Joan Crawford Biography,
Born March 23, 1904 in San Antonio, Texas, USA
Died May 10, 1977 in New York City, New York, USA (heart attack)
Birth Name Lucille Fay LeSueur
Nicknames Billie Cassin
Height 5′ 3″ (1.6 m)
Mini Bio (1)
Joan Crawford was born Lucille Fay LeSueur on March 23, 1905, in San Antonio, Texas, to Anna Belle (Johnson) and Thomas E. LeSueur, a laundry laborer. By the time she was born, her parents had separated, and by the time she was a teenager, she’d had three stepfathers. It wasn’t an easy life; Crawford worked a variety of menial jobs. She was a good dancer, though, and — perhaps seeing dance as her ticket to a career in show business — she entered several contests, one of which landed her a spot in a chorus line. Before long, she was dancing in big Midwestern and East Coast cities. After almost two years, she packed her bags and moved to Hollywood. Crawford was determined to succeed, and shortly after arriving she got her first bit part, as a showgirl in Pretty Ladies (1925).
Three films quickly followed; although the roles weren’t much to speak of, she continued toiling. Throughout 1927 and early 1928, she was cast in small parts, but that ended with the role of Diana Medford in Our Dancing Daughters (1928), which elevated her to star status. Crawford had cleared the first big hurdle; now came the second, in the form of talkies. Many stars of the silents saw their careers evaporate, either because their voices weren’t particularly pleasant or because their voices, pleasing enough, didn’t match the public’s expectations (for example, some fans felt that John Gilbert’s tenor didn’t quite match his very masculine persona). But Crawford wasn’t felled by sound. Her first talkie, Untamed (1929), was a success. As the 1930s progressed, Crawford became one of the biggest stars at MGM. She was in top form in films such as Grand Hotel (1932), Sadie McKee (1934), No More Ladies (1935), and Love on the Run (1936); movie patrons were enthralled, and studio executives were satisfied.
By the early 1940s, MGM was no longer giving her plum roles; newcomers had arrived in Hollywood, and the public wanted to see them. Crawford left MGM for rival Warner Bros., and in 1945 she landed the role of a lifetime. Mildred Pierce (1945) gave her an opportunity to show her range as an actress, and her performance as a woman driven to give her daughter everything garnered Crawford her first, and only, Oscar for Best Actress. The following year she appeared with John Garfield in the well-received Humoresque (1946). In 1947, she appeared as Louise Graham in Possessed (1947); again she was nominated for a Best Actress from the Academy, but she lost to Loretta Young in The Farmer’s Daughter (1947). Crawford continued to choose her roles carefully, and in 1952 she was nominated for a third time, for her depiction of Myra Hudson in Sudden Fear (1952). This time the coveted Oscar went to Shirley Booth, for Come Back, Little Sheba (1952). Crawford’s career slowed after that; she appeared in minor roles until 1962, when she and Bette Davis co-starred in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Their longstanding rivalry may have helped fuel their phenomenally vitriolic and well-received performances. (Earlier in their careers, Davis said of Crawford, “She’s slept with every male star at MGM except Lassie,” and Crawford said of Davis, “I don’t hate [her] even though the press wants me to. I resent her. I don’t see how she built a career out of a set of mannerisms instead of real acting ability. Take away the pop eyes, the cigarette, and those funny clipped words, and what have you got? She’s phony, but I guess the public really likes that”.)
Crawford’s final appearance on the silver screen was in a flop called. Turning to vodka more and more, she was hardly seen afterward. On May 10, 1977, Joan died of a heart attack in New York City. She was 72 years old. She had disinherited her adopted daughter Christina and son Christopher; the former wrote a tell-all book called “Mommie Dearest”, The Sixth Sense published in 1978. The book cast Crawford in a negative light and was cause for much debate, particularly among her friends and acquaintances, including Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Crawford’s first husband. (In 1981, Faye Dunaway starred in Mommie Dearest (1981) which did well at the box office.) Crawford is interred in the same mausoleum as fellow MGM star Judy Garland, in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale,
Joan Crawford Biography,
– IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Denny Jackson, with assistance from Copy Editor
Alfred Steele (14 January 1956 – 6 April 1959) ( his death)
Phillip Terry (21 July 1942 – 25 April 1946) ( divorced) ( 1 child)
Franchot Tone (11 October 1935 – 11 April 1939) ( divorced)
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (3 June 1929 – 15 May 1934) ( divorced)
Trade Mark (4)
Glamorous sense of fashion
Frequently played women put through an extensive amount of suffering
Later in her career, her large eyebrows and “smear” lipstick
Entered Stephens College, a posh university for women in Columbia, Missouri, in 1922, but left before her first academic year was over as she felt she was not academically prepared for university.
Worked as an elevator operator at Harzfeld’s Department Store in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
Each time Crawford married, she changed the name of her Brentwood estate and installed all new toilet seats.
Interred at Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York, USA.
Was asked to take over Carole Lombard ‘s role in They All Kissed the Bride (1942) after Lombard died in an airplane crash returning from a war bond tour. Crawford then donated all of her salary to the Red Cross, which found Lombard’s body, and promptly fired her agent for taking his usual 10%.
She was so dedicated to her fans that she always personally responded to her fan mail by typing responses on blue paper and autographing it. A great deal of her spare time and weekends were spent doing this.
After her friend Steven Spielberg hit it big, Joan sent him periodic notes of congratulations. The last one came two weeks before her death.
She taught director Steven Spielberg how to belch while filming their episode of Night Gallery (1969).
Cartoonist Milton Caniff claimed he based the character of “Dragon Lady” in his popular “Terry and the Pirates” comic strip on Crawford.
At the time of her death, the only photographs displayed in her apartment were of Barbara Stanwyck and President John F. Kennedy.
One-time daughter-in-law of Douglas Fairbanks. Former cousin-in-law of Lucile Fairbanks. Former niece-in-law of Robert Fairbanks.
Born at 10:00 PM.
She had a cleanliness obsession. She used to wash her hands every ten minutes and follow guests around her house wiping everything they touched, especially doorknobs and pieces from her china set. She would never smoke a cigarette unless she opened the pack herself, and would never use another cigarette out of that pack if someone else had touched it.
Was forced by MGM boss Louis B. Mayer to drop her real name Lucille LeSueur because it sounded too much like “sewer”.
Her 1933 contract with MGM was so detailed and binding, it even had a clause in it indicating what time she was expected to be in bed each night.
She was named as “the other woman” in at least two divorces.
Whenever she stayed in a hotel, no matter how good or reputable it was, she always scrubbed the bathroom herself before using it.
In the early 1930s, tired of playing fun-loving flappers, she wanted to change her image. Thin lips would not do for her; she wanted big lips. Ignoring Crawford’s natural lip contours, Max Factor ran a smear of color across her upper and lower lips; it was just what she wanted. To Max, the Crawford look, which became her trademark, was always “the smear”. To the public it became known as “Hunter’s Bow Lips”. Crawford is often credited as helping to rout America’s prejudice against lipstick.
After hearing that a plumber had used a toilet after installing it in her Brentwood home, she immediately had the fixture and pipes ripped out and replaced.
Her cleanliness obsession led her to prefer showers to tubs, as she abhorred sitting in her own bathwater.
Despite being a big star, Crawford really didn’t appear in that many film classics. One she missed out on was From Here to Eternity (1953) in 1953. When the domineering actress insisted that her costumes be designed by Sheila O’Brien, studio head Harry Cohn replaced her with Deborah Kerr.
In her final years at MGM, Crawford was handed weak scripts in the hopes that she’d break her contract. Two films she hungered to appear in were Random Harvest (1942) and Madame Curie (1943). Both films went to bright new star Greer Garson instead, and Crawford left the studio soon after.
“Joan Arden” was chosen as the young star’s screen name after a write-in contest was held in the pages of “Movie Weekly” magazine, but a bit player came forward and said she was already using it. Mrs. Marie M. Tisdale, a crippled woman living in Albany, New York, won $500 for submitting the runner-up name “Joan Crawford”.
She disliked her “new” name and initially encouraged others to pronounce it Jo-Anne Crawford. In private, she liked to be referred to as Billie.
A 2002 TV biography revealed that her hatred of wire hangers derived from her poverty as a child and her experiences working with her mother in what must have been a grim job in a laundry.
She always considered The Unknown (1927) a big turning point for her. She said it wasn’t until working with Lon Chaney in this film that she learned the difference between standing in front of a camera and acting in front of a camera. She said that was all due to Chaney and his intense concentration, and after that experience she said she worked much harder to become a better actress.
Joan Crawford Biography,
Sister of actor Hal Le Sueur.
She was bullied and shunned at Scaritt Elementary School in Kansas City by the other students due to her poor home life (after she became a star, she answered every single piece of fan mail she received in her lifetime except those from former classmates at Scaritt). She worked with her mother in a laundry and felt that her classmates could smell the chemicals and cleaners on her. She said that her love of taking showers and being obsessed with cleanliness had begun early in life as an attempt to wash off the smell of the laundry.
Decided to adopt children after suffering a series of miscarriages with her husbands and being told by doctors that she would never be able to have a baby.
Drank excessively and smoked until she began practicing Christian Science, at which time she abruptly quit smoking. The amount she drank decreased substantially for decades, but then increased during the 1960s and 1970s as her career wound down and health problems increased.
During her later years, Crawford was drinking up to a quart of vodka a day.
When her daughter Christina Crawford decided to become an actress, Joan demanded that she change her last name, so it wouldn’t appear that Christina was using it to further her career. Christina refused.
Adopted all of her children except Christopher Crawford while she was unmarried. Since the state of California did not allow single men and women to adopt children at that time, Joan had to search for agencies in the eastern United States. The agency in charge of the adoption of Christina was later exposed as part of a black market baby ring.
As a child, Joan was playing in the front yard of her home in Texas when she got a large piece of glass lodged in her foot. After it was removed, doctors told her she would likely never walk again without a limp. Joan was determined to be a dancer, so she practiced walking and dancing every day for over six months until she was able to walk without pain. Not only did she make a full recovery, she also fulfilled her dream of becoming a chorus dancer.
Was dancing in a chorus line in 1925 when she was spotted by MGM and offered a screen test. Although she wanted more than anything to continue dancing, she turned down the offer at first. Another chorus girl persuaded her to try the test, however, and a few weeks later she was put under contract.
When she adopted her eldest daughter, Christina Crawford, she first named her “Joan Jr.”. Baby pictures from the book “Mommie, Dearest” show baby Christina lying on a towel with “Joan, Jr.” monogrammed on it. Later, for reasons that can only be speculated, Joan changed the baby’s name to Christina. Joan did the same thing to her adopted son, who was named “Phillip Terry, Jr.” after actor Phillip Terry, to whom she was married at the time he was adopted. After her divorce from Terry was finalized, she changed the boy’s name to Christopher.
Adopted another son in the early 1940s, but during a magazine interview she disclosed the location of his birth, and his biological mother showed up at her Brentwood home wanting the baby back. Thinking that a fight would hurt the well-being of the child, Joan gave him back to his mother, who then sold him to another family.
Never liked the name “Crawford”, saying to her friend William Haines that it sounded too much like “Crawfish”. He replied that it was much better than “Cranberry,” which became the nickname he used for Crawford for over 50 years.
Blue Öyster Cult wrote a song about her, titled “Joan Crawford”.
Adopted four children: Christina Crawford, Christopher Crawford, and twins Cindy Crawford and Cathy Crawford.
Her little tap dancing in The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929) was the first audible tap dance on the screen.
Her Oscar statuette for Mildred Pierce (1945) went on auction after her death and sold for $68,000. The auction house had predicted a top bid of $15,000.
Her popularity grew so quickly after her name was changed to Joan Crawford that two films in which she was still billed as Lucille Le Sueur: Old Clothes (1925) and The Only Thing (1925) were recalled, and the billings were altered.
WAMPAS Baby of 1926
Joan Crawford Biography,
She was a favorite model of Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks for their early experiments in animation (“The Hand Behind the Mouse,” by Leslie Iwerks).
Met her biological father only once when he visited her on the set of Chained (1934). She would never see him again.
One of the original MGM contract stars from the studio’s early period.
She was voted the 47th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
After being signed by MGM, someone attempted to extort money from the studio by claiming they had a pornographic film that featured a young Crawford. The attempt failed when MGM pointed out they could not definitely prove the actress in the film was Crawford. The incident was mentioned in a couple of biographies.
Was approached twice by the producers of the Airport disaster movie series. She was offered two different roles in both Airport 1975 (1974) and Airport ’77 (1977), but refused.
Comedic actress Betty Hutton, who lived near Crawford for a time, stated that she saw some of the abuse claimed by Joan’s daughter Christina Crawford. Hutton would often encourage her own children to spend some time with “those poor children,” as she felt they needed some fun in their lives. Crawford’s other friend Helen Hayes also confirmed the abuse allegations in her own memoir “My Life in Three Acts” (1990) when she wrote: “Joan was not quite rational in her raising of children. You might say she was strict or stern. But cruel is probably the right word.”.
After her husband Alfred Steele died, she continued to set a place for him at the dinner table.
Although she claimed her youngest daughters Cathy and Cindy were twins, most sources–including her two older children–claim they were just two babies born about a month apart. Her two older children claimed they couldn’t be twins because they looked nothing alike. In the early 1990s Cathy found their birth certificate, which proved that they were indeed twins, born on January 13, 1947. The fact that they were fraternal twins, rather than identical, can account for the fact that they did not look alike. The twins eventually met their birth father and other biological relatives. They found out that their birth mother had died of kidney failure soon after birth and that their father, who had not been married to their mother, did not find out about them until after it was too late. They were sold illegally to Crawford by Tennessee Children’s Home Society director Georgia Tann.
She has a granddaughter, Chrystal, from son Christopher. She has a granddaughter Carla, born c. 1970, from daughter Cathy. She has eight grandchildren altogether (four from Christopher and two each from Cindy and Cathy).
She has a grandson, Casey LaLonde, by her daughter Cathy. He was born c. 1972.
Is portrayed by Barrie Youngfellow in The Scarlett O’Hara War (1980) and by Oscar winners Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest (1981) and Jessica Lange in Feud: Bette and Joan (2017).
She had English, as well as small amounts of French (the origin of her surname) and Welsh, ancestry.
In AFI’s 100 Years 100 Stars, she was ranked the #10 Female Greatest Screen Legend.
Often wore shoulder pads.
Was very close friends with William Haines and his partner Jimmy Shields from very early in her career until Haines’ death. An up-and-coming actor, Haines had refused MGM’s demand of a sham marriage to divert attention from his long-standing relationship with Shields. Crawford often referred to them as one of the longest, happiest marriages in Hollywood.
Her performance as Mildred Pierce Beragon in Mildred Pierce (1945) is ranked #93 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
Adopted four children. Her two oldest children, Christina Crawford and Chistopher were completely excluded from her will. The other two received the modest amount of $77,500 each out of Crawford’s $2 million estate.
Mentioned in thanks by Courtney Love in the liner notes of Hole’s album “Celebrity Skin”.
In Italy, almost all of her films were dubbed by Tina Lattanzi and in the fifties mainly by Lydia Simoneschi. She was once dubbed by Gemma Griarotti in the second dubbing of Grand Hotel (1932).
She was Fred Astaire’s first on-screen dance partner. They appeared in Dancing Lady (1933).
Salary for 1941, $195,673.
Had once said that Clark Gable was the only man she had ever truly loved.
In 1933 she appeared in a Coca-Cola print advertisement. Twenty-two years later she married Pepsi-Cola board chairman Alfred Steele.
In 1959, upon the death of her husband Alfred Steele, CEO of the Pepsi-Cola Company, she refused to give up her seat on the board of directors until her forced retirement in 1973. She earned $60,000 per year as a board member and was a tireless supporter of the product, demanding that it receive prominent placement in her films, and traveled extensively as a goodwill ambassador for the company.
While touring the talk show circuit to promote What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Bette Davis told one interviewer that when she and Crawford were first suggested for the leads, Warner Bros. studio head Jack L. Warner replied: “I wouldn’t give a plugged nickel for either of those two old broads.” Recalling the story, Davis laughed at her own expense. The following day, she received a telegram from Crawford: “In future, please do not refer to me as an old broad!”.
She was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1752 Vine St.
Her daughter Christina Crawford suffered from an ovarian cyst in 1968 while appearing on the soap opera The Secret Storm (1954). While Christina was recovering from surgery, Joan–63 years old at the time–temporarily took over Christina’s role as a 28-year-old on the show. Christina wrote in her book “Mommie Dearest” that when she watched her mother’s scenes on the telecast, it was obvious to her that Crawford had been drinking during the taping.
Former mother-in-law of Harvey Medlinsky.
Was in consideration for the part of Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday (1940), but Rosalind Russell was cast instead.
After joining Warner Bros., she was looking for her first role at the studio. Jack L. Warner had her in mind for the role of Kathryn Mason in Conflict (1945) and sent the script for the film to her. However, after reading the script, she told her agent to tell Warner that “Joan Crawford never dies in her movies, and she never ever loses her man to anyone”.
She was an active member of the Hollywood Democratic Committee and was very liberal all her life. She was a supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Adlai Stevenson, John F. Kennedy.
Her biggest pet peeve was being told by rising starlets that she was their mother’s favorite actress.
Joan suffered from bacillophobia, the fear of germs.
The Disneyland attraction “It’s A Small World” was donated to the famed theme-park courtesy of Joan. During the 1964 World’s Fair, Joan, who at the time was member of the board of directors of Pepsi Cola, approached Walt Disney with the suggestion to create a ride dedicated to the children of the world. The musical boat ride was a smash hit and once the fair ended “It’s A Small World” was transferred in its entirety to Disneyland and was officially reopened to park guests on May 28, 1966, with Crawford in attendance.
She was friends with: Van Johnson, Cesar Romero, Barbara Stanwyck, Myrna Loy, Ann Blyth, Gary Gray, Marlene Dietrich, Anita Loos, Rosalind Russell, Virginia Bruce, and George Cukor.
She once said in an interview that she and her arch-rival and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) costar Bette Davis had nothing in common. In reality, they had a handful of similarities in their personal lives. They both had fathers who abandoned their families at a young age, they rose from poverty to success while breaking into films during the late 1920s and early 1930s, had siblings and mothers who milked them financially once they became famous, became Oscar-winning leading ladies, were staunch liberal Democrats and feminists, had four husbands, had adopted children, and had daughters who wrote books denouncing them as bad mothers.
Her favorite musician was Glenn Miller and she especially loved his 1939 song “Moonlight Serenade”.
A personal friend of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, she was attending a White House dinner on January 17, 1967, and caused quite a tabloid stir when she implied that Cathy Douglas, the recent widow of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, failed to show “proper breeding” by not knowing how to correctly use her finger bowl.
Release of the book, “Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr” by David Bret. 
In January 2014, she was honored as Turner Classic Movies Star of the Month.
Was considered for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939).
Her favorite actress was Agnes Moorehead.
She was a fan of the TV show Bewitched (1964).
Is one of 14 Best Actress Oscar winners to have not accepted their Academy Award in person, Crawford’s being for Mildred Pierce (1945). The others are Katharine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, Judy Holliday, Vivien Leigh, Anna Magnani, Ingrid Bergman, Sophia Loren, Anne Bancroft, Patricia Neal, Elizabeth Taylor, Maggie Smith, Glenda Jackson and Ellen Burstyn.
Was the 26th actress to receive an Academy Award; she won the Best Actress Oscar for Mildred Pierce (1945) at The 18th Academy Awards on March 7, 1946.
Paramount was the one major studio Crawford never made a film for, although she came very close. In early 1953 she was in talks to star as Sylvia Merril in the Irving Asher production of “Lisbon”, an international spy tale adapted from a short story by ‘Martin Rackin’ (qv(. However, the film was shelved when after several rewrites Asher and Crawford weren’t sure about the strength of the script. She and director Nicholas Ray (who had been hired to direct “Lisbon”) both went on to film the 1954 western Johnny Guitar (1954) for Republic Pictures. It was Republic that ended up making Lisbon (1956) with Maureen O’Hara playing Sylvia Merril.
In 1934, Crawford contacted the doctor who had performed her dental and facial operations in 1928, William Branch, for which there were follow-up procedures in 1932 and 1933. She asked him to help her develop a program through which she would underwrite the hospital bills for destitute patients who had once worked in any capacity in the film industry. These people would receive all necessary treatment at the Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, where she endowed many rooms and a surgical suite. All the bills were sent to her and promptly and privately paid for, without referring them to her business manager. The arrangement was made on condition that her name not be used, and that she receive no credit or publicity for her charitable work in any way. Years later, when her donations were discovered and she was publicly praised, Crawford feigned ignorance of the entire enterprise. According to a confidential hospital report made in 1939, “In the two years after 1937, more than 390 major surgeries were completed. Joan Crawford paid the bills, she never knew the people for whom she was paying, and she didn’t care.”.
In his autobiography, Jackie Cooper claims he had an affair with Crawford when he was her teenage neighbor.
At the Academy Awards presentation for 1961 (1962), Crawford presented Maximilian Schell with his “Best Actor” Oscar; the following year, Schell, as presenter of the “Best Actress” award, presented the Oscar to Crawford, who was accepting for absent winner Anne Bancroft, in what became a pivotal moment in the rift between Crawford and Bette Davis. Crawford wasn’t nominated, but her co-star Davis was for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). She was hurt but still wanted the spotlight to shine on her on Oscar night, so she called the New York-based nominees Geraldine Page and Bancroft and told them if they can’t attend the ceremony in California, she’ll accept on their behalf if one of them wins. Both actresses were in awe of Crawford and accepted her offer. Davis thought she would win, which would have made her the first actress to win three Oscars, even though no actress had ever won for a horror/suspense film at that point. When Bancroft’s name was announced as the winner, Crawford walked past a stunned Davis and accepted the award and posed for photographs with the other winners. The rift between the two stars never healed. Yet in 1987, 10 years after Crawford died, Davis told Bryant Gumbel that Crawford was a professional to work with, since she showed up on time and knew her lines. She then told Barbara Walters that she won’t tarnish Crawford’s accomplishments: “She came a long way from a little girl from where she came from. This, I will never take away from her”.
Appeared alongside Diane Baker in three films: The Best of Everything (1959), Della (1964) and Strait-Jacket (1964). In the latter two, she played Baker’s mother.
During her time on the Pepsi-Cola board of directors, whenever she and the current president of Coca-Cola happened to be in the same restaurant at the same time, each of them would send the other a bottle of the other’s product.
During filming of her episode of Night Gallery (1969), its director, the then-unknown Steven Spielberg, presented her with the gift of a single red rose in a Pepsi-Cola bottle. At the time, she was still a member of the soft drink giant’s board of directors.
The death of her fourth husband, Alfred Steele, devastated her financially as well as emotionally. After he died it was discovered that he had borrowed money from Pepsi-Cola against his future salary, and when he passed away she was left with massive debts to cover. Her dire financial situation is one of the main reasons–aside from the fact that she simply loved working–for the increasingly lackluster projects she signed on for in her later career.
She considered This Woman Is Dangerous (1952) to be the worst film she ever starred in.
Profiled in the book “Johnny Mack Brown’s Saddle Gals” by Bobby Copeland.
According to Joan, “You manufacture toys. You don’t manufacture stars” (cited in ‘A Tribute to Joan Crawford’, in Film Fan Monthly # 138, December 1972).
Is portrayed by Jessica Lange in Feud: Bette and Joan (2017).
She co-starred in eight movies with Clark Gable: Dance, Fools, Dance (1931), Laughing Sinners (1931), Possessed (1931), Dancing Lady (1933), Chained (1934), Forsaking All Others (1934), Love on the Run (1936), and Strange Cargo (1940). They also both appeared, uncredited, as extras in The Merry Widow (1925) and Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925).
Her first screen name was decided by a magazine competition, being Joan Arden. After two movies an extra called Joan Arden sued Metro and so her name had to be changed and the second choice from the competition was chosen. Joan Crawford.
She and Bette Davis were cast in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) by Robert Aldrich in the hope of repeating the success of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Bette got a producers credit and conspired to make things difficult for Joan who eventually pretended to be too ill to work causing production to be delayed resulting in her being dropped and replaced by Olivia de Havilland. Joan only discovered the news on the radio after it had been leaked to the press, allegedly by Bette.
Daughter of Thomas (1868-1938), born in the state of Tennessee, and Anna Belle (née Johnson) LeSueur (1884-1958), born in the state of Texas.
She was the original choice for Martha Kent in Superman (1978), but she was too ill to take the part and died before filming started.
She was considered for Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950), but she was already committed to The Damned Don’t Cry (1950). The part went to her arch-rival Bette Davis.
On August 31, 2018, she was honored with a day of her film work during the TCM Summer Under The Stars.
She expressed interest in playing Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (1967).
She has appeared in five films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925), Grand Hotel (1932), The Women (1939), Mildred Pierce (1945) and Johnny Guitar (1954).
Stephen Sondheim wrote his classic song ‘I’m Still Here’ from the musical ‘Follies’ based on her life and career – the song describes a performer going from poverty to glamorous icon, then through addiction and rehab to becoming a caricature of her old persona, but surviving nonetheless, as Crawford had.
I need sex for a clear complexion, but I’d rather do it for love.
[In The Women (1939)] Norma Shearer made me change my costume sixteen times because every one was prettier than hers. I love to play bitches and she helped me in this part.
If you start watching the oldies, you’re in trouble. I feel ancient if Grand Hotel (1932) or The Bride Wore Red (1937) comes on. I have a sneaking regard for Mildred Pierce (1945), but the others do nothing for me.
[regarding the films she made after What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)] They were all terrible, even the few I thought might be good. I made them because I needed the money or because I was bored or both. I hope they have been exhibited and withdrawn and are never heard from again.
If I weren’t a Christian Scientist, and I saw Trog (1970) advertised on a marquee across the street, I’d think I’d contemplate suicide.
I realized one morning that Trog (1970) was going to be my last picture. I had to be up early for the shoot and when I looked outside at the beautiful morning sky I felt that it was time to say goodbye. I think that may have been a prophetic thought because when I arrived on the set that morning the director told me that due to budget cuts we would wrap up filming today. The last shot of that film was a one-take and it was a very emotional moment for me. When I was walking up that hill towards the sunset I was flooded with memories of the last 50 years, and when the director yelled cut I just kept on walking. That for me was the perfect way to end my film career; however, the audiences who had to sit through that picture may feel differently.
I hate being asked to discuss those dreadful horror pictures I made the mistake of starring in. They were all just so disappointing to me, I really had high expectations for some of them. I thought that William Castle and I did our best on Strait-Jacket (1964) but the script was ludicrous and unbelievable and that destroyed that picture. I even thought that Berserk (1967) would be good but that was one of the worst of the lot. The other one William Castle and I did [I Saw What You Did (1965)] was the most wretched of them all and I just wasn’t good at playing an over-the-hill nymphomaniac. Ha! Then came Trog (1970). Now you can understand why I retired from making motion pictures. Incidentally, I think at that point in my career I was doing my best work on television. Della was a good television role for me, and I really liked working on that pilot episode of Night Gallery: Pilot (1969) with young Steven Spielberg. He did a great job and I am very satisfied with my performance on that show. Funny, every time a reporter asks me about my horror pictures they never talk about that one, and it’s the only one I liked!
Love is fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.
Nobody can imitate me. You can always see impersonations of Katharine Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. But not me. Because I’ve always drawn on myself only.
I think the most important thing a woman can have — next to talent, of course, is — her hairdresser.
[regarding the ongoing feud between Joan and her daughter Christina Crawford] Mother-and-daughter feuds make for reams in print; they also make for reams of inaccuracies: the greatest inaccuracy is the feud itself. It takes two to feud and I’m not one of them. I only wish the best for Tina.
Women’s Lib? Poor little things. They always look so unhappy. Have you noticed how bitter their faces are?
You have to be self-reliant and strong to survive in this town. Otherwise you will be destroyed.
Recently I heard a “wise guy” story that I had a party at my home for 25 men. It’s an interesting story, but I don’t know 25 men I’d want to invite to a party.
[speaking of Marilyn Monroe] Look, there’s nothing wrong with my tits, but I don’t go around throwing them in people’s faces!
Send me flowers while I’m alive. They won’t do me a damn bit of good after I’m dead.
Not that anyone cares, but there’s a right and wrong way to clean a house.
There was a saying around MGM: “Norma Shearer got the productions, Greta Garbo supplied the art, and Joan Crawford made the money to pay for both”.
Of all the actresses . . . to me, only Faye Dunaway has the talent and the class and the courage it takes to make a real star.
I’d like to think every director I’ve worked with has fallen in love with me; I know Dorothy Arzner did.
If I can’t be me, I don’t want to be anybody. I was born that way.
[speaking to director George Cukor after learning of Marilyn Monroe’s death] You’re right. She was cheap, and an exhibitionist. She was never professional, and that irritated the hell out of people. But for God’s sake, she needed help. She had all these people on her payroll. Where the hell were they when she needed them? Why in the hell did she have to die alone?
I love playing bitches. There’s a lot of bitch in every woman–a lot in every man.
Hollywood is like life, you face it with the sum total of your equipment.
If you’ve earned a position, be proud of it. Don’t hide it. I want to be recognized. When I hear people say, “Joan Crawford!” I turn around and say, “Hi! How are you?”
If you’re going to be a star, you have to look like a star, and I never go out unless I look like Joan Crawford the movie star. If you want to see the girl next door, go next door.
[on working with Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) at Legendary Ladies of the Movies, Town Hall (1973)] It was one of the greatest challenges I ever had. [pauses to allow the laughter from the audience to taper off] I meant that kindly. Bette is of a different temperament than I. Bette had to yell every morning. I just sat and knitted. I knitted a scarf from Hollywood to Malibu.
[on director George Cukor] Mr. Cukor is a hard task-master, a fine director and he took me over the coals giving me the roughest time I have ever had. And I am eternally grateful.
[commenting on the remake of The Women (1939), The Opposite Sex (1956)] It’s ridiculous. Norma [Norma Shearer] and I might not ever have been bosom buddies, but we towered compared to those pygmies in the remake!
[on Greta Garbo] She’s let herself go all to hell. She walks along the sidewalk and runs across the street through the cars when somebody notices her, like an animal, a furtive rodent. It’s a wonder anybody notices her–she looks like a bag lady. I heard that she’s simply stopped bathing.
[on Greta Garbo] To this day I deplore the fact that she is unable to share herself with the world. What a waste! . . . If only she hadn’t been so afraid, she wouldn’t today be a lonely stranger on Fifth Avenue, fleeing before recognition.
[on Bette Davis during the filming of Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)] She acted like [What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)] was a one-woman show after they nominated her [for an Academy Award as Best Actress]. What was I supposed to do, let her hog all the glory, act like I hadn’t even been in the movie? She got the nomination. I didn’t begrudge her that, but it would have been nice if she’d been a little gracious in interviews and given me a little credit. I would have done it for her.
[on Bette Davis and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)] Sure, she stole some of my big scenes, but the funny thing is, when I see the movie again, she stole them because she looked like a parody of herself, and I still looked like something of a star.
[on Bette Davis] She has a cult, and what the hell is a cult except a gang of rebels without a cause. I have fans. There’s a big difference.
[on Bette Davis and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)] I have always believed in the Christian ethic, to forgive and forget. I looked forward to working with Bette again. I had no idea of the extent of her hate, and that she planned to destroy me.
[on Bette Davis] So I had no great beginnings in legitimate theater, but what the hell had she become if not a movie star? With all her little gestures with the cigarette, the clipped speech, the big eyes, the deadpan? I was just as much an actress as she was, even though I wasn’t trained for the stage.
[on Bette Davis and The Star (1952)] Of course I had heard she was supposed to be playing me, but I didn’t believe it. Did you see the picture? It couldn’t possibly be me. Bette looked so old, and so dreadfully overweight.
[on Judy Garland] Over the years I’ve heard and read so many stories about the way Judy Garland was so badly treated at Metro she ended up a mess. I did not know her well, but after watching her in action a few times I didn’t want to know her well. I think her problems were caused by the fact that she was a spoiled, indulgent, selfish brat–plus a stage mother who had to be something of a monster, and a few husbands whose egos absolutely dominated hers. There were times when I felt sorry for Judy, but there were more times when I thought, “For Christ’s sake, get off your ass!” . . . but when she put her mind to it, she was good. And I mean damned good. Even in her silly pictures she came off.
[commenting on sex in films] I find suggestion a hell of a lot more provocative than explicit detail. You didn’t see [Clark Gable] and [Vivien Leigh] rolling around in bed in Gone with the Wind (1939), but you saw that shit-eating grin on her face the next morning and you knew damned well she’d gotten properly laid . . . In my fallen-woman roles . . . nobody saw me do the actual falling . . . but they knew I’d fallen, and when it happened again–well, they got the point, and maybe the pornography that went on inside their heads was better than the actual thing would have been on screen. Censorship was a pain in the ass–when it was moral or political–but in the long run, considering what I see now, I think it served a purpose. Marlon Brando . . . Oh, what was the film [Last Tango in Paris (1972)] . . . anyway the nude scene. He’s at least 40 pounds overweight, and I think the only sex appeal he has would be to a meat packer. That’s art? The emphasis seems to be on the seamier side of real life, as though we should be more interested in what happened in the bathroom and the bedroom instead of living room, kitchen and office. The perspective is crazy. If we think about our lives, and divide time into the portions spent on making a living, eating, talking, reading, being entertained by TV or movies or radio or theater or whatever, and having sex, I think we’d find sex coming out on the short end of the stick. Unless you’re a whore it doesn’t give you the wherewithal to survive. Good God, isn’t it more fun doing it or imagining it than watching it? . . . I know I sound like some sort of old Puritan, but I still think back to “Gone with the Wind”, and that morning scene with Scarlett O’Hara. It was a hell of a lot more sexually stimulating than a glimpse of fat Marlon Brando.
Be afraid of nothing.
When we were making [What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)], Bette [Bette Davis] admitted to me she was “absolutely smitten” with Franchot [Franchot Tone], who had made Dangerous (1935) with her, but Franchot and I were already very much involved. That proves that Bette did have some good taste in men. Franchot said he thought Bette was a good actress, but he never thought of her as a woman. Our marriage didn’t last, but we had some wonderful years. I wouldn’t give them back for anything, and we remained friends as long as he lived.
Sensitive husbands don’t like second billing. I don’t believe Franchot [Franchot Tone] ever for a moment resented the fact that I was a star. Possibly he resented Hollywood’s refusal to let him forget it. There was never a doubt in my mind that his talent was greater than mine.
Franchot [Franchot Tone] was an extremely loving, intelligent, considerate man, but he was also very haunted. He was one hell of a fine actor, but he loved the theatre and despised Hollywood. He very seldom got the parts he deserved, and I think this bugged him a lot. I wasn’t as nice to him, as considerate, as I should have been. I was extremely busy during those years, and I didn’t realize that his insecurities and dissatisfactions ran so deeply. His sex life diminished considerably, which didn’t help matters, and there finally came a time when we only had things to argue about, not to talk about, and after hundreds of running arguments and a few physical rows we decided to call it quits. I missed him a lot, for a long, long time. He was so mature and stimulating. I think I can safely say that the break-up was another career casualty. If I’d tried a little harder – who knows.
[on The David Frost Show (1969), (1970)] I feel that if you have one ounce of good sense and one good friend, you’ll never have to go to a psychiatrist.
[The 1930s] Hollywood was capable of hurting me so much. The things about Hollywood that could hurt me (when I first came) can’t touch me now. I suddenly decided that they shouldn’t hurt me–that was all.
When television killed comedy and love stories, the movie makers went in slugging. They offered the downbeat, the degenerate as competition. This seems to me to be a sad campaign for Hollywood to use to combat box office disaster.
[on Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) (1973)] I still get chills when I think of the treachery that Miss Davis [Bette Davis] indulged in on that movie, but I refused to ever let anger or hate enter my heart.
[on Bette Davis]: There was one thing where Bette was one up on me. She’d had a baby, a child of her own. I wanted one, and Bette was so lucky to have been able to have her own daughter.
[on her children Christina Crawford and Christopher Crawford] You know the troubles I’ve had with my two older children. I can’t understand why it turned out so badly. I tried to give them everything. I loved them and tried to keep them near me, even when they didn’t return my love. Well, I couldn’t make them love me, but they could have shown some respect. I couldn’t insist on love, but I could insist on respect.
[on the red carpet treatment Norma Shearer attracted at MGM] What do you expect? She sleeps with the boss [Shearer’s husband Irving Thalberg was production head of MGM].
[To Spencer Tracy, made up with curled hair for Captains Courageous (1937)] Oh, my God, it’s Harpo Marx!
I had always known what I wanted, and that was beauty . . . in every form . . . a beautiful house, beautiful man, a beautiful life and image. I was ambitious to get the money which would attain all that for me.
I hate this fucking picture [What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)], but I need the money, and if it goes over I’ll get a nice percentage of the profits.
[after seeing Greta Garbo for the first time on the MGM lot] My knees went weak. She was breathtaking. If ever I thought of becoming a lesbian, that was it.
[commenting on her final days at Warner Brothers] They were grooming Doris Day to take over the top spot. [Jack L. Warner] asked me to play her sister in one picture [Storm Warning (1951)]. I said, “Come on, Jack. No one could ever believe that I would have Doris Day for a sister”.
[on Planet of the Apes (1968)] Sure, I’d play an ape if they asked me. Maurice Evans did.
I absolutely will not allow anyone to call me grandmother. They can call me Auntie Joan, Dee-Dee, Cho-Cho, anything but grandmother. It pushes a woman almost to the grave.
[on What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) and whether she hid weights on her body so that Bette Davis would have a hard time lifting her off the bed when she takes her out of the house for their trip to the beach] Weights! And have Bette tell everyone I was as heavy as an elephant. Absolutely not. I may not have made it as easy for her to lift me out of the bed as I could have, at least at first, but when you’re a pro you get over any animosity you may feel and help your fellow player out. It simply didn’t happen.
[on her son, Christopher Crawford] I remember most clearly when a teenage Christopher spat in my face. He said, “I hate you”. It’s pretty hard to overlook that. I couldn’t.
I used to wash my hands every ten minutes. I couldn’t step out of the house unless I had gloves on. I wouldn’t smoke a cigarette unless I opened the pack myself, and I would never use another cigarette out of that pack if someone else had touched it.
While making Possessed (1947), I wept each morning on my drive to the studio, and I wept all the way back home. I found it impossible to sleep at night, so I’d lie in bed contemplating the future. I fear it with all my heart and soul even as I fear the dark.
[on filming the bath scene in The Women (1939)] It took ten hours to shoot. The suds lasted only fifteen minutes under the hot lights. Once, the water began to leak out and the crew had to toss me a towel to clothe myself. It could have been so embarrassing.
[on The Women (1939)] It was like a fucking zoo at times. If you let down your guard for one moment you would have been eaten alive.
The Democratic party is one that I’ve always observed. I have struggled greatly in life from the day I was born and I am honored to be a part of something that focuses on working-class citizens and molds them into a proud specimen. Mr. Roosevelt [Franklin D. Roosevelt] and Mr. Kennedy [John F. Kennedy] have done so much in that regard for the two generations they’ve won over during their career course.
[on why she declined Airport ’77 (1977)] I wanted Joel McCrea to play opposite me, and anyway, they actually asked me to fly out there with only one week’s notice! Why, that is hardly enough time for makeup tests or rehearsals . . . and when I asked about costume fittings, they said they wanted me to wear my own clothes!
[The Story of Esther Costello (1957)] It was one hell of a demanding role and I played it in my own pitch, the way I thought it should be played, and I was right. The complexities of the part were staggering and I have nothing but very fond memories of it–plus the usual nagging question, why the hell didn’t more pictures like this come along? Why did I get stuck in freak shows?
Everything clicked on Autumn Leaves (1956). The cast was perfect, the script was good, and I think Bob [director Robert Aldrich] handled everything well. I really think Cliff [Cliff Robertson] did a stupendous job; another actor might have been spitting out his lines and chewing the scenery, but he avoided that trap. I think the movie on a whole was a lot better than some of the romantic movies I did in the past. It did all right at the box office, but somehow it just never became better known. It was eclipsed by the picture I did with Bette Davis.
[on being dubbed “box-office poison in 1938] Box-office poison? Mr.Mayer [MGM chief Louis B. Mayer] always asserted that the studio had built Stage 22, Stage 24 and the Irving Thalberg Building, brick by brick, from the income on my pictures.
[on Mildred Pierce (1945)] The character I played was a composite of the characters I’d always played, and there were a few elements from my own personality and character, too. In a way, I think I was getting ready for “Mildred Pierce” when I was a kid, waiting on tables and cooking. But there was not a single Crawford mannerism in my performance. I sailed into [it] with all the gusto I’d been saving for three years. The role was a delight to me, because it rescued me from what was known at MGM as the Joan Crawford formula. I had become so hidden in clothes and sets that nobody could tell whether I had talent or not.
[on Possessed (1947)] I worked harder on it than on any other picture. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy to play a madwoman, particularly a psychotic. It was a heavy, heavy picture, not very pleasant, and I was emotionally and physically exhausted when we finished shooting.
[on This Woman Is Dangerous (1952)] At the moment when I needed a blockbuster, my next picture could easily have been my swan song. It was the type of improbable corn that had gone out with Adrian’s shoulder pads.
[on This Woman Is Dangerous (1952)] I must have been awfully hungry. The kids were in school, the house had a mortgage. And so I did this awful picture that had a shoddy story, a cliché script and no direction to speak of. The thing just blundered along. I suppose I could have made it better, but it was one of those times when I was so disgusted with everything that I just shrugged and went along with it. It was the worst picture I ever made.
[on acting] One of the scary things is the effects a really heavy or demanding role will have on your personal life. During The Women (1939), I’m afraid I was as much of a bitch offscreen as I was on. Elizabeth Taylor said that she actually became Martha [in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) in private life, with rather disastrous consequences. I can understand that. I always wondered how Charlton Heston acted offscreen while he was playing Moses.
[on Queen Bee (1955)] I had a chance to play the total bitch, a worse bitch than I had played in The Women (1939) – and for a solid ninety minutes, too. I ended up hating myself, honestly feeling that in my death scene I was getting precisely what I deserved.
[on William Haines and his partner, Jimmie Shields] The happiest married couple I ever knew.
[on returning to MGM to work on Torch Song (1953)] It was like a homecoming. I loved doing that film. It gave me a chance to dance again. All the right elements were there. It was a field day for an actress, particularly one who’d reached a certain age. They don’t write pictures like this anymore, do they?
[on The Gorgeous Hussy (1936)] I had read the criticisms of me and my movies and they were discerning. They said that Crawford needs a new deal, and they asked if I was doomed to explore forever the emotional misfortunes of the super-sexed modern young woman. And so, to break away from the pattern, I wanted to do “The Gorgeous Hussy”. [David O. Selznick] laughed at me: “You can’t do a costume picture. You’re too modern”. But I begged and begged and begged, and so they let me do it. I was totally miscast.
[on Elizabeth Taylor] Miss Taylor is a spoiled, indulgent child, a blemish on public decency.
You know, I was terrified of flying until Alfred talked me out of it.
[on filming Sudden Fear (1952)] I have been reported dating Scott Brady and feuding with Gloria Grahame while we were shooting Sudden Fear (1952). But when you’re making an independent picture you haven’t time for sex or feuds – and I resent it because both make for a happy life!
[Oscar accepting speech] Whether the Academy voters were giving the Oscar to me, sentimentally, for “Mildred” or for 200 years of effort, the hell with it – I deserved it.
Lady of the Night (1925) $75 .00 per week
Montana Moon (1930) $1,000 per week
Laughing Sinners (1931) $3,000 .00 per week
This Modern Age (1931) $3,500 .00 per week
Grand Hotel (1932) $3,500 .00 per week
Rain (1932) $4,000 .00 per week
Dancing Lady (1933) $5,000 .00 per week
No More Ladies (1935) $7,500 .00 per week
I Live My Life (1935) $7,500 .00 per week
The Gorgeous Hussy (1936) $8,500 .00 per week
Love on the Run (1936) $8,500 .00 per week
The Bride Wore Red (1937) $9,500 .00 per week
They All Kissed the Bride (1942) $330,000
Mildred Pierce (1945) $167,000
Humoresque (1946) $167,000
Humoresque (1946) $500,000
Possessed (1947) $167,000
Flamingo Road (1949) $10,000 per week
Goodbye, My Fancy (1951) $3,205 .13 per week
This Woman Is Dangerous (1952) $3,205 .13 per week
Sudden Fear (1952) 40% of profits
Torch Song (1953) $125,000 (paid in 83 installments for tax purposes)
The Story of Esther Costello (1957) $200,000
The Best of Everything (1959) $65,000
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) $30,000 + 15% of the net profits
Strait-Jacket (1964) $50,000 + % of profits
Strait-Jacket (1964) $50,000 + 40% of profits
Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) $50,000 + 25% in profits + $5,000 in living expenses
I Saw What You Did (1965) $50,000
Pilot (1969) $50,000
Trog (1970) $50,000 (estimated)
The Sixth Sense (1972) $2,500