Joyce Compton had an unusual Hollywood career (unusual, at least, as compared to the multitude of tragic Hollywood careers highlighted on this blog). Joyce starred in hundreds of uncredited roles in a career that spanned five decades. She was regularly cast as the quintessential “dumb blond”, playing the part in big-budget films and B-grade productions. Her portrayals of ditsy hatcheck girls, brassy flirts and sassy prostitutes usually consisted of one or two lines delivered in scene-stealing glory. The roles were one-dimensional and formulaic, but always an audience favorite. Joyce played supporting parts in Imitation of Life, Rose of Washington Square, They Drive by Night, Christmas in Connecticut, Mildred Pierce, Sorry, Wrong Number and many, many others. She was featured alongside such big names as Barbara Stanwyck, Cary Grant, Al Jolson, Claudette Colbert, Humphrey Bogart and her good friend Clara Bow. Although she appeared in some well-known and revered films, she also worked on pictures with budgets so low, she wore her own clothes instead of lavish, wardrobe department-supplied costumes.
Around the time Joyce turned 40, Hollywood decided she was too old the play “the dumb blond” role. Offers came less frequently and Joyce’s star began to fade. So, at 40 years-old, Joyce became a registered nurse. She got a kick out of being recognized by patients at hospitals and was always eager to relate stories of her acting days and receive praise graciously.
Joyce retired to a life of gardening, painting and occasionally watching herself in an old film on late-night television. She passed away in 1997 at the age of 90. Her death went virtually unnoticed by the press.