Joan Geraldine Bennett was born on February 27, 1910 in Fort Lee, New Jersey to her parents actor Richard Bennett and his wife, actress and literary agent Adrienne Morrison. She was the third of three daughters born to the couple. Her sisters were also actresses: Constance Bennett and Barbara Bennett. Two of Joan's maternal grandparents were also actors: one Shakespearean and the other a travelling minstrel.
Joan's first role in acting came in 1916 where she appeared on a silent movie (The Valley of Decision) alongside her parents. Since that time she acted in numerous stage performances, movies, and television shows.
Joan was married four times. She married John Marion Fox at the age of 16 in 1926 in London and divorced him in 1928. They had 1 child together who was named Adrienne Ralston Fox (born February 20, 1928). She then married Gene Markey in 1932 and divorced him in 1937. When they were married, she had Adrienne's name legally changed to Diana Bennett Markey (in 1936). They had 1 child together who was named Melinda Markey (born February 27, 1934). She then married Walter Wanger in 1940 and divorced him in 1965. When they were married, she had Diana's name (formerly Adrienne) changed to Diana Bennett Wanger in 1944. They had 2 children together: Stephanie Wanger (born June 26, 1943) and Shelley Wanger (born July 4, 1948). Finally, she married David Wilde in 1978 and remained married to him until her death in 1990.
Her marriage to Walter Wanger was marked by scandal in 1951, as she was seen leaving the studio with her agent Jennings Lang and when she returned to the studio with him a few hours later, Walter was there waiting. In a fit of rage, Walter shot Jennings twice in the groin, tossed the gun in his wife's car and left. Jennings recovered, but Walter pled guilty by reason of temporary insanity and threw himself on the mercy of the court. He served four months in the County Honor Farm and quickly returned to his career as an actor. Her career took a major downturn as a result of the scandal and she only appeared in five more movies in the next ten years following.
By 1966 she had divorced Walter, her career was not going well, but she began a new role as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard on the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. She would remain on the show throughout its run until episode 1245 in 1971. She received an Emmy nomination in 1968 for her role on this show and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1970 for all her contributions to Hollywood. She appeared on a few more TV shows, one more movie, and for all intent purposes appears to have retired around 1977-1978 when she married her last husband, David Wilde.
Joan died in Scarsdale, New York on December 7, 1990, and was buried in Pleasant View Cemetery, Lyme, Connecticut.
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