SCV in the Movies: Episode 30: Actress Joan Staley Sheets & Universal’s Dale Sheets
Joan Staley (born Joan Lynette McConchie on May 20, 1940 in Minneapolis, Minnesota) is an American actress.
Staley grew up in Los Angeles. At the age of three, her mother took her to a concert, after which Joan requested a violin. When her mother realized she was serious, she obliged. Her first instructor was Karl Moldrem, the founder of The Baby Symphony in Los Angeles. By age six, she had won by audition first chair/second violin in Peter Meremblum’s Junior Symphony (Andre Previn was an alumnus). This led to her first film appearance, as a child violinist in The Emperor Waltz, starring Bing Crosby and Joan Fontaine.
Her mother and father were missionaries in Africa, after which her father joined the Army as an Army chaplain. His career facilitated her high school experiences in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Munich, Germany, and Paris, France.
She briefly attended Chapman College, after which she moved to where her father was stationed in San Francisco to find work as the only teletype operator at the William R. Stats brokerage firm. She married Charles Staley in 1956, whom she had met in France. They moved to Memphis, where he was working as a television director. Staley worked as an legal secretary for Homer L. Armstrong, a local attorney in Memphis. It was also during this period that Staley sang occasional backup for Sun Records, of Elvis fame.
The Little Theater in Hollywood proved a welcome vehicle for Joan’s talents. She procured roles in The Robe, Fiona in Brigadoon, and My Sister Eileen with Joanne Worley. This led to small roles in live television, such as Playhouse 90, Climax, and Studio One with such luminaries as Joan Blondell. These appearances opened the door for her in film and television. Joan’s first role in film was a Perry Mason episode.
In early 1958, Lawrence Schiller, a Life photographer, approached Staley and asked her to pose for Playboy. They did a photo shoot together, which resulted in the actual spread used by Playboy. Hef selected her to be Miss November 1958.
Her first marriage to television director Chuck Staley lasted five years. They had a daughter, Sherrye Dee Staley, born in 1959.
During this time, MGM signed her to contract. She was one of the last actresses blessed by the great MGM contract system. Her working experience in the opening credits with Vincent Minnelli for Bells Are Ringing, starring Judy Holliday, was, for her, a memorable start to her film career. Staley enjoyed a film and television career that lasted through the 1960s and into the early 1970s. Her first guest-starring role was on The Untouchables.
For her first ongoing series role, she was featured in multiple appearances on the popular sitcom The Tab Hunter Show, where she was widely recognized for her comedic abilities. In 1961, she appeared in several roles in The Lawless Years, a 1920s crime drama starring James Gregory. After The Lawless Years, she enjoyed a recurring role as David Nelson’s secretary in The Ozzie and Harriet Show. She went on to guest star on Phil Silvers’s sitcom The New Phil Silvers Show. A year later, she co-starred with Vic Damone in The Lively Ones for NBC, the summer replacement series for The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show. She was a featured artist in the Elvis Presley movie, Roustabout.
Staley made guest appearances on multiple episodes of such series as Perry Mason, Stoney Burke, Wagon Train, McHale’s Navy, The Virginian, Burke’s Law and Batman, Maverick, Hawaiian Eye, and Surfside Six, among others. She was also a regular as Hannah, the secretary to series character Stuart Bailey (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) on the seventh and final season of the ABC/Warner Brothers crime drama, 77 Sunset Strip. One of her favorite roles was a small part in A New Kind of Love, starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, in which she had a sequence with Paul Newman.
In 1964, she appeared on McHale’s Navy and was signed to a Universal contract for the McHale’s Navy spin-off Broadside where she co-starred with Kathleen Nolan, Sheila James and Dick Sargent. Her character was Roberta “Honey-Hips” Love, a former stripper who had joined the Navy.
She also worked alongside other then up-and-coming artists such as Charles Bronson. She joined the cast of William Shatner, David Janssen, and Carroll O’Connor in two pilots; unfortunately, neither saw screen time. She co-starred alongside Audie Murphy in the action/Western, Gunpoint. Her character sang in one sequence (Joan’s own voice), and she was thrilled to have been accompanied by Laurindo Almeida, the famous guitarist.
She and her husband founded International Ventures Incorporated (1969) and continue to manage talent to this day. The Sheets live in Southern California, where Staley is active in consumer affairs, her church, and prison ministry.
ABOUT E.J. STEPHENS
E.J. Stephens is a noted Hollywood historian, author, lecturer and tour guide. An Indiana native, E.J. has lived for 10 years in the Santa Clarita Valley with his wife Kimi and their two children, Mariah and Dylan.
By day, E.J. can be found in Burbank on the Warner Bros. Studios lot where he is a tour guide and an audience coordinator on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show. When not giving tours at the studio, E.J. and Kimi host tours of their own for their Newhall-based company, Newhallywood Tours.
E.J. has co-written four books on subjects ranging from the history of Warner Bros. and Paramount to Griffith Park and the Santa Clarita Valley (the latter with Kimi and Dr. Alan Pollack). The trio is currently working on another SCV history book titled “Then & Now: The Santa Clarita Valley,” scheduled to hit the shelves in early 2014.
ABOUT BILL WEST
Bill West is a movie nut who serves on the board of Friends of Hart Park, gives tours of the Hart Mansion and maintains the Friends’ website.
In his spare time, Bill writes software for Walt Disney Imagineering, where he has contributed to Star Tours, Toy Story Midway Mania, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and other attractions. Previously, he wrote software at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Bill enjoys lounge music and he plays the drums for pickup bands. He lives in Santa Clarita with his Realtor (his wife Liliana) and their son Josh. Pets include Maya the Mutt, Luigi the Canary, and a cat whose name he can’t pronounce but is Polish for “kitty.”
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