Brenda Joyce (actress)

Brenda Joyce (born Betty Graftina Leabo, February 25, 1917[4] – July 4, 2009)[5] was an American film actress.

Brenda Joyce
Brenda Joyce.JPG
Joyce in the 1940s
Betty Graftina Leabo

(1917-02-25)February 25, 1917
DiedJuly 4, 2009(2009-07-04) (aged 92)
Other namesBetty Ward
Years active1939–1949
Spouse(s)Owen Ward (1941–1960) (divorced) (3 children)
? Bemis (?–?)
Howard Mager (?–?)

Early lifeEdit

The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Grafton Leabo,[6] Joyce was born in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, and was known to family and friends as Graftina.

When she was 5 years old, she moved with her mother to San Bernardino, California, staying there through her junior high school years. They moved to Los Angeles, California, where she attended high school. She entered the University of Southern California on a scholarship but transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles after one semester.[7]

Between her years in college and those in film, Joyce was a model for photographers. She appeared "in current magazines -- in new automobiles, using toothpaste, modeling shoes, smiling her way through the glossy life of a magazine girl."[7]

Film careerEdit

Although she appeared in many B-movies of the 1940s, she had a prominent supporting role in the major film The Rains Came (1939) opposite George Brent and Myrna Loy, and was cast as Maris Hanover in the film, Little Tokyo, U.S.A. (1942). She is best-remembered as the seventh actress to play Jane in the Tarzan series of films. She succeeded Maureen O'Sullivan in the series and appeared in the role five times.

Her first four appearances as Jane were opposite Johnny Weissmuller. However, her last performance as Jane, in Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949), was with Lex Barker as Tarzan. Joyce and Karla Schramm, from the silent era, were the only two actresses to play Jane opposite two different actors playing Tarzan.

She retired from acting in 1949.

Later yearsEdit

Joyce retired "at the peak of her career to raise a family."[8] Later, as Betty Ward, she became director of the Catholic Resettlement Office in Monterey, California, and "helped hundreds of refugees find new lives in America."[8]

Personal lifeEdit

She was married to Owen Ward, whom she had known "since her junior high school days,"[7] from 1941 until their divorce in 1960; they had three children, Pamela Ann, Timothy Owen and Beth Victoria.


Joyce died of pneumonia at age 92[9] on July 4, 2009, in a nursing home in Santa Monica, California.[5]


Year Title Role Notes
1939 The Rains Came Fern Simon
1939 Here I Am a Stranger Simpson Daniels
1940 Little Old New York Harriet Livingston
1940 Maryland Linda
1940 Public Deb No. 1 Penny Cooper
1941 Private Nurse Mary Malloy
1941 Marry the Boss's Daughter Fredericka Barrett
1942 Right to the Heart Jenny Killian
1942 Whispering Ghosts Elizabeth Woods
1942 The Postman Didn't Ring Julie Martin
1942 Little Tokyo, U.S.A. Maris Hanover
1943 Thumbs Up Louise Latimer
1945 Tarzan and the Amazons Jane
1945 I'll Tell the World Lorna Gray
1945 Strange Confession Mary
1945 The Enchanted Forest Anne
1945 Pillow of Death Donna Kincaid
1946 Tarzan and the Leopard Woman Jane
1946 Little Giant Miss Ruby Burke
1946 The Spider Woman Strikes Back Jean Kingsley
1946 Danger Woman June Spenser
1947 Tarzan and the Huntress Jane
1947 Stepchild Dale Bullock
1948 Tarzan and the Mermaids Jane
1948 Shaggy Laura Calvin
1949 Tarzan's Magic Fountain Jane (final film role)


  1. ^ "Brenda Joyce Brenda Joyce, who died on July 4 aged 97, swung to fame opposite Johnny Weissmuller and then Lex Barker as the seventh actress to play Jane in the durable Tarzan series of films". The Daily Telegraph. London. July 24, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
  2. ^ "Actress Brenda Joyce Dies - SFScope - Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror". Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2009.
  3. ^ "Brenda Joyce". Archived from the original on August 5, 2019. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  4. ^ Other sources indicate 1912 or 1915 as her year of birth. A friend of Joyce's said after her death that she was 92, which would be consistent with a birth year of 1917.
  5. ^ a b Barnes, Mike (July 17, 2009). "'Tarzan' actress Brenda Joyce dies". Hollywood Reporter.
  6. ^ "School Romance Will Lead Couple to Altar". The San Bernardino County Sun. California, San Bernardino. January 16, 1941. p. 13. Retrieved June 2, 2016 – via  
  7. ^ a b c "Girl from Paris in Movie Debut". Moberly Monitor-Index. Missouri, Moberly. May 16, 1939. p. 16. Retrieved June 2, 2016 – via  
  8. ^ a b "Playing Jane in Tarzan movies 'wasn't a challenge'". Santa Cruz Sentinel. California, Santa Cruz. July 13, 1985. p. 35. Retrieved June 2, 2016 – via  
  9. ^ "Obituary in the News". Porterville Reporter. California, Porterville. Associated Press. July 23, 2009. p. 5. Retrieved June 2, 2016 – via  

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