On Stage with Joan Rice

Above is a theatre programme of Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From The Bridge,’ which was kindly sent in by Neil, showing Joan in her favourite play as Catherine, at the Savoy Theatre in Kettering in September 1959.

We now know that Joan Rice (1930-1997) was appearing in various theatrical productions from 1955 onwards and continued performing on the stage as her film career sadly faded. Back in October I received this interesting email from Julia Wright:
Fresh out of drama school in 1963 or 4, I was her understudy in a touring production of a play name of which I have totally forgotten. I believe it was with Carl Clopet Productions, not in the first rank of theatrical companies but kept many of us employed. I think it was a new play and it was hoped it would make it into the West End but there were problems - not Joan's fault. The leading man was sacked just before the tour started because he couldn't remember lines and it was a lousy play. We toured exotic spots like Cardiff and the closest we got to the West End was Streatham. At least she made it to Hollywood and had her moment in the sun and I'm glad she didn't spend her life pining for what had and might have been in show business that killed off so many but made a life for herself.

Many thanks to Julia for sharing this information.

Above is a another theatre programme, this time showing Joan performing in John Mortimer’s ‘A Voyage Round My Father’ at the Wimbledon Theatre from May 1973.

Joan Rice in 1978 (Image © Maria Steyn)

I hope these postings have helped counter the statements by Richard Todd and film director Ken Annakin that Joan was never an actress. 

Joan Rice actually attended ‘The Company of Youth,’ often known as the ‘Rank Charm School,’ J. Arthur Rank's training institution for young film actors. It was established adjacent to Rank's experimental Highbury studio in a disused church hall, under the auspices of Olive Dodds, the Organisation's Director of Artistes. The school trained its pupils in everything from voice production to fencing and launched the careers of stars like, Christopher Lee, Dirk Bogarde, Patrick McGoohan, Donald Sinden, Honor Blackman, Michael Craig, Kay Kendal, Shirley Eaton, David McCallum, Joan Collins and Diana Dors.

It is interesting to see Gay Hamilton also listed in the programme above. Gay had played the part of Maid Marian in the Hammer production ‘A Challenge for Robin Hood,’ in 1967; Joan of course played the same part beautifully for Walt Disney in 1952. Both actresses appeared alongside James Hayter as Friar Tuck.

Joan Rice as Maid Marian

This site is dedicated to the memory of Joan Rice. If you have any information about her life and career or ever met her, I would love to hear from you. Please get in touch at disneysrobin@googlemail.com.

To read more about Walt Disney’s first Maid Marian please click here:- Joan Rice. There is now over 78 pages on this site about her life and career.


Clement Glen said...

Special thanks to Julia Wright for her memories of being the understudy for Joan Rice. If you have any information on Joan Rice that you would like to share, please get in touch.

Neil said...

Looking at the cast of A View From The Bridge, billed just below Joan Rice is a Frederick Jones - who I am pretty sure is Freddie Jones the famous actor and father of Toby Jones. He has had a long and illustrious film, stage and TV career.
This is indeed a very interesting comment from Julia. It would have been good to hear more of her thoughts about Joan Rice who she must have got to know pretty well. Julia sums things up very well here in that Joan enjoyed her Hollywood time in the sun as it were, and tried hard to kick start her career by stage acting but who ultimately decided on a different way forward - and I hope a happy one. In my book she is a Film Star who was in two of the most memorable films of my own childhood.

Clement Glen said...

Thanks Neil. I hope Julia will perhaps share some more of her memories with Joan in the future.