Joan Weldon, ‘Them!’ Star and Opera Singer, Dies at 90

Natalie Oganesyan
·2-min read

Joan Weldon, an opera singer and actor who starred in the 1954 sci-fi film “Them!,” died on Feb. 11 in her home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., her family announced Thursday. She was 90.

“With profound sadness, we announce the passing of Joan Louise Weldon Podell, a loving and devoted mother, wife, grandmother and dear friend, on February 11th, 2021, who passed away peacefully at her home in Fort Lauderdale FL,” the family wrote. “A talented and successful opera singer and actress of theatre, film, musicals and television, she was simply known to many as Joanie, whose love for light-hearted pranks and practical jokes spread joy wherever she went.”

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In “Them!,” which was nominated for a special effects Oscar and spawned a series of “big bug” movies in Hollywood, she played Dr. Patricia Weldon, who helps destroy the colony of mutant ants along with her doctor father.

Weldon made her professional stage debut at 16 years old, performing as a member with the San Francisco Opera Company and becoming the youngest singer under contract. While performing with the Los Angeles Civil Light Opera Company, she was discovered by Warner Brothers, which cast her in movies including “The Command,” “Riding Shotgun,” “The System,” “The Grace Moore Story” and “The Stranger Wore a Gun.” Additional credits include “Day of the Bad Man” and “Home After Dark.”

Aside from her roles in cinema, Weldon sang at the Hollywood Bowl, on her TV series “This Is Your Music” and on tour in “The Music Man.” She also led roles in stage productions such as “The Sound of Music,” “My Fair Lady,” “Kean,” “The Merry Widow,” “Desert Song,” “Oklahoma” and “Carousel” with the New York State Theater.

Born in San Francisco on Aug. 5, 1930, Weldon was raised by her grandmother Olio Cornell following the death of her mother when she was 6 years old.

Dubbed as “filmdom’s fairest exterminator” for her role as a young scientist in “Them!,” she was remembered by her family as “curious, open minded, determined and always up for anything, her infectious love for life was paired with a firm understanding of what was important – the simplicity of living a life with those you love.”

Weldon is survived by her husband of 56 years, David L. Podell Jr., her daughter, Melissa, her grandchildren Sienna, Alexander, and Ella and stepdaughter Claudia.

A memorial is set at The Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City on March 13, which will livestream beginning at 12 p.m. ET. Donations can be made to the Brick Church Women’s Association.

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