15 July 2024

Although Joan Collins has long been a household name in America with her role as Alexis Carrington on TV's popular nighttime soap opera Dynasty, she had been working regularly in the industry for three decades before her "big break."

Alexis Morell Carrington Dexter Rowan Colby was born Joan Henrietta Collins in 1933 in London England. She studied her craft at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and made her film debut in 1951 as a beauty pageant contestant in Lady Godiva Rides Again.

Her debut role had no small double meaning: Collins' striking good looks were already in early effect. From then on, Collins had success in supporting roles, in B-pictures...and in the gossip columns due to her widely publicized affair with Warren Beatty.

After a series of forgettable films in the sixties, Collins found a niche in the horror genre. In 1970's Revenge (aka Inn of the Frightened People), she was quite good as a wife and mother yearning for vengeance against her daughter's murderer.

Amicus Studio's Tales from the Crypt (1972) saw her in the best story of an anthology...as a woman who has just killed her husband and is terrorized by an escaped killer wearing a Santa outfit during the holidays.

In Fear in the Night, Collins foreshadowed her Dynasty role as the bitchy wife of a headmaster (Peter Cushing). The setting is a rural boarding school in which Judy Geeson is a young newlywed who is stalked and attacked by a one-armed intruder. A formidable couple, Collins and Cushing bring well-earned authority to a decent (if not exactly classic) effort from Hammer Films.

There was more. 1973's Tales That Witness Madness was another anthology. Collins starred in the bizarre story of a gardener whose human-shaped tree develops a passion for her.

By 1975, the trend of Rosemary's Baby-inspired films had not died and Collins gave birth to a destructive spawn in The Devil Within Her (aka I Don't Want To Be Born). She put up a valiant fight against evil...but she was no match for the giant pests in Empire of the Ants two years later.

At the end of the decade, Collins scored comebacks in vehicles based on her sister Jackie's best-selling novels, The Stud and The Bitch. Her role in Aaron Spelling's hit series would be the next logical step in a long and ambitious career.

Dark Places 1973
The Devil Within Her 1975
Empire of the Ants 1977
Fear in the Night 1972
Inn of the Frightened People 1971
Tales from the Crypt 1972
Tales that Witness Madness 1973
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