SNARK WEEK: WCW – Joan Collins


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Joan Collins actually trained at the British Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and acted in some solid films in the 1950s and 1960s. But then the 1970s happened, and then Dynasty, and it all gets crazy hilarious. Again, I’m sure she’s a lovely and talented woman. But I cackle every time I see her in 50 pounds of spackle attempting to look historical. So this Snark Week, let’s get our shoulder pads on, shall we?


Decameron Nights (1953)

Bits of famed medieval Italian writer Boccaccio’s life are intermixed with some of his stories. Joan plays two different characters in two different segments: Pampinea and Maria.

1953 Decameron Nights

Okay so that’s very polyester-y…


Land of the Pharaohs (1955)

IN BROWNFACE PEOPLE (NO!) as Princess Nellifer, wife of a self-obsessed Egyptian pharaoh.

1955 Land of the Pharaohs

Ah, ancient Egypt, where the boobs were pointy and cultural/ethnic/racial sensitivity was nonexistent.

1955 Land of the Pharaohs

Okay, so the dress is pretty.

1955 Land of the Pharaohs

Although something tells me this isn’t EXACTLY how Old Kingdom Egyptian women dressed.


The Virgin Queen (1955)

Yep, you read that right! As Beth Throckmorton, lady-in-waiting to an aging Queen Elizabeth I (Bette Davis).

1955 The Virgin Queen

Hair’s up, ruff isn’t floating — what the hell?

1955 The Virgin Queen

Head necklace ahoy, but, pretty!

1955 The Virgin Queen

Phew, at least there are some princess seams to mock!


The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955)

As famed model/actress Evelyn Nesbit, who was at the center of a love triangle and resulting murder scandal in 1906.

1955 The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing

The swing was in her rich, married lover’s apartment.

1955 The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing

SO 1950s-does-1900s.

1955 The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing



The Bravados (1958)

As “Josefa Velarde” in this Western with Gregory Peck.

1958 The Bravados

She’s got a mantilla, that makes her Latina?


Esther and the King (1960)

In the title role in this Biblical story set in ancient Persia.

1960 Esther and the King

Ah yes, another costume designer committed to historical accuracy.

1960 Esther and the King

Ooo, I’m seeing some bouffant and a hint of Dynasty bangs!

1960 Esther and the King

Embrace the girdle, girls!


The Virginian (1967)

In one episode (“The Lady from Wichita”) of this TV Western.

1967 The Virginian

Blue eyeshadow!

1967 The Virginian

Exactly the kind of bouffant they wore in the Old West!


Fallen Angels (1974)

A TV movie based on a Noel Coward play, obviously set in the 1920s.

1974 Fallen Angels

Laying it on a bit thick there, ladies.

1974 Fallen Angels

But hey, the hair isn’t bad!


The Great Adventure (1975)

An orphaned boy and his dog in gold rush Alaska; Joan plays saloon “girl” Sonia.

1975 The Great Adventure

Who DOESN’T love some nylon lace gloves?

1975 The Great Adventure



The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones (1976)

OH MY GOD THIS IS SO ON MY SHORT LIST FOR NEXT YEAR. Yep, the Henry Fielding novel that’s been adapted many times. Joanie plays “Black Bess.”

1976 The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones


1976 The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones

Ohhh she’s a naughty girl!

1976 The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones

I’m sensing some Joan Jett inspiration here.


Gibbsville (1976)

A TV series focused on a small town reporter in the 1940s, Joan guest starred in one episode.

1976 Gibbsville

I am impressed at the lack of hair teasing!


Fantasy Island: My Fair Pharaoh (1980)

“Lucy Atwell [Joan Collins] yearns to immerse herself in the ancient Egyptian world of Queen Cleopatra and Marc Anthony” per IMDB. [Editor’s Note: Trystan watched this episode recently but lost the copy in a hard drive failure so she couldn’t review it for Snark Week!]

1980 Fantasy Island- My Fair Pharaoh

Okay, so it’s modern-set, but THAT’S A LOT OF LOOK.


The Wild Women of Chastity Gulch (1982)

Joan plays the owner of a hoooor-house, Teri from Three’s Company is a lady doctor, shenanigans ensue.

1982 The Wild Women of Chastity Gulch

Joan is a ruffly cornucopia of purple and pink!

1982 The Wild Women of Chastity Gulch

Oh right, it’s the post-Civil War era. Which you can tell by the hair.


Monte Carlo (1986)

On the eve of World War II, Katrina Petrovna (Joanie) is a Russian singer and double agent avenging her husband’s murder by the Gestapo in Monte Carlo.

1986 Monte Carlo


1986 Monte Carlo

I … think she borrowed this from Dynasty.


Sins (1986)

“Young Helene Junot witnesses the death of her mother at the hands of Nazis. Separated from her brother, Edmund, by the war, Helene goes to work at the chateau of the Count De Ville. There she falls in love with his son, to the Count’s objection. She leaves for Paris where she becomes a fashion model and moves up the ladder of success, even becoming the mistress of her former employer. As she builds a magazine empire, Helene looks for her lost brother and seeks justice for her family. Along the way, she makes many enemies who band together to destroy her” per IMDB.


1986 Sins


1986 Sins

Protect her delicate womanhood!

1986 Sins

Look at that Wet N’ Wild eyeshadow palette!

1986 Sins

Oh the tragedy!


Tonight at 8.30 (1991)

A televised version of plays by Noel Coward, in which Joan plays the same lead roles as actress Gertrude Lawrence.

1991 Tonight at 8.30

I have no idea?

1991 Tonight at 8.30

Okay I DO like the hair, but I’m worried that lipstick isn’t thick enough…

1991 Tonight at 8.30

Apparently she gets her “character makeup” on!


Annie: A Royal Adventure! (1995)

Annie goes to England, Joan plays “Lady Edwina Hogbottom,” I think this is a bad idea.

1995 Annie- A Royal Adventure!

1930s or 1960s?


The Clandestine Marriage (1999)

So I didn’t love it, but I have to admit this is a GREAT look for an older actress!

1999 The Clandestine Marriage

Yes, there are definitely questions about those dresses.

1999 The Clandestine Marriage

Going full Madame de Pompadour!

1999 The Clandestine Marriage

Love the wig! The not-totally-spackled makeup!

1999 The Clandestine Marriage

Alright I admit, I may aspire to this someday.


Marple: They Do It With Mirrors (2009)

Guest starring in one episode of the 1950s?-set Agatha Christie series.

2009 Marple - They Do It with Mirrors

I see actual 1950s! Hallelujah!


Which of Joan’s historical costume looks seems most Dynasty-inspired?




About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

22 Responses

  1. Nzie

    So many thoughts! Also, geez, 50s with the conical boobs.

    Land of the Pharoahs—the first and third costumes are obviously crap (but maybe Princess Leia with Jabba the Hutt inspiration?) but the 2nd actually looks like it may have been inspired by real clothing, although, you know, overly glitzed up. Here’s a dress from ancient Egypt at the MFA in Boston:
    Also, I’m pretty sure Margot Robbie’s dress to the SAG awards a few days ago was inspired by this dress.

    I’m genuinely impressed by how not wrong the Virgin Queen movie is. Also, Bette Davis as QEI? Need to see.

    I used to watch old movie channels a lot as a kid, so I’ve actually seen The Bravados… I’m sure going back as an adult I’d identify some problematic elements, but I thought it was a great morality play of sorts at the time.. I probably watched it because I love Gregory Peck. He is trying to avenge bandits who escaped prison after robbing his homestead and killing his wife.. but there’s a big twist when he’s finally in reach of his goal (one that might outweigh some of the cross-border aspect). Can’t say I paid much attention to the costumes at the time, but she’s the only female speaking character I remember besides GP’s daughter (who gets like a line).

    I totally agree about Clandestine Marriage and the Marple one—amazing. :-) Ah, Joan, wish more designers had done as well by you!

  2. Sam Marchiony

    The minute I saw the words Evelyn Nesbit, her songs from Ragtime started playing in my head.
    I think the one that intrigues me the most of these is Sins— the lamé, all the lamé.

  3. ljones1966

    The “18th century” dress from “SINS” is supposed to be a costume. Especially since Collins’ character wore it during the production’s early-to-late 20th century setting.

    And you forgot to add the episode from “Star Trek”, which was set in 1930-31.

    • Kendra

      “The ’18th century’ dress from ‘SINS’ is supposed to be a costume.”

      Right. Did I say otherwise? :)

  4. picasso Manu

    I actually like the Head necklace hairdo and the burgundy dress. One is very pretty… And the other sure packs a punch (but not a mean hook like that lamé thing).

    On th other hand, Mme de Pompadour, no. First, I believe the Marquise was dead long before those hairdos came in style. Second she was a person of impeccable taste: Would have been seen dead in that… confection… thing… dress.

  5. LydiaR

    I saw Fallen Angels on stage in Stratford, Ontario, several years ago and it was one of the funniest shows I have ever seen! I did not know it had ever been filmed. I might have to try to find this somewhere.

  6. Tinny

    I have two main questions:
    1) What is up with her boobs in that first photo? Something doth hoist them up, but bringeth not them together.
    2) For the love of god who even brought that much tanning lotion to the set of Land of the Pharaohs? Did they dip her in a vat of it entirely or what? How? Why?

    After those two I sort of became a bit numb and couldn’t criticise anything anymore. That is, not until I saw the wtf shoulderpaddery in that Monte Carlo cape (???) picture and I’m pretty sure that thing is straight out of either Star Trek or RuPaul’s closet.

    Loved the Mrs Marple episode she was in, though.

    • J Lou

      Tinny said “What is up with her boobs in that first photo? Something doth hoist them up, but bringeth not them together.”

      She’s undoubtedly wearing a Playtex Cross Your Heart Bra — It Lifts! It Separates! You’re Suddenly Shaplier!

  7. MoHub

    Don’t forget her somewhat frumpy 1930s wear—with total 1960s hair and makeup—in the original Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.”

  8. Alys Mackyntoich

    Dynasty really was the worst thing that ever happened to Joan Collins’ credibility. Probably the best thing for her pocketbook, though.

  9. Bea

    I’m glad other people mentioned City on the Edge of Forever :) so I don’t have to.

  10. Libby Stephenson

    No “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat?” It’s set in Biblical times, with the traditional rhinestone pseudo-pasties!

  11. SarahV

    This was hilarious! Also, I have a soft spot in heart and probably my head for “The Wild Women of Chastity Gulch.” . That title has stuck in my head for decades, even though my mother wouldn’t let me watch it.

  12. Teresa

    That interior shot of “Princess Nellifer” (no one took the time to find an actual Egyptian name) shows that someone had an idea of how an Old Kingdom dress should look–but then they spoiled it with the shiny fabric, the cinched-in waist, and the slit hem. The statue of Rahotep and Nofret in the Cairo Museum is a good example of Old Kingdom royalty in their fine clothes. White or off-white linen, with semiprecious stones in jewelry for color–none of that ghastly shiny stuff.

    The other costumes Ms. Collins is wearing were clearly inspired by orientalist belly-dancer fantasies. But since the movie opens with the King returning from a tiger(!) hunt, it’s clear that the viewer can’t expect any accuracy. I watched the movie on Saturday afternoon TV, and although at the age of ten I found it pretty impressive, I do believe I recognized the tiger problem (just as I noticed novelist Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s mistake in putting goldfish in 18th Dynasty garden pools).

  13. saffireblu

    I’m absolutely certain no one will ever get Ancient Egypt right- in any era > (looking at you, ‘Rome’- Ptolemaic/ Hellenistic Egypt did not look like that- I don’t care or believe your BS that this is from the ‘Roman PoV’) – I think I actually cried watching ‘Land of the Pharaohs’- the aspirant Egyptologist in child-me wept for the travesty of lame` & way too much tanning lotion/ brown-face… sad thing is, modern movies haven’t gotten any better: WE DO HAVE ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE FOR HOW PEOPLE LOOKED & DRESSED- WE DON’T NEED YOUR BS FANTASY DESIGNS – TRY GOING TO A FRICKIN’ MUSEUM, OR CRACKING A DAMN BOOK. I’m sorry.

    ‘Agora’ might be an exception.