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Recognize This Lady? Better Sit Before You Learn Her True Identity…

Off The Record

Recognize This Lady? Better Sit Before You Learn Her True Identity…

Joan Van Ark gained popularity as Dallas’ Valene Ewing, but her most notable role was in the spinoff series Knots Landing. The actress, who had a brief reunion with her high school boyfriend in 2012, is now happily married to him and they have a daughter together.

Even though Van Ark is 78 years old, she is still going strong. This concludes your education on Joan Van Ark’s life and the reasons for her assertion that she alone was responsible for Knots Landing’s collapse.

The fourth of Dorothy Jean Van Ark and Carroll Van Ark’s four children, Joan Van Ark was born in New York City on June 16, 1943. When she was seven years old, her family relocated to Boulder, Colorado, and the change of scenery proved to be quite beneficial to her later in life.

Early years and career of Joan Van Ark


Van Ark always knew she wanted to be an actress, even though her parents—her father being in public relations and her mother being a writer—never held positions in the film industry.

Joan said We Love Soaps that she made the decision to pursue a career in show industry when the quarterback of her high school football team declined her invitation to prom.

“That developed more in Boulder. I auditioned for a play at the Community Playhouse. The quarterback on the football team didn’t ask me to the prom, so I said, ‘Screw boys,’ and went and auditioned for a play,” Joan Van Ark recalled.

“I didn’t get the part I auditioned for but got the flower girl and the bug bit. I did a monologue as my audition, and you could hear a pin drop. They complimented me so much I said, ‘Who needs guys?’

Van Ark met actress Julie Harris while doing a press interview for a local newspaper while she was playing in Denver, and the actress convinced her to enroll in the Yale Drama School to study acting and drama.

Van Ark thus became the second woman to enroll at the prestigious university and the youngest student to ever win a scholarship there. Julie Harris was the first woman to assist Van Ark in entering the school.

“She wrote to the dean and asked him to meet me. Long story short, my parents drove me to New Haven, Connecticut, to meet the dean, who gave me a scholarship,” she recalled. “It was meant to be.”

Valene Ewing on “Knots Landing” and “Dallas”


Van Ark made her stage debut in Moliere’s The Miser at the Minneapolis Guthrie Theater to launch her professional career. She moved to work with the national touring company Barefoot in the Park in 1963, which led to her Broadway debut, after spending almost a year at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC. She starred in The School for Wives and was nominated for a Tony Award in 1971 for Best Featured Actress in a Play.

By then, Joan Van Ark had moved from performing on stage to working in front of a screen. She made appearances on a number of TV shows, including Bonanza, Days of Our Lives, Temperature’s Rising, and Spider-Woman.

As the 1980s drew near, Joan Van Ark continued to search for her big break, despite having no shortage of work. She appeared in multiple episodes of Dallas in 1978 as Valene Ewing, which helped her land the part of a lifetime.

When the Dallas spinoff Knots Landing debuted in 1979, Joan Van Ark played Valene Ewing once more. She co-starred with Michele Lee as Karen and Ted Schakleford as Gary in 327 episodes before rising to fame.

Years before it was originally introduced to CBS, despite being a spinoff of Dallas about the wealthy but corrupt Ewing Clan.

Dallas was chosen as the show the network wanted—a “big rich family” program. However, Knots Landing went on to become a huge hit after the studio saw how popular Dallas had become; after just one season, it ranked among the top 20 TV shows.

How Joan Van Ark almost missed out on her biggest role

Knots Landing told the tale of Gary Ewing and his wife Valene, portrayed by Van Ark, and their decision to go to Knots Landing in order to start over.

Van Ark, though, nearly lost out on Valene Ewing’s part. She clarified that she performed The Love Boat concurrently with a commercial in New York, resulting in a “three-way clash.”

Ultimately, she was convinced to choose Dallas by her spouse, John Marshall, whom we will speak about shortly. Furthermore, it was a big and crucial decision.

“I got the call asking me to do a guest appearance in this show called Dallas, which was attracting a lot of buzz, but I said to my husband, ‘John, why should I even read this script? I can’t be in three places at once,’” she told Express. “Then he read it and said, ‘No, you’ve got to do it. It looks wonderful.’”

“So basically, he talked me into a schedule that had me in LA one day, then flying to Dallas for two days, followed by two days in New York and then back to Texas. But looking at this old cast photo from Knots Landing – the spinoff from Dallas – I’m so glad I listened to him,” she added.

Van Ark committed herself to Dallas and Knots Landing for 15 years, identifying herself with her part. She had a lengthy history with Julie Harris, as was previously established, and they reconnected in 1980.

“I could be safe and stay on the show forever.”

For the actress, Harris’ casting as Van Arks’ mother in Knots Landing seemed almost too wonderful to be true.

“When the producers told me they had finally last someone to play my mother, I held my breath,” she recounted in a Florida Today interview from 1984.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, are they going to say Phyllis Diller or Zsa Zsa Gabor, or who?’ Then they said it was Julie Harris, and I went right through the roof. I couldn’t believe they had picked her to be my mother. They didn’t even know we were friends.”

Joan Van Ark appeared in 327 episodes over the course of 13 seasons. Then Knots Landing was discontinued in 1993, just one season after she departed. However, Joan didn’t leave since she didn’t enjoy it. Rather, she was focusing on taking on new challenges.

In 1992, Van Ark stated to the Los Angeles Times, “I could stay forever on the show and be safe.” 

“But three years ago, I did Night of the Iguana in Williamstown (Mass.), and I had a quote from Tennessee Williams taped on my mirror, taken from an essay he’d written on success. It said, and I’m paraphrasing here: ‘Security is in the shape of a kidney-shaped pool in Los Angeles, where you sit waiting for your residual checks.’ I was in a comfortable spot on Knots, and an artist should not be comfortable.”

The TV show also started to play a significant role in Van Ark’s life at that time. She believed things would be simpler, so even though she felt comfortable leaving, it was a hard blow.

Blamed herself for the cancellation of “Knots Landing”

“I have loved more than life the 13 years I’ve had on that show,” she said. “[Knots Landing creator] David Jacobs is a great influence on my life, has taught me so much about so many things. Ted [Shackelford] is the other half of every breath I take on the show, and personally, he’s a large part of my heart. The people are my family–we have shared marriages, deaths, divorces. It’s far more difficult to leave than I thought.”

Without the fantastic chemistry between Valen and Gary, the show fell flat. Joan actually accepted responsibility for the program’s cancellation.

“Well, it was my fault. I jumped over to NBC to do a pilot which did not sell,” she said. “I was so ready to go, after fourteen years with the one lady, so I auditioned for the pilot, and they cast me. It wasn’t as cleanly negotiated as it should have been. When the pilot didn’t sell, they asked me back, and I did do the four-hour finale of the show.”

Even after leaving the soap opera industry, Joan Van Ark remained a popular TV celebrity, appearing in several shows. She starred in a few television movies and had small roles in a few television shows, such as Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Joan portrayed Gloria Fisher in fifty-five episodes of the wildly popular television series The Young and the Restless between 2004 and 2005.

Joan Van Ark: spouse, kids, and marriage

Celebrities in Hollywood frequently wed other celebrities, and these unions don’t usually endure very long.

Joan Van Ark, however, found the love of her life while still in high school, thus that was not the case. She was a student in Boulder when she met her husband, John Marshall. The pair wed on a German military base in 1966.

She said to UPI, “Believe me, it was nothing like the marriages [Valene Ewing] has gone through.”

Their daughter Vanessa Marshall, who also decided to pursue a career in entertainment, was born in 1969. She actually gave up on her acting career on camera and became a well-known voice actor. Rather, Vanessa Marshall is the voice of various video games, television shows, and animated movies.

John Marshall went on to work for NBC and KNBC-TV as an Emmy news reporter. Like his wife Joan, he has enjoyed a successful career. Meanwhile, Vanessa was growing up and the couple was putting in a lot of effort to succeed in their various industries.

It was difficult for Van Ark to adjust to motherhood while attempting to run her business. She also acknowledges that her husband John did a good job of keeping the family together during those trying times.

“He is the reason we have the most wonderful daughter in the world and that the marriage has stayed strong,” Van Ark told The Leader-Post in 1988. “I feel I am the committed person who can’t give up time for this or that.”

“He did not want to miss watching Venessa grow up, and he did not want to miss me,” she added. “He knows correspondents live out of suitcases. John made career choices I didn’t agree with because if it had been me, I would have packed my bags, and I would have been waiving at the airport.”

Joan Van Ark’s wealth

Joan Van Ark is an actor, but she also enjoys running a lot. The 78-year-old, who has finished multiple marathons, detailed why she chooses to run over seeing a psychotherapist. She did, however, declare that she would never go on a run with her husband.

Why? Because “it’s the quickest way to a divorce that I know of. You’re always criticizing the other’s style,” Joan said.

Over the past ten years, Joan Van Ark has remained active in the theater industry, appearing in a number of stage productions as well as television shows and motion pictures like Psycho Wedding Crasher and Watercolor Postcards. She will, however, always be most recognized for her incredible enchantment of Knots Landing and Dallas.

Joan Van Ark’s net worth is estimated by Celebrity Net Worth to be approximately $10 million.

Regarding Joan Van Ark, how do you feel about her roles in Knots Landing and Dallas?

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