Joan Leslie began her career under the name Joan Brodel, as part of a vaudeville act with her two sisters. The three girls eventually moved to Hollywood, where Joan landed small roles in over a dozen films before being cast as Velma the crippled girl in 1941’s “High Sierra,” starring Humphrey Bogart. The film was her first credit as Joan Leslie.
Leslie went on to play Gary Cooper’s girl in “Sergeant York,” James Cagney’s wife in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and Fred Astaire’s dance partner in “The Sky’s the Limit.” She appeared in such Warner Brothers classics such as “The Male Animal,” “Thank Your Lucky Stars” and “This Is the Army.”
Her career consisted almost entirely of “girl next door” roles until a contract dispute with Warner Bros forced her move to Republic Studios. There she starred in films that allowed her to spread her wings, including “Born to be Bad,” “The Woman They Almost Lynched” and “Jubilee Trail.”
Leslie retired from acting in the 1950s, instead caring for her twin daughters and taking up clothes design. But many years later, she appeared on the small screen, guesting on such television shows as “The Incredible Hulk,” “Simon & Simon” and “Murder, She Wrote.”
Leslie is named in the Andrews Sisters’ song “Corns for My Country” with the line “We’re not petite like Joan Leslie.” The song centers on the Hollywood Canteen, a club for U.S. servicemen on their way overseas. Leslie was a regular volunteer at the canteen, dancing with soldiers and giving autographs. She also starred with Robert Hutton in the 1944 Warner Bros. film “Hollywood Canteen” based on the famous locale.
Leslie died Oct. 15, 2015 in Los Angeles. She was 90.