Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What You Don't Know About Joan Davis

Although I included a chapter on Joan Davis in The Women Who Made Television Funny, I hesitated before going forward with a full book about her. Much as I admired her work, and wanted to shed new light on her impressive career, I knew it wouldn't be easy to research her life, and add much to what information was already available. I drafted nearly half the manuscript before mentioning it to my publishers, in case I fell short of my goal.

Joan in vaudeville with husband Si Wills.
But I believe I can say with confidence that even those who already know this great comedy star, and have read everything they can about her, will learn at least a few new things from Joan Davis: America's Queen of Film, Radio and Television Comedy, now available from McFarland and via online stores such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. (Right now, it's available in print, but an eBook version is soon to follow).

Here are a few examples of the information to be found within the book's pages:

1. Joan's real birth name (it's not "Madonna Josephine Davis," as she often told reporters during her lifetime), verified date of birth, and family background.

2. The name of the traveling act she joined as a teenager, dropping out of school to do so.

3. An account of how one of Joan's best-loved films became the subject of a plagiarism suit on behalf of another famous comedian, who not only sued for damages but tried to have all copies of Joan's movie destroyed.

4. The name of the 1960s television show that was on the verge of casting Joan's daughter Beverly Wills as a regular player, just prior to Beverly's untimely death.

5. The complete story of Joan's 1956 pilot for an ABC-TV sitcom, which nearly made it to the network schedule that fall, only a year after I Married Joan ended.

I hope that's whetted your appetite enough to consider diving into the book. It was a labor of love for me, and I'd be very pleased if it introduced at least a few new people to her unforgettable comedy.

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