Preferred ‘B’ Films : J. Woodbury; Actress in 1930s and ‘40s

Joan Woodbury, the sultry bad girl in a series of low-budget action films in the 1930s and ‘40s whose ties to Southern California date to her mother--who was the third queen of the Tournament of Roses Parade in 1907--has died.

Miss Woodbury, who once said she preferred “B” to “A” pictures because in cheaper films “we seldom had retakes, which bore me to death,” was 73 when she died Wednesday of respiratory complications.

The Riverside County coroner’s office reported that she died at her home in Desert Hot Springs. For the last several years, she and her husband, Ray Mitchell, had produced plays for the Valley Theater Guild in Palm Springs.

She was the great-niece of the founder of the Woodbury soap company. Miss Woodbury was raised in a convent in San Francisco and came to Los Angeles during the Depression. She began her entertainment career by dancing in restaurants in Los Angeles and Tijuana, appearing there with Rita Cansino, who later became Rita Hayworth.

Her first film was “Eagle’s Brood” in 1935, followed by “Anthony Adverse” the next year. Over the years she played a series of saloon girls and otherwise hardened women in “Crashing Hollywood,” “Algiers,” “King of the Zombies,” “Paper Bullets,” “Confessions of Boston Blackie” and “The Arnelo Affair.”


Her last films included supporting roles in “The Ten Commandments” in 1956 and “The Time Travelers” in 1964.

She also had the title role in a 13-part serialization of the “Brenda Starr” comic strip in 1945.

Interviewed by author Richard Lamparski for one of his “Whatever Became of . . . ?” books, Miss Woodbury said she willingly accepted the low-budget roles because “there was never time for the star temperament and such nonsense that goes on during the filming of a big picture.”

After her retirement from films she became production manager of the Valley Players Guild, where she and Mitchell, a former radio executive, worked on more than 120 productions. Occasionally she would act in one.

Earlier, she had been married to British film star Henry Wilcoxon, by whom she had three children.