation with me – and I hope to speak with him again.

Please visit Tony’s Blog   disneysrobin.blogspot.com    

 

 

 Just a reminder of the life story of Joan Rice

 

On January 1, 1997, Derby’s Joan Rice died.  Maybe not a name that is remembered except bu Film Fans of the fifties era – and to us, she is very well known indeed – and very well liked.

Her natural, dark-haired beauty lent itself just as easily to exotic island beauties as it did to perfect English roses.

As well as being a talented actress, she had added a welcome note of glamour to her roles.

 

She was, born in Derby almost 67 years earlier, one of four daughters of Hilda and Harold Rice of 314 Abbey Street.

Dorothy Joan Rice was born at the City Hospital on February 3, 1930.

 

Her early life had been troubled. Her labourer father was imprisoned for child abuse and, subsequently, she spent eight years in a convent orphanage in Nottingham.

She took work as a lady’s maid and as a housemaid before leaving for a new life in London with just half-a-crown (12.5p) in her purse.

She took a job as a Lyon’s Corner House waitress, or “nippy” as they were popularly known, earning the princely sum of £3 per week.

In 1949 her pretty looks and natural poise helped her to win the “Miss Nippy” competition.

The prize was a week-long promotional tour to Torquay. But more importantly, it lead to an introduction to a theatrical agent who arranged for her a screen test.

 

 

From this came a contract with the Rank Corporation who sent the previously untrained actress to the Company of Youth, otherwise known as the “Rank Charm School”.

In reality it was a training institution for young film actors that occupied a disused church hall standing Highbury Studio.

There, youngsters were trained in all manner of useful skills, like voice production and fencing.

 

Other stars who trained there included Honor Blackman, Kay Kendall, Shirley Eaton, Joan Collins, Diana Dors, Christopher Lee, Donald Sinden, Patrick McGoohan and Dirk Bogarde.

It was with the last of these with whom she appeared in her first notable film role – the feature Blackmailed (1950).

Another role, in the Robertson Hare and Stanley Holloway film One Wild Oat (1951) soon followed.

Unfortunately, the Rank organisation never saw her potential as a lead actress and instead she was given numerous supporting roles.

Finally Walt Disney saw her star potential, in 1952, when he cast her in his live action film The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952).

 Joan Rice 2

 

 

Joan Rice 4

Joan played opposite Richard Todd and was declared “the new Jean Simmons”.

 

Joan Rice 3

 

ABOVE – I just love this picture of Richard Todd and Joan Rice in a scene from ‘ The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ 1952 – Walt Disney.

What colour – Technicolor at its best – and wonderful studio woodland set at Denham Film Studios.

Sadly, lead roles in major films remained hard to come by but lead roles in ‘B’ movies like A Day to Remember (1953) with Stanley Holloway and Donald Sinden were plentiful, as were smaller roles in feature films like Curtain Up with Robert Morley, Margaret Rutherford and Kay Kendall.

In 1954, Rice appeared as Iris in Norman Wisdom’s film, One Good Turn, in which the residents and staff of an orphanage, including Thora Hird and Shirley Abicair, fight to save it from closure.

In His Majesty O’Keefe (1954) she played Dalabo, the Polynesian girl who marries Burt Lancaster’s daring and stranded sea captain.

However, changing fashions – in the minds of casting directors at least – and the arrival of the Hitchcockesque blonde, meant that she was unable to land many more lead roles.

Joan Rice

 

Above – Joan with Billie Whitelaw in Payroll

Cleo Thompson in the prison drama Women Without Men (1956), also known as Blonde Bait, and the part of a young ATS private in the wartime comedy Operation Bullshine, which starred Donald Sinden and Barbara Murray.

What would be her last film role for more than a decade came in 1960, in the crime drama, Payroll.

There were roles in television series like Zero One, The Pursuers, Ivanhoe (starring a young Roger Moore), and The New Adventures of Charlie Chan.

Eventually, Derby’s Joan Rice left the movie business and, after her ten-year marriage to David Green ended in divorce, she built a successful career in repertory theatre with a role, among many others, as Catherine in Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, and John Mortimer’s Voyage Around My Father.

Joan Rice in Rebecca in Hanley

Here – ABOVE – she starred in a production of ‘Rebecca’ at Hanley, Stoke on Trent. Maybe my friend David who very often puts such interesting comments on here – and very welcome ones at that, saw this play – he lives in Stoke On Trent I know.

I would think that Joan would play the leading part very well in ‘Rebecca’.

In 1970, she did return to the big screen with a small role in The Horror of Frankenstein.

posted by Movieman in Uncategorized and have Comments (2)

2 Responses to “Joan Rice – by Someone who knew her well”

  1. David Rayner says:

    I’ve done some research on this poster throughout the 1950s and the only year that September 8th fell on a Monday was in 1958. The Theatre Royal went over to Bingo and occasional amateur repertory in 1961 and I’ve checked as far forward as 1966 when it closed and there’s still no other date when September 8th fell on a Monday. So 1958 it is.

    • Movieman says:

      Thanks David. So it seems that Joan went into the Theatre quite quickly after her film career finished. Maybe she wanted to gain experience I don’t know. She would have been quite a big name in those days. I do know that 3 or 4 years before this she made a personal appearance at a Cinema in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire accompanied by Donald Sinden – but at Hanley it seems she took a starring role on stage in that famous story ‘Rebecca’ Angelo also told me that she had been in a play with Davy Jones – later of The Monkees. Neil

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