Joanna Lee (writer)

Joanna Lee
Born Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
Died Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Occupation Television director, screenwriter, actress and producer
Years active 1956-1990

Joanna Lee (April 7, 1931 - October 24, 2003) was an American writer, producer, director and actress.

Early life

Lee was born in Newark, New Jersey; by the time she was 20, she was a divorced single mother with a son, Craig Lee.


As an actress, Lee's career was only in small roles, 10 in all, including seven TV series and three feature films, all between 1956 and 1961. The latter included an uncredited appearance in a lesser-known Frank Sinatra vehicle, The Joker is Wild, plus two low-budget science fiction films. Those two were The Brain Eaters (1958) and a film that in later years would come to be regarded as the quintessential 'so-bad-it's-good' cult classic, Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), in which Lee portrays "Tanna" the space girl.[1]

A serious car accident in 1961 necessitated a career change. By 1962 Lee had landed writing assignments for My Three Sons and The Flintstones. She wrote an episode of Gilligan's Island (196467), entitled "Beauty Is As Beauty Does", which aired on September 23, 1965. Also in this period (September 1962) she appeared as a contestant on the popular CBS television program What's My Line, describing her work at that point as being a TV comedy writer.

In 1973 she won an Emmy Award for Best Writing in Drama, for a 1972 Thanksgiving episode of The Waltons.[1] The same year, she formed her own production company, which, in 1975, produced the documentary Babe (also written by Lee), about athlete Babe Zaharias's career. The film was nominated for an Emmy for "Outstanding Writing in a Special Program - Drama or Comedy - Original Teleplay," and won the Golden Globe for "Best Motion Picture Made for Television."[2]

She wrote the novel and teleplay Mary Jane Harper Cried Last Night.

In 1988 she won the Humanitas Prize for The Kid Who Wouldn't Quit: The Brad Silverman Story.

Personal life

Her son, Craig Lee, then a music director at L. A. Weekly, died of AIDS in 1992.[1] Another son, Christopher Ciampa, appeared in several of her films.[3]

Her autobiography, A Difficult Woman in Hollywood, was published in 1999.[1]

Lee died from bone cancer on October 24, 2003, in Santa Monica, at the age of 72.[4]


  1. 1 2 3 4 Rourke, Mary (2003-11-08). "Joanna Lee, 72; Scriptwriter Also Directed and Produced Issue-Oriented TV Dramas". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-12-12.
  2. Scott, Vernon (1976-01-26). "'Cuckoo' Tops Globes". The Montreal Gazette. p. 41. Retrieved 2012-12-12.
  3. Christopher Ciampa. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2012-12-12.
  4. Saperstein, Pat (2003-11-05). "Joanna Lee: Emmy-award winning writer/producer/director". Variety. Retrieved 2008-02-03.

External links

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