Crawford, Joan, 1908-1977

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1908-03-23
Death 1977-05-10
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Joan Crawford, actress.

From the description of Joan Crawford scrapbooks, 1925-1960, microform. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122517687

From the guide to the Joan Crawford scrapbooks, [microform.], 1925-1960, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

Joan Crawford was a film star whose career spanned five decades, from silent films onward, and who worked in many genres including drama, musicals, comedy, Westerns, and horror films, and who appeared on television as well. While there is some question as to the year of her birth, the actress who became known as Joan Crawford was unquestionably born under the name Lucille Le Sueur in San Antonio, Texas. Entering films in 1925, Lucille was signed by MGM Studios where her name was changed. Her films include OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS (1928), RAIN (1932), GRAND HOTEL (1932), DANCING LADY (1933) with Clark Gable and Fred Astaire, and THE WOMEN (1939). A mid-career switch to Warner Brothers brought Crawford a Best Actress Academy Award for MILDRED PIERCE in 1945. Later roles brought diminishing returns, until a comeback performance in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? in 1962 led to a series of horror films. When Joan Crawford died in 1977 her age was given as 69, but she may have been in her early to mid 70s.

From the guide to the Letters to Joan Crawford, 1972-1976, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

Joan Crawford starred in a total of 81 films during her movie career; she won the best actress award in 1945 for the film Mildred Pierce. Joan Crawford was also active in community and business worlds and she was made a Brandeis University Fellow in 1968.

From the description of Joan Crawford Awards, 1948-1965 (Brandeis University Library). WorldCat record id: 318643593

Joan Crawford was a film star whose career spanned five decades, from silent films onward, and who worked in many genres including drama, musicals, comedy, Westerns, and horror films, and who appeared on television as well.

While there is some question as to the year of her birth, the actress who became known as Joan Crawford was unquestionably born under the name Lucille Le Sueur in San Antonio, Texas. Entering films in 1925, Lucille was signed by MGM Studios where her name was changed. Her films include OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS (1928), RAIN (1932), GRAND HOTEL (1932), DANCING LADY (1933) with Clark Gable and Fred Astaire, and THE WOMEN (1939). A mid-career switch to Warner Brothers brought Crawford a Best Actress Academy Award for MILDRED PIERCE in 1945. Later roles brought diminishing returns, until a comeback performance in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? in 1962 led to a series of horror films. When Joan Crawford died in 1977 her age was given as 69, but she may have been in her early to mid 70s.

From the description of Letters to Joan Crawford, 1972-1976. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122531716

Joan Crawford was a film star whose career spanned five decades, from silent movies onward, and who worked in many genres including drama, comedy, musicals, Westerns, and horror films, and who appeared on television as well.

While there is some question as to the year of her birth, the actress who became famous Joan Crawford was born under the name Lucille Fay Le Sueur in San Antonio, Texas. Entering films in 1925, Lucille was signed by the MGM Studio, where her name was changed. Joan Crawford's silent film appearances include SALLY, IRENE AND MARY (1925), THE UNKNOWN (1927) opposite Lon Chaney, and OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS (1928) in which she was hailed as the quintessential "flapper" of the era. Crawford's popularity grew in such talkies as RAIN (1932), GRAND HOTEL (1932), DANCING LADY (1933) with Clark Gable and Fred Astaire, and THE WOMEN (1939). A mid-career switch to Warner Brothers brought Crawford a Best Actress Academy Award for MILDRED PIERCE in 1945. Crawford's 1955 marriage to Pepsi-Cola CEO Alfred Steele coincided with her waning movie career, although the surprise hit WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962) brought new popularity in horror films. She appeared steadily on television during her later years, including a 1969 episode of NIGHT GALLERY directed by young Steven Spielberg. When Joan Crawford died in 1977 her age was given as 69, although she may have been in her early to mid 70s.

From the description of Joan Crawford papers, 1932-1976. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122531691

Joan Crawford was born Lucille LeSueur on March 23, 1908. When her mother later married Henry Cassin, a theater manager from Oklahoma, her name was changed to Billie Cassin. (As an adult, many of her friends privately continued to call her Billie.) After winning a Charleston contest at the age of 13, she became determined to be on stage. By age 19 she was in the chorus line of the Broadway show Innocent Eyes, where MGM executive Harry Rapf discovered her, and signed her to her first movie contract.

After a few minor roles under the name Lucille LeSueur, MGM sponsored a fan-magazine contest to pick out a new name for the young star. The freshly minted Joan Crawford's first big movie role was as Irene in Sally, Irene and Mary (1925), but the role that made her a star was as a flapper that literally danced on the tabletops in Our Dancing Daughters (1928).

Unlike many silent movie era stars, Crawford's transition to "talkies" was smooth and by 1932 she was starring in classics like Grand Hotel (1932) with Greta Garbo. Throughout the 1930s Crawford worked steadily for MGM in films like Letty Lynton (1932), Dancing Lady (1933), and The Gorgeous Hussy (1936) co-starring with her future husband Franchot Tone. Crawford's popularity skyrocketed in 1939 with the release of The Women, in which Crawford played the iconic role of "Crystal", the hard-boiled husband-stealing shopgirl. Despite this, by 1943 magazines were proclaiming her to be "box-office poison" and MGM seemed to agree. Crawford soon left MGM for Warner Brothers, where she snagged the title role in Mildred Pierce (1945). Her performance in Mildred Pierce earned Crawford her one and only Oscar for Best Actress.

In 1946 Warner Brothers signed Crawford to a seven-year contract at $200,000 per film, only to release her from her contract after just three years. Her 1955 marriage to Pepsi chairman and CEO Alfred Steele coincided with her waning movie career, and led to her subsequent career as a Pepsi board member and publicity executive. She continued her involvement with Pepsi even after Steele's death in 1959.

In 1962 Crawford's acting career was briefly revitalized with the release of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, which paired her with her infamous rival Bette Davis. That year Crawford also penned a memoir Portrait of Joan . The popularity of the spooky Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? led to Crawford's appearance in a series of horror films throughout the 1960s, including a 1969 episode of Night Gallery with novice director Steven Spielberg. Crawford made her final film, Trog, in 1970. The1970s saw her public appearances decrease. She died in 1977 of pancreatic cancer.

Crawford's personal life always took a backseat to her professional life. She was married five times: James Welton (1923-1924 divorced); Douglas Fairbanks, Jr (1929-1933 divorced); Franchot Tone (1935-1939 divorced); Phillip Terry (1942-1946 divorced); Alfred Steele (1955-1959 widowed). Crawford also adopted four children - Christina (adopted in 1940) and Christopher (adopted in 1944), twins Cathy and Cindy (adopted in 1947). A year after Joan Crawford's death, Christina Crawford published the tell-all book Mommie Dearest (1978). The 1981 movie adaptation of the book familiarized a whole new generation with Joan Crawford, ensuring that Crawford's reputation would live on.

From the guide to the Joan Crawford papers, 1932-1976, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

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Subjects:

  • Motion picture actors and actresses
  • Actresses
  • Motion picture actors and actresses--United States

Occupations:

  • Actors

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)