Saturday, January 1, 2011
Joi Lansing: Vintage Elegance
Joi Lansing wasn't the most famous glamour era model, nor was she the most talented actress, but through her good looks and a determination to work, she had a long career in movies and television.
Born Joyce Wasmansdorff to a devout Mormon family in Salt Lake City, Lansing was the good girl-next-door in every sense of the phrase. She started her acting career in high school and was soon noticed by Hollywood. Even though she only had bit parts (like a momentary scene in Singing in the Rain), she kept working. Her big break came in the 1950 when she crossed over to the small screen. She had guest shots on The Jack Benny Program and was a semi-regular on The Bob Cummings Show/Love That Bob. She also appeared on Make Room For Daddy, Ozzie and Harriet, I Love Lucy, The Adventures of Superman and in the 1960's The Beverly Hillbillies. Not a bad resume for a woman who once made the cover of Life magaize as "Hollywood's Newest Dumb Blonde." Also of note was the 1956 Son of Sinbad in which Lansing appeared along fellow Femme Fatale Lili St. Cyr. Like many of her contemporaries, her career moved downhill in the late 60's and early 70's to a point where the only work she could get was in grade movies. Regardless of that, we remember Lansing for the wonderfully playful pin-ups, TV and movie appearances she left us.
Joi Lansing (April 6, 1929 - August 7, 1972) was a model, film and television actress, and nightclub singer. A model and actress, Lansing was often cast in roles similar to those played by her contemporaries, Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren. She was frequently clad in skimpy costumes and bikinis that accentuated her attractive figure, but never posed nude.
Lansing's film career began in 1948, and, in 1952, she played an uncredited role in MGM's Singin' in the Rain. She received top billing in Hot Cars (1956). In the opening sequence of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil (1958), she appeared as Zita, the dancer who dies at the end of the famous first tracking shot, during which her character exclaims to a border guard, "I keep hearing this ticking noise inside my head!" Lansing had a brief role as an astronaut's girlfriend in the 1958 sci-fi classic Queen of Outer Space. During the 1950s, she starred in short musical films for the Scopitone video-jukebox system. Her songs included "The Web of Love" and "The Silencers".
Lansing broke into night club entertaining in 1965. She had taken up singing during an actors strike in the early 1960s. In May 1965, Lansing cut her first record album. It was composed of a collection of songs written especially for her by composer Jimmie Haskel and actress Stella Stevens.  Lansing performed in the Fiesta Room in Las Vegas, Nevada, in July 1966. Featured on the bill were Red Buttons and Jayne Mansfield.
Gorgeous actress and model Joi Lansing was born Joyce Wassmandorff in Salt Lake City, Utah, on April 6, 1928 (some sources cite 1929 and 1935 as her year of birth). By the late 1940s, she had made her way to Hollywood, where she began modeling assignments and making brief walk-ons in films. In 1951, she married fellow actor Lance Fuller, soon after both had made brief appearances in the big-budget 1952 musical Singin' in the Rain. Fuller also acted in a number of B films throughout the 1950s, including This Island Earth with Faith Domergue and the Ed Wood-penned The Bride and the Beast. However, Lansing's marriage to Fuller was short-lived and ended in 1953. With her film career going nowhere fast, Lansing returned to modeling, for which her gorgeous figure came in handy.
Lansing's career finally took off in 1956, but the medium was television, not film; she landed a recurring role on TV's Love that Bob, starring Robert Cummings. She also made a number of guest shots on late 1950s TV shows, and even did a few commercials. When her role on Love that Bob ended, Lansing was soon offered another TV show, Klondike, which premiered in the fall of 1960.
In 1965, Joi Lansing embarked on a singing career, which showcased her pleasant voice. She appeared in several Scopitones, which were the 1960's equivalent of music videos. She also made guest appearances on such popular 1960s programs as The Mothers in Law, which starred Deborah Walley and Eve Arden. In the late 1960s, Lansing briefly resumed her film career in such campy low-budget pictures as Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967), the sequel to Las Vegas Hillbillys (which featured Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren. She lensed her final film Bigfoot (1970; with John Carradine and James Craig in late 1969. Lansing was stricken with breast cancer in 1970 and had a tumor removed. She passed away on August 7, 1972, of cancer at age 44. She was survived by her estranged husband, Stan Todd, her mother, stepfather, and stepbrother.