Born 1925 as Joan Agnes Theresa Sadie Brodel in Highland Park, Michigan, American actress and vaudevillian Joan Leslie had her first film role in Camille (1936), and was selected to play a small role in Men with Wings (1938). She gained her first credited role in Winter Carnival (1939) as Betsy Phillips. Later that year, she co-starred with Jimmy Lydon in Two Thoroughbreds.
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At age 15, Leslie was selected by a group of Hollywood directors as one of 13 “baby stars of 1940.” That same year, she appeared in the Warner Bros. film short, Alice in Movieland. Her big break came when she signed a contract with Warner Bros. in 1941. At the time, actress Joan Blondell’s name was considered too similar, so Brodel’s acting name was changed to Joan Leslie.
During World War II, Leslie was a regular volunteer at the Hollywood Canteen, where she danced with servicemen and signed hundreds of autographs. She was featured with Robert Hutton, among many others, in the Warner Bros. film Hollywood Canteen (1944). In 1946, an exhibitors’ poll conducted by Motion Picture Herald voted Leslie the most promising star of tomorrow.
In the early 1950s, Leslie chose to focus on raising her daughters, which resulted in a more irregular film career. Her last film was The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956), but she continued making sporadic appearances in television shows while her children were at school. She retired from acting in 1991, after appearing in the TV film Fire in the Dark.
Leslie died in 2015 in Los Angeles, California at the age of 90. Take a look at these vintage photos to see the beauty of young Joan Leslie in the 1940s.