Joan Van Ark first became well-known for her role as Valene Ewing in the Dallas spinoff series, Knots Landing.
The actress, who briefly played the part again in 2012, is now happily married to the man she first fell in love with in high school, and they have a kid together. Despite getting older, Van Ark, who is now 78, is still in good health.
This tells you everything you need to know about Joan Van Ark’s life and her assertion that she is solely to blame for Knots Landing’s demise.
Dorothy Jean Van Ark and Carroll Van Ark had four children together when Joan was born on June 16, 1943 in New York City, New York. When she was 7 years old, her family relocated to Boulder, Colorado, and the new environment was very beneficial to her later in life.
Van Ark always knew she wanted to be an actor, despite the fact that her parents never worked in the film industry (her mother was a writer and her father was in public relations).
When the quarterback of her high school football team declined to invite her to prom, Joan said she made the decision she would go in show business.
“That developed more in Boulder. I auditioned for a play at the Community Playhouse. The quarterback on the football team didn’t ask me to the prom, so I said, ‘Screw boys,’ and went and auditioned for a play,” Joan Van Ark recalled.
“I didn’t get the part I auditioned for but got the flower girl and the bug bit. I did a monologue as my audition, and you could hear a pin drop. They complimented me so much I said, ‘Who needs guys?’
During an interview for a neighbourhood newspaper while performing in Denver, Van Ark met the actress Julie Harris, who convinced her to enrol in the Yale theatre School’s acting and theatre programme.
Van Ark was the second woman to enrol at the prestigious school and the youngest student to ever get a scholarship as a result. Julie Harris was the first female and assisted Van Ark in entering the school.
“She wrote to the dean and asked him to meet me. Long story short, my parents drove me to New Haven, Connecticut, to meet the dean, who gave me a scholarship,” she recalled.” It was meant to be.”
At the Minneapolis Guthrie Theatre, where she played the title role in Molière’s The Miser, Van Ark made her acting debut.After performing at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC, for nearly a year, she relocated to work with the national touring company Barefoot in the Park in 1963, which resulted in her Broadway debut. She starred in The School for Wives and received a Tony Award nomination for
Best Featured Actress in a Play in 1971.
By that time, Joan Van Ark had switched from working on stage to working in front of a screen. She made guest appearances on several television shows, including as Temperature’s Rising, Spider-Woman,
Days of Our Lives, and even in a Bonanza episode.
Even though Joan Van Ark had enough of work, as the 1980s got closer, she was still searching for her important breakthrough role. She made multiple cameos on Dallas as Valene Ewing in 1978, which helped her land the part of a lifetime.
In 1979, Joan Van Ark returned to play Valene Ewing in the Dallas spinoff Knots Landing. She played alongside Michele Lee as Karen and Ted Schakleford as Gary in 327 episodes and rose to fame.
Although it was a Dallas spinoff about the corrupt but affluent Ewing Clan, it was originally introduced to CBS years before.
Dallas was chosen as the “big rich family” show the network sought, nevertheless. But as the studio realised how huge of a show Dallas had become, Knots Landing shot to fame and, after just one season, entered the top 20 of TV ratings.
Knots Landing became the story of Gary Ewing and his wife Valene – played by Van Ark – and how they decided to start a new life in Knots Landing.
Dallas was chosen as the “big rich family” show the network sought, nevertheless. But as the studio realised how huge of a show Dallas had become, Knots Landing shot to fame and, after just one
season, entered the top 20 of TV ratings.
Her husband, John Marshall, who we will return to in a moment, ultimately convinced her to choose Dallas. Furthermore, it was a crucial and vital choice.
“I got the call asking me to do a guest appearance in this show called Dallas, which was attracting a lot of buzz, but I said to my husband, ‘John, why should I even read this script? I can’t be in three places at once,’” she told Express. “Then he read it and said, ‘No, you’ve got to do it. It looks wonderful.’”
“So basically, he talked me into a schedule that had me in LA one day, then flying to Dallas for two days, followed by two days in New York and then back to Texas. But looking at this old cast photo from Knots Landing – the spinoff from Dallas – I’m so glad I listened to him,” she added.
Van Ark, who became known for her part, made a 15-year commitment to Dallas and Knots Landing. She and Julie Harris, who had a long history together as was previously established, reconnected in 1980. As the mother of Van Arks’ character in Knots Landing, Harris’ casting seemed almost too wonderful to be true for the actress.
“When the producers told me they had finally last someone to play my mother, I held my breath,” she recalled in a 1984 interview with Florida Today.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, are they going to say Phyllis Diller or Zsa Zsa Gabor, or who?’ Then they said it was Julie Harris, and I went right through the roof. I couldn’t believe they had picked her to be my mother. They didn’t even know we were friends.”
There were 327 episodes and 13 seasons with Joan Van Ark on the programme. One season later, in 1993, Knots Landing was abruptly cancelled. Joan did not, however, leave because she didn’t enjoy it. It was all about her taking on new challenges, instead.
“I could stay forever on the show and be safe,” Van Ark told the Los Angeles Times in 1992.
“But three years ago, I did Night of the Iguana in Williamstown (Mass.), and I had a quote from Tennessee Williams taped on my mirror, taken from an essay he’d written on success. It said, and I’m paraphrasing here: ‘Security is in the shape of a kidney-shaped pool in Los Angeles, where you sit waiting for your residual checks.’ I was in a comfortable spot on Knots, and an artist should not be comfortable.”
At the same time, Van Ark’s life started to revolve heavily around the television show. Even though she felt at ease leaving, it was still a hard blow because she had assumed it would be simpler.
“I have loved more than life the 13 years I’ve had on that show,” she said. “[Knots Landing creator] David Jacobs is a great influence on my life, has taught me so much about so many things. Ted [Shackelford] is the other half of every breath I take on the show, and personally, he’s a large part of my heart. The people are my family–we have shared marriages, deaths, divorces. It’s far more difficult to leave than I thought.”
Without the excellent chemistry between characters Valen and Gary, the show didn’t quite function. In actuality, Joan accepted responsibility for the show’s cancellation.
“Well, it was my fault. I jumped over to NBC to do a pilot which did not sell,” she said. “I was so ready to go, after fourteen years with the one lady, so I auditioned for the pilot, and they cast me. It wasn’t as cleanly negotiated as it should have been. When the pilot didn’t sell, they asked me back, and I did do the four-hour finale of the show.”
Joan Van Ark retired from the soap opera industry but continued to appear in other television shows. She appeared in a few television films and had small roles in several television series, including
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Joan played Gloria Fisher in 55 episodes of the wildly popular television serial The Young and the Restless between 2004 and 2005.
Hollywood celebrities frequently wed other Hollywood celebrities, yet show business unions don’t always last for very long. But Joan Van Ark, who met the love of her life in high school, didn’t experience it. While they were both students at Boulder, she met her husband, John Marshall. The union took place on a German military installation in 1966.
“Believe me, it was nothing like the marriages [Valene Ewing] has gone through,” she told UPI.
They welcomed Vanessa Marshall, who also decided to pursue a career in entertainment, in 1969. She actually abandoned up on her on-camera acting career after becoming a successful voice-over performer. Instead, Vanessa Marshall has provided voices for various computer games, television shows, and animated movies.
John Marshall later went on to work for NBC and KNBC-TV and win an Emmy. Along with his wife Joan, he has enjoyed a successful career. Vanessa was growing up as the couple worked hard to succeed in their respective fields.
Van Ark found it challenging to run the business while also becoming a mother. She also praises her husband John for maintaining the family unit throughout those trying times.
“He is the reason we have the most wonderful daughter in the world and that the marriage has stayed strong,” Van Ark told The Leader-Post in 1988. “I feel I am the committed person who can’t give up time for this or that.”
“He did not want to miss watching Venessa grow up, and he did not want to miss me,” she added. “He knows correspondents live out of suitcases. John made career choices I didn’t agree with because if it had been me, I would have packed my bags, and I would have been waiving at the airport.”
Joan Van Ark is an actor, but she also enjoys running a lot. The 78-year-old woman, who has finished multiple marathons, described why she prefers to run over seeing a psychotherapist. She asserted, though, that she would never go for a run with her husband.
Why? Because “it’s the quickest way to a divorce that I know of. You’re always criticizing the other’s style,” Joan said.
Joan Van Ark has continued to perform on stage in various theatre productions over the past ten years in addition to starring in films and television shows like Psycho Wedding Crasher and Watercolour
Postcards.But her wonderful influence over Dallas and Knots Landing will always be remembered as her greatest achievement.
Joan Van Ark reportedly has a net worth of roughly $10 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
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