Joyce Van Patten Starred on "As the World Turns." See Her Now at 88.
The actor has been working in Hollywood for seven decades and counting.
As a part of the original 1956 cast of As the World Turns, Joyce Van Patten played Janice Turner, the forbidden love interest of the eldest Hughes son, Donald, who caused him to turn away from matriarch Nancy.
Already a veteran of the stage and part a famous show business family (notable relatives include her brothers, Eight is Enough actor Dick Van Patten, and director Tim Van Patten; and niece, Grace Van Patten, also an actor), the role would mark only the beginning of Van Patten's career on the screen, which would extend over the subsequent six decades. Read on to learn about the remarkable path her life took, and what she's doing now at age 87.
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She's been in some of the biggest television shows ever.
In addition to stage work, including roles in numerous Neil Simon plays, Van Patten racked up a huge number of television credits following her time on As the World Turns. A not-even-close-to-exhaustive list of her appearances over the next two decades includes Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Perry Mason, The Andy Griffith Show, The Odd Couple, Family Affair, Hawaii Five-O, The Bob Newhart Show, Mannix, The Rockford Files, and Columbo.
"It was very easy to get on television," she said on Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast in 2017 of moving to Los Angeles in the 1960s. "They were so excited that all those New York actors came…and you would just get jobs."
In addition to her guest spots, Van Patten spent three years on The Danny Kaye Show, starred with Bob Denver in the 1968-70 comedy series The Good Guys, played Mary's secretary on The Mary Tyler Moore Hour, and appeared on six episodes of the anthology series Love, American Style. While her series appearances slowed down in the 1980s, by the '90s she was back on the small screen, returning to the soap opera genre in the role of Helen Marsh on All My Children in 1993 and playing a pill-popping grandmother in the first two seasons of the comedy Unhappily Ever After. The 2000s found Van Patten with spots on hot shows including NYPD Blue, The Sopranos, Oz, and Desperate Housewives.
She appeared alongside major movie stars on film.
Van Patten has also been active in film over the decades. The late '60s and early '70s found her in a series of movies taking on social themes of the era. In 1968, she played the girlfriend of Peter Sellers' character in the comedy I Love You, Alice B. Toklas. After an appearance with Elvis Presley in The Trouble With Girls in 1969, she appeared opposite brother Dick Van Patten (in the uncomfortable role of his fiancée) in the 1971 film, Making It, about a womanizing teenager. The next year, she played a Beverly Hills trophy wife whose home is invaded in Bone, B-movie director Larry Cohen's dissection of the racial and sexual politics of the Vietnam era.
In 1974, she played Sally Cato opposite Lucille Ball in Mame before taking a turn with Tatum O'Neal and Walter Matthau as Cleveland in The Bad News Bears. Over the '80s and '90s, she appeared in St. Elmos Fire, the George Romero cult classic Monkey Shines, as well as a slew of TV movies. In the 2000s, she played comedic roles in movies including Marley and Me and the Sean Penn vehicle, This Must Be the Place. Perhaps most memorably to a modern audience, she played Rob Schneider's character's much-older wife in 2010's Grown Ups, directed by her real-life, much younger ex-husband Dennis Dugan.
She married and divorced four times and raised two children.
Van Patten has had several long-term loves over the years, drawn largely from show business. (As she said in 2020 on the podcast You May Know Her From, "If you don't date actors, who do you date?")
Her brief first marriage to Thomas Casey King at age 16 produced a son, the late actor and court reporter Casey King. During her time on As the World Turns, she married actor Martin Balsam; their union lasted just short of five years, and they had a daughter, actor Talia Balsam. (The two would also pair up years later to play Mare Winningham's character's parents in St. Elmo's Fire.) Van Patten later married actor Hal Lynch, and they were together from 1968 to 1970. Her fourth and longest-lasting marriage was to actor and director Dennis Dugan, from 1973 to 1984.
She was George Clooney's mother-in-law.
Van Patten's daughter Talia Balsam is known for her work on series including Homeland and Divorce, as well as playing Mona Sterling on Mad Men. She was also the first wife of George Clooney, meaning Van Patten was the star's mother-in-law from 1989 to 1993.
Son-in-law privileges are now held by Balsam's former onscreen and still real-life husband, Mad Men star John Slattery (pictured with Van Patten above). Balsam and Slattery's son Harry recently made a memorable appearance on the Peacock series Girls5Eva with his parents, making Van Patten grandmother to the child the show's fans will recognize as the "New York Lonely Boy."
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She's still acting, with hopes of getting back onstage soon.
At 88, Van Patten continues to act. In a recent project, the digital shorts series If I'm Alive Next Week, she plays a foul-mouthed Upper West Side matriarch; the series is based on co-creator Jennifer Morris' experience living with her own mother. Filmed prior to the pandemic, it debuted at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival as part of the Tribeca Now online content channel. However, the veteran actor says she isn't particularly eager to do more movies or TV.
"I'd rather do stage," she told You May Know Her From. "I'm very hesitant to go back to television because of the changes in it. It kind of scares me. And movies really are different—it's not a family in the same way."