Thanks to KC for the reminder that today is the 85th birthday of the charming Joan Leslie.
Miss Leslie has perhaps never received the level of acclaim she is due. She began in films as a child and at a remarkably young age she more than held her own as the leading lady opposite some of Hollywood's greatest stars, including Gary Cooper, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and Fred Astaire.
She was just 15 when starred opposite Cooper in SERGEANT YORK (1941). (Teenaged leading ladies were fairly common in that era; for instance, Linda Darnell was just 15 when she played opposite Tyrone Power in 1939's DAY-TIME WIFE.) The same year SERGEANT YORK was released she appeared in the classic HIGH SIERRA with Humphrey Bogart.
She played George M. Cohan's wife, Mary, in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942) and celebrated her 18th birthday on the set of THE SKY'S THE LIMIT (1943), in which she had the chance to dance with Fred Astaire. She proved to be an excellent partner for Astaire in this underrated film; it's a shame they didn't work together again.
Leslie's best work includes THE HARD WAY (1943), in which she plays the talented girl pushed to stardom by her sister (Ida Lupino). She was also excellent in BORN TO BE BAD (1950), as a warm career woman who loses her wealthy fiance (Zachary Scott) to a scheming golddigger (Joan Fontaine).
Miss Leslie married a doctor in 1950 and they were married for half a century, until her husband's death in 2000. She is the mother of twin girls.
We're very fortunate that Joan Leslie has contributed her memories in DVD extras for SERGEANT YORK, YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, and the Homefront Collection, in which she appears in all three movies, THIS IS THE ARMY, HOLLYWOOD CANTEEN, and THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS. She has a wonderful memory and is very articulate; it's a great gift to film history that her reminisces, including some delightful stories, have been preserved in this way.
Other Leslie titles reviewed here previously: SUSAN AND GOD (1940), THE MALE ANIMAL (1942), TWO GUYS FROM MILWAUKEE (1946), and MAN IN THE SADDLE (1951).
Classic film fans owe Miss Leslie a debt of gratitude for providing us with many, many happy viewing hours. Happy birthday!