Joy Harmon was born May 1, 1943, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Homer and Bernice. Her father worked with theatre circuits throughout the Midwest. The family moved to Connecticut, and Homer eventually got a job at New York's Roxy Theatre. By the time she was 3, Joy was appearing in newsreels and 2-reelers for 20th Century Fox. As a teenager, Joy imitated the voice and mannerisms of her idol Marilyn Monroe; when she got movie roles, Joy had to tone the impressions down a notch, and just be her bubbly self. With blond hair, blue eyes and a knockout figure, Joy was a natural for the movies.
Joy Harmon was first cast as an extra in "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" (1956). Thrilled by appearing in films, the 13-year-old Joy wanted to quit high school and get into show biz. She entered some beauty contests and won, eventually becoming first runner-up in the Miss Connecticut pageant. Then Joy played a blonde bombshell in the Broadway comedy hit "Make a Million." Joy also increased her popularity by appearing in men's magazines like "Rex" and "Show" and "Nugget," but she never appeared topless. Back on TV, Joy would appear opposite talk show hosts like Steve Allen and Earl "The Pearl" Wilson.
Groucho Marx invited Joy out to Hollywood to be a guest on his TV quiz show "You Bet Your Life." The extra publicity got Joy a contract with Columbia/Screen Gems, and she was cast in "Let's Rock" (1958), and other movies followed. In 1962, Joy joined Groucho in his new version "Tell It To Groucho" TV show; she was a regular and sometimes filled in for long-time announcer George Fenneman. (Note: since a rival program was sponsored by Joy Soap, Joy Harmon changed her name to Patty Harmon.)
Joy had a minor part in "Under the Yum Yum Tree" (1963), and did a number of guest appearances on TV series. Another claim to fame was starring in a movie directed by Bert I. Gordon (initials: BIG), "Village of the Giants" (1965)-- (many of Mr. BIG's movies were about giants, such as "The Amazing Colossal Man"). From playing in the mud in the opening sequence to doing a steamy slow-motion dance number, Joy gave a great performance as one of the leaders of a gang of 50-foot-tall delinquents.
Joy had a starring role in the Hawaiian-filmed "One Way Wahini" (rhymes with bikini). The movie was re-titled "One Way Wahine" (1965) for the continental U.S., but unfortunately only got marginal distribution (it wasn't even released in L.A.).
But Joy's biggest claim to fame was as "the girl who washes the car with a soapy sponge" in front of the chain gang in "Cool Hand Luke" (1967). This movie was nominated for 4 Oscars, won 1, but all anyone remembers from the film is Joy washing the car (well, that and Paul Newman eating 50 hard-boiled eggs in one hour, on a bet).
In 1968, Joy met TV and movie producer Jeff Gourson, and they got married. Joy appeared in one more movie "Angel in My Pocket" (1969) and retired from show biz to concentrate on a home life instead. Joy and Jeff have 3 kids: Jason, Julie and Jamie. They had a long and wonderful marriage, but recently divorced. Joy had a memorable acting career, and her kids are carrying on the tradition: Jason is a film editor, Julie is an actress, and Jamie is in college. Her fans will always remember Joy Harmon as being one of the actresses that made the 1960s fun. (editor) kdhaisch