I came across Joan Staley while skimming through an old episode of the Dick Van Dyke show. She plays a comely actress that draws the jealousy of Mary Tyler Moore’s character as she believes Dick is spending too much time at the office to be close to “Miss Blake” played by Joan Staley.
Can’t say I would blame him.
Staley was born in Minneapolis, the daughter of a preacher and a musician. The family would move to Los Angeles where Joan was raised.
Joan was a child prodigy on the violin, trained by Karl Moldrem who founded the “Baby Orchestra” in Los Angeles. She would subsequently find her first role in film due to her prowess as a child violinist, showing off her skills in THE EMPEROR WALTZ which starred Bing Crosby and Joan Fontaine.
Her father then became a traveling missionary to Africa before becoming an Army chaplain. This forced the family to move to numerous cities such as Chicago, Paris, Washington, DC, and Munich.
After finishing high school, Joan took a few courses at Chapman College before moving to San Francisco with her parents. Once there, she found work as a teletype operator at a stock brokerage.
But in 1958, Staley had moved back to Southern California intending to make it in the film industry. She signed on with THE LITTLE THEATER in Hollywood which got her enough exposure to get small roles in PLAYHOUSE 90, CLIMAX! and WESTINGHOUSE STUDIO ONE as well as a PERRY MASON episode called THE CASE OF THE CORRESPONDING CORPSE.
Her breakthrough, however, came when she posed nude for a photographer named Lawrence Schiller. The rights to the photos were sold to Hugh Hefner who made her Playboy’s Miss November 1958.
She would marry a television director named Chuck Staley and they would have a daughter in 1959. MGM would sign her to a contract and she would make numerous appearances throughout the 1960s into the early 1970s. She would make numerous appearances on the Tab Hunter Show, The Lawless Years as well as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
By 1964, she would sign with Universal Studios and star in the McHale’s Navy spin-off Broadside. She would star as Roberta “Honey Hips” Love, a former pole dancer who decided to join the Navy (huh?)
But in 1966, Staley would be thrown from a horse and suffer a severe back injury. She would stop working in films and concentrate solely on television work.
You’ll see me write this a lot in some of these nostalgic posts, but Joan Staley should have become a household name. She didn’t look to suffer from any kind of blackballing in the business due to her posing in Playboy…if anything, the magazine shoot was inconsequential to any of her future work. In skimming through some of her work on Youtube, Staley was more than a pretty face. She could play a femme fatale or a comedienne with a great deal of expertise. Her comic timing was impeccable as she holds her own with the cast of the Dick Van Dyke show and numerous other talented ensembles of the era. So it is a head-scratcher as to why she didn’t become a household name during the 1960s…She played the second fiddle character actress to numerous other talents of the era when in most cases the roles should have been reversed.
There is an interesting compilation video up on Youtube which showcases some of Joan’s work as she acts opposite Don Knotts in THE GHOST AND MISTER CHICKEN as well as a children’s dinosaur movie called VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS in 1961. The publisher gets a bit of flack in the comments as he describes the scene as being “very risque” for the period. Folks are chiming in, claiming the contrary and one person even makes a supposition that the publisher has lived a “sheltered life.”
These folks are not producing content. Youtube and Facebook have replaced the prudes of the Hayes Code en masse. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my content flagged and removed for having scenes that are far less “risque” than what you see depicted in the video.
So what do we see from Joan? An under boob flash while she’s swimming. Nothing a mature adult would get into a tizzy about but it would be a rare sight in 1961 and probably led to a lot of repeat ticket sales among the boys who’d want to see the film again “for the dinosaurs”, lol.
Joan Staley was one of the most beautiful actresses working in television in the 1960s. Do yourself a favor and look up some of these shows.
Meanwhile, check out our latest crime thriller, THE LIONESS now available through our subscription page or streaming on-demand.