Early Life & Childhood
Doren was born Joan Lucille Olander, on February 6, 1931, in Rowena, Dakota, to Warner Carl Olander and Lucille Harriet Bennet (both deceased). She is of Swedish, English, and German ancestry.
In 1946, she worked as an usher at the ‘Pantages Theatre’ in Hollywood, and the following year, she got a small part in a TV series. The same year, Doren sang with Ted Fio Rito’s band and participated in several beauty contests.
At 17, she got married to her first husband, Jack Newman, with whom she had eloped to Santa Barbara. However, they separated soon after, on account of Newman’s abusive nature.
In 1949, she won the titles ‘Miss Eight Ball’ and ‘Miss Palm Springs.’ The same year, she got engaged to heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey. She broke off the engagement upon signing a contract with ‘Universal Studios.’
She was discovered by producer Howard Hughes when she was crowned ‘Miss Palm Springs.’ He launched her career by placing her in several ‘RKO Radio Pictures’ movies. The pair dated for several years.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
From 1951 to 1952, she was seen playing bit parts in a few movies produced by Hughes. Her first acting stint was in a small role in ‘Jet Pilot,’ where she just had a one-word dialogue, “Look!” She appeared uncredited in the film. She later appeared in ‘His Kind of Woman’ for ‘RKO.’ In the same period, she also posed for the famous painter of “pin-up girls” Alberto Vargas, who was associated with the glamorous ‘Vargas Girls.’
During that time, she was discovered by songwriter Jimmy McHugh while working as a showgirl in New York City in Monte Proser’s nightclub version of ‘Billion Dollar Baby.’ He considered her for his musicals initially. Considering her too good for the chorus line, he later decided she should undergo drama training with Ben Bard and ‘Bliss Hayden.’ Phil Benjamin, a casting director at ‘Universal International,’ spotted her while she played ‘Marie’ in a showcase production of ‘Come Back, Little Sheba.’
Doren signed a contract with ‘Universal Studios’ on January 20, 1953. She hoped to bring the kind of success ‘20th Century Fox’ had seen with Marilyn Monroe. At that time, the “Van Doren” name was beginning to garner a lot of interest in the media. Other Van Dorens unrelated to Mamie included two ‘Pulitzer Prize’ winners and a historian. The family’s son made front-page news by winning $129,000 on a TV game show and then admitting the show was rigged. The “Van Doren” name continued to be featured in tabloids and newspapers through the publicity generated by this scandal.
In 1953, Doren was cast in a minor role as a singer in ‘Forbidden.’ The same year, she was cast in ‘The All American,’ as ‘Susie Ward,’ a wayward girl and a “man trap” at a campus beer joint. This was her first major role.
In 1954, she played the supporting role of a slave girl named ‘Lilith’ in ‘Yankee Pasha.’ The following year, she played another supporting role, in the musical ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’’ and starred in the crime drama ‘Running Wild.’
In 1956, Doren appeared opposite Clint Eastwood, an unknown face at that time, in the Western ‘Star in the Dust.’ Despite garnering prominent billing, alongside John Agar and Richard Boone, she made a brief appearance as the daughter of a ranch owner. Tired of ‘Universal’ casting her in mediocre roles, Doren moved on to accept meatier roles in bigger and better movies from other studios.
Between 1958 and 1959, Doren was seen in some of her more noteworthy movies, including ‘Teacher’s Pet’ for ‘Paramount Pictures,’ ‘Born Reckless’ for ‘Warner Bros.,’ ‘High School Confidential,’ and ‘The Beat Generation.’ However, she was also known for her provocative roles, such as those of ‘Silver Morgan’ in ‘Girls Town,’ and ‘Eve’ in ‘The Private Lives of Adam and Eve’ (where she wore only fig leaves). She was also part of ‘The Beautiful Legs of Sabrina,’ ‘Sex Kittens Go to College,’ and ‘Vice Raid.’
‘Universal Studios’ chose not to renew her contract in 1959, making her a free agent. She struggled to find work, and for the next few years, she was only seen in independent low-budget foreign productions that did little to boost her image in the public eye.
After completing ‘The Blonde from Buenos Aires’ in 1961, she took time off from her career. She resurfaced in 1964, with ‘The Candidate,’ followed by ‘Freddy in the Wild West.’ Both of these were low-budget productions and did little to restore her popularity. The same year, she starred in ‘3 Nuts in Search of a Bolt,’ where she had a beer-bath scene. To promote the film, she posed for ‘Playboy.’
Continue Reading Below
In 1966, Doren appeared in ‘The Las Vegas Hillbillys’ with Mansfield. She was also seen in the science-fiction film ‘The Navy vs. the Night Monsters.’ The following year, she starred in ‘You’ve Got to be Smart.’ 1968 saw her in another science-fiction movie, ‘Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women.’
In the next few years, she was seen in several stage productions, including ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,’ ‘Dames at Sea,’ and ‘Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?’ The early 1970s saw her performing at nightclubs in Las Vegas. Since then, Doren has only made guest appearances in low-budget films.
In 2006, she posed for ‘Vanity Fair’ with Pamela Anderson, as part of its annual Hollywood issue.
She has contributed to the soundtracks of films such as ‘The Candidate,’ ‘Girls Town,’ and ‘Untamed Youth.’
Family, Personal Life & Legacy
Doren has married five times. She got married to her first husband, Jack Newman, a sportswear manufacturer, in 1949. They got divorced the same year.
She married her second husband, bandleader, composer, and actor Ray Anthony, in 1955. They had one son, Perry Ray Anthony, born on March 18, 1956. They divorced in 1961.
After her highly publicized on-again, off-again engagement with baseball player Bo Belinsky ended in early 1960s, she married her third husband, Lee Meyers, another baseball player, in 1966. This marriage lasted 2 years.
In 1972, she married businessman Ross McClintock, her fourth husband. The marriage was annulled in 1973. They had met for the first time while working on President Nixon’s re-election campaign.
Since 1979, she has been married to her fifth husband, actor and dentist Thomas Dixon.
In her autobiography, Doren has admitted having affairs with a number of celebrities, such as Jack Dempsey, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Elvis Presley, and Eddie Fisher.