Joan Goodfellow

Joan Goodfellow is an American actress and singer who appeared on stage, screen, and television throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Best known for her lead role in Buster and Billie (1974) as well as her performance in Lolly-Madonna XXX (1973), she also appeared in the TV-movies Returning Home (1975) and Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill (1979). Her final film was Victor Nuñez's A Flash of Green in 1984. On stage, she was a member of the original cast of Neil Simon’s Broadway hit comedy Biloxi Blues (1985).

Joan Goodfellow
Martha Joan Goodfellow

(1950-02-02) February 2, 1950
ResidenceWilmington, Delaware, U.S.
OccupationFilm, television, stage actress; singer (mezzo-soprano)
Years active1972-present
  • Daniel T. Faircloth
    (m. 1974; div. 1979)
ChildrenDaniel Steed Faircloth

Martha Joan Goodfellow was born February 2, 1950, in Wilmington, Delaware, where she has spent most of her life. Her parents were the late Millard Preston Goodfellow and Allene Leach Goodfellow, who is still living. Ms. Goodfellow attended Brandywine High School, where she participated in theater arts productions. including The King and I, in which she sang and acted the role of Anna.[1] She also performed in the supporting cast of Beauty and the Beast just before her graduation in 1968.[2] Two years later, she would return to Wilmington with other high-school alumni to stage a production of Cabaret. Acting and singing the part of Frau Schneider, Ms. Goodfellow received an excellent notice from a local drama critic who maintained that "her singing is strong and seemed that the audience recognized her with the loudest applause."[3]

Actress in training (1968-1972)

In 1968, Goodfellow attended the University of Delaware, majoring in theater and dramatic arts. While there, she performed supporting roles in various plays, including George Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear[4] and G. B. Shaw's Arms and the Man.[5] Then in the spring of 1970, she joined with seven other student/actors in presenting George Tabori's Brecht on Brecht, described as an "affectionate tribute to the great German playwright."[6] The program consisted of both readings and songs, many written by Brecht in collaboration with Kurt Weill. Then in July 1970, Goodfellow appeared as Salvation Army girl Sarah Brown in the university's summer festival presentation of Guys and Dolls.[7] One local reviewer, Martha Hully, noted the absence of New York accents in this Damon Runyon-based work, but she praised Goodfellow's singing while remarking that she "does have some trouble with the higher registration."[8] However, another critic, Otto Dekom, gave the entire program a scathing notice. His lede paragraph read: "'Guys and Dolls' is a show to be missed."[9] Then turning his critical eye on the production's cast, he described Goodfellow's performance as that of "an aspring actress unhappily thrust into a major role. Miss Goodfellow is innocent of talent for singing or acting. Her singing consists largely of some high-pitched sounds which provide little pleasure to the ear; her speech is somewhat similar. [Her] drunk scene looks like a first rehearsal."[10] If the purpose of Dekom's critique was to dissuade Goodfellow from pursuing an acting and singing career, he failed. The following fall, she transferred to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. And upon graduating in 1972, she received a call from her agent, who had secured an audition for her in a new MGM motion picture based on Sue Grafton's 1969 novel The Lolly-Madonna War.[11]

Initial film and television performances (1972-1974)

Goodfellow's tryout was a success; she landed her first part in a Hollywood picture, later to be dubbed Lolly-Madonna XXX, starring Rod Steiger and Robert Ryan as patriarchs of two rival families in the Tennessee hills. Their feud turns into all-out war when the daughter of one family, Sister E (played by Ms. Goodfellow), is captured, taunted, and then raped by two sons from the other clan. Of her performance, a Daily Variety reviewer praised Goodfellow for bringing about some of "the finest dramatic moments seen on film." [12] And author/essayist Harlan Ellison, who called Lolly-Madonna "one of the most obstinately compelling films I've ever seen," singled out her performance as "skillful and highly promising of a long and honorable career. The rape a directorial and acting masterpiece; Ms. Goodfellow manages to convey all the terror and bravery of a bird stalked by ruthless hunters. I commend her to your attention."[13] Regarding her memories of making that first film, Goodfellow would later recall, "We had a wonderful time. We boogied and played guitar, and Robert Ryan played the fiddle."[14] She also became close friends with one of her co-stars Season Hubley, who at the time was another newcomer to films. According to Goodfellow, she and Hubley "lived together in a red convertible ’65 Galaxie 500 with two dogs. We were pretty wild, two crazy young kids in Hollywood. We were having a hoot."[15]

Joan Goodfellow's next assignment was a small but amusing turn in an amiable TV-movie western, The Gun and the Pulpit, which debuted on ABC's Movie of the Week the spring of 1974. The film begins with a scene in which a gunslinger is about to be hanged by a posse. But Goodfellow's character, on horseback, arrives just in time to prevent the lynching. And that was the sum total of her performance. Yet her character was the important catalyst that set the story in motion, and thus she was given special billing in the opening credits that follow her exit. The film starred Marjoe Gortner and was helmed by Daniel Petrie, a veteran director who, in his next film, would cast Goodfellow in what would become the signature performance of her career.

A hit movie and critical praise (1974)

When asked about her role in a new teen romance titled Buster and Billie, Joan Goodfellow's reply was blunt: "I play a socially retarded chick."[16] Her character, Billie Jo Truluck, is the proverbial girl from the other side of the tracks with a reputation every boy knows. Craving some form of acknowledgement from her high-school peers, the quiet, introverted Billie accedes to nocturnal liaisons with sex-starved male classmates. Consequently, she increases her own marginalization at school. As Time magazine's reviewer observed, "Billie may not be quite all there."[17] Set in 1948 rural Georgia, this sentimental, ironic story of how the outcast Billie and the popular Buster Lane (Jan-Michael Vincent) fall in love became a surprise box-office hit during the summer of 1974, when it played almost exclusively in small-city venues, mostly in the South, before finally making its New York premiere in late August.[18] Critical reaction, however, was mostly tepid, due to an outburst of violence in the film's final scenes. Critic Wally Judd complained that the ending "makes me think the town must have been loaded with psychological troublemakers."[19]

But the performers all received raves, especially the two stars. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “Jan-Michael Vincent is a talented and handsome performer who does excellent work here. As Billie, Joan Goodfellow is – to use an overworked adjective – perfect.”[20] The members of Goodfellow's hometown press were especially complimentary. One critic wrote that "[s]he has a tough part because she doesn’t talk much for a lead character. However, her gestures realistically portray a poor, clumsy girl trying to find something besides sex."[21] And another local scribe asserted:

Joan’s work in a difficult role, where meaningful gestures and expressions rather than crisp readings of lines are required, is just plain excellent. Her acting is certainly of a caliber of many of the supporting-actress [Oscar] nominations of past years, and now Columbia Pictures should move into the publicity campaign needed to bring that performance into the public spotlight."[22]

However, when a publicist for a Philadelphia theater chain asked Columbia to pay her transportation costs to participate in interviews with the press and on television, the studio showed no interest. Additionally, no new film offers came her way.[23] Still, during a time when she was enjoying critical recognition, Joan Goodfellow celebrated a personal milestone with her marriage to Daniel Faircloth, a country music composer and performer whom she had met in Georgia while Buster and Billie was filming. They had spent most of the previous months together, working at a plant nursery in another part of the state before visiting Joan's parents in Wilmington, where they exchanged vows in June 1974. Afterwards, the couple moved to Malibu, California.[24] Upon hearing news of her marriage, Jan-Michael Vincent feared that Goodfellow might give up acting. While promoting his film White Line Fever (1975), he reflected on making Buster and Billie, telling one interviewer:

Joan Goodfellow was so good as the girl [Billie]...and I think she'll act some more. She just doesn't look for work hard enough. I'd love to work with her again. She's such a funky lady, and then you discover these weird things about her, like she's a trained opera singer – and never told anybody![25]

By 1987, over a decade after the theatrical release of Buster and Billie, the film wound up playing on local and independent television stations in various cities. One such market was Dallas, where local film critic Philip Wuntch wrote a short blurb for the film's TV listing in the Dallas Morning News. It read, "Very sweet, very sad teen romance. Joan Goodfellow makes a poignant impression, and what ever happened to her anyway?"[26] To answer that question would require examining her career after 1974.

Later work in film and television (1975-1984)

This phase of Goodfellow's career began with her third Daniel Petrie film, a TV-movie remake of William Wyler's classic film The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), entitled Returning Home (1975). Goodfellow acted the role of Peggy Stephenson, the part played by Teresa Wright in the earlier work. Returning Home was actually intended as a 90-minute pilot for a projected television series, but that plan never panned out. Then later in 1975, Goodfellow performed the minor role of a Brooklyn woman who just barely escapes an attempted rape/murder in the TV-movie Death Scream, based on the Kitty Genovese murder case of 1964. But there were still no offers for her to perform leading parts in feature-films. According to a reporter for her hometown daily newspaper, who conducted an interview with the young actress's father in 1976, "the roles have not been coming for Ms. Goodfellow."[27] Nevertheless, she made a guest appearance in the television series Police Woman in a segment dealing with spousal abuse. In addition, she co-starred alongside Ed Lauter in a two-part episode of Police Story in early 1976. It was at this time, however, that the actress was expecting a child, and some of the offers she did begin receiving from the studios were too physically demanding for one in her condition. According to Ms. Goodfellow's father, his daughter had even "tried out for several ‘pregnant parts’ but found it was nearly impossible for a woman who is actually pregnant to play such roles.”[28] Later in 1976, she gave birth to a son, Daniel Steed Faircloth.

In 1978, Goodfellow was reunited with Richard C. Sarafian, the director of Lolly-Madonna, for her third theatrical feature, Sunburn (released 1979), in the supporting role of the daughter of a rich man who is murdered. The film was made in Acapulco and featured Farrah Fawcett and Joan Collins, two major stars of that era.[29] And in January 1979, she appeared in the TV-movie, Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill. Joel Schumacher wrote and directed this series of character vignettes, all taking place in a country road house on a rainy evening. According to one critic, the film was a "reasonably innocuous" effort.[30] Yet many notable performers wandered back and forth through various scenes, including Dennis Quaid, Tanya Tucker, Timothy Scott (one of her Lolly-Madonna co-stars), Candy Clark, Sheree North, and Henry Gibson. Joan Goodfellow, for once, was allowed a song. She delivers an emotional ballad,[31] the lyrics explaining why her character, a sweet, unoffending, girl-next-door waitress with an obsession for soap operas and mood rings, harbors a crush for a short-tempered roustabout named "Cowboy", played by Don Johnson. (A year later, he and Goodfellow would appear in the From Here to Eternity TV series.) About this time, Ms. Goodfellow, living in West Los Angeles with her 3-year-old son, was divorced from her husband, who would later move to Nashville where he would continue his songwriting and performing career.[32]

In 1981, after completing work in a feminist-themed sports TV-movie, The Oklahoma City Dolls, she played a "blonde bombshell" nurse named BeeBee Darnell in an episode of the Peter Cook situation comedy The Two of Us. The next year, she made another sitcom appearance, this time in the Erma Bombeck-inspired series Maggie, performing the zany role of a woman about to give birth in a hair salon. But one of her more notable appearances occurred when casting director Judy Courtney, who had seen Goodfellow audition for a part in the 1982 comedy Tootsie, urged her to test for a new movie, A Flash of Green.[33] Based on a John D. MacDonald novel, the film chronicles the story of a fictional muckraking journalist (Ed Harris) who double-crosses a small-town political boss (Richard Jordan). Goodfellow plays Mitchie, the hero's former high-school sweetheart who alters her hair style as fast as she changes boyfriends, all the while holding a torch for the crusading newspaperman. This 1984 opus would be her final credit in either film or prime-time TV. But it was not to be the end of her acting or singing career.

Broadway success and later (1985-present)

After living and working in California for a decade, Ms. Goodfellow moved back east in order to re-evaluate her career. During an interview with a Wilmington reporter, she recalled her first years in Hollywood:

I thought I would be eaten alive. I wasn’t ready for all the responsibility at the time. I’ll always want to do film and I’ll always love the theater; it depends on what happens first. And I’ll always be able to sing; that’s what I want to do...I haven’t been terribly ambitious. This is a basically immoral business. I’m very lucky I’ve never done anything that I’m horribly ashamed of. But there’s nothing you can do about it if you’re starving and you need work...It’s a very heart-breaking, very difficult, very scary business that will eat you alive, no questions asked. You really have to know what you’re getting into, and I don’t know that I have until now. But I have the feeling I’m here for the long pull.[34]

After brief work in the TV soap opera One Life to Live, Goodfellow tried her luck on Broadway. Her efforts paid off when she was cast as understudy for the role of Rowena, a Southern prostitute, in Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues in 1985. In October of that year, she was told the regular performer of that part was sick, and she would have to go on in her place. Daniel Petrie's daughter, Mary, who was in the audience that night, visited Goodfellow backstage and reported that the actress had been pleased with her performance. And in 1987, when Biloxi Blues toured the country, Ms. Goodfellow became a regular part of the cast when the play was staged in such venues as Theater On The Square in San Francisco.[35] It was also during this phase of her career that she appeared as a guest soloist with the Performing Arts Society of Delaware chorus and orchestra in their 1986 Gala Spring Concert.[36] Moreover, that same year, she was in a Wilmington "Best of Broadway" production, where she contributed a rendition of “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music.[37]

In more recent years, Goodfellow has taught acting at Delaware Technical Community College and has also sung in mezzo-soprano roles with OperaDelaware, one of which was in a production described as "a chamber version of Die Fledermaus".[38] In late 1993, Ms. Goodfellow obtained a part in a small independent film, appearing as one of two evil stepsisters in Sharon Baker’s never-released updating of the Cinderella story, relocated to a karaoke bar.[39] Additionally, she performed in The Student Prince at Wilmington's Grand Opera House in 1997; she was cited as acting "the nonsinging role of a class-conscious duchess."[40] And in 2011, she sang the part of Olga in an OperaDelaware production of Lehár's The Merry Widow.[41] Joan Goodfellow still resides in the Wilmington area, making occasional appearances on stage in local productions.

Feature films and TV-movies

Release Year Title Role Director Co-Performers
1973 Lolly-Madonna XXX Sister E[42] Richard C. Sarafian Rod Steiger, Robert Ryan, Scott Wilson, Ed Lauter
1974 The Gun and the Pulpit (TV-movie) Dixie Daniel Petrie Marjoe Gortner, Estelle Parsons, Pamela Sue Martin
1974 Buster and Billie Billie Jo Truluck Daniel Petrie Jan-Michael Vincent, Pamela Sue Martin, Robert Englund
1975 Returning Home (TV-movie) Peggy Stephenson Daniel Petrie Dabney Coleman, Tom Selleck, Whitney Blake
1975 Death Scream (TV-movie) Mrs. Daniels Richard T. Heffron Raul Julia, John P. Ryan, Les Lannom
1979 Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill (TV-movie) Marcy Joel Schumacher Victor French, Louise Latham, Candy Clark
1979 Sunburn Joanna Richard C. Sarafian Farrah Fawcett, Charles Grodin, Joan Collins
1980 Trouble in High Timber Country (TV-movie) Lisa Vincent Sherman Eddie Albert, Martin Kove, James Sloyan
1981 The Oklahoma City Dolls (TV-movie) Michael Ann E. W. Swackhamer Susan Blakely, Ronee Blakley, Savannah Smith
1984 A Flash of Green Mitchie Victor Nuñez Ed Harris, Blair Brown, Richard Jordan

Television episodes

Premiere Date Show Episode Role Co-performers
1975-03-07 Police Woman "Bloody Nose" Hilary Barry Angie Dickinson, Earl Holliman, David Birney
1976-01-09/1976-01-16 Police Story "Odyssey of Death" (Parts 1 & 2) Bobbie-Lou Robert Stack, Brock Peters, Ed Lauter
1977-05-13 Quincy, M.E. "Valleyview" Miss Gordon Jack Klugman, Ed Begley, Jr., Christopher Connelly
1977-05-17 McLaren's Riders (Unsold pilot project) Wanda James Best, Brad Davis, George DiCenzo
1980 From Here to Eternity (TV series) Various episodes[43] Lt. Rosemary Clark William Devane, Roy Thinnes, Kim Basinger
1981-04-27 The Two of Us "Weekend Away" Bee Bee Darnell Peter Cook, Richard Schaal, Mimi Kennedy
1982-05-07 Maggie "Alienation of Affection" Gloria Miriam Flynn, James Hampton, Conchata Ferrell


  1. "'King and I' Set at Brandywine." The Morning News (Wilmington, DE). (March 22, 1968): p. 28.
  2. "Traveling Cast." The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (June 6, 1968): p. 44.
  3. Rettew, Tom. "Brandywine Alumni Give Polished Performance of 'Cabaret'." The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (September 4, 1970): p. 16.
  4. "French Farce at U. of D." The Morning News (Wilmington, DE). (August 6, 1969): p. 23.
  5. Dekom, Otto. "Lively and Otherwise: Shaw’s Wit Attacked Wars." The Morning News (Wilmington DE). (October 29, 1969): p. 65.
  6. "Reader’s Theater at U. of D. Presents 'Brecht on Brecht.'" The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (May 8, 1970): p. 25.
  7. "U. of D. Summer Festival to Present 'Guys and Dolls'." The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (July 20, 1970): p. 15.
  8. Hully, Martha. "'Guys and Dolls' at U. of D. – But Without Runyon Flair." The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (July 24, 1970): p. 16.
  9. Dekom, Otto. "Lively and Otherwise: 'Guys and Dolls' Gets A (aught) for Effort." The Morning News (Wilmington, DE). (July 28, 1970): p. 15.
  10. Dekom, Otto. "Lively and Otherwise," etc.
  11. Themal, Harry F. “Raters Prune ‘Orange’: True to Hypocritical Oath.” The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (September 25, 1972): p. 32.
  12. Daily Variety review of Lolly Madonna XXX, cited in Themal, Harry F. “Oscar Nominations Mean Box Office Bonanza.” The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (February 19, 1973): p. 36.
  13. Ellison, Harlan. Rev. of Lolly Madonna XXX, originally published for The Staff in 1973. Harlan Ellison’s Watching: Stories. (E-book) New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2015.
  14. Cited in Themal, Harry F. "Goodfellow’s Career Back on Track." The Morning News (Wilmington, DE). (October 6, 1985): pp. 99-100.
  15. Cited in Themal, Harry F. "Goodfellow’s Career Back on Track," etc.
  16. Cited in Themal, Harry. "Wilmington Girl Stars in Film." The Morning News (Wilmington, DE). (May 27, 1974): p. 34.
  17. Cocks, Jay. "In the Pawpaw Patch." Time. (September 16, 1974): p. 16.
  18. Van Gelder, Lawrence. "'Buster and Billie,' High School Youth in Rural Georgia of '48." New York Times. (August 22, 1974).
  19. Judd, Wally. “’Wilmington’s Own’ Makes Her Mark: But She Doesn’t Talk Much as Billie.” The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (August 15, 1974): p. 30.
  20. Buster and Billie advertisement. The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (August 16, 1974): p. 24.
  21. Judd, Wally. “’Wilmington’s Own’ Makes Her Mark, etc."
  22. Themal, Harry. “Goodfellow Merits Oscar.” The Morning News (Wilmington, DE). (August 14, 1974): p. 18.
  23. Themal, Harry. “Previously Barred Lucia to be Shown.” The Morning News (Wilmington, DE). (August 12, 1974): p. 17.
  24. Crabtree, Margaret. “Goodfellow Makes Proud Grandparent.” The Morning News (Wilmington, DE). (September 3, 1976): p. 28.
  25. "Jan-Michael Vincent: 'White Line Fever' Is Country Song." (Chicago Sun-Times News Service). Corpus Christi Caller-Times. (August 18, 1975): p. 14.
  26. Wuntch, Philip. “It’s a Good Week to Set Your VCR for Late Night Classics.” Dallas Morning News, TV Magazine. (October 18, 1987): p. 40.
  27. Crabtree, Margaret. “Goodfellow Makes Proud Grandparent,” etc.
  28. Crabtree, Margaret. “Goodfellow Makes Proud Grandparent,” etc.
  29. “Delawarean Has a Top Role in ‘Sunburn’.” The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (August 19, 1979): p. 34.
  30. Hayden, Bill. “NBC Finds Vehicle for Tanya Tucker.” The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (January 8, 1979): p. 19.
  31. According to the film's credits, the song's title was "Let Somebody Love You", words and music by the film's composer, Bradford Craig. See the IMDB website for soundtracks of Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill. Tracy Nelson performed an off-screen reprise of the song over the movie's final scenes.
  32. Themal, Harry. F. “Goodfellow’s Career Back on Track,” etc.
  33. Themal, Harry F. “Goodfellow’s Career Back on Track.” The Morning News (Wilmington, DE). (October 6, 1985): pp. 99-100.
  34. Cited in Themal, Harry F. “Goodfellow’s Career Back on Track," etc.
  35. Winn, Steven. "’Biloxi’ is Back – In Fighting Trim.” San Francisco Chronicle. (September 24, 1987). p. E1.
  36. Kenney, Edward L. "Joan Goodfellow: Belting Some Tunes." The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (April 5, 1986): p. 41.
  37. Hayden, Bill. “’Best of Broadway’ Sings: But Hometown Tune is the Show-Stopper.” The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (November 21, 1986): p. 51.
  38. Mulrooney, Rick. “Delaware Opera Fanatics Stage Their Version of ’Die Fledermaus.’” The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (June 19, 1992): p. 63.
  39. “Bringing Hollywood to Market St. Mall: Local Pro Acts Independently to Create Delaware Film Scene.” The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (December 16, 1993): p. E1-2. It was hoped that the resulting film would be purchased by a cable company. Evidently, it was not, because there is no mention of it in producer Sharon Baker’s filmography.
  40. Mulrooney, Rick. “’Student Prince’ Plays on Simple Beauty.” The News Journal (Wilmington, DE). (May 7, 1997): p. D2.
  41. Firestone, Greer. "Aisle Say: Opera DE With a Classic, UD Ensemble With a New Class." Community News. (April 25, 2011).
  42. Goodfellow also appeared in a short documentary about the making of Lolly-Madonna XXX. It was titled The Moviemakers (1973)
  43. Goodfellow was replaced midway through the series by another actress, Joan Driscoll. See Terrace, Vincent. Encyclopedia of Television Series, Pilots and Specials, 1974-1984. New York: New York Zoetrope, 1985. p. 157.
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