Born Leatrice Joy Zeidler in New Orleans, Louisiana, Leatrice Joy began her acting career in stock theater companies and made her film debut for the little-known small New Orleans based Nola Film Company in 1915. By 1917 she relocated to the relatively young film colony in Hollywood, California and was initially signed under contract with Samuel Goldwyn Studios where her first role was in 1917s The Pride of the Clan opposite silent screen star Mary Pickford.
By 1920, Joy's career quickly gained momentum and she became a highly popular actress with the film-going public and was given leading lady status opposite such famous performers as Wallace Beery, Conrad Nagel, Nita Naldi and Irene Rich.
Joy was often cast by directors in the role of the strong-willed and independent woman, and in the liberated atmosphere of the Jazz Age Roaring Twenties solidified her public popularity, especially with women film-goers. Her close-cropped hair and somewhat boyish persona (she was several times cast as a woman mistaken for a young man) became tremendously fashionable during the era.
With her increasing popularity, Joy was sought out by Cecil B. DeMille and signed to contract to Paramount Pictures in 1922 and that same year was cast in the enormously successul high-society drama Saturday Night opposite matinee idol Conrad Nagel. Joy starred in a number of successful releases for Paramount and was heavily promoted as one of DeMille's most prominent protegés.