Joel McCrea was born November 5, 1905 in South Pasadena, California to Thomas McCrea, an executive with the L.A. Gas & Electric Company, and Lou Whipple.
As a boy, Joel had a newspaper route and delivered the Los Angeles Times to Cecil B. DeMille and other people in the film industry. He also had the opportunity to watch D.W. Griffith filming Intolerance.
Joel McCrea graduated from Hollywood High School and then Pomona College, where he acted on stage and took courses in drama and public speaking and regularly appeared at the Pasadena Playhouse. While in high school, Joel worked as a stunt doble for cowboy stars William S. Hart and Tom Mix.
Joel McCrea made his film debut in an uncredited role in The Fair Co-Ed (1927). His first major role was in The Jazz Age (1929) and his first leading role was in The Silver Horde (1929).
From 1929 to 1939, Joel McCrea appeared in such movies as The Common Law (1931), The Most Dangerous Game (1932), One Man's Journey (1933), Gamblign Lady (1934), Woman Wanted (1935), and Dead End (1937).
In 1939, he was cast opposite Barbara Stanwyck in Union Pacific. This role would lead to major leading parts in Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940), Sullivan's Travels (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), The Virginian (1946), Colorado Territory (1949), Trooper Hook (1957), The San Francisco Story (1952), The Gunfight at Dodge City (1959), and Ride the High Country (1962).
During the 1950s, Joel McCrea appeared on radio in the Western police drama, Tales of the Texas Rangers.
Joel McCrea's final film was Mustang County (1976).
Joel McCrea married actress Frances Dee on October 20, 1933, they met while filming The Silver Horde (1930). They were married 57 years until his death (which was on their wedding anniversary). The couple had three children, David, who became a rancher, Peter, who both became a real estate developer, and Jody, who became an actor.
Joel McCrea and his son Jody McCrea appeared together in Trooper Hook (1957), The First Texan (1956), Gunsight Ridge (1957), Cry Blood Apache (1970) and on the television series Wichita Town.
Joel McCrea was a very well-respected as a horseman, he was regarded as one of the two best riders in Western films along with Ben Johnson.
Joel McCrea's career spanned 50 years and he appeared in over 90 films. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for motion pictures and one for radio.
Joel McCrea died on October 20, 1990 (his 57th wedding anniversary) of pulmonary complications. He was 84 years old.