Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Happy Birthday: Joan Crawford!

Joan Crawford (March 23, 1905 – May 10, 1977), career spanned over 45 years and over 80 films. She began dancing under the name, Lucille LeSueur, in traveling shows when she was spotted by producer Jacob J. Shubert. Shubert, put her in the chorus line for his 1924 show, Innocent Eyes, on Broadway in New York City.

Looking for work, she went to Loews Theaters publicist Nils Granlund, who found a place for her with producer Harry Richmond. He arranged for her a screen test which he sent to producer Harry Rapf, in Hollywood, who offered Crawford a contract.

As Lucille LeSueur, her first film was, Pretty Ladies(1925). A silent comedy-drama. The film is a fictional story about the, Ziegfeld Follies. Directed by Monta Bell. The story begins when.. Maggie, a Broadway dancing comedienne whose husband leaves her for another woman. Who finds love by being herself. It was also the film debut of, Myrna Loy (then still performing under her real last name Williams), who became a star in the film, The Thin Man (1934).

Also in 1925 she performed in a small role in the films, The Only Thing and Old Clothes. MGM publicity head Pete Smith, ran a contest in a popular fan magazine, Movie Weekly, which allowed fans to select her new name. Crawford, disliked the name throughout her life but, she said, "liked the security that went with it".

Becoming frustrated over the fluffy parts she was given, Crawford went on a self-promotion campaign. She began attending dances held at hotels around Hollywood, where she often won dance competitions. Her strategy worked and MGM cast her in the film, Sally, Irene and Mary (1925). In the same year, Crawford worked in, Lady of the Night, starring Norma Shearer.

Next, Crawford performed in the film, Paris(1926), where she showed off her sex appeal. Also, Crawford performed in the film, The Unknown (1927), starring Lon Chaney, Sr. She said that she learned more about acting from watching Chaney work, than from anything else in her career. "It was then", she said, "I became aware for the first time of the difference between standing in front of a camera and acting."

In 1928, Crawford starred opposite Ramon Novarro in the film, Across to Singapore, but.. it was her role in the film, Our Dancing Daughters (1928) that made her a star.

On June 3, 1929- May 1939, Crawford married Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. at Saint Malachy's Roman Catholic Church in New York City. Fairbanks, was the son of Douglas Fairbanks and the stepson of Mary Pickford.

Her first talkie film was, Untamed (1929), opposite Robert Montgomery. Crawford made the transition into sound movies with ease. The story is about, oil prospector Hank, who has raised his daughter Bingo, in the jungle of South America. He asks his friend Ben, to come work for him on his oil wells. Just as Ben arrives with Howard, Hank is killed by an oil worker who is in love with Bingo.

After, she has inherited her father's company, Ben becomes her guardian and she calls him and Howard both uncles, even though they are not related. Her "uncles" decide that Bingo should move to New York, to learn to behave like a lady. While they are aboard the ocean liner, she meets the well-educated Andy and it is love at first sight .

Because she is wealthy, he is afraid of what people might think and tells her that he cannot marry her and live off her money. Andy turns to Marjory and Bingo, goes into a jealous rage and shoots him in the shoulder. Changing his mind about leaving her, Andy decides that Bingo, is the woman for him .

After the sound film, Our Blushing Brides (1930), MGM began to develop a more sophisticated image of Crawford, rather than continuing the flapper girl of the silent era.

She went on to star opposite Clark Gable, in the film, Possessed(1931). A Pre-Code drama film directed by Clarence Brown. The film is the story of Marian Martin, a factory worker who rises to the top as the mistress of a wealthy attorney. Possessed, was the third of eight movie collaborations between Crawford and Gable.

The studio then cast her in the film, Grand Hotel, which starred the most famous actors of the 1930's. Crawford starred opposite Gable in the film, Dancing Lady (1933), in which she received top billing. Crawford's, next movies were, Sadie McKee, Chained and Forsaking All Others (all 1934).

In 1935-1939, Crawford married her second husband, Franchot Tone, a stage actor from New York who planned to use his film salary to help support his theatre group. Tone and Crawford performed together in the film, Today We Live (1933). The couple built a small theatre at Crawford's Brentwood home and put on plays for their friends.

Crawford, gave wonderful performances in the films: The Women(1939), Strange Cargo (1940), her eighth and final film with Clark Gable, A Woman's Face (1941).

Crawford, made a cameo with many other stars in, Hollywood Canteen (1944). Crawford said one of the main reasons she signed with Warner Bros. was because she wanted to play the character "Mattie" in the 1944 film version of Edith Wharton's novel, Ethan Frome (1911). It turns out, Bette Davis wanted to play Mattie and told Jack Warner, "Joan's far too old, and besides, she can't act."

Crawford wanted to play the title role in the film, Mildred Pierce (1945). a story about a woman who spoils her daughters while husband Bert looks to another woman for affection. They soon divorce, leaving Mildred to raise the girls by herself. Realtor Wally Fay, who is love with her, introduces her to Monte Baragon who sells her the property that becomes the first of a chain of restaurants. Meanwhile, Veda pretends to be pregnant by wealthy Ted Forrester in order to get a large amount of money from his family. Mildred tears up the check, is slapped by Veda and orders her daughter out of the house. After time away, Mildred returns home to find Veda singing in a club. Mildred marries Monte, but.. it soon becomes clear that something is going on between her daughter and Monte, with tragic results...

Davis was first choice, but..did not want to play the mother of a seventeen year old daughter and she turned the role down. Curtiz demanded Crawford take a screen test.

From 1945 to 1952, Crawford, performed in the films: Humoresque (1946), Possessed (1947), for which she was nominated for a second Oscar for Best Actress, Daisy Kenyon(1947), It's a Great Feeling (1949), Flamingo Road (1949), The Damned Don't Cry (1950). After filming, This Woman Is Dangerous (1952), Crawford asked to be released from her Warner Bros. contract. She then went on to perform in the film, Sudden Fear (1952) at RKO, which was the movie that introduced, Jack Palance, to the screen and earned Crawford a third and final Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

After her success in RKO's Sudden Fear, Crawford performed in films, Johnny Guitar (1954), Autumn Leaves (1956), What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962). A story about two faded actress sisters Blanche and 'Baby' Jane Hudson, who now live together. Jane was the most famous, but as they grew older, it was Blanche who became the better actress, which Jane resents. Blanche, is now confined to a wheelchair and Jane is now in control, keeping everyone away from her, while she torments her sister.

Joan Crawford's last films were: I Saw What You Did (1965) and Berserk! (1967).

Please click here to read past Joan Crawfords movie reviews.


  1. I loved Joan. She was such a beauty. People tend to remember her later in life, but as a young woman she was so gorgeous! I could watch Mildred Pierce over and over.

  2. Awesome post! I love Joan more & more every day. Her time has come (again)!

  3. Robin@DecoratingTennisGirl, Mildred Pierce, is also one of my favorite Joan, movies. Isn't it amazing that she was once a dancer?

    FlickChick, Thank you. I agree.. her time has come again!


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