Actress Brenda Joyce, who played Jane in five “Tarzan” films and was the only actress to star opposite two Tarzans, Johnny Weissmuller and Lex Barker, died July 4 in Santa Monica, after suffering from dementia for a decade. She was 92.
Plucked out of high school in 1939, Joyce played Fern opposite Tyrone Power, Myrna Loy and George Brent in the big-budget adaptation of Louis Bromfield’s “The Rains Came.”
Variety praised her perf saying, “Newcomer Joyce … rings the bell throughout with a consistent performance as a forthright romantic adolescent, stuck on Brent.”
Joyce, who was first known as Betty Laftina Leabo, went on to star in a number of 20th Century Fox films during the 1940s, earning her the reputation as Fox’s so-called “Cinderella Girl.” She appeared in “Here I Am a Stranger,” “Little Old New York” and “Maryland” with Walter Brennan and Fay Bainter.
During the late 40s, Joyce starred with Weissmuller in such “Tarzan” films as “Tarzan and the Amazons” and “Tarzan and the Leopard Woman.” In 1949, she appeared with Barker in her last film, “Tarzan’s Magic Fountain.”
Following her acting career, Joyce, who changed her name to Betty Ward, moved to Washington, D.C., to work with the U.S. Immigration Department, calling it, “the most rewarding work of my life.”
Joyce is survived by two daughters and a son.
— Andrew Stewart