Brenda Joyce (actress)

Brenda Joyce (born Betty Graftina Leabo, February 25, 1917[4] July 4, 2009[5]) was an American film actress.

Brenda Joyce
Joyce in the 1940s
Betty Graftina Leabo

(1917-02-25)February 25, 1917
DiedJuly 4, 2009(2009-07-04) (aged 92)
Resting placeWestwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Other namesBetty Ward
Years active19391949
Spouse(s)Owen Ward (19411960) (divorced) (3 children)
? Bemis (?-?)
Howard Mager (?-?)
ChildrenPamela Ann (b. 1942)
Timothy Owen and Beth Victoria[3]

Early years

The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Grafton Leabo,[6] Joyce was born in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, and was known to family and friends as Graftina.

When she was 5 years old, she moved with her mother to San Bernardino, California, staying there through her junior high school years. They moved to Los Angeles, California, where she attended high school. She entered the University of Southern California on a scholarship but transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles after one semester.[7]


Between her years in college and those in film, Joyce was a model for photographers. She appeared "in current magazines -- in new automobiles, using toothpaste, modeling shoes, smiling her way through the glossy life of a magazine girl."[7]


Although she appeared in many B-movies of the 1940s, she had a prominent supporting role in the major 1939 film The Rains Came opposite George Brent and Myrna Loy, and was cast as Maris Hanover in the 1942 film, Little Tokyo, U.S.A.. She is best-remembered as the seventh actress to play Jane in the Tarzan series of films. She succeeded Maureen O'Sullivan in the series and appeared in the role five times.

Her first four appearances as Jane were opposite Johnny Weissmuller. However, her last performance as Jane, in Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949), was with Lex Barker as Tarzan. Joyce and Karla Schramm, from the silent era, were the only two actresses to play Jane opposite two different actors playing Tarzan.

She retired from acting in 1949.

Later years

Joyce retired "at the peak of her career to raise a family."[8] Later, as Betty Ward, she became director of the Catholic Resettlement Office in Monterey, California, and "helped hundreds of refugees find new lives in America."[8]

Personal life

She was married to Owen Ward, whom she had known "since her junior high school days,"[7] from 1941 until their divorce in 1960; they had three children, Pamela Ann, Timothy Owen and Beth Victoria.


Joyce died of pneumonia at age 92[9] on July 4, 2009, in a nursing home in Santa Monica, California.[5]


Year Title Role Notes
1939The Rains CameFern Simon
1939Here I Am a StrangerSimpson Daniels
1940Little Old New YorkHarriet Livingston
1940Public Deb No. 1Penny Cooper
1941Private NurseMary Malloy
1941Marry the Boss's DaughterFredericka Barrett
1942Right to the HeartJenny Killian
1942Whispering GhostsElizabeth Woods
1942The Postman Didn't RingJulie Martin
1942Little Tokyo, U.S.A.Maris Hanover
1943Thumbs UpLouise Latimer
1945Tarzan and the AmazonsJane
1945I'll Tell the WorldLorna Gray
1945Strange ConfessionMary
1945The Enchanted ForestAnne
1945Pillow of DeathDonna Kincaid
1946Tarzan and the Leopard WomanJane
1946Little GiantMiss Ruby Burke
1946The Spider Woman Strikes BackJean Kingsley
1946Danger WomanJune Spenser
1947Tarzan and the HuntressJane
1947StepchildDale Bullock
1948Tarzan and the MermaidsJane
1948ShaggyLaura Calvin
1949Tarzan's Magic FountainJane(final film role)


  1. "Brenda Joyce Brenda Joyce, who died on July 4 aged 97, swung to fame opposite Johnny Weissmuller and then Lex Barker as the seventh actress to play Jane in the durable Tarzan series of films". The Daily Telegraph. London. July 24, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. "Brenda Joyce". Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  4. Other sources indicate 1912 or 1915 as her year of birth. A friend of Joyce's said after her death that she was 92, which would be consistent with a birth year of 1917.
  5. Barnes, Mike (July 17, 2009). "'Tarzan' actress Brenda Joyce dies". Hollywood Reporter.
  6. "School Romance Will Lead Couple to Altar". The San Bernardino County Sun. California, San Bernardino. January 16, 1941. p. 13. Retrieved June 2, 2016 via
  7. "Girl from Paris in Movie Debut". Moberly Monitor-Index. Missouri, Moberly. May 16, 1939. p. 16. Retrieved June 2, 2016 via
  8. "Playing Jane in Tarzan movies 'wasn't a challenge'". Santa Cruz Sentinel. California, Santa Cruz. July 13, 1985. p. 35. Retrieved June 2, 2016 via
  9. "Obituary in the News". Porterville Reporter. California, Porterville. Associated Press. July 23, 2009. p. 5. Retrieved June 2, 2016 via
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