British actress Joan Collins, daughter of a London theatrical booking agent, made her showbiz bow in a production of The Doll's House -- in a male role. She was 9 years old then, and it would be the last time there would be any doubt as to her gender. With the sort of glamorous countenance that prompted people to ask "why aren't you in movies?", Collins first appeared before the cameras in a small role as a beauty contestant in Lady Godiva Rides Again (1953). She made an auspicious American debut as an Egyptian temptress in Land of the Pharoahs (1955). This assignment led to a contract with 20th Century-Fox, where despite a few good dramatic parts (Girl on the Red Velvet Swing  in particular) and an adroit comic characterization in Rally Round the Flag, Boys (1958), she was written off by critics as decorative but nothing more. She was perilously close to "perennial starlet" status in the 1960s, and by the 1970s was the uncrowned queen of "B" pictures. Offscreen she cut quite a swath through the tabloid headlines; if her autobiography, Past Imperfect is to be believed, she dallied with virtually every male actor in Hollywood except Wile E. Coyote. Her maturation from mere personality to superstar came about when she was cast in 1981 as glamorous and predatory Alexis Carrington on Dynasty, the role giving her arguably the greatest exposure of his career. Though she continued to work steadily up until 2003, she never landed in a project as embraced as Dynasty but highlights include 1995's comedy In the Bleak Midwinter and 2000's The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas.
Despite professional and personal setbacks, Collins has managed to survive in an industry that swallows up lesser starlets on an average of ten per hour. Nor is Joan the only Collins with talent and charisma; her sister Jackie Collins is a highly successful romance novelist, whose books The Bitch and The Stud were turned into films, both starring sibling Joan. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi