She has reinvented herself several times and never let her age stop her from doing anything. Sexy, sassy and strong, she shows no signs of withering away or giving up. Definitely, a great role model for women of a certain age who dare. This is what I thought watching the BBC Two documentary “This Is Joan Collins“, a couple of weeks ago dedicated to the 88-year-old actress and author.
Over the years, Dame Joan Collins has been able to adapt herself and overcome any of the obstacles she has encountered. She has been through it all, the roughest and toughest of storms in her professional and private life, and always managed to come out at the other end with such poise and dignity that very few others can lay claim to having done.
At a time when most actresses find it hard to get interesting roles in Hollywood, she landed a great part in Dynasty. Nor did she allow the age gap to stop her from marrying her much younger fifth husband. Of course, things have not always gone smoothly for Joan, but she’s carried on, never worrying about what other people thought of her. She’s had a lot of disappointments in her marriages and had to be the breadwinner for her children. Plus she had to contend with her youngest daughter suffering a serious accident. Joan manages to bounce back every time, though. Definitely, a great Crunchy Icon.
Starting from her early days, when she was trying to make a name for herself, I’m pretty sure that it couldn’t have been easy for her to have got the roles that she got (especially with the Male pressure of Hollywood in the ’50s and ’60s) but, she showed her determination and focus on achieving her goals. Something we can all learn from.
Even when she retired from her acting and decided to raise her children, she pressed a voluntary Pause button on her career to do what she could for her kids and then, once they had grown up, she decided to press Play or Resume by taking into account the fact that she wasn’t the same person she was when she stopped. So, did Joan give up after a few attempts? No way! She took stock of her surroundings, the new era she was in, how things had changed whether it be communication or travel, learned about it and then decided to use it to her best advantage.
Actually, Dame Collins effectively re-invented herself to portray someone the world had never seen or encountered before – a woman married to a very rich man but who was having an affair with Tony (Oliver Tobias), the one running her club, in the film “The Stud”, based on a novel written by her sister Jackie Collins. On that occasion, she was met with much outrage from the public and they even went as far as finding out her age with Fleets street’s finest trying to knock her down a peg or two by asking: “How could a woman of 40 be playing this type of part?“. Once again, did she retreat and play a Primary School teacher in her next film? No, she went even bigger and bolder playing “The Bitch” in the sequel.
Dame Collins was also astute enough to realise that this type of character could not last forever, so when the glorious ’80s came upon us, she was ready to introduce us to Alexis Carrington, who remained part of many peoples’ lives for the next 10 years. Yet again, showing to all of us that she was one step ahead and never happy to sit on her laurels, she then discussed on many occasions with the producers of Dynasty why she and Linda Evans (Krystle Carrington) never got anywhere near the same pay as John Forsythe (Blake Carrington), even though 90% of the sacks of Fan Mail arriving at the studio would be for her and Ms Evans.
I’ve always believed in equality – she said-. Women can do whatever men do and they have the right to do so. The only possible area where women aren’t equal is physical strength. That’s why I’ll let somebody carry my bags. And, well, there’s a lot of bags.
After that job, she reduced her acting work to concentrate on writing and came out with books from “Past Imperfect” in 1985 right up to her “My Unapologetic Diaries” in 2021. Once again reassessing her career and not giving up. Of course, we tend to know her famously for her marriages, but yet again she never remained in a miserable unhappy relationship just to please society.
The secret of her success is clear: Dame Collins has dared to be different. She assessed what she required in her life at that time and made the appropriate decision and it seems to have worked. So, every then and now, when I find myself at a roadblock I ask myself: “What Would Joan Collins Do?” knowing I’ll be able to make my way.