In 1955, at the age of 22, Collins headed to Hollywood and landed sultry roles in several popular films, including The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955) and Rally Round the Flag, Boys! (1958). While she continued to make films in the US and the UK throughout the 1960s, she also guest-starred in an episode of Star Trek in 1967 named "The City on the Edge of Forever", as Edith Keeler. Her career languished in the 1970s, when she appeared in a number of horror films. Near the end of the decade, she starred in two softcore pornographic films based on best-selling novels by her younger sister Jackie Collins: The Stud (1978) and its sequel The Bitch (1979).
She began appearing on stage, playing the title role in the 1980 British revival of The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, and later had a lead role in the 1990 revival of Noël Coward's Private Lives. In 1981, she landed the role of Alexis Colby, the vengeful and scheming ex-wife of John Forsythe's character, in the 1980s soap opera Dynasty, winning a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in 1982; she is credited with the success of Dynasty, which was the most-watched television series in the United States during the 1984-85 broadcast season. Collins also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1983 for career achievement.
Collins was born in Paddington, London, the daughter of Elsa Collins (née Bessant), a dance teacher and nightclub hostess, and Joseph William Collins (died 1988), an agent whose clients would later include Shirley Bassey, the Beatles, and Tom Jones. Her father, a native of South Africa, was Jewish, and her British mother was Anglican. She has two younger siblings, Jackie (1937–2015) and Bill, a property agent. She was educated at the Francis Holland School, an independent day school for girls in London and then trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
At the age of 17, Collins was signed to the J. Arthur Rank Film Company, a British film studio.
Collins made her feature debut as a beauty contest entrant in Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951) followed by The Woman's Angle (1952) in a minor role as a Greek maid. Next was a more significant role as a gangster's moll in Judgment Deferred (1952). Her big break came when the Rank Organisation signed her for a major role in I Believe in You (1952). Other roles to follow included Cosh Boy (1953), Decameron Nights (1953), Turn the Key Softly (1953), The Square Ring (1953) and Our Girl Friday (1953).
She was chosen by director Howard Hawks to star in his lavish production of Land of the Pharaohs (1955) as the scheming Princess Nellifer opposite Jack Hawkins. This role led to a contract at 20th Century Fox, which had Collins appear or star in such films as The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955), The Opposite Sex (1956), Sea Wife (1957), The Wayward Bus (1957), Island in the Sun (1957), Stopover Tokyo (1958), The Bravados (1958), and Rally Round the Flag, Boys (1959). She finished her Fox contract with the crime caper Seven Thieves (1960) and the biblical epic Esther and the King (1960). One notable film release in the 1960s was The Road to Hong Kong (1962), the last "road" picture of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.
She took a hiatus from her film career to concentrate on having a family after marrying Anthony Newley, and when she resumed her career, it was in the medium of television. Her notable guest appearances on American television during the 1960s and 1970s included Batman, The Virginian, Mission: Impossible, Police Woman, and the original Star Trek; in the latter, she acted out the role of Edith Keeler in the episode titled "The City on the Edge of Forever". Collins also had a guest appearance alongside Roger Moore and Tony Curtis on ITV's television series The Persuaders! as Sidonie in the episode from 1972 called 'Five Miles to Midnight'.
In the 1970s, Collins made several films, few of them notable, and then starred in the film versions of her sister Jackie Collins's racy novels The Stud and The Bitch. The films were extremely successful financially. The Stud, made for $600,000, went on to gross over $20,000,000 internationally.
In 1981, Collins was offered a role in the second season of the then-struggling new soap opera Dynasty (1981–89) playing Alexis Carrington, the beautiful and vengeful ex-wife of tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe). Her performance is generally credited as one factor in the fledgling show's subsequent rise in the Nielsen ratings to a hit rivaling Dallas.
In 1985, Dynasty was the number-one show in the United States, beating out Dallas, which ranked number two. For her portrayal of Alexis, Collins was nominated six times for a Golden Globe Award (every year from 1982 to 1987), winning once in 1983, the same year she was nominated for an Emmy as Best Actress in a Drama Series. Upon accepting the award, Collins thanked Sophia Loren for turning down the part of Alexis. At the age of 50, Collins appeared in a 12-page photo layout for Playboy magazine shot by George Hurrell.
In 1983, Collins starred in Making of a Male Model with young model-actor Jon-Erik Hexum, and in 1984, played a soap star in The Cartier Affair with David Hasselhoff. In the same year, she co-hosted the ABC-TV special Blondes vs. Brunettes. With Dynasty at the height of its success, Collins began producing and starred in the 1986 CBS miniseries Sins and Monte Carlo. The first of these two had good ratings, but the second was critical and ratings disappointment.
In the 2001 E! True Hollywood Story episode featuring Dynasty, former ABC executive Ted Harbert stated, "The truth is we didn't really believe that we had this thing done as a hit until Joan Collins walked down that courtroom aisle." Co-star Al Corley noted that Collins "just flew" in the role that was "tailor made...just spot on." In Dynasty producer Aaron Spelling's final press interview, he said of Collins: "We didn't write Joan Collins. She played Joan Collins. Am I right? We wrote a character, but the character could have been played by 50 people and 49 of them would have failed. She made it work."
After the end of Dynasty in 1989, Collins took time off. She rejoined her co-stars for Dynasty: The Reunion, a 1991 miniseries that concluded the series which had been left with a cliffhanger ending after its abrupt cancellation. In the 1990s, Collins made several guest-star appearances on series such as Roseanne, The Nanny and Will & Grace. She also appeared as the main characters of films such as Decadence (1994) and Annie: A Royal Adventure! (1995) (in the latter of which she plays the main antagonist, Lady Edwina Hogbottom) during this period.
In 1990, Collins played Amanda in a revival of Noël Coward's Private Lives. She later appeared in the same play in 1992, starring alongside Simon Jones. In 1991, Collins also appeared in Noël Coward's Tonight at 8:30. She was selected as the cover model for the relaunch of the popular celebrity magazine OK! when it changed from being a monthly to a weekly.
In 1999, Collins was cast in the film version of musical theatre show Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She played two roles in this film: a pianist and the wife of Egyptian millionaire Potiphar. In 2000, Collins joined the cast of The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, a prequel to the Universal Studios live-action film The Flintstones (1994). She reprised the supporting role of Pearl Slaghoople, Wilma Flintstone's mother, that Elizabeth Taylor had originated. In 2001, she co-starred in the television film These Old Broads with Debbie Reynolds, Shirley MacLaine, and Taylor. The film was written for television by Reynolds's daughter, Carrie Fisher.
In 2002, Collins returned to soap operas in a limited guest run on the American daytime soap Guiding Light. In 2005, actress Alice Krige impersonated Collins in Dynasty: The Making of a Guilty Pleasure, a fictionalised television film based on the creation and behind-the-scenes production of Dynasty.
In early 2006, Collins toured the United Kingdom in An Evening with Joan Collins, a one-woman show in which she detailed the highs and lows of her career and life, directed by her by-then husband Percy Gibson. In 2006, she reunited with her Dynasty co-stars for the nonfiction special Dynasty Reunion: Catfights and Caviar. Later that year, she began a tour of North America in the play Legends! with former Dynasty co-star Linda Evans, which concluded in May 2007 after a 30-week run.
In 2005, Collins joined the cast of the hit British television series Footballer's Wives for a limited run. She also guest-starred in the BBC series Hotel Babylon in 2006 as a lonely aristocrat desperate for romance. Collins appeared in "They Do It with Mirrors," a two-hour episode of the murder-mystery drama Marple in 2009, as Ruth Van Rydock, a friend of detective Miss Jane Marple.
On 24 January 2010, it was announced that Collins was joining the German soap opera Verbotene Liebe (Forbidden Love) for a short run. She played an aristocratic British woman, Lady Joan, who takes a young prince, portrayed by German actor Stephan Kaefer (Stephan Käfer), in tow. Collins started shooting on 22 February 2010 and appeared on-screen in April 2010.
She made her pantomime debut in Dick Whittington as Queen Rat at the Birmingham Hippodrome during the 2010 Christmas season, starring alongside Nigel Havers, Keith Harris and Julian Clary. In May 2013, Collins announced on her Twitter profile that she would be joining the cast of the British sitcom Benidorm in a guest role. She lent her voice to the animated feature film Saving Santa (2013) and starred in the fantasy Molly Moon, which was slated for release in 2015.
In August 2014, People reported that Collins would guest-star on the forthcoming E! drama series The Royals as the Grand Duchess of Oxford, the mother of fictional British Queen Helena (Elizabeth Hurley).
In June 2015, Collins backed the children's fairytales app GivingTales in aid of UNICEF, together with Roger Moore, Ewan McGregor, Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, Michael Caine, David Walliams, Charlotte Rampling and Paul McKenna.
Collins has been married five times, first to Northern Irish actor Maxwell Reed, whom she married on 24 May 1952 after he allegedly raped her, and divorced in 1956. She then married actor and singer-songwriter Anthony Newley in 1963 and American businessman and manager Ron Kass in 1972; she had two children, Tara and Sacha, with Newley and her third, Katyana, with Kass. Collins's marriage to Kass ended in divorce in 1983. On 3 November 1985, Collins married Swedish singer Peter Holm in a ceremony in Las Vegas. They were divorced on 25 August 1987. She married her fifth husband Percy Gibson (born 1965) on 17 February 2002 at Claridge's Hotel in London.
As of 2013, Collins has three grandchildren.
Collins maintains residences in London, Los Angeles, New York City, and France, describing her life as being "that of a gypsy".
Collins's younger sister was Jackie Collins, a pioneer of romantic novels, who died in September 2015. Collins was told only two weeks before her sister's death of the breast cancer she'd had for over six years.
After decades of flirting with British politics, on 24 May 2004, Collins joined the United Kingdom Independence Party. In early 2005, Collins commented that she had rejoined the Conservative Party, stating, "The Labour Party doesn't care about the British people."
Collins contributes to The Spectator as a guest diarist, something she has done since the late 1990s. Collins also writes occasionally for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Lady in the United Kingdom, and Harper's Bazaar in the United States. In September 2008, Collins signed on to the Sunday Telegraph as a weekly opinions columnist through the final quarter of the year before leaving to pursue other projects. She was a supporter of the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and was invited to attend Thatcher's funeral on 17 April 2013. Collins is also a staunch monarchist, stating "I'm a big monarchist and I love the Queen." Collins favours British withdrawal from the European Union.
Collins has publicly supported several charities for several decades. In 1982, Collins spoke before the U.S. Congress about increasing funding for neurological research. In 1983, she was named a patron of the International Foundation for Children with Learning Disabilities, earning the foundation's highest honour in 1988 for her continuing support. Additionally, 1988 also had the opening of the Joan Collins Wing of the Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. In 1990, she was made an honorary founding member of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. In 1994, Collins was awarded the lifetime achievement award from the Association of Breast Cancer Studies in Great Britain for her contribution to breast cancer awareness in the UK. Collins is patron of Fight for Sight; in 2003, she became a patron of the Shooting Star Chase Children's Hospice in Great Britain, while continuing to support several foster children in India, something she has done for the past 25 years. Collins serves her former school, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, as the Honorary President of the RADA Associates.
Collins has established herself as a successful author. In addition to her bestselling novels, 'Prime Time', 'Love & Desire & Hate', 'Infamous' (aka 'Too Damn Famous'), 'Star Quality', 'Misfortune's Daughters' and 'The St. Tropez Lonely Hearts Club', she has also written six lifestyle books, 'The Joan Collins Beauty Book', 'Health, Youth & Happiness: My Secrets', 'My Friends' Secrets', 'Joan's Way: Looking Good, Feeling Great' (aka 'The Art of Living Well'), and 'The World According to Joan', as well as memoirs, 'Past Imperfect', 'Katy: A Fight for Life', 'Second Act' and 'Passion For Life'. To date, she has sold over 50 million copies of her books which have been translated into 30 languages.
In the 1990s, Collins was embroiled in a high-profile legal battle with the publisher Random House, which was televised daily on Court TV. Collins had signed a two-book deal with the company for $4 million and they had given her a $1.2 million advance. In September 1991, Collins delivered a 690-page manuscript of a novel entitled The Ruling Passion to Random House. However, the publishing firm deemed the manuscript to be of such poor quality that they demanded the return of the $1.2 million advance they had paid to Collins, claiming she had failed to deliver completed books as per her contract. Collins countersued, arguing that her contract required her only to submit a "complete manuscript" not an "acceptable" one. Since she had turned in two novels to the publishing company, A Ruling Passion in 1991 and a second novel, Hell Hath No Fury, in 1992, as her contract stipulated, she felt Random House owed her the rest of the $4 million. She contended that Random House had not provided the editorial assistance she had expected.
Her Random House contract, negotiated by agent Irving Lazar, required that she be paid even if her completed manuscripts were not published. When the case was finally heard in February 1996, a court determined that Collins could keep the advance given to her plus a further $1 million for the first completed manuscript, but that the publisher did not have to pay for the second manuscript since it was essentially a reworking of the first. Guinness World Records cites Collins as holding the record for retaining the world's largest unreturned payment for an unpublished manuscript.MemoirPast Imperfect: An Autobiography (1978)Katy: A Fight for Life, A Memoir (1982)Second Act: An Autobiography (1996)Passion For Life: An Autobiography (2013)NonfictionThe Joan Collins Beauty Book (1980)Portraits of a Star (1987)My Secrets (1994)Health, Youth and Happiness: My Secrets (1995)My Friends' Secrets (1999)Joan's Way: Looking Good, Feeling Great (2002)The Art of Living Well: Looking Good, Feeling Great (2007)The World According to Joan (2011)FictionPrime Time, a novel (1988)Love and Desire and Hate, a novel (1990)Too Damn Famous, a novel (1995) retitled Infamous for US (1996)Star Quality, a novel (2002)Misfortune's Daughters, a novel (2004)The St. Tropez Lonely Hearts Club, a novel (2015)By other authorsJoan Collins by John Kercher, Gallery Books (1984)Joan Collins, Superstar: A Biography by Robert Levine, Dell Publishing (1985)A Touch of Collins by Joe Collins, Columbus Books (1986)Inside Joan Collins: A Biography by Jay David, Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. (1988)Hollywood Sisters: Jackie and Joan Collins by Susan Crimp and Patricia Burstein, St. Martin's Press (1989)Joan Collins: The Biography of an Icon by Graham Lord, Orion (2007)
In the early 1950s, Collins appeared as a teenager in a Gas Board Commercial.
In the early 1970s, she appeared in television and magazine advertisements for British Airways, in which she was referred to as their "Most Frequent Flyer of First Class", a title she has maintained, having promoted the airline for more than three decades.
In 1978, she appeared alongside Leonard Rossiter in a series of Cinzano TV commercials in which the drink was spilled down her dress. It was named as one of the Top 100 British Adverts in a Channel 4 poll.
In the mid-1980s, Collins appeared in print advertisements for Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Sanyo, and was the face of Revlon's Scoundrel perfume.
In 1988, she appeared in three TV commercials for the Bristol and West Building Society.
In 1991, she appeared in a television commercial for British Gas.
In 1992, she appeared in internationally broadcast television commercials for Marca Bravaria beer, while acting as the face of the perfume Spectacular.
Since 2000, she has appeared in TV ads for UK retailer Marks & Spencer, Olympus cameras, Old Navy, and Marriott hotels.
In 2007, Collins fronted two high-profile advertising campaigns. The first was as the face of skincare company Cellex-C's Ageless 15 Skin Serum; the second was as the face of the Royal Mail's Christmas campaign.
In 2008, Collins took part in an online and print advertising campaign for the Dorchester Hotel in London and a Christmas television commercial for Marks & Spencer.
In 2010, Collins was named the face of Alexis Bittar Jewelry for Spring Fashion Week.
In 2012, she appeared in an advertisement for Snickers chocolate bars, alongside Stephanie Beacham.
Collins is known to have made several forays into singing.In 1959, she performed "It's Great Not To Be Nominated" at the Academy Awards with actresses Angela Lansbury and Dana Wynter.In 1962, she sang "Let's Not Be" in the film The Road to Hong Kong with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.Collins teamed up with Peter Sellers and her then-husband Anthony Newley in 1963 to record the album Fool Britannia, which made the UK Top 10.In 1968, she sang a zodiac-themed duet with Newley, titled "Chalk & Cheese", in Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?Collins's role in the 1986 mini-series Monte Carlo was as Katrina Petrovna, a singer who doubles as a spy; "The Last Time I Saw Paris" was one of the songs she sang in character.In 2001, Collins sang several songs in the television movie These Old Broads, including Get Happy.In 2001, Collins appeared in Badly Drawn Boy's video for "Spitting In The Wind".
Collins was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1997 New Year Honours for services to drama, and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to charity.1957: Star of Tomorrow1957: Motion Picture Magazine Award, Most Promising New Star1978: Saturn Award nomination, Best Actress in a Science Fiction film, Empire of the Ants1982: Golden Globe nomination, Best Actress in a TV Series (Drama), Dynasty1982: Hollywood Women's Press Club, Female Star of 19821982: Golden Apple Award, Female Star of the Year1983: Emmy Award nomination, Best Actress in a TV Series (Drama), Dynasty1983: The Hollywood International Spotlight Award1983: Golden Globe, Best Actress in a TV Series (Drama), Dynasty1983: Cable ACE Award nomination, Best Actress in a Drama Series, Faerie Tale Theatre's Hansel and Gretel1983: Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Career Achievement1984: People's Choice Award, Favorite female television performer, Dynasty1984: Soap Opera Digest Award, Outstanding Villainess in a Primetime Drama Series, Dynasty1984: Golden Globe nomination, Best Actress in a TV Series (Drama), Dynasty1985: People's Choice Award, nomination Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, Dynasty1985: Soap Opera Digest Award, Outstanding Villainess in a Primetime Drama Series, Dynasty1985: Golden Globe nomination, Best Actress in a TV Series (Drama), Dynasty1986: Soap Opera Digest Award nomination, Outstanding Villainess in a Primetime Drama Series and Outstanding Actress in a Comic Relief Role in a Primetime Drama Series, Dynasty1986: People's Choice Award, nomination favourite female television performer, Dynasty1986: Telegatto Television Awards, Best Actress in a TV Series (Drama), Dynasty1986: Golden Globe nomination, Best Actress in a TV Series (Drama), Dynasty1987: Golden Globe nomination, Best Actress in a TV Series (Drama), Dynasty1988: Soap Opera Digest Award nomination, Outstanding Villainess in a Primetime Drama Series, Dynasty1996: OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II for her contribution to the arts and ongoing charity work1999: Millennium Award of Achievement, Golden Camera Film Council2000: Golden Raspberry Award nomination, Worst Supporting Actress, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas2001: Golden Nymph, Outstanding Female Actor, Monte Carlo Television Festival2002: Icon Award, Maxim Magazine, UK2003: TV Land Awards, nomination, Hippest Fashion Plate – Female2005: Lifetime Achievement Award, San Diego International Film Festival2008: Legend Award, Los Angeles Italia-Film, Fashion and Arts Festival2010: New York City International Film Festival, Best Actress, Fetish2010: Beverly Hills Film, TV and New Media Festival, Best Actress, Fetish2011: Cosmetic Executive Women (UK) Lifetime Achievement Award2012: Shorts Awards, Visionary Actress, Fetish2013: Lifetime Achievement Award, Sedona International Film Festival2014: Awards "Freedom of the City of London"2015: DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for services to charity (in the 2015 New Years Honours List)2015: UKARES awards "The UKares Icon Award"2016: Arts for India, Lifetime Achievement Award2016: ABC Talk of the Town Gala/John Wayne Cancer Centre, Spirit of Entertainment Award1946, A Doll's House at the Arts Theatre, London.1952, The Seventh Veil at the Q Theatre, London.1952, Jassey at the Q Theatre, London.1953, The Praying Mantis UK Tour.1953, Claudia and David at the Q Theatre, London.1954, The Skin of Our Teeth at the Q Theatre, London.1979, Murder in Mind at the Yvonne Arnaud and Theatre Royal, Guildford & Brighton.1980, The Last of Mrs. Cheyney at the Chichester Festival Theatre, Chichester.1981, The Last of Mrs. Cheyney at the Cambridge Theatre, London.1990–1991, Private Lives at the Aldwych Theatre, London.1991–1992, Private Lives at the Broadhurst Theatre, New York City.2000, Love Letters US Tour.2001, Over the Moon at the Old Vic Theatre, London.2004, Full Circle UK Tour.2006, An Evening with Joan Collins UK Tour.2006–2007, Legends North American Tour.2010, One Night with Joan at Feinsteins at the Regency, New York.2010–2011, Dick Whittington at the Birmingham Hippodrome, UK2011, One Night with Joan Australian Tour.2011–2014, One Night with Joan at the Leicester Square Theatre, London.2012, One Night with Joan at the Alban Arena, St Alban's, Hertfordshire, UK.2012, Joan Collins: One Night in the Hay at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London.2012, One Night with Joan at the De La Mar Theatre, Amsterdam, Netherlands.2013, One Night with Joan UK Tour.2016, Unscripted UK Tour.