Actress. She is best remembered for her portrayal of the lively Babe Doolittle in the technicolor musical "Good News" (1947). Born unto a prominent family, the only child of Philadelphia Public Ledger sportswriter Franklin T. McCracken, upon attaining an athletics scholarship she went on to study dancing at the Philadelphia Ballet School under the guidance of Catherine Littlefield. Impressed by her stealth, poise, and conscientiousness, Littlefield arranged for her to travel around Europe and the United Kingdom appearing as a leading dancer in such operettas as "The Nutcracker," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "The Sleeping Beauty," and "Carmen." Upon returning to the United States in 1939, a few months prior to the beginning of World War II, she settled in New York City, New York, and after dancing alongside choreographer Agnes DeMille, she was granted an arranged interview with the acclaimed lyricist Richard Rodgers who cast her as "The Girl Who Fell Down" in his original production of "Oklahoma!" From there, she would go on to enjoy a rich career as a character actress; often typecast as young wives, mothers, love interests, historical figures, debutantes, best friends, nobility, exotics, white-collared workers, nurses, salesgirls, eccentrics, glamour dolls, and mythical creatures. She appeared in such stage plays as "Bloomer Girl," "Billion Dollar Baby," "Dance Me a Song," "The Big Knife," "Peter Pan," "Angel in a Pawnshop," "The Infernal Machine," and "Me and Juliet". She was also featured in a supporting role in "Hollywood Canteen" (1944) and during the advent of television, she flourished as a household name appearing in various guest spots on such syndicated sitcoms as "Actors Studio," "Great Catherine," "Pulitzer Playhouse," "Claudia," "Versatile Varieties," "Toast of the Town," and "The Revlon Mirror Theatre." During her career, she was a member of the Screen Actors Guild, was supportive of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, had been an honorary member of Actors Equity, was supportive of the New York State Democratic Committee, had been a regular parishioner of the Episcopal church, was a Radio City Rockette, presided as a chairwoman for her local charters of the Humane Society and the American Red Cross, was the celebrity spokeswoman for Max Factor and Chanel No. 5, served as the inspiration for the character Holly Golightly in the Truman Capote novelette "Breakfast at Tiffany's", was instrumental in the discovery, and promotion, of Academy Award winning actress Shirley MacLaine, and she married to fellow choreographers Jack Dunphy from 1939 to 1948 and Bob Fosse from 1952 to 1959 (both unions dissolved in divorce and produced no children). In 1958, McCracken went into an early retirement following health related issues brought on by a severe level of diabetes and spent the final years of her life going in and out of hospitals as well as dividing time between her homes in Manhattan and Philadelphia. After establishing a platonic relationship with actor Marc Adams in 1960, she settled into his Beach House located in the inclusive pines section of Fire Island, New York, where she lived comfortably until her death from the complications of a heart attack. In 2003, she was posthumously honored when she was recognized in the autobiographical book "The Girl Who Fell Down: A Biography of Joan McCracken" by Lisa Sagolla, which shed significant light on the events of her life and career.
Bio by: Lowell Thurgood