Joan Crawford

gigatos | September 28, 2022


Joan Crawford (San Antonio, March 23, 1904 – New York City, May 10, 1977) was an American actress. Beginning as a dancer in traveling theater companies before making her Broadway debut, Crawford signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925. Initially frustrated with the size and quality of her roles, Crawford began a campaign of self-publicity and became nationally known as a mellifluous woman in the late 1920s. By the 1930s, Crawford”s fame rivaled that of MGM colleagues Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer, with whom she starred in the films “Grand Hotel” and “The Women,” respectively. Crawford often played young working women who find romance and financial success. These “from poverty to wealth” stories were well received by audiences in the Great Depression era and were popular with women. Crawford became one of Hollywood”s most prominent movie stars and one of the highest paid women in the United States, but her films began to lose money and by the late 1930s she was labeled “box office poison.”

Her career gradually improved in the early 1940s, culminating with a major comeback to the limelight in 1945 when she starred in the drama “Soul in Suffering”, for which she received an Academy Award for Best Actress. She would be nominated twice more, for “Bonfire of Passions” (1947) and “Precipices of the Soul” (1952). Crawford continued to act in the following decades, achieving a great performance at the box office with the thriller film “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962), in which she starred alongside her rival Bette Davis. Despite the film”s success, her subsequent roles were limited to thriller B-movies and episodes of television shows.

In 1955, she became involved with the Pepsi-Cola Company through her marriage to the company”s then president, Alfred Steele. After his death in 1959, Crawford was elected to fill his seat on the company”s board of directors, becoming one of the first women to serve as chief executive officer in the United States. She was forced to retire in 1973, following the election of her rival Don Kendall to the position of president of the company. During this time, Crawford became a sort of informal poster girl for the company, traveling all over the world to open soft drink factories, appearing in the company”s television commercials, and insisting that the product be inserted in the films.

After the release of the British horror film, “Trog the Cave Monster” in 1970, Crawford decided to retire from the screen, although she still appeared in an episode of the television series “The Sixth Sense” in 1972. After a public appearance in 1974, in which photos that displeased the actress were published in newspapers, Crawford decided to withdraw from public life once and for all and became increasingly reclusive. At the time, she had added up to nearly five decades of public life, in a period spanning from silent film to the advent of television. She would pass away almost three years later of a heart attack, and was buried in Ferncliff Cemetery.

Crawford was married four times. Her first three marriages ended in divorce; the last ended with the death of her husband Alfred Steele. She adopted five children, one of whom was eventually returned to her birth mother after being claimed by her. Crawford”s relationship with her two oldest children, Christina and Christopher, was bitter. Crawford disowned them, and after her death, Christina wrote a famous memoir, “Mommy Dearest,” in which she recounts the alleged abuse of which she and her brother were allegedly victims. The actress” youngest daughters, Cathy and Cindy, deny the abuse. Christina”s accounts reignited interest in Crawford, leading to a film about the actress that made her an icon of camp culture, revered by new generations.

Crawford was born as Lucille Fay LeSueur in San Antonio, Texas, on March 23; the year of her birth is subject to disagreement. 1904, 1905, and 1906 are the most likely estimates. She was the third child of Thomas E. LeSueur (1867-1938), a laundryman, and Anna Bell Johnson (1884-1958). Johnson had English, French-Huguenot, Swedish, and Irish ancestry. Her older siblings were Daisy LeSueur, born in 1902 and dead before Lucille was born, and the also actor Hal LeSueur (died May 3, 1963).

Crawford”s father abandoned the family a few months before her birth, later resurfacing in Abilene in 1930, at which time he was working in building construction. After LeSueur abandoned the family, Crawford”s mother married Henry J. Cassin (died October 25, 1922). This marriage is listed in the census records as Crawford”s mother”s first, which puts into question whether Thomas LeSueur and Anna Bell Johnson were legally married.  Crawford lived with his stepfather, mother and siblings in Lawton, Oklahoma. Cassin was a small businessman in the entertainment industry and managed the Ramsey Opera House, which managed to bring to town diverse and notable performers such as ballerina Anna Pavlova and vaudeville singer Eva Tanguay. Young Lucille did not know that Cassin, whom she called “Daddy,” was not her biological father until her brother Hal told her the truth. Lucille preferred the nickname “Billie” as a child and loved attending vaudeville performances and performing on stage in her stepfather”s theater. The instability of her family life affected her education and schooling, with her never formally progressing beyond elementary school.

Since childhood, Crawford”s ambition had been to become a dancer. One day, however, while trying to escape from piano class to play with friends, she jumped off the front porch of the house and cut her foot deeply into a broken milk bottle. As a result, she underwent three reparative surgeries and was unable to dance or attend school for 18 months. She finally made a full recovery and returned to dancing.

While the family still lived in Lawson, Cassin was charged with embezzlement, and although he was acquitted in court, he became persona non grata in Lawton, and the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, around the year 1916. A Catholic, Cassin enrolled Crawford at St. Agnes Academy in Kansas City. After the separation of her mother and stepfather, she remained at the boarding school as a student-worker; however, she spent much more time working, in particular cooking for the other students and cleaning the college quarters, than actually studying.

Later, she attended Rockingham Academy, also as a student-worker. While attending this boarding school, she began dating and had her first serious relationship, with a trumpet player named Ray Sterling, who is supposed to have inspired her to challenge herself academically.

In 1922, Lucille enrolled at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, giving her birth year as 1906. She attended that educational institution for only a few months, before dropping out of academic life after realizing that she was not ready for college. Because of her family”s instability, Crawford”s schooling never went beyond the elementary level.

Early career

Under the name Lucille LeSueur, Crawford began dancing in the choruses of various traveling shows and was discovered in Detroit, Michigan, by famed producer Jacob J. Shubert. Shubert placed her in the chorus of his 1924 show “Innocent Eyes,” performed at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway in New York City. At one of her performances in the play, Crawford met a saxophonist named James Welton. The two supposedly married in 1924 and lived together for several months, although this supposed union was never mentioned by Crawford after fame.

Crawford wanted additional work and approached Loews Theater publicist Nils Granlund. Granlund secured her a role in singer Harry Richmond”s performances and arranged a screen test for her with producer Harry Rapf in Hollywood. Even today rumors persist that Crawford would have supplemented her income during this period by appearing in one or more porn films, although the veracity of this is strongly disputed.

Rapf informed Granlund on December 24, 1924 that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) had offered Crawford a $75-a-week contract. Granlund immediately sent a telegram to her-who had returned to her mother”s home in Kansas City-with the news; she borrowed $400 to make the trip. She left Kansas City on December 26 and arrived in Culver City, California on January 1, 1925.

Credited as Lucille LeSueur, her first film was 1925”s Lady of the Night, where she acted as body double for MGM”s most popular female star Norma Shearer. She also appeared in “The Circle” (“The Other”s Wife”) and “Pretty Ladies” (“The Black Fly”), both also from 1925. This was followed by equally small, uncredited roles in two other 1925 hits, “The Only Thing” and “The Merry Widow.”

MGM”s head of advertising, Pete Smith, recognized his ability to become a big star, but felt that his name sounded false; he told studio head Louis B. Mayer that the last name LeSueur sounded like “sewer. Smith held a contest called “Name a Star” in Movie Weekly magazine to allow the public to select Lucille”s new stage name. The most voted name was “Joan Arden”, but after it was discovered that there was already an actress with that name, the alternative surname “Crawford” was chosen. Crawford later stated that she wanted her first name to be pronounced as “Jo-Anne” and that she hated the last name Crawford because it sounded like “crawfish” but also admitted that she “liked the security” that the name conveyed.

Rise to Stardom

Increasingly frustrated with the size and quality of the roles she was offered, Crawford embarked on a campaign of self-promotion. As MGM screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas recalled, “Nobody decided to make Joan Crawford a star. Joan Crawford became a star because Joan Crawford decided to become a star.” She began attending dances on afternoons and evenings in Hollywood hotels, where she often won dance contests with her charleston and black bottom moves.

Her strategy worked, and MGM cast her in the first film where she caught the public”s attention: 1925”s “Sally, Irene and Mary,” written and directed by Edmund Goulding. Early in her career, Crawford considered Norma Shearer – the studio”s most popular actress – her professional enemy. Shearer was married to MGM”s head of production, Irving Thalberg, and, as such, could choose scripts and had more control over which films she would or would not make. Crawford is reported to have once said, “How can I compete with Norma? She sleeps with the boss!”.

In 1926, Crawford was named one of thirteen rising movie stars by the Western Film Advertisers Association, alongside Mary Astor, Dolores del Río, Janet Gaynor and Fay Wray, among others. That same year, she starred in “Paris,” alongside Charles Ray. Within a few years, Crawford became the romantic pair of MGM”s biggest male stars, such as Ramón Novarro, John Gilbert, William Haines and Tim McCoy.

Crawford appeared in “The Unknown” (Crawford, wearing a modest costume, played his young assistant, whom he hoped to marry. She stated that she learned more about acting from watching Chaney”s work than from anyone else in her career. “It was then,” she stated, “that I first became aware of the difference between being in front of a camera and acting.” Also in 1927, she appeared alongside her friend William Haines in “Social Prestige,” the first of three films they made together.

In 1928, Crawford starred alongside Ramón Novarro in the film “Across to Singapore” (“Across the Heart”), but it was her role as Diana Medford in “Modern Girls” (1928), that catapulted her to stardom. The role established her as a symbol of 1920s modern femininity, rivaling her with Clara Bow, the original “it girl” and Hollywood”s most famous melindress at the time. Crawford starred in a number of hits after “Our Dancing Daughters,” including two more melander-themed films, in which she embodied for her legion of fans (many of whom were women) an idealized vision of the free-spirited, independent American woman.

At the time, novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the following about Crawford:

“Joan Crawford is without a shadow of a doubt the best example of the melindrosa, the girl you see in nightclubs, dressed at the height of sophistication, playing with iced glasses with a remote, slightly bitter expression, dancing deliciously, laughing a lot with wide, suffering eyes. Young things with a talent for living.”

On June 3, 1929, while filming “Our Modern Maidens,” the sequel to “Our Dancing Daughters,” Crawford married her co-star Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. at St. Malachy”s Church (known as the “Actors” Chapel” because of its proximity to Broadway theaters) in Manhattan, although neither were Catholic. Fairbanks was the son of Douglas Fairbanks and stepson of Mary Pickford, who were considered Hollywood”s royal family. Fairbanks and Pickford opposed the union and did not invite the couple to their home, the famous Pickfair mansion, for eight months after the wedding.

Crawford and Fairbanks father”s relationship gradually improved; she called him “Uncle Doug” and he called her “Billie,” his childhood nickname. She and Pickford, however, continued to despise each other. After an initial invitation to frequent the mansion, Crawford and Fairbanks Jr. became regular guests. While the men played golf together, Crawford was sidelined by Pickford, who would retire to his quarters.

To rid herself of her Texas accent, Crawford practiced tirelessly in diction and elocution. She once said:

“If I were to give a speech, it would be a great idea, I thought, to read it aloud to myself, listening attentively to the quality and enunciation of my voice and trying to speak in a certain way. I liked to lock myself in my room and read newspapers, magazines, and books aloud. I kept a dictionary under my arm. When I came across a word that I didn”t know how to pronounce, I would look it up and pronounce it correctly fifteen times.”

Transition to talking movies and continued success

After the release of “The Jazz Singer” – the first feature film with synchronized sound – in 1927, talking movies caused a stir in Hollywood. The transition from silent to spoken film caused many, if not all, actors in the film industry to panic; many silent film stars became unable to find jobs due to their unattractive voices and difficult-to-understand accents, or simply because they refused to make the transition to spoken films.

Some studios and stars avoided making the transition for as long as possible, especially MGM, which was the last studio to make the transition. “The Hollywood Revue of 1929″ was one of the studio”s first spoken films and its first attempt to show the public the ability of its stars to transition. Crawford was part of the dozen stars included in the film; she sang the song “Got a Feeling for You” during the film”s first act. She studied singing with Estelle Liebling, Beverly Sills” singing teacher, in the 1920s and 1930s.

Crawford made a successful transition to talking movies. His first lead role in a sound feature film was in 1929”s Untamed (“The Untamed”), co-starring Robert Montgomery. Despite the film”s success at the box office, it received less than favorable reviews from critics, who noted that Crawford seemed nervous about making the transition to silent film just as she had become one of the world”s most popular actresses.

“Montana Moon” (“Woman… And Nothing Else”), from 1930, an uneasy mixture of western and musical, united the actress with John Mack Brown and Ricardo Cortez. Although the film had trouble with the censors, it was a great success at the time of its release. “Our Blushing Brides” (1930), also co-starring Robert Montgomery and Anita Page, was the final chapter in the trilogy that began with “Our Dancing Daughters”. It then became the biggest success – both critically and financially – among Crawford”s spoken films, and was cited by the actress as one of her favorites. Her next film, 1930”s “Paid” (“The Woman Who Lost Her Soul”), paired her with Robert Armstrong and was another big box office success. During the sound era, MGM began casting Crawford in more sophisticated roles rather than continuing to promote her image as a mellifluous woman built during the silent era.

In 1931, MGM released five films starring Crawford. Three of them paired her with the studio”s biggest male star, Clark Gable – nicknamed the “King of Hollywood.” “Dance, Fools, Dance” (“When the World Dances”), released in February 1931, was their first film together. The second film, “Laughing Sinners,” was directed by Harry Beaumont and co-starred Neil Hamilton, and was released in May of that year. “Possessed,” the third film, was directed by Clarence Brown and released in October. These films were popular with audiences and well received by critics, elevating Crawford to the status of MGM”s leading female star in the early 1930s, along with Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo, and Jean Harlow. Her other notable 1931 film was “This Modern Age” (“In This 20th Century”), released in October, which despite unfavorable reviews, was successful with audiences.

Then, in 1932, MGM put her in the film “Grand Hotel,” directed by Edmund Goulding. Crawford co-starred with Greta Garbo, Wallace Beery, and John and Lionel Barrymore, among others. Her name appeared third on the film”s posters and credits, and she played a middle-class stenographer who works for a controlling company director, played by Beery. Crawford later confessed that she was nervous during filming because she was working with “very big stars,” and that she was also disappointed not to have any scenes with the “divine Garbo.” “Grand Hotel” was released in April 1932 and was a critical and public success. It had one of the biggest box office hits of the year and won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Crawford maintained her success with 1932”s “Letty Lynton” (“Redeemed”), co-starring again alongside Robert Montgomery. Soon after its release, MGM was accused of plagiarism and forced to withdraw it from circulation. It was never broadcast on television or made available on home video, and is therefore considered a “lost film” by Crawford. Adrian”s dress with large sleeves and frills, worn by Crawford in the film, became popular that year and was copied and sold by Macy”s.

On loan to United Artists, Crawford lived the prostitute Sadie Thompson in “Rain” (“The Sin of the Flesh”, 1932 film version of John Colton”s 1923 play. Actress Jeanne Eagels played the role in the theater and Gloria Swanson originated it in the movies in the silent 1928 version. Crawford”s performance was heavily criticized and the film was not successful. Despite this, Crawford ranked third on the list of the ten most profitable stars at the box office, first published in 1932, behind only Marie Dressler and Janet Gaynor. She remained in the top ten of the list for the next four years, last appearing on it in 1936.

In May 1933, Crawford divorced Fairbanks. She cited “serious mental cruelty” as the reason for the divorce filing, claiming that Fairbanks had “jealous and suspicious attitudes” directed toward her friends and that they had “strong arguments about the most trivial matters” that lasted until “late at night.” After her divorce, she again teamed up with Clark Gable, and also Franchot Tone and Fred Astaire, to film the hit “Dancer”s Love,” in which she was featured prominently in the posters and credits. She played the title role in “Sadie McKee” (1934), co-starring Franchot Tone and Gene Raymond. The same year, she co-starred with Clark Gable for the fifth time in “Chained” (“Chained”), and for the sixth time in “Forsaking All Others” (“When the Devil Stings”), both 1934. Crawford”s films of this era were some of the most popular and highest-grossing of the 1930s.

In 1935, Crawford married Franchot Tone, a New York actor who planned to use his film earnings to finance his theater group. The couple built a small theater in Crawford”s Brentwood home and mounted productions of classic plays for select groups of friends. Tone and Crawford had first appeared together in 1933”s “Today We Live,” directed by Howard Hawks, but she was hesitant to begin another relationship so soon after her separation from Fairbanks.

Before and during their marriage, Crawford worked to promote Tone”s career in Hollywood, but he was not interested in becoming a movie star, and Crawford eventually tired of the effort.During their marriage, they tried on two separate occasions to have children, both ending in miscarriage. After Tone began drinking and became physically abusive, she filed for divorce, which was granted in 1939. Much later, Crawford and Tone rekindled their friendship and Tone even proposed to her again in 1964. When he died in 1968, Crawford organized the cremation of his body and the scattering of his ashes in Muskoka Lakes, Canada.

Crawford continued her reign as a popular film actress until the mid-1930s. 1935”s “No More Ladies” (“Goodbye Women”), co-starring Robert Montgomery and her then-husband Franchot Tone, was a hit. Crawford had long been urging MGM boss Louis B. Mayer, to cast her in more dramatic roles, and although he was reluctant to do so, he cast her in the sophisticated 1935 dramatic comedy “I Live My Life” (“This is the Only Way I Want to Live”), directed by W. S. Van Dyke. The film was well received by the critics and made more money than the studio expected.

The following year, Crawford starred in “Sublime Woman” alongside Robert Taylor, Lionel Barrymore, and her husband Franchot Tone. The film was a critical and box office success, becoming one of Crawford”s biggest hits of the decade. The 1936 romantic comedy Love on the Run, directed by W.S. Van Dyke, was her seventh film with Clark Gable and sixth with Franchot Tone. his sixth with Franchot Tone. It was, at the time of its release, called “a load of cheery nonsense” by the critics; nevertheless, it was financially successful.

Decline in popularity

Even though Crawford remained one of MGM”s most respected actresses and her films continued to make a profit, her popularity declined in the late 1930s. In 1937, Crawford was named the first “Queen of the Movies” by Life magazine. In the same year, she unexpectedly dropped from seventh to sixteenth place on the list of most profitable stars at the box office, and consequently her popularity with the public also began to wane. Also in 1937, Richard Boleslawski directed her in the 1937 dramatic comedy “The Last of Mrs. Cheyney,” which brought her and William Powell together for the first and only time in her career. This film was Crawford”s last box office success before she was labeled “box office poison.”

She co-starred with Franchot Tone for the seventh and final time in “The Bride Wore Red” (“Happiness by Lying”), also from 1937. The film was received unfavorably by most critics, with one critic arguing that it was the “same poverty to fortune story” that Crawford had been making for years. It was also unsuccessful at the box office, becoming one of MGM”s biggest financial failures that year. The actress” next film, “Mannequin,” co-starring Spencer Tracy, was more successful. According to The New York Times, the film “restored Crawford to the throne of queen of working girls.” Most of the reviews were positive and the film managed to bring in some profit for the studio, but it was not a big enough success to resurrect Crawford”s popularity.

On May 3, 1938, Crawford – alongside Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, Luise Rainer, John Barrymore, Katharine Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Marlene Dietrich, and Dolores del Río, among others – was labeled “box office poison” by Harry Brandt, president of the Motion Picture Hall Owners Association of America. In an open letter published in the Independent Film Journal, Brandt stated that although these stars possessed “unquestionable” dramatic skills, their high salaries did not translate into ticket sales, thus hurting movie theater owners. Perhaps as a result of the publication of the list, Crawford”s next film, 1938”s “The Shining Hour” (“The Forbidden Woman”), co-starring Margaret Sullavan and Melvyn Douglas, and directed by Frank Borzage, was a box office flop, despite being well received by expert critics.

Crawford made a nice comeback in 1939 playing the antagonist Crystal Allen in “The Women” alongside her professional nemesis Norma Shearer. A year later, she broke from the formula that had given her notoriety by playing the unglamorous Julie in 1940”s “Strange Cargo” (“Rebel Souls”), her eighth and final film with Clark Gable. In 1941, she starred as a disfigured blackmailer in “The Scar of Evil,” a remake of the Swedish film “En kvinnas ansikte” (1938), originally starring Ingrid Bergman. Although the film achieved only moderate success at the box office, her performance was praised by many critics.

In 1940, Crawford adopted her first daughter. Since she was single and California law prevented adoption by unmarried people, she arranged the adoption through a Las Vegas agency. The child was temporarily named Joan Crawford, until the star changed her name to Christina. Crawford married actor Phillip Terry on July 21, 1942 after a six-month courtship. Together they adopted another child, whom they named Christopher, but the birth mother soon got the child back. They then adopted another boy, whom they named Phillip Terry, Jr. After the marriage ended in 1946, Crawford changed the child”s name to Christopher Crawford.

After eighteen years, Crawford”s contract with MGM was terminated by mutual consent on June 29, 1943. Instead of starring in yet another film, as her contact had anticipated, Crawford received $100,000 from the production company. During World War II, the actress was part of the American Women”s Volunteer Services.

Success at Warner Bros.

Crawford signed a $500,000 contract with Warner Bros. that contained the provision for her to star in three films. She was placed on the studio”s payroll on July 1, 1943. Her first film for the studio was “A Dream in Hollywood” (1944), a production filmed with all the studio”s stars to boost the morale of American troops fighting in the war. Crawford stated that one of the main reasons she signed a contract with Warner was because she wanted to play Mattie in a film version of Edith Wharton”s novel Ethan Frome, which the studio was planning to film in 1944.

The actress also aspired to win the role of Mildred Pierce in “Soul in Distress” (1945), but the studio wanted Bette Davis to play her. However, Davis turned down the role because she thought she was too young to play the mother of a teenage girl. Director Michael Curtiz did not want Crawford in the role, claiming that Davis should be replaced by Barbara Stanwyck, Olivia de Havilland, or Joan Fontaine. Warner went against the director and cast Crawford in the production. Throughout the production of the film, Curtiz criticized Crawford. He reportedly told Jack Warner, “She appears here with her haughty air, with her hat and her damn shoulder pads … Why should I waste my time directing her?”. Curtiz demanded that Crawford prove his suitability for the role through a test. After the test, he finally agreed to put her in the film. “Mildred Pierce” was a resounding success with audiences and critics. It synthesized the lush visual style of the film noir genre and the sensibility that would define the Warner Bros. films of the late 1940s. For the role, Crawford received the Academy Award for Best Actress the following year, as well as the first National Board of Review award for Best Actress.

The success of “Mildred Pierce” revived Crawford”s film career. For several years, she starred in a series of first-rate melodramas. Her next film was “Chords of the Heart” (1946), co-starring John Garfield, a romantic drama about a love affair between an older woman and a younger man. She starred alongside Van Heflin in “Bonfire of Passions” (1947), a film for which she received her second Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, although she lost the award to Loretta Young, who won it for “Ambitious.” In “Love Ecstasy” (1947), she appeared alongside Dana Andrews and Henry Fonda, and in 1949”s “Flamingo Road” (“Redemption Road”), she played an amusement park dancer alongside Zachary Scott and David Brian. She made an appearance in “Mademoiselle Fifi” (1949), parodying her own image as a dramatic actress. In 1950, she starred in the noir “The Damned Don”t Cry!” and the drama “Harriet Craig” (“The Dominatrix”).

In 1947, Crawford adopted two more children, whom he called Cindy and Cathy. The children were adopted from the Tennessee Children”s Home Society, an orphanage

After filming ended on 1952”s “This Woman Is Dangerous” (“The Tragedies of My Destiny”), a film Crawford called “the worst,” she asked to be released from her contract with Warner Bros. At the time, she felt Warner was losing interest in her and decided it was time to move on with her career independently.

Radio and television

Crawford worked on “The Screen Guild Theatre” radio series on January 8, 1939; “Good News”; “Baby,” broadcast on March 2, 1940, on Arch Oboler”s “Lights Out” program; “The Word” at the Everyman Theatre (“Chained” at the Lux Radio Theatre, and the “Document A

Al Steele and Pepsi

On May 10, 1955, Crawford married her fourth and final husband, Pepsi executive Alfred Steele, at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. Crawford and Steele met at a party in 1950. They met again at a New Year”s Eve party in 1954. By that time, Steele had become president of Pepsi-Cola. Later, Alfred Steele would be named Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of the company. Crawford traveled extensively on behalf of Pepsi after the marriage. She estimates that she traveled over 100,000 miles (161,000 kilometers) on behalf of the company. Steele died of a heart attack in April 1959. Crawford was initially informed by the company that her services were no longer needed. After she revealed this firsthand to gossip columnist Louella Parsons, Pepsi reversed its decision and Crawford was chosen to fill her husband”s vacancy on the company”s Board of Directors.

Crawford received the sixth annual “Pally Award,” which was in the shape of a bronze Pepsi bottle. The trophy was awarded to the employee who contributed the most to the company”s sales. In 1973, Crawford officially retired from Pepsi on his 65th birthday.

Later Career

After her Oscar-nominated performance in “Precipices of the Soul” (1952), Crawford continued to work steadily through the rest of the decade. After a 10-year absence from MGM, she returned to the studio to star in “If I Knew How to Love” (1953), a musical drama centered on the life of a demanding stage star who falls in love with a blind pianist, played by Michael Wilding. Although the film was highly publicized as Crawford”s “great comeback,” it was a critical and financial failure, known today for its camp appeal. In 1954, she starred with Sterling Hayden and Mercedes McCambridge in the western film “Johnny Guitar” which, despite initial unfavorable reaction, became a cult classic over the years. In 1955, she acted in “Female on the Beach” (“Frenzy of Passions”) with Jeff Chandler, and in “The Secret Loves of Eve” with John Ireland. The following year, she starred alongside young Cliff Robertson in “Dead Leaves” and in the title role in 1957”s “The Story of Esther Costello,” co-starring Rossano Brazzi. Crawford nearly went bankrupt after Steele”s death, which is why she accepted a supporting role in “Under the Sign of Sex” (1959). Although she was far from being the star of the film, she received positive reviews for her performance. Crawford later cited this role as one of her favorites. By the early 1960s, however, Crawford”s status as a movie star had diminished considerably.

In 1961 Joan Crawford was again her own publicity machine when she received a screenplay for a film from Robert Aldrich. Then, in 1962, Crawford starred in the successful psychological thriller “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” She played Blanche Hudson, an aging former movie star stuck in a wheelchair after a mysterious accident, who shares a house with her psychotic sister Jane, played by Bette Davis. Despite previous tensions between the actresses, Crawford reportedly suggested Davis for the role of Jane. During filming, they publicly stated that there was no feud of any kind between them. The film”s director, Robert Aldrich, went on record to explain that Davis and Crawford were very aware of how important the film was to reviving their respective careers, commenting, “It”s correct to say that they really hated each other, but they behaved absolutely perfectly.

After filming was completed, public comments by one actress against the other spurred an enmity that would last until the end of their lives. The film was a huge box office success, recouping the production costs in less than two weeks after its release, temporarily reviving Crawford”s career. Davis was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance, which would have infuriated Crawford. She secretly contacted each of the other nominees in the category (Katharine Hepburn, Lee Remick, Geraldine Page, and Anne Bancroft) to inform them that she would be happy to receive the award on their behalf if they were unable to attend the awards ceremony. They all agreed. Both Davis and Crawford were backstage at the ceremony when Anne Bancroft, who was not present, was announced as the winner for “The Miracle of Anne Sullivan”. Crawford accepted the award on her behalf. Davis claimed for the rest of her life that Crawford had campaigned against her, and therefore against their film, something Crawford always denied.

The same year as the Oscar incident, Crawford starred as Lucy Harbin in 1964”s “Strait-Jacket” (“Dead Souls”), a film by horror master William Castle. Aldrich cast Crawford to play Davis again in “With Evil in His Soul” (1964). After an alleged campaign of professional harassment that Davis allegedly engaged in against her during filming in Louisiana, Crawford returned to Los Angeles and was admitted to a hospital. After a prolonged absence from the filming studios, during which time the actress was accused of faking illness, Aldrich was forced to replace her with another actress. The chosen one was Olivia de Havilland. Crawford said she was devastated by the news, stating, “I learned of my replacement over the radio, lying in my hospital bed … I cried for nine hours.” Crawford held a grudge against Davis and Aldrich for the rest of her life. About the director, she said, “He is a man who loves bad, horrible, vile things,” to which Aldrich replied, “If the shoe fits, wear it, because I love Miss Crawford.” Despite her replacement, a quick scene of Crawford can be seen in the film, when she is sitting in a cab.

In 1965, she played Amy Nelson in “I Saw What You Did,” another William Castle film. She starred as Monica Rivers in 1967”s “Berserk!”, a thriller by producer Herman Cohen. After the release , Crawford made a special appearance as herself in “The Lucy Show” in the episode “Lucy and the Lost Star,” first aired on February 26, 1968. Crawford struggled during rehearsals, drinking heavily on set, which led series star Lucille Ball to suggest replacing her with Gloria Swanson. On the day of the shoot, however, Crawford was perfect, receiving two standing ovations from the audience. In October of the same year, the actress” eldest daughter, 29-year-old Christina, needed medical intervention to remove an ovarian tumor. At the time, she was acting in the CBS soap opera “The Secret Storm.” Despite the fact that Christina”s character was 28 years old and Crawford was already over 60, she offered to play the role until Christina recovered from surgery; producer Gloria Monty readily agreed to the idea, assuming that a star from Hollywood”s golden age would increase the show”s audience. Although Crawford did well in rehearsals, she lost her composure during taping, and the director and producer had trouble making a cohesive edit of her scenes.

Crawford”s appearance in the 1969 television movie “Night Gallery” (“Terror Gallery”) helped launch the career of then newcomer Steven Spielberg as a director. She made an appearance in the first episode of the sitcom “The Tim Conway Show,” which aired on January 30, 1970. She last appeared on screen as Dr. Brockton in the science fiction film “Trog the Cave Monster” (1970), also produced by Herman Cohen. This was her 45th year acting in the film industry, having appeared in over eighty films. Crawford made two more television appearances, as Stephanie Whitem in a 1970 episode (“The Nightmare”) of “The Virginian” and as Joan Fairchild (her last performance) in a 1972 episode (“Dear Joan: We”re Going to Scare You to Death”) of “The Sixth Sense”. In 1973, Crawford was forced to retire from Pepsi after clashing with company executive Don Kendall, whom Crawford had referred to pejoratively for years as “Canines.”

Final Years and Death

In 1970, Crawford received the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the hands of John Wayne during the Golden Globe Awards ceremony, broadcast from Coconut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. She also gave a lecture at Stephens College, which she attended for two months in 1922.

Crawford published her autobiography “A Portrait of Joan”, co-written with Jane Kesner Ardmore, in 1962. Her next book, “My Way of Life”, was published in 1971 by Simon & Schuster. Those expecting a book that revealed every aspect of the actress” life were disappointed, although Crawford revealed her meticulous care of personal hygiene, closet, physical activities, and even food storage.

After her death, photographs were found in her apartment of John F. Kennedy, for whom she reportedly voted in the 1960 presidential election. Crawford identified with the Democratic Party and admired the Kennedy and Roosevelt administrations. She once said, “The Democratic Party is one I”ve always followed. I have fought hard in life since I was born and I am proud to be part of something that focuses on working class citizens and molds them into proud beings. Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Kennedy did a lot in that regard for the generations they won over during the course of their careers.”

In September 1973, Crawford moved from apartment 22-G to a smaller apartment (22-H) in the Imperial House building in New York City. Her last public appearance was on September 23, 1974, at an event honoring her old friend Rosalind Russell at the Rainbow Room. Russell was suffering from breast cancer and arthritis at the time. When Crawford saw the unflattering photos of the two in the next day”s newspapers, she reportedly said, “If this is how they see me, then they won”t see me anymore.” The actress canceled all her public appearances, began refusing interviews, stopped receiving visitors, and left her apartment less and less.

Dental problems, including a surgery that left her needing 24-hour nursing care, plagued the actress from 1972 until mid-1975. While undergoing antibiotic treatment for this problem, in October 1974, she collapsed and injured her face. The incident caused Joan to stop drinking, although she stated that it was because of her return to Christian science. The incident is recorded in a series of letters the actress sent to her insurance company, stored in a stack of files located on the third floor of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. It is also documented in the biography “Joan Crawford: The Last Years”, authored by Carl Johnnes.

On May 8, 1977, Crawford donated her beloved shih-tzu dog, “Princess Lotus Blossom,” because she considered herself too weak to care for her. She died two days later of a heart attack, in her New York City apartment. A funeral was held at the Campbell Funeral Home in New York City on May 13, 1977. In her will, signed on October 28, 1976, Crawford bequeathed to her two youngest daughters, Cindy and Cathy, $77,500 each from her $2,000,000 estate. She explicitly disinherited her two oldest children, Christina and Christopher, writing, “It is my intention not to provide any provisions for my son, Christopher, or my daughter, Christina, for reasons that are well known to them.” She also left nothing to her niece, Joan Lowe (1933-1999, born as Joan Crawford LeSueur and the only child of her estranged brother, Hal). Crawford left money to her favorite charities: the U.S.O. of New York, the Motion Picture Home, the American Cancer Society, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the American Heart Association, and the Wiltwyck School for Boys.

A memorial service was held for Crawford at the Lexington Avenue Unitarian Church on May 16, 1977, and was attended by, among others, his old Hollywood friend Myrna Loy. Another memorial service, organized by George Cukor, was held on June 24 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the headquarters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills. Crawford was cremated and her ashes were placed in a crypt next to her fourth and final husband, Alfred Steele, in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

Crawford”s feet and hands are immortalized on the sidewalk of the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 1750 Vine Street. Playboy listed Crawford as the 84th sexiest woman of the 20th century. In 1999, the American Film Institute voted Joan Crawford as the tenth greatest movie star.

In November 1978, Christina Crawford published the book “Mommie Dearest,” in which she made allegations that her foster mother was physically and emotionally abusive to her and her brother Christopher. According to Christina”s account, Crawford was more interested in her career than motherhood. Many of the actress” friends and co-workers, including Van Johnson, Ann Blyth, Marlene Dietrich, Myrna Loy, Katharine Hepburn, Cesar Romero, Gary Gray, Betty Barker (her secretary for nearly 50 years), Douglas Fairbanks Jr. But others, such as Betty Hutton, Helen Hayes, Rex Reed, and director Vincent Sherman (who directed three films starring Crawford) claimed to have witnessed some sort of abusive behavior by the actress toward her children. Another secretary of the actress, Jeri Binder Smith, confirmed the accounts Christina makes in the book. “Mommie Dearest” became a best-seller and was made into a movie by Paramount Pictures (the only one of the six major Hollywood Golden Age studios for which Crawford never worked) in 1981. Although successful at the box office, the film was a critical failure and won the Golden Raspberry Award for worst film of the year. In the film, Joan Crawford is played by Faye Dunaway, who later said she regretted accepting the role. Best known for a scene where Crawford beats Christina with an iron wire hanger (which is narrated differently in the book), the film eventually gained a devoted group of admirers and turned Crawford – or at least Dunaway”s interpretation of her – into a camp culture icon.

Pictures of Crawford were used on the cover of The Rolling Stones” album Exile on Main St. (1972).

Crawford was portrayed by actress Barrie Youngfellow in the 1980 film “The Scarlett O”Hara War.

Four years after her death, the hard rock band Blue Öyster Cult released the song Joan Crawford, on the album Fire of Unknown Origin (in it, references are made to the actress”s stormy relationship with her daughter Christina.

The alleged feud between Crawford and Bette Davis is depicted in the 1989 book “Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud.” It was fueled by competition for movie roles, Oscar awards, and Franchot Tone (Joan Crawford”s second husband), who co-starred with Davis in “Dangerous” (1935).

Crawford was played by Faye Dunaway in the film “Mommy Dearest” (1981), based on the accounts of child abuse made by the actress”s daughter in the controversial book of the same name released in 1978. The way the film portrays the actress and Dunaway”s exaggerated interpretation were responsible for making Crawford an icon of camp culture and one of the favorite characters to be performed by drag queens.

The Crawford-Davis rivalry was the theme of the first season of the television series “Feud” (2017), inspired by the book “Bette and Joan.” Crawford was played by Jessica Lange and Davis by Susan Sarandon. In 2018, the broadcast of the series was stopped by restraining order from lower courts in California until Olivia de Havilland could be heard by the United States Supreme Court on whether the producers had the right to use her image (de Havilland was played by Catherine Zeta-Jones) without permission, despite her being a public figure. In January 2019, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.


  1. Joan Crawford
  2. Joan Crawford
  3. O ano de nascimento de Crawford é incerto, já que fontes diferentes listam 1904, 1905, 1906 e 1908.[1] O censo de 1910 traz sua idade à época como sendo de 5 anos em abril.[2] Ela mesma falava que tinha nascido em 1908 (a data em sua lápide),[3] mas os biógrafos citam 1904 como o ano mais provável de seu nascimento.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13] Sua filha, Christina, na biografia “Mamãezinha Querida” (1978), cita 1904 duas vezes: “Publicamente, sua data de nascimento era 23 de março de 1908, mas a vovó me disse que ela nasceu na verdade em 1904”.[14]:20 “Minha mãe nasceu como Lucille LeSueur em San Antonio, Texas em 1904, apesar de que quando ela veio para Hollywood ela mentiu sobre sua idade e mudou o ano para 1908”.[14]:66
  4. ^ Non più in uso.
  5. Discussie over Crawfords geboortedatum op de Engelstalige Wikipedia
  6. [1] Joan Crawfords stamboom
  7. Engelse Wikipedia Jeugdjaren: “Unfortunately, she cut… dancing as well.”
  8. (en) Classic Movie Favorites: How Joan Crawford Survived Box Office Poison twice! (29 juli 2015)
  9. Ruzie tussen Crawford en McCambridge
  10. Inne źródła podają rok 1903, 1904, 1905, 1908. W Mommie Dearest córka aktorki, Christina, twierdziła, że jej babcia powiedziała iż Joan w rzeczywistości urodziła się w 1904 r. W dokumentacji MGM z 1925 r. aktorka przedstawiona jest jako 19-latka, co sugerowałoby 1905 r. jako datę urodzenia. Z kolei 1906 r. widnieje w dokumentacji z college”u.[1].
  11. Największą aktorką, w tym samym plebiscycie, ogłoszono Katharine Hepburn (osobno aktorki i aktorzy)
  12. Spekuluje się, że w połowie lat 20. Crawford mogła wziąć udział w kilku filmach pornograficznych. Niektórzy dziennikarze jak Robert Slatzer czy Helen Laurenson utrzymywali, że widzieli takie nagrania lub rozmawiali z osobami, które miały w nich uczestniczyć. Do dziś jednak nie znaleziono, nie upubliczniono żadnego takiego filmu.
  13. Aktor którego filmy nie przynoszą zysków. Pojęcie box office poison pochodzi z artykułu Dead Cats z 1938 r. Poza Crawford w tekście wymieniono Gretę Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Kay Francis, Normę Shearer, Luise Rainer, Johna Barrymore’a, Dolores del Río, Katharine Hepburn i Freda Astaire’a.
  14. Bette Davis sama stała się bohaterką książki My Mother”s Keeper, wspomnień swojej córki B. D. Hyman. Davis przedstawiona została w niej jako zadufana w sobie alkoholiczka.
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