Joan Davis

Joan Davis
Ernest A. Bachrach / Radio Pictures

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Joan Davis
Film: West side of the 1500 block of Vine Street
Joan Davis
Radio: East side of the 1700 block of Vine Street
Actress | Comedian | Producer | Singer
Born Madonna Josephine Davis on June 29, 1907 in St. Paul, MN
Died May 23, 1961 of heart attack in Palm Springs, CA

Joan Davis is remembered for being the slapstick star of vaudeville, movies, radio and television.

The versatile comedian, who began her career in vaudeville at the age of 7, at one time was the highest-paid woman on radio, ranking behind only Bob Hope and Jack Benny in earnings.

In her professional life she was a caricature of the gawky, luckless, frustrated female. It was a role she endowed with a cracked voice, boundless energy and an uninhibited sense of the comic.

Davis was born in St. Paul, Minn., and early on demonstrated her talent as an entertainer. She won numerous contests before going on tour with the Pantages vaudeville circuit, an engagement that lasted five years.

Her first film was a short subject for Educational Pictures called "Way Up Thar" (1935), featuring a then-unknown Roy Rogers. Educational's distribution company, 20th Century Fox, signed Davis for feature films.

Davis entered radio with an Aug. 28, 1941, appearance on "The Rudy Vallee Show" and became a regular on that program four months later.

Davis then began a series of shows that established her as a top star of radio situation comedy throughout the 1940s. Her popularity on the air increased her salary as a motion picture star.

When "I Love Lucy" premiered in October 1951 on CBS Television and became a hit, sponsors wanted more of the same with another actress who wasn't afraid of strenuous physical comedy. "I Married Joan" premiered shortly after on NBC, casting Davis as the manic wife of a mild-mannered community judge (Jim Backus) who got her husband into wacky jams with or without the help of a younger sister, played by her real-life daughter, Beverly Wills. The series continued until 1955.

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