Joan Staley, the film, TV and stage actress whose memorable film roles included opposite Don Knotts in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, alongside Elvis Presley in Roustabout, and on TV in series including Perry Mason and 77 Sunset Strip, died November 24. She was 79.
Her first husband, onetime TV director Chuck Staley, announced the news on social media earlier this week. She had been married to Hollywood talent manager Dale Sheets since 1967.
Staley, born in Minneapolis to missionary parents, grew up in Los Angeles and was an accomplished violinist as a child, which led to her first film credit, the 1948 Bing Crosby-Joan Fontaine movie The Emperor Waltz. That led to roles at The Little Theater in Hollywood and small parts on live series like Playhouse 90. In 1958, she made the first of four appearances on Perry Mason, and that same year was Miss November in Playboy.
Her early TV credits also included The Untouchables, The Tab Hunter Show and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. In 1962 she co-starred with singer Vic Damone on NBC’s The Lively Ones.
An MGM contract player, Staley’s film roles include parts in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Valley of the Dragons and Cape Fear. She played Marge opposite Elvis and Joan Freeman in the 1964 carnival-set Roustabout, and opposite Audie Murphy in the 1966 Western Gunpoint. That same year, she starred with Knotts in Universal’s successful comedy-mystery The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.
A serious back injury in 1966 suffered from a fall off a horse led to Staley focusing on TV work. Roles that followed included playing Okie Annie, opposite Cliff Robertson’s Shame, on Batman, and a co-starring role on the McHale’s Navy spinoff Broadside. Her small-screen credits also included The Dick Van Dyke Show, Wagon Train, The Munsters and Maverick.
She later co-starred on the final season of ABC’s crime drama 77 Sunset Strip, along with roles on Mission: Impossible, Ironside, Adam-12 and Dallas.