Mamie Van Doren

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Mamie Van Doren

Mamie Van Doren (born February 6, 1931) is a American actress and sex symbol.

She was born Joan Lucille Olander in Rowena, South Dakota, the daughter of Warner Carl Olander (March 30, 1908-June 4, 1992) and Lucille Harriet Bennett (January 21, 1912-August 27, 1995).

She is of Swedish ancestry. Her mother named her after Joan Crawford. In 1939, the family moved to Sioux City, Iowa. In May 1942, they moved to Los Angeles.

In early 1946, Joan began working as an usherette at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. The following year, she had a bit-part on an early television show. She also sang with Ted Fio Rito's band and entered beauty contests. In the summer of 1949, at age 18, she won the titles "Miss Eight Ball" and "Miss Palm Springs."

While appearing in the Miss Palm Springs contest, she was discovered by Howard Hughes.


Early career

She lunched with Hughes, who gave her a bit-part in Jet Pilot at RKO, which was her motion picture debut. Her line of dialogue consisted of one word, "Look!" Though production of the movie was in 1949 and 1950, it was not released until 1957. The following year, 1951, she posed for famous pin-up girl artist Alberto Vargas, the painter of the glamorous "Vargas Girls." His painting of Van Doren was on the July cover of Esquire.

She was briefly married at seventeen, when she and first husband, Jack Newman, eloped to Santa Barbara. But it turned out that he was abusive, so she quickly got out of the marriage.

She did a few more bit parts in movies at RKO, including His Kind of Woman (1951) starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell and Vincent Price. About her appearance in that one, Van Doren has said, "If you blinked you would miss me. I look barely old enough to drive."

She then began working on the stage. She was a showgirl in New York in Monte Proser's nightclub version of Billion Dollar Baby. Songwriter Jimmy McHugh discovered her for his musicals, then decided she was too good for the chorus line and should have dramatic training. She studied with Ben Bard and Bliss-Hayden. While appearing in the role of Marie in a showcase production of Come Back, Little Sheba, she was seen by Phil Benjamin, a casting director at Universal International.

Motion pictures

On January 20, 1953, she signed a contract with Universal. The studio had big plans for her, hoping she would bring the success that 20th Century Fox had with Marilyn Monroe, the reigning sex symbol of the era. It has been said that because the day she was signed was also the day President Eisenhower was inaugurated, the studio decided to give her the name Mamie for Ike's wife, Mamie Eisenhower, and Van Doren because it sounds Dutch.

Her first movie for Universal was Forbidden (1953), playing a singer. She then made All American (1953), playing Susie Ward, a girl from the other side of the tracks who is the man-trap at a campus beer joint. In Yankee Pasha (1954) starring Tony Curtis and Rhonda Fleming, she played a slave girl, Lilith.

Van Doren starred as the "bad girl" archetype in several teenage cult movies of the 1950s. She also appeared in some of the first movies to feature Rock & Roll music. She became identified with this rebellious style, and made some Rock records.

While she and the other blonde bombshells did not attain the same level of superstar status as Monroe, Van Doren did become one of the leading sex symbols of the day. Marilyn, Mamie and Jayne Mansfield were known as the "Three M's," and Van Doren achieved legendary status as being the sole survivor (although she was currently referred to as "the poor man's Mansfield").

But while Monroe did Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Mansfield had a big success with Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, a part that was originally written for Van Doren, who turned it down, Universal stuck Van Doren with Francis the talking mule in Francis Joins the WACS.

Marriages, child & affairs

Van Doren has had five husbands, sportswear manufacturer Jack Newman (married 1950-divorced 1950), bandleader, composer and actor Ray Anthony (married 1955-divorced 1961), baseball player Lee Meyers (married 1966-divorced 1967), businessman Ross McClintock (married 1972-divorced 1973) and actor Thomas Dixon (married 1979-present).

She and Anthony had one son, Perry Ray Anthony (born March 18, 1956).

Her on-again off-again engagement to baseball player Bo Belinsky broke off for good in 1964. In her tell-all autobiography, she acknowledged numerous affairs, including ones with Clark Gable, Howard Hughes, Johnny Carson, Elvis Presley, Burt Reynolds, Jack Dempsey, Steve McQueen, Johnny Rivers, Robert Evans, Eddie Fisher, Warren Beatty, Tony Curtis, Steve Cochran, and Joe Namath.

Career continues

Some of Van Doren's more noteworthy movies include Teacher's Pet (1958) at Paramount, Born Reckless (1958) at Warner Bros., High School Confidential! (1958), and The Beat Generation (1959), the latter two at MGM.

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But many of the productions she starred in were low-budget B-movies. They are largely unknown to later generations, though some have gained a following for their high camp value. Besides the casting decisions at Universal, a problem was her poor management in selecting a suitable project.

In 1959, Universal chose not to exercise the option in her contract. Van Doren was now a free agent and had to struggle to find work. Some of her later movies were foreign and independent productions, such as The Blonde from Buenos Aires (1961), The Candidate (1964), The Navy vs the Night Monsters (1966) and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968), which was directed by Peter Bogdanovich, who used another name, fearing the movie would ruin his reputation.

In 1963, she posed twice for Playboy to promote her movie Three Nuts In Search of a Bolt (1964), though she was never a Playmate.

In 1964, Van Doren was at the Whisky A Go-Go on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood when The Beatles were at the club, and a drunk George Harrison accidentally threw his drink on her when he was really trying to throw it on some bothersome journalists.

Van Doren also developed a nightclub act and did a lot of live theatre. She performed in stage productions of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Dames at Sea at the Drury Lane Theatre, Chicago, and appeared in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter and The Tender Trap at the Arlington Park Theatre.

During the war, she did tours for U.S. troops in Vietnam, for three months in 1968 and again in 1970. In addition to USO shows, she visited hospitals, including the wards of amputees and burn victims that many other celebrities stayed away from.

Her guest appearances on TV include The Bob Cummings Show, The Jack Benny Show, Fantasy Island, Burke's Law, Vega$, and L.A. Law.

In the 1970s, she did a nightclub act in Las Vegas.

Later life

Van Doren's autobiography titled Playing the Field: My Story, which she wrote with Art Aveilhe, was published in 1987 by GP Putnams, New York.

At age 60, she began having cosmetic surgery to maintain a youthful appearance and enlarge her breasts. She has written about this and discussed it in interviews.

More can be read about Van Buren and her past exploits at her personal website, where "the first authentic sex-kitten in cyberspace" gives one of the most intimate looks at a celebrity's personal life on the Internet. Included at her long, detailed site are photos, stories and anecdotes about the movie industry and her career, and an articulate and opinionated political weblog. "The Web is the perfect place for an appreciation of Hollywood Glamour. Take a look at it through my eyes, kids!"

Mamie Van Doren has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7057 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.




  • "My best asset is my brain. Without my brain, I don't think the rest of me would be too hot."
  • "I came to Hollywood determined to follow in Jean Harlow's footsteps, but I was determined not to die young. My hope was to endure. And endure I have."
  • "I don't wear panties anymore – this startles the Hollywood wolves so much they don't know what to pull at, so they leave me alone."
  • "There is a history of calamitous and violent deaths among the glamorous girls that boggles the mind and chills the blood, especially if you're one of the few survivors... As young women we were told that we were infinitely desirable and beautiful, only to discover that there was always someone coming up behind who was more desirable and beautiful. Our profession is perhaps the most competitive in the world. For, to be glamorous, to be beautiful, is to be doomed eventually to be disappointed."

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