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Joan Collins’s Other Life

At 5 Joan Collins had her first fur coat—rabbit (“She made it to mink in only 15 years,” her father comments). She was very style conscious, her favorite game being trying-on-Mommy’s-hats. World War II and the blitz of London sent Joan and her younger sister Jackie (with her, above right) packing from town to town to escape the danger. One apartment was blown up the night they moved out. Joan switched schools 12 times and her new favorite pastime became writing-to-Daddy, who stayed on in London to work.

The war over, the Collinses were back together in London. Joan was enrolled in a private school with a big dancing and singing department and started taking part in school shows. When she was 12 a scout from the Arts Theatre saw her and asked her to play the young boy in A Doll’s House. Joan was thrilled, loved rehearsals, learned her part fast and decided to be an actress. Came the opening night, she missed her cue. She was in the dressing room, reading Shakespeare. The second night it happened again. The director exploded. “You’re the last child I’ll ever use in a play!” he shrieked at Joan. The third night she made it, got on stage. She’s the one on the above.

By the time she was 13 she was spending all her allowance on movies and getting caught trying to sneak into “Adults Only” films dressed in her mother’s clothes. She persuaded her folks to send her to boarding school to learn to cook and make beds, but after two disillusioned weeks she talked them into letting her come home again, take dancing instead. She loved to pose for pictures then—even at the piano. which she didn’t play.

Her 16th summer was spent at a French beach with Mom, Jackie and little brother Bill. She fell in love for the first time, with the boy whose father sold ice-cream cones. Mrs. Collins didn’t believe in interfering, but her husband had told her to “watch the kiddies” in free-and-easy France—so she told Joan she couldn’t go out after dinner. So every night Joan went to bed early—then crept out to rendezvous with Bernard and a double chocolate cone. Discovered at last, she told her mother she was in love with him—and forgot him promptly when summer ended and they went home.

The day after her 19th birthday she married Rank star Maxwell Reed, whose pictures had covered her walls since she was 14. Maxwell was 12 years older and widely disliked, especially by Joan’s family, which reduced her to tears, but not to giving him up. Six months after Laurence Harvey introduced them they were married, and moved into a lavishly decorated, Spanish style penthouse. They co-starred a few times, but Joan soon felt he was trying to dominate her completely, and on her 21st birthday they split permanently. Now when she goes home (top, above) she stays with her family, brings Billy Davy Crockett caps and sister Jackie (a model) invitations to visit her in Hollywood.

After high school she entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and sent her picture (top, above) to an Actors’ Directory. An agent spotted it and in no time Joan was embarked on the series of juvenile delinquents she played in English movies. On screen she was sultry and sleek; off, she bit her nails, dressed in jeans, talked jive, and dragged dates (like co-star Laurence Harvey, above) to bop sessions. 



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