Joi Lansing was a model, actress, and singer who rose to fame in the 1950s and 1960s. She was known for her pin-up photos and roles in B-movies, as well as a prominent role in the opening scene of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. She was often compared to other blonde bombshells of her era, such as Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and Mamie Van Doren. However, behind her glamorous image, there was a sad and painful story that led to her early death at the age of 43.
The Pressure to Maintain Her Looks
Lansing started her career at the age of 14, when she was discovered by producer Arthur Freed and signed to an MGM talent school contract. She completed high school on the studio lot and began appearing in various films, mostly in uncredited roles as models, showgirls, or blondes. She got her big break in 1955, when she landed a recurring role as Shirley Swanson on the sitcom The Bob Cummings Show. This role showcased her acting skills and comedic talent, and earned her more recognition and opportunities in the industry.
However, Lansing also faced a lot of pressure to maintain her looks and figure, which were considered her main assets. She was rumored to have undergone breast augmentation surgery in the early 1960s, as well as using various supplements and treatments to keep herself looking youthful. According to her biographer Joseph Dougherty, she was unhappy with being typecast as a glamour girl and wanted to pursue more serious and challenging roles. She once said:
“I was always known as a glamour girl and categorized only as that. It was very limiting. I was held back by my image.”
Her Personal Life and Relationships
Lansing was married three times, but none of her marriages lasted long. Her first husband was Jerome “Jerry” Safron, whom she married in 1950 when she was 21. The marriage was annulled after six months. Her second husband was actor Lance Fuller, whom she married in 1951 and divorced in 1953. Her third and final husband was Stanley Todd, whom she married in 1960 and stayed with until her death.
Lansing had no children of her own, but she was very close to her stepson from Todd’s previous marriage, Robert Todd. She also had a close friendship with actor Jeffrey Hunter, whom she met on the set of The Way to the Gold in 1957. They remained friends until Hunter’s death in 1969.
Lansing was also involved in a secret relationship with a woman named Alexis Hunter, who claimed to be her lover for seven years until Lansing’s death. Alexis Hunter wrote a memoir titled Joi Lansing: A Body to Die For – A Love Story, which was published in 2015. In the book, she revealed that Lansing was bisexual and that they had a passionate affair that was hidden from the public eye. She also claimed that Lansing confided in her about her health problems and her dissatisfaction with her career.
Her Battle with Cancer and Death
Lansing was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1970, when she was 41 years old. She underwent surgery to remove the tumor, but the cancer had already spread to other parts of her body. She refused to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy, fearing that they would ruin her looks and career. She opted for alternative treatments instead, such as acupuncture, vitamins, and herbal remedies.
Lansing continued to work despite her illness, appearing in films such as Bigfoot (1970) and Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967), as well as performing in nightclubs and theaters. She also recorded an album titled Joi Lansing Sings with Marty Paich Dek-Tette (1971), which showcased her singing voice.
However, Lansing’s condition worsened over time, and she suffered from severe anemia and weight loss. She died on August 7, 1972, at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California. She was buried at Santa Paula Cemetery in Santa Paula, California.
Her Legacy and Influence
Lansing is remembered as one of the most beautiful and talented actresses of the 1950s and 1960s. She left behind a legacy of films, television shows, songs, and photos that showcase her charm and versatility. She also inspired many other actresses who followed in her footsteps, such as Dolly Parton , Pamela Anderson , and Christina Hendricks .
Lansing’s life story has also been the subject of several books, documentaries, and articles that explore her personal struggles and achievements. Some of these include:
- Comfort & Joi: The True Story of Joi Lansing by Joseph Dougherty (1994)
- Joi Lansing: A Body to Die For – A Love Story by Alexis Hunter (2015)
- The Glamour Girls of Don Flowers by Don Flowers and Alex Chun (2005)
- The Atomic Submarine: Joi Lansing’s Last Film by Tom Weaver (2009)
- Joi Lansing: Actress, TV Star, Singer and Pin-Up Girl by Robert Grey Reynolds Jr. (2018)
Lansing’s fans and admirers continue to celebrate her life and work, and to honor her memory as a 50s glamour girl who had much more to offer than her looks.