Joan Collins’s star-studded home movies: What they show of Hollywood’s golden age

Paul Newman, Tony Curtis and Sammy Davis jnr in footage for actor’s ‘roller-coaster story’

Golden age: Warren Beatty kisses Joan Collins at a party in Los Angeles around 1959. Photograph: Earl Leaf/Ochs/Getty

Golden age: Warren Beatty kisses Joan Collins at a party in Los Angeles around 1959. Photograph: Earl Leaf/Ochs/Getty

 

She is one of the last surviving actors of Hollywood’s “golden age”. Now Joan Collins has given the BBC unprecedented access to her private home movies for a forthcoming documentary.

Dating back decades, the footage features some of the biggest names of the silver screen, from Sammy Davis jnr to Paul Newman, who can be seen relaxing beyond the gaze of their fans and studio cameras.

Clare Beavan, the documentary’s award-winning director, has been taken aback by the sheer scale of material – about 20 hours of footage within box after box filled with reels. It is a glimpse through the keyhole into a life of star-studded glamour. Other famous names include the actors Roger Moore and Tony Curtis and the former Beatle Ringo Starr.

They’re like our home movies – except that it has loads of famous people in rather than kids and your neighbours in the background. We’d have our ugly relatives – and she has film stars...

Beavan says, “They’re like our home movies – except that it has loads of famous people in rather than kids and your neighbours in the background. We’d have our ugly relatives – and she has film stars...

“The home videos are a revelation ... Her second husband, Anthony Newley. started the thing off [in the 1960s]. They were covering everything on high-end ... film. So you really get a sense of her. I can’t say it’s ... completely natural, because you never know with Joan. But you definitely get her off-camera.”

The 90-minute documentary focuses on Collins’s life as a Hollywood legend. She narrates her own “roller-coaster life story”, all with her inimitable wit, Beavan says. “It’s a post-Covid feelgood film because of Joan Collins’s life, which is one hell of a giddy ride.”

Golden age: Sammy Davis jnr with Joan Collins at a party in Hollywood in 1958. Photograph: Pictorial Parade/Archive/Getty
Golden age: Sammy Davis jnr with Joan Collins at a party in Hollywood in 1958. Photograph: Pictorial Parade/Archive/Getty

Collins, who is now 88, was born and raised in London; she became a global television phenomenon as the scheming seductress Alexis Carrington in the 1980s TV soap opera Dynasty. Her father, a successful agent, had strongly discouraged her from becoming an actor, warning her that she would be “washed up by 23”.

But Collins enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, in London, and was soon signed to an exclusive film contract by the J Arthur Rank Organisation. Beavan says: “Little did [she] know she’d end up working with James Mason, Joan Fontaine or Richard Burton. She tells a good story about Richard Burton, about how he came on to her. She was fighting them off ... She had to fight off heads of the studio. It was like #MeToo before #MeToo...

“She had an equal-pay battle, albeit for millions, on Dynasty, a fabulous humdinger over John Forsyth being paid more than her, when she was the one that almost single-handedly got Dynasty ... to the number-one show in the whole world. And she did Playboy at 50 as a feminist gesture, she says.”

Beavan is still completing the film, wading through the home movies, silent footage that includes Collins jumping into a pool, lying on sun loungers and playing with her children, enjoying one fabulous holiday after another, from Greece to Acapulco. “The weird thing is she was always looks stunningly camera-ready ... She doesn’t have the Hollywood lighting, but she somehow looks spectacular.” – Guardian

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