From Dallas to Knots Landing

Actress Joan Van Ark, known for her role as Valene Ewing on the popular TV show Dallas in the 1980s, gained widespread recognition. But it was her portrayal on the spinoff series Knots Landing that truly made her a household name. At the age of 80, Van Ark is still thriving and happily married to her high school sweetheart, with whom she shares a daughter.

In a recent interview, Van Ark candidly took the blame for Knots Landing’s eventual downfall. She acknowledged that although she appeared in a single episode of the show’s 2012 revival, her most significant accomplishments occurred during the original run.

Growing up, Van Ark’s family moved to Boulder, Colorado, and this change of scenery played a pivotal role in her later career.

From a young age, Van Ark knew she wanted to be an actor. Her determination was solidified when she was not invited to the high school prom by the football team’s quarterback. Her parents, although unfamiliar with the film industry themselves, supported her aspirations and helped her along the way. Over the course of more than 50 years, Van Ark has enjoyed a distinguished acting career, gracing both film and television screens.

Van Ark’s acting journey began when she was cast as the flower girl in a play after being turned down for another role. She found the experience enjoyable and decided to pursue acting seriously. Soon, acting became an integral part of her life and passion.

Following a performance in Denver, Van Ark had the opportunity to meet renowned actress Julie Harris, who encouraged her to study acting further. Van Ark became only the second woman to enroll at the prestigious Yale Theatre School and the youngest student to receive a scholarship there.

Reflecting on those early days, Van Ark shared, “My parents took me to meet the dean in New Haven, Connecticut, after I wrote to him. He gave me a scholarship offer, which was predestined.”

In 1963, Van Ark made her acting debut in The Miser at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. After spending a year at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., she ventured southward to join the national touring company of Barefoot in the Park. It was during this time that Van Ark transitioned to screen acting, making her Broadway debut and earning a Tony Award nomination for her role in The School for Wives in 1971. She also appeared in guest roles on popular television shows like Temperature’s Rising, Spider-Woman, Days of Our Lives, and even a memorable episode of Bonanza.

As the 1980s approached, Joan Van Ark was still in search of her breakthrough role. In 1978, she had several guest appearances as Valene Ewing on Dallas, which ultimately led to her being cast on Knots Landing.

From 1979 to 1993, Knots Landing, a beloved Dallas spinoff, captivated audiences. Joan Van Ark played Valene Ewing and appeared in 327 episodes. Alongside her co-stars Ted Shackelford (Gary) and Michele Lee (Karen), Van Ark rose to fame as one of the show’s main characters. Interestingly, Knots Landing actually premiered on CBS years before the famous Ewing family made their TV debut.

Originally, Dallas was envisioned as the grand, opulent family drama the network desired. However, Knots Landing’s incredible success led the studio to recognize the growing popularity of Dallas and its spinoff. After just one season, Knots Landing was already among the top 20 TV shows in terms of ratings.

Ultimately, Joan Van Ark found herself torn about leaving Knots Landing after 13 seasons. As difficult as it was to bid farewell to the show, she knew that artists need to challenge themselves and continue to evolve. She felt grateful and comfortable on the program but realized the importance of pushing her boundaries.

Since departing from the soap opera industry, Joan Van Ark has continued to display her exceptional talent in numerous films and television shows. She has appeared in well-known shows such as Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Young and the Restless, where she portrayed Gloria Fisher in 55 episodes from 2004 to 2005.

In a unique twist, while many celebrities married within the industry, Joan Van Ark and John Marshall’s love story began in their high school days in Boulder, Colorado. They tied the knot in 1966 on a military base in Germany and welcomed their daughter Vanessa Marshall in 1969. Vanessa followed in her parents’ footsteps and pursued a career in entertainment as a prominent voice actress, lending her talent to various video games, animated films, and television shows.

Joan Van Ark’s performances on Dallas and Knots Landing have garnered critical acclaim. If you would like to see more of Joan’s work in the future or share your thoughts, please leave a comment below. In the meantime, help spread the word about this post and celebrate the incredible talent of Joan Van Ark!

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