Crowned by the press as “TV’s Marilyn Monroe,” model, singer, film and television actress Joi Lansing was born April 6, 1929 (as Joyce Brown) in Salt Lake City, Utah to Virginia Grace (née Shupe) Brown, a housewife, and Jack Glenn Brown, a shoe salesman.
Her last name became Loveland after her mother divorced Brown sometime during the 1930s, and married Vermon Loveland, who adopted the youngster. In 1940 her family moved to Los Angeles, and the quickly-blossoming beauty began modeling in her early teens. At the tender age of 14 she was already signed to a contract at MGM, completing her schooling by taking classes on the studio lot.
As a new performer in the show biz stable, Lansing was routinely cast in “sexpot” roles, similar to those played by her contemporaries, such as Mamie Van Doren and Jayne Mansfield. And so, during the years before she was recognized for her acting abilities, she was frequently clad in skimpy costumes and even bikinis that accentuated her unusually attractive figure.
However, let it be noted that unlike many femme fatale-catagorized stars, in her almost quarter of a century career Lansing never once appeared nude, either in magazines or films. She was years ahead of her time in regularly practicing yoga for relaxation, and, as a Mormon, she also did not drink or smoke.
Her film career officially began in 1948, after taking MGM’s advice to change her last name to Lansing. She played an uncredited 1952 role in the classic musical Singin’ In The Rain. In 1956 she received top billing in Hot Cars, was in the opening sequence of Touch Of Evil in 1958, and had a brief role as an astronaut’s girl in the 1958 sci-fi classic Queen Of Outer Space.
During the 1950s and 1960s, she also starred in several short musical films for the Scopitone video-jukebox system, which was the precursor to television’s early 1980s MTV music videos. Her songs in that collection included “The Web Of Love” and “The Silencers.”
In 1965, Lansing was cast in Marriage On The Rocks, which included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Deborah Kerr. She had previously been in Sinatra’s comedy A Hole In The Head, and in Martin’s romantic romp Who Was That Lady? (These accomplishments certainly qualified her as an honorary member of Sinatra’s Rat Pack.)
She also starred as the notorious country-western singer Boots Malone in the kooky cult classic Hillbillys In A Haunted House, and her last film was Bigfoot in 1970. From a complete list of her roles emerges the rare fact that Lansing was one of the very few performers to have been fully accepted into both the A-movie and B-movie worlds.
And then there’s the guest star and recurring role arena of TV, which Lansing also conquered with her captivating cuteness. She appeared in The Adventures Of Wild Bill Hickok, It’s A Great Life, I Love Lucy, Where’s Raymond?, Noah’s Ark, State Trooper, This Man Dawson, and Maverick, She also had recurring roles in the late 1950s with Love That Bob (starring Bob Cummings) and the early 1960s with The Beverly Hillbillies (starring Buddy Ebsen).
What may have been Lansing’s best role was ironically one of her least-seen ones, when in 1956 she was the leading lady in The Fountain Of Youth, which won a Peabody Award even though it was an unsold TV series pilot episode.
Directed by Orson Welles for Desilu studios, it was broadcast only once, for the Colgate Theatre two years later. (However, this half-hour film still remains available for public viewing at the Paley Center for Media in both New York and Los Angeles.)
One of Lansing’s fan favorite roles was her sole appearance on the 1950s Superman TV series. In that episode, entitled Superman’s Wife, she played a police woman working undercover with police commissioner Gordon and Superman, in order to lure criminals out of hiding. Even by 1956, she had already appeared in more than 200 TV shows.