Collins was born in 1937 in Hampstead, London, the younger daughter of Elsa (née Bessant) Collins (died 1962) and Joseph William Collins (died 1988), a theatrical agent whose clients later included Shirley Bassey, the Beatles and Tom Jones. Collins’ South African-born father was Jewish and her British mother was Anglican. A middle child, Collins had an elder sister, actress Joan Collins, and a younger brother, Bill. Collins attended Francis Holland School, an independent day school for girls in London. She was expelled from the school at age 15. During this period she reportedly had a brief affair with 29-year-old Marlon Brando. Her parents sent her to Los Angeles to live with her older sister, Joan Collins, who was then a Hollywood actress. She tried her hand as an actress taking small parts in various television series and films, but her acting was unexceptional. She then made a switch from the screen to becoming a novelist, with her first novel in 1968, The World Is Full of Married Men, becoming a best-seller. Four decades later, she said she was a “school dropout” who “never pretended to be a literary writer.” For a brief period Jackie also was a stage singer. She appeared alongside a young Des O’Connor, among others. Like her sister, Collins began appearing in acting roles in a series of British B movies in the 1950s. She also made appearances in the 1960s ITC television series Danger Man and The Saint before giving up an acting career. Later, she played on the TV series Minder in 1980.
Collins’ first novel, The World Is Full of Married Men, was published in 1968. Romantic novelist Barbara Cartland called it “nasty, filthy and disgusting”. It was banned in Australia and South Africa, but the scandal bolstered sales in the US and the UK. Collins’ second novel, The Stud, was published in 1969. It also made the bestseller lists. Collins’ third novel, Sunday Simmons & Charlie Brick (first published under the title The Hollywood Zoo in the UK and then retitled Sinners worldwide in 1984) was published in 1971 and again made the bestseller lists. This was Collins’ first novel to be set in the United States. Lovehead followed in 1974 (retitled as The Love Killers in 1989). This novel was Collins’ first foray into the world of organized crime, a genre that would later prove to be extremely successful for her. Following this, Collins published The World Is Full of Divorced Women (unrelated to her first novel) in 1975, and then Lovers & Gamblers in 1977, which told the story of rock/soul superstar Al King. In the late 1970s, Collins made a foray into writing for the screen. She co-wrote the screenplay for the film version of her novel The Stud (1978), which starred her older sister Joan as the gold-digging adulteress Fontaine Khaled. Following this, Collins wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of her first novel The World Is Full Of Married Men (1980). She also released her seventh novel, The Bitch, a sequel to The Stud, which was also made into a successful film, with Joan Collins reprising the role. Around the same time, Collins wrote an original screenplay (not based on any of her novels) for the film Yesterday’s Hero (both 1979).
In the 1980s, Collins and her family moved to Los Angeles on a full-time basis, where she would continue to write about the “rich and famous.” She said, “If you wish to be successful, there is a place you should be at a certain time. And Los Angeles in the 1980s was it.” Her next novel was Chances, published in 1981. It introduced one of her best-known characters, Lucky Santangelo, the “dangerously beautiful” daughter of a gangster. While living in the hills above Sunset Boulevard, Collins collected the knowledge and experience to write her most commercially successful novel, Hollywood Wives, which was published in 1983 and hit The New York Times bestseller list at number one. Marketed as a “scandalous exposé”, the novel has sold over 15 million copies and placed Collins in a powerful position making her a celebrity of near equal status to sister Joan, whose own career had taken an upwards direction with her role in the television drama Dynasty. In 1985, Hollywood Wives was made into a television miniseries, produced by Aaron Spelling and starring Candice Bergen, Stefanie Powers, Angie Dickinson, Anthony Hopkins, Suzanne Somers and Rod Steiger. Although credited as a “creative consultant”, Collins later stated that she was never consulted during production and that she did not agree with some of the casting choices. She then went on to write the sequel to Chances entitled Lucky (published in 1985), followed by Hollywood Husbands (1986), and Rock Star (1988).
In 1990, Collins published her third Lucky Santangelo novel, Lady Boss. Also in 1990, she wrote and co-produced the television mini-series Lucky Chances, which combined her first two Lucky Santangelo novels and starred Nicollette Sheridan (in the lead role) and Sandra Bullock. In 1992, Collins was widowed when her husband of 26 years, Oscar Lerman, died of cancer. Around this time, she also wrote and produced another mini-series based on her third Lucky Santangelo novel Lady Boss (with Kim Delaney now playing the lead role). Collins run of bestsellers continued with American Star (1993), Hollywood Kids (1994) and the fourth Santangelo novel, Vendetta: Lucky’s Revenge (1996). In 1998, she made a foray into talk-show television with the series Jackie Collins’ Hollywood, but this was unsuccessful. A new novel was published (Thrill, 1998), and she wrote a four-part series of mini-novels to be released in a newspaper every six weeks called L.A. Connections, introducing a new heroine in the form of investigative journalist Madison Castelli. The fifth Lucky Santangelo novel, Dangerous Kiss, was published in 1999.
The 2000s turned out to be Collins’ busiest time and she published eight bestsellers, more than any other decade in her career. In 2000, Collins brought back the character of Madison Castelli in a new novel, Lethal Seduction. In 2001 she published Hollywood Wives: The New Generation, which was later turned into a television movie in 2003 starring Farrah Fawcett, Melissa Gilbert and Robin Givens (Collins was credited as Executive Producer). A new Madison Castelli novel, Deadly Embrace, was published in 2002, and Hollywood Divorces was published in 2003. In 2004, Collins hosted a series of television specials, Jackie Collins Presents, for E! Entertainment Television. Collins continued with Lovers & Players (2006) and the sixth Lucky Santangelo novel, Drop Dead Beautiful (2007). Married Lovers (2008) concerns the affairs of a female personal trainer named Cameron Paradise. This was followed by Poor Little Bitch Girl (2009), which stemmed from an idea Collins had worked on for a television series about heiresses that was ultimately never made.
Paris Connections (2010), a direct-to-DVD movie adapted from Collins’ L.A. Connections series of mini-novels, was made by Amber Entertainment in association with the UK supermarket chain Tesco. The movie stars Charles Dance, Trudie Styler, and Nicole Steinwedell as Madison Castelli. Collins served as co-producer, and three more Connections movies with the Madison Castelli character are planned. Collins continued to write Lucky Santangelo books, including Drop Dead Beautiful and Goddess of Vengeance. Collins’s 29th novel, titled The Power Trip, was published in February 2013. Confessions of a Wild Child, was published in February 2014, with a movie deal announced even before the book came out. Collins’ cookbook The Lucky Santangelo Cookbook (2014) is named after Lucky Santangelo, the protagonist of seven Collins novels, who is often portrayed preparing elaborate gastronomic creations for her intimates (and who watched her father throw a plate of food at her mother as a child). Jackie Collins’ final novel was The Santangelos (2015), a conclusion to her Santangelo series of novels that she had begun with Chances in 1981.
Collins held dual citizenship: British (by birth) and U.S. (by naturalization, from 6 May 1960). Collins married her first husband, Wallace Austin, in 1960 and divorced in 1964. They had one child, Tracy, born in 1961. In 1965, Collins married for the second time to art gallery and nightclub (Ad-Lib, Tramp) owner, Oscar Lerman. The wedding took place in the home of her sister Joan and Anthony Newley, who were married at the time. Collins and Lerman had two daughters, Tiffany (born 1967) and Rory (born 1969). Lerman also formally adopted Collins’ daughter, Tracy, from her previous marriage. Lerman died in 1992 from prostate cancer. In 1994, Collins became engaged to Los Angeles business executive Frank Calcagnini, who died in 1998 from a brain tumour. She said that what got her through the tragedies of losing two loved ones was “celebrating their lives, as opposed to dwelling on their deaths.” In The Sunday Times Rich List 2011, Collins was listed as the UK’s fifth richest author with an estimated personal fortune of £60 million. Collins was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to fiction and charity. Collins died on 19 September 2015 of breast cancer, two weeks before her 78th birthday. She had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer more than six years before her death but kept her illness almost entirely to herself. She reportedly only informed her sister two weeks before she died and flew from Los Angeles to London to appear on the ITV chat show Loose Women only nine days before her death.
- October, 04, 1937
- United Kingdom
- Hampstead, London, England
- September, 19, 2015
- Beverly Hills, California
Cause of Death
- breast cancer