Joan Van Ark
Chantel Brink
Chantel Brink
March 17, 2024 ·  4 min read

Recognize her? Better sit before you learn her true identity…

Born on June 16, 1943, in New York City, New York, Joan van Ark’s parents had no ties to Hollywood. When she met actress Julie Harris while performing in Denver as a teen, Joan’s life would change forever. Julie encouraged her to pursue the very well-respected Yale Drama School, getting in on a scholarship she had also arranged.

This made Joan Van Ark the second-ever woman to enroll at the Drama School

She [Harris] 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,” Joan recalled.” It was meant to be.” Joan went on to perform in the theatre for a few years, but her real passion was in Television.

Joan van Ark in her youth
Image Credit: Ron Eisenberg/Michael Ochs

Temperature’s Rising, Spider-Woman, and Days of Our Lives

Joan’s appearances in Temperature’s Rising, Spider-Woman, and Days of Our Lives, and even in one episode of Bonanza brought her great fame. But it was in 1978 that she found true fame – as Valene Ewing on Dallas. This turned out to be the most significant role she has ever played.

The show became a massive hit, leading to Joan appearing on the spin-off, Knots Landing. A show that was in fact written before Dallas. Producers originally chose Dallas as the portrayal of wealthy families was at the top of their list at the time. This left Joan reprising her role in Dallas to join the cast of Knots Landing.

Read: What Happened to ‘Dallas’ Star Patrick Duffy? See Where the Soap Opera Star Is Today

13 Seasons of Knots Landing ensued for Joan Van Ark

Joan’s husband, veteran newscaster John Marshall, was actually the one to persuade her to accept the role while already working on two other projects. There came a time when Val Ewing’s mother was due to be introduced on the show. Lo and behold, none other than Julie Harris was selected for the role. This was the person who truly meant the world to her.

Joan Van Ark as Valene Ewing on Dallas pictured with Ted Shackleford

“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.”

327 Episodes later, Joan Van Ark was ready for new ventures

13 Seasons and 327 episodes later, Joan left a season before the show saw its final season air. She knew many blamed her leaving on the cancellation of the show, but she was ready for new adventures. “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, and divorces. It’s far more difficult to leave than I thought.” Joan thereafter appeared on The Young and The Restless as Gloria Fisher.

Unlike many celebs, Joan married her High-School sweetheart

John Marshall first met Joan in High-School and the two got married soon thereafter. They have a beautiful daughter named Vanessa Marshall who is now also in the entertainment business. 56 years of marriage later, the couple is still deeply in love, living very private lives outside of the limelight.

78 years old with a net worth of $10 million

Joan has accumulated a net worth of $10 million, and at the age of 78, she looks as glamorous as ever, spotted out and about in Los Angeles. She was spotted paying her parking at a meter, sporting some gym clothes and a ponytail, last spotted 3 years ago.

A history of other roles, including Frogs (1972), My First Love (1988), The Last Dinosaur (1977), Shakedown on the Sunset Strip (1988), and Tainted Blood (1993), among many others should not be forgotten. Cameos, including TV series Curious George (2021) and Doom Patrol (2019) had Joan playing the vice of major roles too.

More recently, Joan has taken up a bit of voice acting

Her most recent and last on screen was in 2017 when she co-starred in the television movie Psycho Wedding Crasher. Active for the past five decades in the film industry, Joan Van Ark has become a life member of The Actor’s Studio. What a legend!

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  1. Joan Van Ark Biography.” TV Guide
  2. EXCLUSIVE: Notoriously private Knots Landing star Joan Van Ark, 78, is spotted running errands in LA – in first public sighting in more than THREE years.” Daily Mail UK. Kayla Brantley. June 3, 2022.
  3. Joan Van Ark Biography.” TFP