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Joan Woodbury

Real name:
Joanne Woodbury

1915 - 1989

(Image courtesy of Jack Tillmany)

Above are screen captures of Woodbury as "Lolita Maria Dolores Del Valle" in SONG OF THE GRINGO (Grand National, 1936) which starred Tex Ritter.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Joan and Allan Lane in a pressbook ad from NIGHT SPOT (RKO, 1938).
Joan Woodbury was born in Hollywood to hotel owner Elmer Woodbury and stage/vaudeville actress Joan Hedenfeldt Woodbury, and she graduated from Hollywood High School. As a youngster and teenager, she danced at various Hollywood events. With her sultry looks and Spanish dancing specialty, Joan was spotted by a talent scout and her first major screen role - billed as "Nana Martinez" - was in the second Hopalong Cassidy film, THE EAGLE'S BROOD (Paramount, 1935). Alas, brains heavy Addison Richards shoots and kills her at about the half way mark.

More western leading lady roles followed - she was the heroine in Tex Ritter's first starrer, SONG OF THE GRINGO (Grand National, 1936) and two with Tim McCoy, BULLDOG COURAGE (Puritan, 1935) and THE LION'S DEN (Puritan, 1936).

In December, 1938, Joan married actor Henry Wilcoxon who was a close friend of Cecil B. DeMille. There were three daughters - Wendy Joan, born December, 1939; Heather Ann, born May, 1947; and Cecilia Dawn, born May, 1950.

Joan concentrated on raising a family and by the late 1940s, was only doing an occasional film. Circa 1963, she formed the Valley Players Guild in Palm Springs and over the next 25 years, she directed and acted in various plays. Wilcoxon and Woodbury divorced (but I've not been able to determine the year when that occurred). In 1971, she married actor and radio personality Ray Mitchell, and he became involved in Valley Players Guild productions.

Joan's movie career spanned about 30 years and 80 films. However, the bulk of her work occurred during 1935 - 1946. She was a frequent B movie leading lady ... and sometimes the second or third woman in A grade features. Her most remembered role is starring in the 13 episode cliffhanger BRENDA STARR, REPORTER (Columbia, 1945). Other examples include four Charlie Chans, one Whistler with Richard Dix, and the last of the Chester Morris/Boston Blackie series. Her westerns were with William Boyd/Hoppy, Johnny Mack Brown, Randolph Scott, Tex Ritter, Bob Steele, Cesar Romero (Cisco Kid), Roy Rogers, and Tim McCoy. She was also in the cast of several comedies with wild west backdrops: the Marx Brothers GO WEST (MGM, 1940) and SHUT MY BIG MOUTH (Columbia, 1942) with Joe E. Brown.

Woodbury was reported to be a good rider and she demonstrates that skill in NORTHWEST TRAIL (Action Pictures/Lippert, 1945), a Cinecolor flick with Bob Steele starring as a Royal Canadian mountie. Joan spends a good deal of time on horseback, and in medium and closeup shots, you can see her riding at full speed. The opening of this northwoods adventure reminds me of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers Republic films in which they encounter a strong-willed and/or cantakerous leading lady. In NORTHWEST TRAIL, Steele finds Joan napping in her stalled convertible. Then comes a verbal sparring match between the two, and Joan is the winner with lots of barbs aimed at Steele (about mounties always getting their man ... is he capable of fixing her car ... how about tieing his horse to the car and pulling her to a repair shop, etc.).

I'm guessing that Wilcoxon coaxed Joan to return to Tinseltown for her part in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (Paramount, 1956). That happened to be a Cecil B. DeMille production ... Henry Wilcoxon had an acting part ... and he was also the associate producer. Years later, she came out of retirement for a minor role in the Sci-Fi THE TIME TRAVELERS (American-International, 1964) for producer Samuel Z. Arkoff.

An obituary mentions that Woodbury passed away from respiratory failure at her home in Desert Hot Springs, California on February 22, 1989. You may want to go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral and then to the California Death Records database. There you will find a record for: Joan Woodbury Mitchell, born 12/17/1915, mother's maiden name of Hadenfeldt, father's last name of Woodbury, and she passed away in the Riverside, California area on 2/22/1989.

The Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen website includes extensive timelines and details on the Hollywood career and personal life of Joan Woodbury:

The Los Angeles Times newspaper website has an obituary on Joan Woodbury:

Similar to the earlier WAMPAS Baby Stars, the studios chose their "Lucky 13" baby stars for 1938 and Woodbury was one of the actresses:,5390186&dq=joan-woodbury&hl=en

If you have a high speed cable or DSL connection, you can download or stream several of Woodbury's public domain films from the Internet Archive website. Included are NORTHWEST TRAIL with Steele, KING OF THE ZOMBIES with Dick Purcell, BULLDOG COURAGE with McCoy, SONG OF THE GRINGO with Ritter, and GANGS, INC. which has a small role for a young Alan Ladd:

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on:
          Joan Woodbury:
          Henry Wilcoxon (1905 - 1984):

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above are William Boyd and Joan Woodbury (here known as "Nana Martinez") in a lobby card from the second Hopalong Cassidy film, THE EAGLE'S BROOD (Paramount, 1935).

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above, McCoy and Joan Woodbury in a scene from BULLDOG COURAGE (Puritan, 1935), which is generally regarded as one of McCoy's better westerns from his post-Columbia period.

Below - Tim is protecting Joan in this lobby card from her second film with McCoy, THE LION'S DEN (Puritan, 1936).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

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