b. 30 August 1906, New York City, New York, USA, d. 25 December 1979, Santa Monica, California, USA. Born into a showbiz family, Blondell’s father was one of the original Katzenjammer Kids. She worked in vaudeville as a child, touring internationally with her family’s act. She began playing in the legitimate theatre although it was a win a beauty contest that brought her to New York’s Broadway where she was in both straight plays and musicals, among the latter being Penny Arcade with James Cagney. In 1930 Blondell and Cagney reprised their roles in the film version, retitled Sinners’ Holiday. During the 30s Blondell appeared in dozens of films, often for Warner Bros., playing in straight dramas and musicals with equal aplomb. Among her films of the early 30s are Blonde Crazy (1931, again co-starring with Cagney), Big City Blues (1932), Footlight Parade (1933, Cagney again), Gold Diggers Of Broadway (1933, in which Blondell sings ‘Remember My Forgotten Man’), and Dames (1934), choreography in the last three by Busby Berkeley.
From the mid-30s through into the 40s, Blondell made We’re In The Money (1935), Broadway Gondolier (1935), Stage Struck, Colleen (both 1936), the latter three among several films in which Blondell co-starred with Dick Powell who was her second husband from 1936-44, Sons O’Guns (also 1936, with Joe E. Brown and Eric Blore), The King And The Chorus Girl (1937), Gold Diggers Of 1937 (1937, again with Powell), East Side Of Heaven (1938, with Bing Crosby), Two Girls On Broadway (1940), and what was her best dramatic role, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (1945). From 1947-50 Blondell’s third husband was Mike Todd. In the 50s and afterwards, Blondell was almost always in dramatic roles that were usually supporting or even minor. In 1951 she was Oscar-nominated as Best Supporting Actress for The Blue Veil. She also appeared in The Opposite Sex (1956), This Could Be The Night (1957), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), and Stay Away, Joe (1968), the latter with Elvis Presley. On television, Blondell played Lottie Hatfield in Here Come The Brides (1968-70), for which she received two Emmy nominations. Her late films include Won Ton Ton, The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), Grease (1978) and The Champ (1979). Her last film, The Woman Inside, was not released until 1981. In 1972 Blondell published a novel, Center Door Fancy, which is loosely biographical.