The Life of Joan Collins: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Joan Collins was born on May 23, 1933, in London, England. Her first acting role was a part in the 1951 film Lady Godiva Rides Again. After her breakout role, she appeared in several other films and some television shows but never played the lead. She would not reach stardom until 1981 when she auditioned for and landed a significant role in the new television soap opera Dynasty.

Linda Evens, John Forsythe, and Joan Collins / Joan Collins / Percy Gibson and Joan Collins / Joan Collins
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She was cast as one of the lead roles, Alexis Carrington Colby. She played the role phenomenally, and her performance jump-started her career. After Dynasty, she continued to act and began writing.

Insight into the Family Tree

Her full name is Joan Henrietta Collins, and she was born to Elsa Bessant Collins and Joseph William Collins. Her mother was a nightclub hostess, and her father was a successful talent agent. Some of his well-known clients included the Beatles and Tom Jones.

A portrait of Joan Collins and her sister Jackie.
Source: Reddit

Joan was the oldest of three children. She had a younger sister, Jackie, who went on to become a successful novelist selling more than 400 million copies of her books, and a brother, Bill. Jackie was born in 1937, and Bill was born in 1945.

Such a Beautiful Baby

The Dynasty star was a very beautiful baby. Apparently, Joan was so beautiful that her mother had to stick a sign on her stroller that read “Do Not Kiss.” Eager passersby would be so overwhelmed by how beautiful and cute she was that sometimes they could get a bit handsy, so the sign was there as a forewarning.

A portrait of a young Joan Collins.
Source: Tumblr

Joan’s family lived in London during World War II. During the German bomb raids, they hid in train stations for protection. The Collins, like all families at the time, were just trying to stay safe and alive during the war.

From London to Hollywood

Joan Collins left her hometown in London and moved to Hollywood in the 1950s. She was ready to pursue her dream and become a star. Her first film role in Lady Godiva Rides Again in 1951 was an extra, an uncredited beauty pageant contestant. Clearly, her beauty as a baby grew with her.

Joan Collins and another woman take a break on the set of Lady Godiva Rides Again.
Source: Twitter

For the next three decades, Joan would play small roles in a series of insignificant movies. She would make appearances in television series and get hired for pin-up shoots. Her life in Hollywood was falling very short of stardom.

Making a Name for Herself

Joan wasn’t making it big on the big screen, but she was determined to make a name for herself. She wanted to stay in Hollywood, and she wanted to become a staple. Her acting career had not yet taken off, but that was not stopping her.

Joan poses for a photo as she sits in the driver’s seat of her pink car.
Source: Tumblr

She quickly became a Hollywood fixture. She drove around the streets in a pink Thunderbird, and when people saw that car, they knew who was driving it. She started going out with and being seen with high-profile leading men including Dennis Hopper, Harry Belafonte, and Warren Beatty.

The Insufferable Maxwell Reed

Joan Collins met Maxwell Reed when she was 17. They went out on a date, and he did one of the worst things a man could ever do to a woman. He gave her what seemed like an ordinary rum and coke, but she would later discover that it had been laced with drugs.

Joan Collins and Maxwell Read pose for the press.
Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images

More than seven decades later, Joan Collins would speak about Reed abusing her, including raping her while she was unconscious.

She Felt Stuck to Her Assailant

Joan shared that after the incident, she had become violently ill. She wanted Reed and the incident out of her mind, but that was the 1950s, and very few women lost their virginity before marriage. It was considered disgraceful, and even though she hated everything about Reed, she felt ashamed and obligated to marry him.

Maxwell Reed paints a portrait of Joan Collins at home.
Photo by John Pratt/Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Joan was a naive teenager from London, and women did not talk about sexual abuse at that time, so she did the only thing she could think of and married him.

A Horrible Relationship Based on a Lie

After the rape, Collins didn’t want what had happened to come out. She was a star on the rise and had just been signed to Rank Film Studios, which was a huge step for her career.

Reed and Collins pose together.
Source: Imgur

She did not want people to know she had been raped, so she went out with Reed again and again, and when he asked for her hand in marriage, she said yes. She hated him so deeply but also felt so guilty.

An Awful and Harrowing Marriage

Joan Collins married Maxwell Reed, an Irish actor, in 1952. They were married for four years before splitting up in 1956. She described their honeymoon as a total fiasco. Joan may have been all smiles on the outside but on the inside, she was unbearably miserable, and things never got better.

Joan Collins on the day of her wedding to husband Maxwell Reed.
Photo by Ron Case/Getty Images

During their marriage, Reed often suggested that Joan should have sex with other men for money. One night at a London club called Les Ambassadeurs, a man offered to pay Reed £10,000 for one night with Collins, and Reed actually asked Joan to agree.

Finding the Courage to File for Divorce

After her husband asked her to sleep with a man while he watched for £10,000, Joan looked Reed in the eye, cried, and yelled, “Never in a million years!” Joan knew this marriage would never get better and that she had to leave.

Reed poses beside Collins as he grabs onto her arm.
Source: Imgur

She had been married to Reed for four years, and it was crushing her spirit. So Joan Collins did what a lot of women do when they are broken and lost; she went home to her mother in London.

A Terribly Messy Divorce

After arriving in London and getting space from her jarring and oppressive marriage, Joan filed for divorce from Maxwell Reed, her husband of four years. As expected, the divorce was awfully messy, and Reed made everything extremely difficult for Joan.

Joan Collins takes a break from filming at the studio to pose for a photograph.
Photo by Bert Parry/Archive Photos/Getty Images

He attempted to get alimony from Joan, claiming that he was divorcing her when the opposite was true. In the end, the divorce cost Joan a lot of money, but she was finally free of her troubled marriage. She was free to breathe, pursue her career, and find love. Reed died in 1974 at the age of 55.

Joan Collins Is a Survivor

While talking about her marital experience, Joan also said she had been sexually harassed by film producer and studio executive Darryl Zanuck. He worked for 20th Century Fox and had signed Joan to a seven-year contract after seeing her star in Land of the Pharaohs.

Darryl Zanuck and Joan Collins.
Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images

During a meeting, he pinned her up against the wall and said, “You need a real man, honey, a real man.” Things could have gotten much worse, but luckily a makeup man came down the corridor, so Zanuck let Joan go, and she was able to escape.

Trying to Make It in Hollywood as a Woman

Joan was a woman trying to make it big in a man’s world. Hollywood was and still may be a place that is surrounded by powerful males who sometimes exhibit their power by being predators. Joan was a young, beautiful actress trying to find her voice and share her talent, and many people tried to take advantage of her.

Joan poses on the couch.
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Joan was told that female stars are washed up by the age of 27, but she proved them wrong and has been in the industry for more than 70 years. Hollywood hasn’t put a damper on Joan’s sparkle. She is now interested in helping young actresses and protect them from abuse that can be so common in the industry.

Finding Love Again . . . or At Least an Affair

A few years after Joan’s horrible marriage to Maxwell Reed ended, she met actor Harry Belafonte. Both were on the set of the 1957 film Island in the Sun, and that first encounter led to a short-lived affair. Joan writes in her book, “He was 31, six foot one, with melting brown eyes, a strong nose, and close-cropped black hair.”

Harry Belafonte and Joan Collins talk to guests at a party.
Source: Imgur

She added that “his sexual allure was accentuated by tight trousers and a shirt opened to reveal caramel-colored skin.” The pair had no scenes together, but Belafonte gave her many suggestive glances, and one thing led to another.

The Steamy but Short-Lived Affair

On the set of the film, the crew often teased Collins about the way Belafonte looked at her. Everyone knew he was married, but he couldn’t hide his desire. People didn’t think anything was actually going to happen between the two, but eventually the affair began in a tiny apartment away from prying eyes.

A studio portrait of Joan Collins.
Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

They spent a few exciting nights together and then knew they had to call it quits. Belafonte returned to his wife, and Collins moved on. It was short and sweet, but it must have been a strange time for her, having just gotten divorced.

Finding a New Lover

When Collins was 26, she met Hollywood’s most talked-about newbie actor, Warren Beatty. The two met at a restaurant in Hollywood. Joan was immediately struck by his ambition. Warren was a good-looking 22-year-old who was feeling the pressures of Hollywood.

Joan Collins and Warren Beatty are in the back of a limousine
Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images

He told Collins that there were always going to be better-looking and younger men, so he sometimes told people he was 20. Collins was never madly in love with Warren but the two were very compatible, so their relationship lasted quite a while. They were good for each other and understood each other’s ambitions.

A Very High Sex Drive

Collins shared that Warren needed to have sex several times a day and it often wore her out. She shared with her friend Joanne Woodward that she needed a break due to exhaustion. Woodward told her not to take a break because if she did, the libidinous 22-year-old would go looking in other places.

Warren Beatty kisses Joan Collins on the cheek as they attend a party.
Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The couple continued to see each other. They were happy together and dated for several months until he asked for her hand in marriage. Joan said yes, and the two were engaged to be married.

Rumors Spoiled the Engagement

Joan Collins and Warren Beatty were very happy together. Collins says she was never truly in love with Beatty, but when he proposed, she happily said yes. While engaged, many rumors began to circulate.

Warren Beatty and Joan Collins attend a party
Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

There were stories about Beatty sleeping with many high-profile actresses, including Natalie Wood, Julie Christie, Leslie Caron, Diane Keaton, and Goldie Hawn. And then Joan and Warren broke up. Collins later shared that her relationship with Beatty was ultimately a rebound and that she should have known better. The two are still friendly, and they share no hard feelings.

A True Pro-Choice Feminist

In 1978, Joan Collins revealed in her memoir that she had had an abortion. When she was 26 and dating actor Warren Beatty, she had gotten pregnant with his child. She took matters into her own hands and decided to have an abortion.

A photo of Joan Collins and Warren Beatty.
Photo by Michael Ward/Getty Images

She said that having a child would have been the death of both of their careers, and she wasn’t ready for that. She knew one day she would have children and raise them right, but at the time she couldn’t. Joan wholeheartedly believes that she has a right to her body and that it’s her choice what she does with it.

Meeting Up after Breaking Up

Joan shared that much later she ran into Beatty at a Hollywood screening. He was very charming and charismatic. He came over to talk to Joan who was with her husband, Percy Gibson, who she married in 2002. Beatty leaned over and whispered, “I still love this woman.” Beatty is now happily married to Annette Bening.

Warren Beatty and Joan Collins sit in a theater together.
Photo by Alisdair MacDonald/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Whenever Collins and Beatty run into each other in Hollywood or around Los Angeles, they hug and kiss and talk about one day meeting up for lunch. Collins thinks it will never actually happen, but it just goes to show that the two are still friendly.

Books That Led to Fame

Jackie Collins, Joan’s younger sister, became a well-known author. She wrote 31 novels with more than 400 million copies sold. Two of her novels, The Stud and The Bitch, were both adapted into films, and since sisters always support one another, Joan starred in both of them. Jackie passed away in 2015.

Jackie Collins and Joan Collins during Jackie Collins'
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

In 1978, Joan followed in her younger sister’s footsteps and wrote a book, her autobiography titled Past Imperfect. The memoir told about her past affairs, some sweet, some scandalous, and some downright awful. The book became a bestseller. Jackie must have been proud.

Becoming a Soap Opera Star

Joan Collins auditioned for Dynasty in 1981. At that time, Dynasty was not the hit soap opera it became but rather a struggling television show in its second series. She auditioned for the role of Alexis Carrington Colby, the cruel, vengeful ex-wife of Blake Carrington.

A portrait of Joan Collins as Alexis Carrington Colby.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: CBS

After actress Sophia Loren turned down the part, the show cast Joan Collins in the role, and it changed the course of her career. Immediately after the season aired, the show’s ratings shot up. The producers felt Collins had revived the show with her stunning performance.

She Nailed the Role

Aaron Spelling, the show’s producer, and Richard and Esther Shapiro, its creators, said that any actress could have played the part of Alexis Carrington Colby.

Linda Evens, John Forsythe, and Joan Collins.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: CBS

There were at least 50 other actresses who could have been cast as the vicious ex-wife, but Joan Collins got the part. The reason she did so well was because she didn’t play Alexis Carrington Colby but played Joan Collins. She brought herself to the role and gave it her all, and the fans ate it up.

Receiving Critical Claim for Her Work

During her time on the prime-time television soap opera, Joan Collins was nominated for six Golden Globe Awards. She finally took home a win for her Dynasty role as Alexis Carrington Colby in 1983. She also received an Emmy nod for her work on the show.

Collins poses with her Golden Globe Award.
Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

No one could have played Alexis Carrington Colby as well as Joan Collins. She played an unapologetic, vengeful ex-wife so well that decades after the show people still recognize her on the street as Alexis. Dynasty ended in 1989 after a nine-season run.

Her Off-Camera Life

Joan Collins’ life off camera is just as tumultuous and dramatic as her on-screen character. After divorcing her first husband, Maxwell Reed, she got married four more times. In 1963, she married her second husband, Anthony Newley.

Joan Collins and Anthony Newley cradle their daughter Tara on the car ride home.
Photo by Express/Express/Getty Images

Together they had a daughter, Tara, and a son, Alexander, before getting divorced in 1970. Two years later, she married her third husband, Ron Kass, the president of Apple Records. They had a daughter, Katyana “Katy” Kennedy Kass. The marriage ended when the couple got divorced in 1983.

Her Long List of Husbands

After her divorce from Kass, Joan married Peter Holm in 1985. They celebrated a small, modest ceremony in Las Vegas. Holm was a Swedish pop singer, and together they produced two mini-series, Sins and Monte Carlo.

Joan Collins marries Peter Holm in a private ceremony at the Little White Wedding Chapel on the Las Vegas Strip.
Photo by Eddie Sanderson/Getty Images

I guess that’s why you don’t mix business and pleasure because they got divorced a year later, and Collins issued a restraining order against him. According to court records, Holm became extremely abusive toward Collins, and she constantly lived in fear.

Her Fifth and Hopefully Her Last

Her messy divorce from Peter Holm ended after 13 months of marriage. In February 2002, Collins married her fifth husband, Percy Gibson, a theater company manager. He is best known for the films The Time of Our Lives, Banksy’s Coming to Dinner, and the TV game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Joan Collins celebrates with her husband Percy Gibson after renewing her wedding vows.
Photo by Eddie Sanderson/Getty Images

Percy is 32 years younger than Joan, but age is really just a number to them. The couple is happily married and renewed their vows in 2009. Collins met Percy in 2000 at a theater production he was producing.

Who Is Percy Gibson?

Percy Gibson is a theater producer who was born and raised in Lima, Peru. He had dreams of becoming an actor, and when he turned 17, he packed a bag and moved to New York. There, he quickly realized acting was not for him and went into producing.

Percy Gibson and Joan Collins pose together.
Photo by Eddie Sanderson/Getty Images

He produced a series of small underground productions, but Gibson is in no way a starving artist. He was born into a family with a publishing empire and grew up in a wealthy suburb in Lima, attending the finest educational institutions.

Is Five Times the Charm?

After getting married four times, Joan Collins seems to have finally found her true love. They met two years before their marriage in San Francisco. Collins was starring in a play that Gibson’s company managed, and they met at the show.

Joan Collins and Percy Gibson pose for a photograph.
Photo by Sion Touhig/Getty Images

Collins shared, “It was giddy, it was fantastic, and Percy and I fell madly in love. . . . I’ve finally found my true soul mate. And my husband forever.” They got married at Claridge’s, a London hotel.

Two Is Better Than One

It may have taken Joan Collins five tries to find her forever husband, but this also isn’t Gibson’s first time down this road. He was married once before, to actress Cynthia Bauer.

Percy Gibson and Dame Joan Collins attend an event.
Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

Gibson and Bauer got married in 1989, became legally separated in 1998, and then Gibson filed for a no-fault divorce in 1999. At the time, Cynthia was an aspiring actress who was working as a waitress in New York City to make money while auditioning for roles. Gibson was a producer, and that’s how the two met.

Married for 20 Years

Joan Collins and Percy Gibson have been happily married about 20 years. That is the longest any of Collins’ marriages have lasted. On their 17th wedding anniversary, Collins posted a tribute to her husband and their marriage on Instagram. It read, “Celebrating 17 wonderful fun-filled happy years today!”

Joan Collins and Percy Gibson on their wedding day.
Source: Instagram/@joancollinsdbe

The couple doesn’t have any kids, but Gibson is a stepfather to all of Collins’ children—Tara Newley Arkle, Alexander Newley, and Katyana Kass. The two now live in a beautiful villa in Saint-Tropez, France. They also spend time in Los Angeles and England.

Tara Newley Is Her Mother’s Daughter

Tara Newley is Collins’ oldest child with ex-husband Anthony Newley. Tara was born in 1963 and has followed her mother into showbiz. She is an English writer, broadcaster, and producer. She gave acting a try but felt it wasn’t for her.

Dame Joan Collins and daughter Tara Newley attend an after-party
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Her first acting debut was alongside her brother at the mere age of six in the film Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? Her last acting role was in a film where she played herself. It was a documentary that aired on TV in 2011 called Celebrity Naked Ambition.

Alexander Newley, Celebrity Portraitist

Alexander Newley is Joan Collins’ second child and was born in 1965. He also goes by the pseudonym Sacha Newley, a British contemporary artist, portraitist, writer, and teacher. His portrait paintings are very well known and include portraits of Gore Vidal, Billy Wilder, Christopher Reeve, Oliver Stone, and Steven Berkoff.

Alexander Newley and Dame Joan Collins attend a festive afternoon tea.
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

He has had multiple auctions, and the Chateau Marmont, a hotel in Hollywood, celebrated his work and its connection to the art community with an exhibition of his celebrity portraits. He is Joan Collins’ only son.

Allegations against His Father

In 2017 during an interview with the Sunday Times, Alexander “Sacha” made allegations against his father, Anthony Newley, and called him a pedophile. In the interview, he said, “My father was drawn to youthfulness; he thought innocence was an aphrodisiac. That was his sexual proclivity, and it’s a very dangerous, destructive thing.”

A portrait of Alexander Newley.
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Joan immediately disagreed with her son’s accusations, claiming she never would have married a pedophile. Tara also came to her father’s defense. She made a statement, speaking about her close relationship with her father and that the allegations are false and deeply upsetting.

Katyana Is Just Like Her Mother

Katyana is the youngest of Joan’s three children and is from a different marriage. Her father is Collins’ third husband, Russ Kass. She followed in her mother’s footsteps and started acting at a very young age. In 1973, when she was barely a year old, she starred in The Optimist.

Joan Collins and her daughter, Katyana Kass at the 'Slim, Rich & Famous'.
Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images

The movie was about a retired entertainer who made a living as a street musician in London. Katy continued to act part-time and never took on big projects. She has kept most of her life private and lives an affluent life in London.

Fleeing a Terrifying Fire

Joan Collins and her current husband, Percy Gibson, were caught in a terrifying fire in their Belgravia Flat in April 2019. The seven-story building in Eaton Place in Belgravia, London, caught on fire as Collins and Gibson were enjoying a nice Saturday in the flat. They had to flee from the building that quickly was engulfed in flames.

The damage left from the fire.
Source: Twitter

The London Fire Brigade sent about 10 firefighters to tackle the fire. Collins took to Instagram, praising the National Health Service and the brave firefighters for keeping everyone safe, putting out the fire, and keeping the street closed.

Thankfully Everyone Survived the Fire

On Twitter, Joan shared the events of the terrifying evening when their apartment went up in flames. In a tweet, she wrote that her husband bravely doused the wall that had caught fire from the floor below with a handheld fire extinguisher.

Joan Collins thanks the NHS on Twitter.
Source: Twitter

Part of the flat on the first floor of the seven-story building was damaged. Two people had already left before the firefighters arrived, and two had to be treated by the EMTs but didn’t require hospitalization. The fire was deemed non-suspicious and just an unfortunate accident.

Joan Collins Shares Her Story in a Documentary

British actress Joan Collins is now 88 years old, and she has decided to share the story of her illustrious career and life, complete with all the horrors and hardships, in a documentary. The film is called This Is Joan Collins and is available to stream.

A portrait of Joan Collins.
Photo by Pablo Cuadra/WireImage/Getty Images

Her career began in the 1950s and has continued into 2022. She has been in the spotlight for a long time and has experienced some horrible events as well as wonderful fame. The actress admits that apart from filming the documentary, she rarely finds herself reminiscing on the past.

This Is Joan Collins

The documentary takes a deep dive into Joan Collins’ acting career but also her personal life. She recounts her five marriages, her family life, and her time as a writer. She also recalls a time when she bumped elbows with the likes of Robert Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Julie Andrews, and Sammy Davis Jr.

Joan Collins attends The 2019 Met Gala.
Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage/Getty Images

Fans have read about her life in her memoir My Unapologetic Diaries, but the documentary offers footage that has never been seen and is brimming with Hollywood glamour. The documentary is a must-watch.

Living in the Present

There is no doubt that Joan Collins’ long career in Hollywood has led to some interesting and harrowing stories. Yes, her story is filled with success and fame, but it is also riddled with the struggles of being a female in a male-dominated industry. Despite it all, Joan finds herself constantly living in the present.

Joan Collins sits on the sofa in her penthouse apartment.
Photo by Eddie Sanderson/Getty Images

In an online interview, she said, “I live in the present. . . . Every single day is a day that I want to fill with interesting things to do, something to achieve, and something to enjoy.” She is a survivor who, like a true icon, continues to thrive and enjoy life right now in the present.