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Brenda Joyce, actress who played Jane in five 'Tarzan' films, dies at 92

July 22, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Brenda Joyce, 92, the only movie actress to portray Jane opposite two different Tarzans -- in five films in the 1940s -- died July 4 at a Santa Monica nursing home, said David Ragan, a friend. She had suffered from dementia for a decade.

Joyce also was the rare blond to play Jane, beginning in 1945 opposite Johnny Weissmuller in "Tarzan and the Amazons." Her final film was 1949's "Tarzan's Magic Fountain," with Lex Barker taking over the title role.

In 1939, she was a model and UCLA student when she was discovered by 20th Century Fox.

She debuted that same year in "The Rains Came" with Myrna Loy and Tyrone Power and went on to make more than two dozen films. They included such B-movie thrillers as "Pillow of Death" (1945) and "The Spider Woman Strikes Back" (1946).

She "projected a wholesome, tomboyish, self-assured quality" that was "exploited only once," in the 1940 film "Maryland," Hal Erickson wrote on allmovie.com.

She was born Betty Graftina Leabo on Feb. 25, 1917, in Kansas City, Mo. In 1941, she married her college sweetheart and had three children before divorcing. A second marriage also ended in divorce.

In 1971, Joyce appeared as herself in two episodes of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."

news.obits@latimes.com

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