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

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.


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

A serious car accident in 1961 necessitated a career change, and, by 1962, Lee had landed jobs writing for My Three Sons and The Flintstones. She wrote one of the best episodes of Gilligan's Island (1964–67), entitled "Beauty Is As Beauty Does", which aired on September 23, 1965.

In 1974, 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. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 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.,2719327&dq=babe+zaharias+golden+globe&hl=en. 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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