Joan Collins at 90: An Appreciation of the Grand Dame’s Glamorous Life and Career
Joan Collins — seen here earlier this year — reached her 90th birthday milestone on Tuesday. Photo: Ki Price/WireImage
The ever-iconic Dame Joan Collins — English stage actress, Hollywood star, bestselling author (alongside her equally famous sister, Jackie), passionate philanthropist, savvy entrepreneur (she sells jewelry and perfume), wife-times-five, mother of three and grandma to three more (imagine Joan Collins was your Granny? I die) — hit her 90th birthday milestone this week, on May 23.
If it feels like Collins has always been here and always will, it’s probably because she’s one of the last living holdouts of Hollywood’s Golden Age, having starred in more than 70 films all while living the lives of 10 women combined in all corners of the Earth. We can’t begin to capture the fabulous multitudes that make Joan Collins, well, Joan Collins, but we’re gonna try just the same. Here, nine roles from nine decades — on and off screen, plus one that got away — that define the glamorous Grand Dame as she celebrates her 90th trip around the sun.
1940s: A Child Star Is Born
At the tender age of nine, child actress Joan Henrietta Collins made her stage debut in 1941 in Henrik Ibsen’s controversial play A Doll’s House, about the frustrating limitations of matrimony (oh, irony). Her beeline to the stage and screen was probably inevitable; the Paddington-born girl is the daughter of talent agent Joseph Collins, who’d later represent both Tom Jones and The Beatles.
1950s: A Breakout Hollywood Success
After a decade of small roles in British films, culminating with a role as a teenage delinquent in I Believe in You that solidified her bad-girl status for decades to come, Collins ditched husband No. 1 (actor Maxwell Reed) and crossed the pond to conquer Hollywood in The Virgin Queen (1955). Beside Bette Davis as Elizabeth I, Collins stole the show as the Queen’s not-so-virginal lady-in-waiting.
1960s: A Worthy Opponent
Collins might have stayed in California forever except for a fateful scuffle with producers. Collins was the top pick for the lead role in a little upcoming film called Cleopatra, until the role went to Elizabeth Taylor instead — beginning rumours of a professional rivalry that linger still. Having lost the role of a lifetime, an infuriated Collins asked to be released from her contracts to focus on marriage No. 2 to singer Anthony Newley.
1970s: A Devoted Mom and Career Pivot
This decade began in the home: Collins had two kids with Newley and another one with husband No. 3, American record exec Ron Kass. On the big screen, Collins pivoted to comedy and camp, starring in the film versions of her sister Jackie Collins’ erotic novels The Stud (1978) and The Bitch (1979). (They’re just as you’re imagining and more.)
1980s: Soap Opera Villain
When the first season of the prime time soap opera Dynasty didn’t exactly prove a ratings hit in 1981, to spice things up producers added Collins to the cast as scheming matriarch Alexis Carrington. Major understatement, as it turns out, as Collins single-handedly transformed Aaron Spelling’s show from a pale Dallas knock-off to arguably the best soap opera ever made. In true soap style, Collins accepted her 1983 Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama with a smug thank-you to Sophia Loren for passing on the part.
1990s: Fabulous & Funny Divorcée
Whoops! Missed another marriage in there, but no matter: By the ’90s, with four divorces under her belt, Collins enjoyed a whole husband-less decade. Interestingly, in the same moment she turned to comedy, making memorable appearances everywhere from Roseanne to Will & Grace to The Nanny. Proving she’s got a sense of humour, Collins closed out the decade and entered the 2000s by replacing old pal Elizabeth Taylor as the mother of Wilma Flintstone in the live-action comedy The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas.
2000s: Carrie Bradshaw-esque Writer and Columnist
Because why the hell not, a 70-year-old Collins changed career paths and reinvented herself as an author and newspaper columnist. Collins penned weekly opinion columns all over the British papers with headlines like “How to be glamorous (like moi!)” and “I look pretty OK naked.” No doubt her then new husband Percy Gibson agrees; Collins and her fifth and final husband, who is three decades her junior, are happily married to this day.
2010s: Queen of Cameos
Still acting — catch her cameos in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie and American Horror Story: Apocalypse as a clairvoyant witch — Collins seemed to spend this decade having fun doing whatever she damn well pleased … and looking fabulous while doing it.
And while other octogenarians might town their fashion down, Collins instead turned her glamorous, over-the-top look up. Check out her 2019 Valentino commercial for some big diamonds, bigger hair, sequins and glitter, and long satin gloves all feature heavily on her unforgettable style rotation.
As the decade came to a close, Collins also starred in a Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Campaign, which was so successful that the Airbrush Flawless Foundation she was promoting garnered a waiting list.
2020s: Birthday Girl Giving Back
Collins has always been passionate about philanthropy, but she’s doubled down in recent years with a list of charities and organizations that could fill a whole book. Just a few of the causes she lends her stardom to are the Association of Breast Cancer Studies, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the International Foundation for Children with Learning Disabilities, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
For all that and lots more, a toast to Dame Joan Collins just for always being herself! Ninety years young, going strong and never, ever boring.