Joan's father Joe was a theatrical agent and by the time she was nine she was treading the boards in amateur productions. So began the path that took Joan from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to Hollywood super–bitch and has now seen her made a Dame.
She has become one of the nation's favourite stars and for her countless fans the only surprise is that it has taken until her ninth decade for the honour to arrive.
Joan Henrietta Collins was born in Paddington. It was an era when the big studios called all the shots and it was the J Arthur Rank company which came calling for Joan, still in her teens when she appeared in Lady Godiva Rides Again and became a starlet.
Other roles in British films quickly followed bringing Joan to the attention of Hollywood. In 1955 she headed to the US to smoulder in Howard Hawks's lavish production Land Of The Pharaohs.
Those good genes which made her stand out before she took her first steps proved to be her making in highly competitive Los Angeles. Joan's pale complexion and curves distinguished her from the crowd. One reviewer described her as "startlingly beautiful and sexy".
If I hear the word retire it makes me want to throw up. And then do what? Sit around all day watching television? "I still love life, so I live it
Few of her films were memorable but roles playing sultry women came thick and fast. Off–screen Joan's life was as colourful as the pink Thunderbird car she drove and she reportedly had flings with several of her leading men, including Harry Belafonte, Robert Wagner and Warren Beatty to whom she was briefly engaged.
She married the first of her five husbands, the actor Maxwell Reed, in 1952 but subsequently claimed he drugged and raped her on their first date and later offered to sell her to an Arab sheik for £10,000.
After tying the knot with her second husband Anthony Newley, in 1963 she took a break from acting to raise their two children, Tara and Sacha. When she tried to return to the big screen she found, like many actresses no longer in the first flush of youth, that her box office appeal had waned.
It is a problem that she has spoken about following the announcement of her honour. Joan says:
"Every actress over the age of 35 experiences ageism. I was cast in a TV role once when I was 39. My agent told them I was 32 because I looked it. I got the role but at the end the producer said: 'My God, you are 39. Had we known that we would never have cast you.'"
Yet her male stars including Crosby who was Joan's leading man in The Road To Hong Kong when she was 30 years his junior suffered no such prejudice. "It was another taste of ageism in Hollywood," Joan claims.
"Bing was a chauvinistic man. He was smoking a pipe all the time and it was a bit like kissing an ashtray."
Later she also began writing novels, receiving a £1.5million advance for her debut and remarking: "Always have a second string to "Always have a second string to your bow." Her various books have sold 50 million copies worldwide.
But when Joan's film career stalled it was her sister who stepped in. The sisters collaborated on a screen version of Jackie's racy book The Stud in 1978. Joan was cast as a nymphomaniac jet–setter and her latest husband Ron Kass, the father of her third child Katyana, was a producer. The success of film, and the follow–up The Bitch, helped revive Joan's career and paved the way for her to play Alexis Carrington in the hit TV soap opera Dynasty in the 1980s.
The show was struggling and Sophia Loren had turned down the part of the vengeful ex–wife. Joan's arrival, dripping in furs and spouting venom, coincided with soaring ratings. Creator Aaron Spelling said: "We wrote a character but the character could have been played by 50 people and 49 of them would have failed. She made it work."
By that stage Joan had made more than 50 Hollywood films but it was Dynasty that won her most recognition, including a Golden Globe win and an Emmy nomination. The actress celebrated her looming 50th birthday by appearing in a Playboy spread, boosting the fortune that has bought her homes in London, New York, Los Angeles and the south of France. She is currently estimated to be worth £25million.
In 1985 she married the Swedish singer Peter Holm but the marriage lasted less than two years and once again her chequered personal life was receiving as much attention as her acting career.
The eternal diva has never gone out of her way to avoid attention whether it's penning a lascivious memoir or wearing the same bright red lipstick that helped to make her a starlet in the 1950s.
She is an undeniably glamorous octogenarian and insists: "Getting older should be just that: getting older but not becoming old and losing one's sex appeal.
"I'm often amazed when some lined, red–faced, blotchy skinned woman proudly announces that she's never allowed an ounce of make–up touch her face.
"Well, bully for you ma'am, if you want to go to the grave looking like Dracula's grandma."
The star swims and works out, denies having gone under the plastic surgeon's knife and admits to enjoying the occasional glass of wine and vodka martini. She also attributes her enduring success to her incredible work ethic.
The response of Joan, who was previously given an OBE, to suggestions that she should start slowing down is equally strident. The actress, whose recent credits include a one–woman show that looks back on her career and appearing in a German soap opera, said recently: "If I hear the word retire it makes me want to throw up. And then do what? Sit around all day watching television? "I still love life, so I live it."
It is a motto which has served Joan Collins well for years and she is not about to change her approach now that she has belatedly – and deservedly – become a Dame.