Joan Crawford

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Joan Crawford, still photo from 1925

Joan Crawford [ ˌdʒɔʊn ˈkɹɔːfəd ] (born March 23, 190? In San Antonio , Texas , as Lucille Fay LeSueur ; † May 10, 1977 in New York City ) was an American film actress .

Crawford's career ranged from the silent film days to the 1970s. Among film historians, she is considered to be the personification of the classic Hollywood star, whose audience appeal was mainly based on her complex personality and public appearance. In the course of her career, the actress has always managed to adapt to changing public tastes. After she often played exuberant young girls - then called flappers - at the beginning of her career , Crawford switched to the dramatic role until the mid-1940s. At the Academy Awards in 1946 , she was awarded the Oscar for best leading actress for her portrayal of a self-sacrificing mother in Solange a heart beats , and in the following years she was mostly seen as a determined, ambitious woman on screen, who took her place against the resistance of society must fight. Towards the end of her career, Crawford mainly starred in macabre films that crossed the line into horror films , such as What Really Happened to Baby Jane? and the monster .

After her death, the public image of Crawford was long negatively influenced by the descriptions in the book Mommie Dearest , the childhood memories of her adoptive daughter Christina Crawford . For some years now, however, the evaluation of her cinematic achievements has predominated. In a 1999 American Film Institute poll , she was ranked 10th greatest female movie star.

life and career

Childhood and youth

Joan Crawford was born under the name Lucille Fay LeSueur in San Antonio, Texas, the youngest of three children of Thomas E. LeSueur (1868-1938) and Anna Bell Johnson (1884-1958). There is no agreement about the exact year of birth; Figures range from 1904 to 1908. Crawford always insisted on being born in 1908. Thomas LeSueur left his family immediately after the birth of Lucille and the mother then moved with the children to the US state Ohio.

In later years, the actress was critical of her childhood, which she claims was marked by poverty and emotional neglect. She described her mother as an impulsive woman who switched from one unhappy relationship to the next. She met her biological father Thomas LeSueur once again briefly during a break in filming in 1934. Her sister Daisy LeSueur died very young. The relationship with his brother Hal LeSueur, a year older than him, whom Crawford described as manipulative and lazy, was strained from the start, although she supported him financially in later years. Her mother later married Henry J. Cassin, who ran a vaudeville theater (other sources: a cinematographer) in Lawton . Lucille LeSueur took the name Billie Cassin during this time .

After elementary school, Lucille LeSueur first went to St. Agnes Academy, a Catholic school in Kansas City , and later to Rockingham Academy. At the instigation of an acquaintance, she enrolled in 1922 at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where she gave her date of birth as 1906 and took courses in accounting, shorthand and psychology, among other things. The Rector there, Dr. James Madison Wood had a formative influence on LeSueur. He advised her to change things on her own instead of complaining. In her biography My Way of Life from 1971, she expressed herself positively about the influence of Daddy Woods , as she always called the principal. According to his own admission, she owed him for the first time the feeling of being recognized by other people and consciously encouraged in their ambitions.

Revue dancer

After a year at college, she left the institute in 1923 at her own request and against the express advice of the rector to pursue a career as a dancer. In order to bridge the time until her first engagement, Lucille LeSueur first worked for a few months as a shop girl in various department stores in Kansas City, including The Jones Store and Emery, Bird, Thayer. In mid-1923 she joined the theater company of Katherine Emerine. The show was closed again a few weeks later due to a lack of audience response. LeSueur then tried her luck as a revue dancer in Chicago. Through the local theater agent Ernie Young, she got engagements in Oklahoma City and in the famous Detroit dance palace Oriole Terrace . While appearing at Oriole, the young woman caught the attention of the influential Broadway producer and impresario JJ Schubert, who hired her to New York City on Broadway in early 1924 for his production of Innocent Eyes . In addition to appearances in Innocent Eyes, Lucille LeSueur took part in other Schubert revues, such as The Passing Show of 1924 , which premiered in the middle of the year. After the Hollywood producer Harry Rapf became aware of them, LeSueur signed a seven-month studio contract with the newly formed film studio MGM in December 1924 and began working at the MGM studio in Culver City, California, in January 1925.

MGM: 1925-1943

Years as a starlet

The actress made her film debut in February 1925 as the light double in Lady of the Night with Norma Shearer . Her first and only appearance under the name Lucille LeSueur on the list of actors she had a short time later as a show girl in Pretty Ladies with ZaSu Pitts in one of her few dramatic leading roles. Studio boss Louis B. Mayer became aware of Lucille LeSueur and took care of her professional advancement. The actress always saw Mayer as a father figure and respected his sometimes autocratic methods of leading people. Mayer was dissatisfied with her name, which he thought would sound too common. In March 1925 he had a competition held in the fan magazine Movie Weekly with the motto: Give it a name and win $ 1,000 . Such an approach, although not always associated with audience participation, was not uncommon in show business. Mauritz Stiller changed the name of his protégé Greta Gustafsson to Greta Garbo and MGM made the cumbersome name Spangler Arlington Brugh the more handy Robert Taylor . The studio's first choice fell on Joan Arden before those responsible discovered that there were several senders with this suggestion. In order not to have to pay out the prize money several times, the compromise Joan Crawford was finally found internally in September 1925 . The actress made her first official appearance under the name Joan Crawford a month later in the Jackie Coogan film Old Clothes .

Joan Crawford, still photo from 1925

Crawford played her first major role in late 1925 in the film Sally, Irene and Mary , where she starred alongside Constance Bennett and Sally O'Neil, directed by Edmund Goulding . The film describes the dramatic experiences of three friends who work as show girls. While Bennett marries a rich man and O'Neil goes back to the country, Crawford's character always gets caught up in the wrong men and ends up dead. After a few more appearances, some of them as the Leading Lady , she was voted one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1926. The selection by WAMPAS, a loose association of media representatives, referred to starlets and artists who were suspected of having the potential for a great career. Despite the promising start, the further line-up policy by the studio lacked a clear tendency. Crawford alternately played leading and supporting roles in a wide variety of genres. B. in westerns like Winners of the Wilderness and The Law of the Range . In addition to Harry Langdon , she had a role in the low-cost comedy Tramp, Tramp, Tramp from 1926. Occasionally, Crawford also starred in less demanding films like Paris and The Taxi Dancer , in which she portrayed aspiring dancers. The production costs of these plants were usually between $ 86,000 and $ 200,000 and usually generated a profit of a comparable amount.

It was only with her appearance in The Unknown in 1927 that Crawford convinced the studio managers that she had the potential to become a star and was specifically promoted from that point on. The main actor Lon Chaney worked closely with Crawford, who had no appropriate acting training. Both agreed intensively when developing the character. Even decades later, the actress was positive about these experiences.


Joan Crawford, still photo from 1928

Crawford's breakthrough star came in mid-1928 with Our Dancing Daughters . In the film she plays a flapper , a type of role that has been popularized since 1923 mainly by Colleen Moore and Clara Bow . Flappers were independent young women who exuded a zest for life and a certain frivolity. With their positive attitude they embodied the optimistic attitude towards life of the 1920s. The positive reaction from fans led the studio to announce Crawford's name in promotional material above the title, an important indicator of an actor's status as a star.

F. Scott Fitzgerald , one of the leading figures and chronicler of the Roaring Twenties , was taken with Crawford's interpretation of the role. He said:

“[She] is without a doubt the best example of a flapper, the kind of girl you see in chic nightclubs, always dressed in the latest fashions. You hold ice-cold drinks in your hand and have a reserved, slightly bitter expression on your face. They dance happily, laugh a lot and have big, sad eyes. Young girls with a talent for life. "

In the course of 1928, Crawford's popularity also benefited to a not inconsiderable extent from the constant coverage of her relationship with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. , Mary Pickford's stepson . The couple finally married in June 1929. They divorced in 1933.

The sound film , the final since mid-1928 silent film had displaced, brought a new challenge with them. In contrast to most other studios, the transition to the new medium was carefully implemented by the studio managers at MGM. Irving Thalberg in particular insisted that the actors improve their diction under the training and guidance of special language teachers, in order to be able to meet the demands that sound technology placed on pronunciation. MGM was spared the fate of Paramount, which lost almost its entire roster of stars due to the hasty changeover. Crawford made her sound film debut in The Hollywood Revue of 1929 . The film is a loose sequence of skits, dance numbers and vocal interludes without a connecting framework. With the exception of Greta Garbo and Ramón Novarro, every MGM star participated and demonstrated their singing and speaking skills in front of the microphone. Crawford showed a spirited dance interlude and sang the song I've got a Feeling for You . Most critics praised the actress' clear diction and predicted a surge in popularity, as her voice - most likely a lyrical counteralt from the register - would match her exuberant personality. She had already completed the shooting of her first sound film, Untamed , a few weeks earlier as a partner of Robert Montgomery . However, this film did not go on sale until after the premiere of The Hollywood Revue of 1929 . Crawford ended the year with Modern Girls ; here the actress shows herself as an unhappily in love lady of better society, her fiancé, played by Douglas Fairbanks. Jr., loses to best friend.

Image change

The continued interest of audiences in sound films resulted in studios increasing weekly viewership from 55 million in 1927 to 130 million in 1930. MGM posted its highest corporate profit of $ 15 million that year. Nevertheless, in the end, even the film industry was not immune to the effects of the worsening global economic crisis. At the end of 1930, the number of viewers in the USA began to drop dramatically before the recession finally hit this branch of the economy with full force from 1931. Viewership fell again to just 50 million a week in 1933.

Profound changes in society were associated with economic uncertainty. While musicals , revue films, and salon comedies depicting the problems of the Top Ten Thousands rapidly lost popularity, new genres such as horror films and gangster films established themselves . Increasingly, socially critical films were also produced that cast a concerned look at abuses in society. The changed taste of the audience meant that the role of flappers as a carefree young woman who understands life as a series of amusements without material worries quickly became a thing of the past. Against this background, from 1930 onwards, the studio transformed Crawford's image into an ambitious woman who wants to improve her living conditions on her own. Therefore, at this point in her acting career, she often played working-class girls who make up the social ladder. This type of role was also embodied by other actresses such as Constance Bennett ( Common Clay , The Easiest Way ), Barbara Stanwyck ( Baby Face ) or Ruth Chatterton ( Lilly Turner and Once a Lady ), who put their position in their films through the use of morally questionable means sought to change society.

The change first manifested itself in Our Blushing Brides , where Crawford was a saleswoman. Using three friends as an example, the film raises the question of the extent to which moral standpoints and values ​​such as virtue and integrity can endure in times of economic uncertainty. In addition, it shows how traditional moral concepts about marriage and sexuality must be available under the changed social conditions. One of the characters in Our Blushing Brides tries to achieve economic security by becoming the lover of a rich man. She ends up choosing suicide after being dumped by her lover. The figure of Crawford, on the other hand, remains true to himself and his own ideals, only to finally appear at the altar at the side of a millionaire.

This basic pattern was only slightly varied in the next few films. In Paid , whose main role Crawford only took over after the intended Norma Shearer became pregnant shortly before filming began, the protagonist Mary Turner is initially innocent in prison. After her release, she tries everything to improve her social position. While poverty and deprivation are shown more or less realistically in the first half of the film, in the further course Mary develops into a member of the better society with the corresponding attributes such as fur coats, lavish evening dresses and expensive jewelry. Everything for your happiness from 1931 presented the actress at the beginning as a factory worker from the slums, who goes to the big city and literally sleeps right up to the top of society and as the lover of a politician, played by Clark Gable , lives quite openly with him . Since the strict censorship regulations of the Production Code were not yet in force, producers were able to go significantly further in the representation of extramarital relationships than was the case after 1934. The film also established Crawford and Gable as one of the most commercially successful screen couples of the decade. By 1940 they should have made a total of eight films together.

Commercial win

In the internal studio hierarchy, the actress ranked third after Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer. Crawford was then at the height of its commercial success. Between 1932 and 1936, she was consistently voted one of the top ten places in Quigley's Annual List of Box-Office Champions . The list positions resulted from the regular survey of selected cinema operators who gave the names of the stars whose films attracted a consistently high number of viewers. However, in their view, the actress's high economic value for the studio found no equivalent in the scripts she received. Crawford regularly complained that, in comparison to the other two stars, he usually only got role offers that could not be compared to the films of their competitors in terms of artistic standards or production costs. The difference was made clear in a bon mot that made the rounds on the studio premises:

"Shearer gets the A productions, Garbo is in charge of the arts and Crawford makes the money for them both."

Crawford's loyalty to the fans to whom she owed her career was legendary. Throughout her life, the actress answered every single letter to her personally. In 1934 - perhaps because of that - Crawford was the actress with the most registered fan clubs in America. Crawford also established herself alongside Kay Francis , Marlene Dietrich and Constance Bennett as a leading style icon and trendsetter. Her predominantly female following required a Joan Crawford film to have an expensive wardrobe and a correspondingly large number of costume changes and constantly new hairstyles. The studio designer Gilbert Adrian had a great influence on Crawford's image with the selection of the creations. The two artists worked closely together and Crawford's influence on women's fashion was not to be underestimated. A white organza and chiffon dress that Crawford wore in Letty Lynton was adopted as ready-to-wear in large department stores and sold hundreds of thousands. At the same time, Adrian established shoulder pads on the mass market with his models specially tailored to Crawford, thus establishing a trend that Elsa Schiaparelli had introduced into haute couture a few years earlier .

In 1932 Crawford played in People in the Hotel, based on the novel by Vicki Baum, an ambitious secretary who uses her charm and effect on men to improve her social position. The film was the first to have a star cast and featured Crawford as well as Greta Garbo, Wallace Beery and the two brothers John Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore in the lead roles. Quite a few critics said that Crawford had delivered the best performance of the ensemble with her nuanced presentation. Carried by the desire to purposefully improve her acting skills through demanding roles, the actress took over the part of Sadie Thompson in Rain , the film adaptation of Somerset Maugham 's play of the same name, at her own request in mid-1932 . It tells the story of the prostitute Sadie, who suffers from bigotry and the prejudices of society on a South Sea island. The story was a great success for Jeanne Eagels on stage and was filmed in 1929 with Gloria Swanson . Directed by Lewis Milestone , Crawford received good reviews for her interpretation, but overall the film flopped at the box office. The follow-up project, Today We Live , was also a financial failure. William Faulkner's script was initially conceived as a pure war film, and Faulkner only had to weave a love story into the plot just before filming began. The finished result did not please the critics or the paying viewers.

At the urging of David O. Selznick , the actress then took on the leading role in I dance only for you in 1933 , which describes the rise of a dancer from vaudeville to star in Broadway revues. The great financial success of the film, which in the end showed a profit of well over $ 750,000, allowed Crawford to sign a new three-year contract in early 1934. The weekly fee from initially $ 6,500 rose to $ 9,500 in the next few years.

Slow decline

Around 1934 Crawford began to change its image again. The reasons lay in the tightened enforcement of the strict censorship rules of the Production Code in the middle of the year. Compliance with the regulations was strictly monitored and the censorship authority had the studios submit all scripts to request changes in the event of violations. In addition, all films were reviewed prior to their release. The film was only allowed to be distributed if it complied with the Code's requirements. Crawford's films had to be adapted accordingly to the changed specifications. Until 1933, the actress was employed in roles that regularly showed the heroine in morally questionable situations, for example in Letty Lynton , where she commits manslaughter with impunity by omission, or in Alles für Dein Glück , in which she is sexual in public without a marriage license Relationship leads. Instead, Crawford's films from 1934 onwards were preferably set in an upscale social milieu and presented the actress in elaborately produced romances. Crawford was usually involved in all kinds of love skirmishes between two men in order to find true happiness in the end. Similar adjustments had to be made for other actresses, such as Kay Francis. In Mandalay from the beginning of 1934 she is still a highly paid prostitute who has committed murder with impunity. In the following year, Living on Velvet adapted Francis' image to the changed framework conditions and set Crawford's professional colleague to be the long-suffering woman for the rest of her career.

In golden chains is an example of these commercially successful films, the lack of content of which, however, damaged Crawford's reputation as a serious actress in the long run. The film shows her, directed by Clarence Brown, as a high society lady caught in a boring marriage. The acquaintance of a charming millionaire, played by Clark Gable, brings the heroine into a conflict of conscience, which ultimately leads to an amicable divorce and happiness in Gables arms. The repetition of the pattern over the next several years gradually weakened Crawford's box office appeal. Since the mid-1930s, the average production cost per film in Hollywood has risen continuously. While spending on a Crawford film before 1933 was a good $ 320,000, spending climbed to seven-digit figures by the end of the decade, in line with the trend throughout the industry. The profit per film therefore fell permanently overall. Regardless, the actress' income rose. In 1936 her income was $ 302,307 and in 1937 Crawford made $ 351,538, making it one of the highest paid actors of the year. In 1938 she was also one of the ten highest-paid stars in Hollywood at $ 305,384, even if her salary was well below Claudette Colbert's $ 426,944, who topped the list.

Crawford appeared at the instigation of her second husband Franchot Tone , with whom she was married from 1935 to 1939, from the middle of the decade on regularly in high-quality radio shows , including in Nora by Henrik Ibsen and in plays by Maxwell Anderson and Eugene O'Neill . Crawford also tried in 1936 to expand her role subject by appearing in socially critical conversation pieces. In the end, however, neither the appearance in the costume drama The Gorgeous Hussy nor the participation in the opulently staged film adaptations of the Broadway successes The Last of Mrs. Cheyney and Burning Fire of Passion found the approval of the fans. In 1938 the actress's career was in crisis. Crawford found herself in the same year alongside Katharine Hepburn , Marlene Dietrich, Mae West and Greta Garbo in an ad that she described as a box office poison . The actress celebrated the only resounding financial success with a mannequin , which shows her at the side of Spencer Tracy as an ambitious young woman who rises from the slums to the wife of a millionaire. Thanks to three successes in George Cukor films, Crawford was able to consolidate her status again: She showed the women of 1939 in the relatively small role of a saleswoman who teases the heroine, played by Norma Shearer. When asked why she was taking on the subordinate role, Crawford replied:

"I would play Wallace Beery's grandmother if it were a good role."

The reviews were encouraging, and Crawford shortly thereafter starred in Susan and the Good Lord , in which her character must learn the difference between real faith and false ideals. Initially, Norma Shearer was supposed to be the leading actress, but she did not want to play the mother of a teenage daughter. The third collaboration with Cukor, The Woman with the Scar , was rented out in 1941. The film was the remake of En Kvinnas Ansigte , which was filmed a few years earlier with Ingrid Bergman in the lead role. The plot tells the story of a disfigured young woman who has become tough and cynical due to previous experiences. After a plastic operation that restores her appearance, she first has to learn to trust others. The realism with which Crawford was made up went too far for the studio and prohibited all publicity photos showing the actress with the eponymous scar. By his own admission, it was the biggest professional disappointment of Crawford's career not to be nominated for an Oscar for this film. While Crawford made $ 318,365 in 1940, its earnings dropped to $ 266,538 in 1941 and $ 195,673 the following year.

All in all, and despite the positive box office results, which showed a renewed interest from the audience, the film studio lost confidence in Crawford's future. She lost important film roles such as Madame Curie to Greer Garson. With Irene Dunne and Katharine Hepburn, there were also other competitors under contract who took on roles that would have previously been taken over by the established stars. In fact, from the end of 1941 onwards, some articles were circulating in the trade magazines, according to which MGM wanted to terminate the contracts of Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo and Crawford, all of whom had been with the studio since at least 1925, because the actresses had become too expensive. In the end, Crawford saw no further development opportunities for himself and therefore offered studio boss Louis B. Mayer to release her contract after 18 years of working together. The contract was terminated on June 29, 1943 by mutual agreement. The studio paid Crawford a one-time clearance fee of $ 100,000.

Warner Brothers: 1943-1952

Immediately after leaving MGM, the actress signed a contract with Studio Warner Brothers on July 1, 1943 for three films for a total fee of $ 500,000. Offers from other studios, including Columbia and 20th Century Fox , turned it down. Warner Brothers saw in Crawford a possible competitor for their own top star Bette Davis . For this reason, Barbara Stanwyck and Rosalind Russell were also recruited on the basis of non-exclusive commitments. Initially, however, the collaboration did not go as Crawford expected. As with MGM, the actress was initially only offered scripts that other employees had rejected. In order to forestall a suspension by the studio, Crawford was then taken off the payroll until an agreement was reached on a suitable script. During the almost two-year wait that followed, she only appeared as a guest star in the revue film Hollywood Canteen , which was released in mid-1944. In September 1945 Crawford made a spectacular comeback with the title role of Mildred Pierce in Solange a Heart Beats . The role of an ambitious mother who, out of love for her daughter, manages the economic and social advancement from a waitress to the operator of a restaurant chain was previously offered to Bette Davis and Ann Sheridan , among others . Crawford had to make screen tests for the first time in her career. In the end, she managed to convince producer Jerry Wald. Director Michael Curtiz initially wanted Barbara Stanwyck for the role, but eventually he and Crawford got together and Curtiz developed the script specifically for Crawford based on the novel by James M. Cain . As long as a heart beats grossed over $ 5 million, making it the most successful production of the year for the studio. For her portrayal, Crawford won the Oscar for best actress at the 1946 Academy Awards against competition from Ingrid Bergman and Greer Garson, among others .

The next film Humoreske from 1946 showed Crawford in a relatively small role as a bitter alcoholic who falls in love with a talented violinist and ends up breaking with her own feelings. The film was produced with considerable effort and turned out to be financially successful. The opulent and lavishly designed cloakroom was designed entirely in the New Look style at Crawford's request by Gilbert Adrian , who had meanwhile worked as a freelance couturier . In 1946, the actress divorced her third husband, Phillip Terry , with whom she had been married since 1942. In the following year she delivered one of the best performances of her career in Unrestrained Love, directed by Curtis Bernhardt . The film showed her in the role of a mentally unstable young woman who is in danger of breaking up because of her futile love for a man played by Van Heflin . Only through psychiatric treatment does the prospect arise that she can be freed from her condition. For Possessed the actress was again nominated for an Oscar, lost on the Oscar ceremony in 1948 but against Loretta Young in The farmer's daughter . James Agee , one of the most famous film critics of the time, explained the exceptionally high quality of Unrestrained Love with the words:

"Lots of people who have a lot to give give the film everything they have."

Crawford later filmed Daisy Kenyon for 20th Century Fox, directed by Otto Preminger , in 1947 , in which she faces emotional entanglements between Dana Andrews and Henry Fonda . The financial success of the last few appearances enabled the actress to negotiate a new contract with her home studio that earned her a fee of $ 200,000 per film. However, the scripts that the studio offered her were not always of the quality she had hoped for. It was therefore not until mid-1949 that Crawford returned to the big screen with The Road to Success . In the following years, the actress was committed to portraying women who want to create social advancement at any cost and who end up facing moral and social bankruptcy because of their ruthlessness. A good example of this is Im Solde des Satans , a film noir from 1950 that brings together all of the role stereotypes of the last 25 years in Crawford's career in one film. Crawford tried several times during the time to convince the studio to film the novel Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton together with her, Bette Davis and Gary Cooper. The project failed, as did the plan to bring the two actresses in Time to Sing together in front of the camera.

Without a fixed studio contract: 1952–1957

In 1952 the actress left Warner Brothers because of the deteriorating scripts. She worked for the next few years without a permanent contract to a single studio. This method is known as free lancing and was increasingly followed by established stars in the mid-1930s. As a rule, payment was made to some extent through profit sharing. The total income of the actors was therefore generally higher than with a permanent engagement, where fixed fees were usually paid on a weekly basis. The attempt by MCA to produce an anthology series under the title The Joan Crawford Show in the same year failed in the end because of the actress's financial demands, which were $ 200,000 per year for a fixed term of five years and half of the participation Demanded income

Crawford decided to appear in the thriller Masked Hearts , which tells the story of a well-known playwright who is said to be murdered by her husband. She received her third and final nomination for an Oscar for best actress for the performance, but lost little Sheba at the 1953 Academy Awards to Shirley Booth in Kehr . Negotiations over participation in the film adaptation of the novel For All Eternity , in which Crawford was to play the role of Karen Holmes, failed in 1952 due to artistic differences. In the end, Deborah Kerr took over the role. Instead, Crawford shot the revue film Hearts in Fever for MGM for the first time in 10 years . The film, which was produced with relatively little effort, was neither artistically nor financially successful. In the following year, Crawford, like many actresses her age, finally took on the lead role in a western. Johnny Guitar - When Women Hate was shot by Republic Pictures in a color process that is outdated today, which gives the pictures a distinct artificiality. Much has been written about this work in the years that followed. Quite a few analysts see it as a subtle reckoning with the McCarthy era . Others claim to have discovered strong feminist approaches. Crawford himself was always negative about the film.

In the same year, the actress was the victim of targeted indiscretions in the scandal press. Especially the magazine Confidential published details from her private life. The negative publicity cost the star, according to his own admission, the lead role in the film adaptation of the Broadway hit A Country Girl , the role finally went to Grace Kelly , who won the Oscar for best actress. The loyalty of her fans helped Crawford make another comeback in 1955 with The House on the Beach , in which she portrays an older woman entering into a relationship with a younger man. At this point in her career, the actress was still able to charge a fee of $ 200,000 per film, significantly more than Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Fontaine or Claudette Colbert , for example , who received a maximum of $ 75,000 in fees. The financial success of House on the Beach allowed Crawford to negotiate a lucrative three-film deal with Columbia Pictures that same year . She had expressly agreed to participate in the selection of the scripts and the cast. The films that followed were all carefully produced. Both Shackled Marriage and Autumn Storms and Esther Costello made more money than they had cost. In particular, the subtle portrayal of an older woman in autumn storms earned her praise and recognition from the specialist press.

From 1959: the later years

After marrying manager Alfred Steele, with whom she was married from 1955 until his death in April 1959, Crawford withdrew from the film business for some time in 1957, despite many other offers. Instead, she devoted herself to the concerns of the beverage manufacturer Pepsi , on whose board of directors Steele played an important role. Even after his death in 1959, she continued to advocate the interests of the company. Crawford was the first woman to be elected to the company's board of directors, and in the period that followed, when the term product placement was still unknown, she ensured that the beverage manufacturer's products featured prominently in her films. Immediately after her husband's death, Crawford tried in vain to find sponsors for the CBS- produced Joan Crawford Show . The show, conceived as an anthology series, of which 20 episodes were initially planned, never came to air. In 1962 she succeeded at the side of Bette Davis in What really happened to Baby Jane? a much-noticed comeback. The two actresses were reportedly not getting along well. Two years later, in 1964, the attempt to use both stars together again under the direction of Robert Aldrich in a comparable subject called Lullaby for a Corpse failed because Crawford had to withdraw from production due to illness. Eventually Olivia de Havilland took over her part. Bette Davis and Crawford's relationship during the making of What Really Happened To Baby Jane? are the basis for the first season of Feud , an anthology series by producer and director Ryan Murphy .

Subsequent films from this period were inadequate for Crawford's prestige and acting skills. In the absence of appropriate film offers, Crawford was therefore increasingly involved in numerous television productions. One of the most famous appearances was her participation in the daily soap The Secret Storm , in which she took over the role of her sick daughter Christina Crawford in October 1968. In 1969 she appeared in the episode Eyes from the Night Gallery series , one of Steven Spielberg's first directorial works . Until her - involuntary - retirement in 1972, Crawford traveled regularly across the world as a representative for Pepsi-Cola. According to her own admission, the actress managed to successfully combat her alcohol addiction, which she could no longer hide from the public for decades, on her own in the mid-1970s. In 1974, the actress finally withdrew from the public eye after seeing press photos of herself, in which she found each other unfavorably. Financially secure, she spent most of the last few years before her death in her apartment in New York City. The last few years have been marked by conflicts with two of her children. Crawford, who could not have children herself, had decided in mid-1940 to adopt a daughter who was named Christina. In the years that followed, the actress adopted three more children as her own: Christopher, Cynthia, and Cathy. The adoption of a boy, which took place at the beginning of 1941, was canceled by the birth mother by court order a few weeks later. Whether there was another failed adoption shortly afterwards is controversial in the literature.

Christina Crawford published her controversial childhood memories under the name Mommie Dearest in 1978 . Her portrayal of Crawford as a manipulative woman who exposed her children to physical and psychological violence dominated the discussion about the actress for many years. While her brother Christopher confirmed the core of the allegations, Cynthia and Cathy always protested vehemently against Christina's claims. The book was in 1981 by Frank Perry with Faye Dunaway in the title role filmed .

Joan Crawford died on May 10, 1977. Her urn is interred in the Ferncliff Mausoleum in Hartsdale, New York State. A star on Hollywood Boulevard at 1752 Vine Street commemorates the star.


Constant change of the screen image

Crawford's career spanned nearly 50 years, being in the film business from the silent film era to the mid-1970s. No other female artist in Hollywood has maintained star status for such a long time. Crawford wasn't a particularly subtle performer, especially in the late films, and her wardrobe often got better reviews than her. But over the years she has repeatedly managed to adapt her image to current tastes.

She started out as a flapper and jazz baby , which eventually accumulated in the three films in the Our series. Dissatisfied with the rather easy scripts, Crawford successfully switched to the actress of tearful confession tales . The actress, who never denied her own humble origins and childhood poverty in interviews, rose to become Hollywood's leading star for the working class in the mid-1930s. The popularity of Crawford, especially among shop assistants and office workers, was explained by the portrayal of ambitious women who fight for a place in society on their own, which was given additional meaning against their biographical background. Add to this Crawford's reputation as one of the best-dressed women in the film industry. If the actress was sometimes disrespectfully defamed as cloth horse (roughly: clothes rack ), the cloakroom had an influence on the fans that should not be underestimated. MGM chief designer Gilbert Adrian joked that his career was built on the shoulders of Joan Crawford. When he took over responsibility for the actress's wardrobe, he decided not to hide her strong shoulders and broad hips any longer, but to emphasize them directly, in line with a fashion trend from Paris. The shoulder pads, which Crawford wore again and again at least since Alles für Dein Glück in 1931, became part of fashion history.

The critics were also always aware of the importance of their wardrobe for their fans. Here's what Motion Picture Herald magazine found in the criticism of Letty Lynton :

"The clothes Joan Crawford wears will be the talk of the town for weeks [...] and how she wears them!"

In The Bride Wore Red from 1937, the eponymous dress weighed 25 kg. Maria Riva reports in the book Meine Mutter Marlene how much Dietrich admired this creation, which was sewn from hundreds of thousands of sequins. Sometimes the fans' demands for glamor also sacrificed the credibility of the script. In his 1942 review of Reunion in France , in which Crawford, as a fashion designer on the run from the Nazis, can only save her bare life, the critic of the New York Herald Tribune wrote subtly:

"Her contract doesn't require her to dress like a refugee as well."

The actress repeatedly changed her appearance, especially at the beginning of the 1930s. She appeared in several films, including 1931 This Modern Age , with platinum blonde hair in the style of Jean Harlow . Her Garbo phase was particularly significant , in which she consciously adopted certain characteristics of the Swedish star. Crawford used certain lighting effects to accentuate her eyes and cheekbones. This alignment peaked in 1932 in Letty Lynton , a melodrama about a fatalistic girl.

Elizabeth Yeaman, a well-known publicist of the day, wrote in her review of the film in the Los Angeles Examiner on May 21, 1932 :

“Furthermore, her resemblance to Greta Garbo in two or three scenes is extraordinary. She not only looks like Garbo, she even uses the elusive Garbo technique, the unfathomable expression, the restrained longing, the shimmering tragedy. "

In the mid-1940s Crawford transformed her image into a tough woman struggling with circumstances to enable herself and her family to have a better life. As long as a heart beats became her financially most successful film and in the following years the role pattern changed only marginally.

According to Georg Seeßlen :

“[Joan Crawford] in almost all of her films of this time [...] the woman who has to fight her struggle with circumstances, with the adversities that society and chance hold in store for her. Joan Crawford becomes harder through the suffering, she becomes a stone person. […] The intended end of the Joan Crawford woman is total distance from the world, an emotional inaccessibility. […] No matter how strong a woman Joan Crawford may be, in the end she wasn't strong enough. "

Often times the male partners were significantly younger than Crawford during this period, such as Jack Palance in Masked Hearts , Jeff Chandler in The Beach House and Rossano Brazzi in Esther Costello . One critic referred to the films from that period as menopausal melodramas, not entirely inappropriately . To her own regret, Joan found Crawford after starring in What Really Happened To Baby Jane? no more demanding roles. She was self-critical enough to realize this and instead focused on TV movies and her work at Pepsi.

Public image

“Joan was a star in every way. She didn't even draw your attention to it. You just knew And you never questioned this fact. "

Joan Crawford is portrayed as a perfectionist and extraordinarily ambitious by all of the colleagues and directors who have worked with her over the decades. In public she always emphasized the discipline and determination that were necessary to master the rise to star and to maintain this status over a long period of time. In her own words, the actress said:

“If you have earned a position in life, be proud of it. Do not hide. I want to be recognized. When I say 'Joan Crawford!' I hear say, then I turn around and say 'Hello! How are you!'"

Crawford has always been aware of the responsibilities of maintaining a movie star's image and serving public expectations. She herself said:

“If you want to be a star, you have to look like a star. I never go out of the house without looking like film star Joan Crawford. If you want to see the girl next door, go next door. "

After leaving MGM, the actress took on maintaining the public image largely independently. She used an extensive network of influential columnists of the time such as Louella Parsons , Hedda Hopper , Jimmy Fiedler, Walter Winchell and Sheila Grahame. The cooperation was mostly based on mutual agreement. While the actress passed on certain incidents from her private life such as marriages, adoptions or impending divorces exclusively to a columnist, she received tendentious reporting. The actress received the nickname Saint Johanna in fan magazines , not least because of her skillful handling of the media . Crawford did not shy away from consciously using her children as an instrument to launch the image of the loyal, single mother in public. This self-staging reached its climax on Christmas Eve 1949, when a national radio show reported on the Christmas party at the Crawford house. The actress's children were required to stick to the meticulous script and only speak the dialogues they had studied beforehand.

With the decline of the studio system in the mid-1950s, increasingly aggressive investigative journalism began to replace the - mostly rather mediocre - reporting in fan magazines. Magazines like Confidential or National Enquirer did not shy away from dragging negative aspects of the celebrities' private lives into the public eye. During this time, Joan Crawford's image began to change and the first reports of financial difficulties, domestic problems and changing relationships were published. In the years that followed, her extensive work for Pepsi largely determined the public image. Overall, however, their presence in the press decreased significantly. After Crawford's death, her image was initially dominated by the publication of the memories of her adopted daughter Christina, which were not uncontroversial in terms of their truthfulness from the start. To make matters worse, the poor quality of her recent films, which usually did not exceed the level of B-films and permanently damaged Crawford's reputation as a serious and serious actress. With the renewed interest in the pre-code films, i.e. the productions from Hollywood that were shot before the strict censorship provisions of the Production Code of 1934 came into force , a new, unbiased view of the actress's life and work has come to the fore. At the 2006 Academy Awards, for example, two excerpts from Crawford films were shown. Turner Classic Movies regularly makes the actress's work the subject of theme evenings, for example in March 2008 with a retrospective of a total of 13 films from her later creative period. Based on Roy Newquist's extensive collection of interviews, Conversations with Joan Crawford , the Dutch artist Cas Enclaar wrote the one-person play Een Avond met Joan in 1982, which had its German premiere in Hamburg in 1989 under the title Visiting Joan . The actress Nadja Tiller played the part in the early 1990s on stage and in a television adaptation directed by Horst Königstein . Blue Öyster Cult released the song Joan Crawford on their album Fire of Unknown Origin in 1981 . There is also with The Joans a band that is musically committed to their heritage.

Acting means of expression

In her best roles from MGM, such as Paid , People in the Hotel and The Woman With the Scar , Crawford's style of portrayal was reserved. She worked a lot with her expressive eyes, often additionally accentuated by the make-up.

In later years she became known for portraying emotional outbursts that soon became a trademark of her melodramas. This can be seen in As long as a heart beats , where she beats her daughter after an emotional argument and throws her out of the house, as well as in the films Im Solde des Satans and Das Haus am Strand , in which she reacts violently to hostility from the environment. In It's a Great Feeling from 1949, in which Crawford had a short guest role, she skillfully made fun of the audience's expectations by making a spirited outburst from the stand, but without any cause.

William K. Zinsser vividly described the basic pattern of a Joan Crawford film from the 1950s in a film review of Esther Costello in the New York Herald Tribune :

“No Joan Crawford film without a lot of emotional upheaval - that is the iron law of the film industry. [...]. As you can imagine, the film Miss Crawford allows you to experience the full range of emotions: from loneliness to motherly love, from pride to the girl to the passion for her husband and, in the end, the ardent vengeance that leads her to be with you Revolver in hand to seek the final confrontation. Somehow Crawford manages to keep things going. It may not be your type of film, but it is exactly the kind of film that many women prefer and Joan Crawford is the queen of the art form. "

Over the years, Crawford's appearance got edgier and harder the more she struggled against circumstances in her film roles. François Truffaut summarized this tendency in a review of Johnny Guitar as follows:

“Joan Crawford has become unreal, the phantom of herself. Her eyes seem almost white, the facial muscles are constantly tense, an iron will determines her appearance. It is a phenomenon. She becomes more and more masculine the older she gets. "

This iron determination also prevented Crawford's successful use in comedies. It is therefore not surprising that one critic wrote of her 1951 film Goodbye, My Fancy , a comedy with a political background:

“The actress is known for her aggressive behavior and impressive demeanor. But that's also the problem with 'Goodbye, My Fancy'. The congressman depicted by Crawford is as cool and aloof as the dome on the Capitol. "

Joan Crawford as a role model

With the socio-economic changes in America in the 1920s, the image and the understanding of the role of the female population in the public also changed. Women in the United States had had the right to vote since 1920. The prosperous economy ensured rising real incomes and the growing need for workers gave many women the opportunity to enter professional life and gain material independence. The change led to a new image of women, understood as modern and contemporary, which saw character traits such as self-confidence, independence, initiative and sexual self-determination as worth striving for. This was accompanied by changed moral concepts in society, which took the place of the restrictive views of Victorianism .

The roles on the canvas that Crawford played from the late 1920s reflected this changed female self-image. Their characters are usually materially independent. You put great emphasis on fashion and looks. They are mobile, have their own cars and spend a lot of time in societies where alcohol is regularly consumed despite prohibition. At the same time, Crawford's screen characters are based on a fixed moral code. They are cheerful without indulging in sexual indifference. They are exuberant but always loyal to their friends. This moral integrity in particular was highly valued by her predominantly female followers. Surveys conducted as part of the Payne Fund Studies , which between 1929 and 1932 regularly examined the effects of films on the development of American youth, confirmed Crawford's role model function for its fans very early on. Young girls in this study emphasized how much they had just been impressed by Crawford in her role in Our Dancing Daughters and how much she would serve them as a role model for their own behavior.

With the changes during the global economic crisis, the basic pattern of the Crawford roller type was adapted accordingly. The typical heroine of a Crawford film from this period has to solve her emotional problems in an environment of economic uncertainty. As a member of the working class, the heroine manages to get out of her financial misery on her own and in the end to find true love and happiness. Crawford thus embodied a feminine variant of the American Dream , in which the individual manages to change his own situation and acquire economic security on his own initiative.

The popularity of Crawford, especially among shop assistants and office workers, earned her the title of Queen of the Shopgirls, which was not taken very seriously . Crawford was always aware of the role model function. She made a firm statement on the subject to Roy Newquist.

“I think a million or more girls with nothing in their pockets and heads full of dreams paid to see a Joan Crawford movie because, let's face it, besides the MGM publicity and the roles I played, I was basically the original, the girl who made it from the bottom up. And if they were lucky, these girls could too. "


Secure appearances as an extra

  • 1925: The Only Thing
  • 1925: Proud Flesh
  • 1925: The Circle
  • 1925: Lady of the Night
  • 1925: A Slave of Fashion

Guest appearances as Joan Crawford

TV appearances (selection)

  • 1953: Revlon Mirror Theater (episode Because I Love Him )
  • 1954: General Electric Theater (episode The Road to Edinburgh )
  • 1958: General Electric Theater (Episode Strange Witness )
  • 1959: General Electric Theater (Episode And One Was Loyal )
  • 1959: Woman on the Run (pilot for The Joan Crawford Show )
  • 1959: Zane Gray Theater (episode Rebel Range )
  • 1961: Zane Gray Theater (Episode One Must Die )
  • 1961: The Foxes (pilot for the series of the same name)
  • 1963: Route 66 (Episode Same Picture - Different Frame )
  • 1964: Della (aka Fatal Commitment)
  • 1967: Solo for ONKEL (The Man from UNCLE) (episode The Five Daughters Affair in Europe as Die Karate Killer in theatrical distribution.)
  • 1968: The Secret Storm
  • 1968: The Lucy Show
  • 1969: Night Gallery (Episode Eyes )
  • 1970: The People at Shiloh Ranch (The Virginian) (episode Nightmare )
  • 1972: The Sixth Sense (Episode Dear Joan, We're Going to Scare You to Death )

Radio appearances

Awards and nominations


Oscar / Best Actress

British Film Academy Award

  • 1964: What Really Happened to Baby Jane? - Nomination for Best Foreign Actress

Golden Apple Award

  • 1945: Most cooperative actress award
  • 1946: Award for most cooperative actress

Golden Globe Award

Golden Globe Award / Best Actress - Drama

Golden Globe / Cecil B. DeMille Award

National Board of Review Award

National Board of Review Award / Best Actress

  • 1945: Won for as long as a heart beats

Plays and films about Joan Crawford


  • 1981: An Evening with Joan Crawford - by and with Lee Sparks
  • 1982: Een Avond met Joan - by and with Cas Enclaar, based on Conversations with Joan Crawford and Crawford's memoir My Way of Life
  • 1989: Visiting Joan - German premiere of the play Een Avond met Joan
  • 1992: Joan and the Zulus - by Neil Tucker, with Grace Zabriskie as Joan Crawford
  • 2001: Christmas with the Crawfords - by Mark Sargent
  • 2005: The Passion of the Crawford - by John Epperson as travesty star Lypsinka in the role of Joan Crawford
  • 2006: The Joan Crawford / Marilyn Monroe Christmas Carol - by The Dolls
  • 2011: Bette and Joan - by Anton Burge, with Anita Dobson as Joan Crawford
  • 2016: Bette and Joan - German premiere of Bette and Joan at the Ernst-Deutsch-Theater

Television films

  • 1985: Visiting Joan - with Cas Enclaar as Joan Crawford, based on the play Een Avond met Joan - director: Horst Königstein
  • 1998: Nights with Joan - with Nadja Tiller as Joan Crawford, based on the play Een Avond met Joan - directed by Horst Königstein
  • 2017 Feud - with Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford and Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis - directed by Ryan Murphy


TV documentaries about Joan Crawford

  • 1996: Always the Star - Documentary by Gene Feldman and Suzette Winters
  • 2002: Joan Crawford - The Ultimate Moviestar - Documentary by Peter Fitzgerald for Turner Classic Movies with Anjelica Huston as presenter


Autobiographical literature

  • Joan Crawford: My Way of Life. Simon & Schuster, New York 1971, ISBN 0-671-20970-1 .
  • Joan Crawford: A Portrait of Joan. To Autobiography. Muller, London 1963 (with Jane Kesner Ardmore).
  • Roy Newquist (Ed.): Conversations with Joan Crawford. Citadel Press, Secaucus, New Jersey 1980, ISBN 0-8065-0720-9 .
  • Joan Crawford in an interview with John Kobal: People Will Talk. Aurun Press, New York 1992, ISBN 0-394-53660-6 .

Biographies (selection)

  • David Bret: Joan Crawford. Hollywood Martyr. Robson Books, London 2006, ISBN 1-86105-931-0 .
  • Charlotte Chandler: Not the Girl Next Door. Simon and Schuster, New York 2008, ISBN 1-4332-0926-8 .
  • Shaun Considine: Bette and Joan. The Divine Feud. Dutton, New York 1989, ISBN 0-525-24770-X .
  • Fred Lawrence Guiles: Joan Crawford - The Last Word. Carol Publishing Corporation, New York 1995, ISBN 1-55972-269-X .
  • Stephen Harvey: Joan Crawford. Pyramid Publications, New York 1974, ISBN 0-515-03417-7 .
  • David Houston: Jazz Baby. Robson Books, London 1983, ISBN 0-86051-261-4 .
  • Donna Marie Nowak: Just Joan: A Joan Crawford Appreciation. BearManor Media, New York 2010, ISBN 1-59393-542-0 .
  • Lawrence J. Quirk : The Complete Films of Joan Crawford. Citadel Press, Secaucus, New Jersey 1988, ISBN 0-8065-1078-1 .
  • Lawrence J. Quirk, William Schoell: Joan Crawford. The Essential Biography. University Press, Lexington Kentucky 2002, ISBN 0-8131-2254-6 .
  • Donald Spoto: Possessed - The Life of Joan Crawford. William Morrow, New York 2010, ISBN 0-06-185600-2 .
  • Bob Thomas: Joan Crawford. A biography. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 1978, ISBN 0-297-77617-7 .
  • Michelle Vogel: Joan Crawford. Her Life in Letters. Wasteland Press, Louisville New York 2005, ISBN 1-933265-46-9 .
  • Alexander Walker: Joan Crawford. The Ultimate Star. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 1983, ISBN 0-297-78216-9 .

Film history books with a mention of Joan Crawford (selection)

  • Janine Basinger: A Woman's View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930–1960. Knopf, New York 1993, ISBN 978-0-394-56351-0 .
  • Thomas Doherty: Pre-Code Hollywood. Columbia University Press, New York 1999, ISBN 978-0-231-11095-2 .
  • Lea Jacobs: The Wages of Sin: Censorship and the Fallen Woman Film, 1928–1942. University of California Press, Berkeley 1997, ISBN 978-0-520-20790-5 .
  • Mick LaSalle: Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood. Thomas Dunn Books, New York 2000, ISBN 978-0-312-28431-2 .
  • Roloff and Seeßlen program: Cinema of feelings - history and mythology of film melodrama. , Volume 9, ISBN 3-499-17366-2 .
  • Mark A. Viera: Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood. Harry N. Abrams, New York 1999, ISBN 978-0-394-53660-6 .

Books on the subject of costume design with passages on Joan Crawford (selection)

  • Christian Esquevin: Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label. Monacelli, 2008. ISBN 978-1-58093-193-9 .
  • Howard Gutner: Gowns by Adrian: The MGM Years 1928-1941. Harry N. Abrams New York 2001, ISBN 0-8109-0898-0 .
  • Deborah Nadoolman Landis: Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design. HarperCollins Publishers, New York 2007, ISBN 978-0-06-081650-6 .
  • Elizabeth Leese: Costume Design in the Movies: An Illustrated Guide to the Work of 157 Great Designers. Dover Pubn Inc, Reprint (March 1991), ISBN 978-0-486-26548-3 .

Articles in journals and journals (selection)

Notes and individual references

  1. There is no agreement in accessible sources about the exact year of birth. The numbers range from 1904 to 1908. Crawford always insisted on being born in 1908.
  2. Tives: "Goddesses of the Canvas": Bette Davis and Joan Crawford Westdeutsche Zeitung of March 14, 2017, accessed on August 24, 2020.
Individual evidence
  1. Dave Kehr writes on February 28, 2008 in the New York Times in connection with a new DVD collection about the actors: More than 30 years after her death, Joan Crawford continues to exert a fascination that has little or nothing to do with her gifts as an actress, a fact that is one working definition of the term "movie star" . The article can be read online in the New York Times .
  2. cf. here AFI recognizes the 50 greatest american screen legends .
  3. Thomas S. Hischak: The Oxford Companion to the American Musical . Oxford University Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-19-533533-0 (English, [accessed July 4, 2020]).
  4. ^ Susan Ware, Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing the Twentieth Century . Harvard University Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0-674-01488-6 (English, [accessed July 4, 2020]).
  5. Donna Marie Nowak: Just Joan: A Joan Crawford Appreciation . BearManor Media, July 2010 (English, [accessed July 4, 2020]).
  6. ^ Time Inc: LIFE . Time Inc, June 23, 1947 (English, [accessed July 4, 2020]).
  7. The main argument for the year of birth 1905 is the family register from 1910 from Comanche County , Oklahoma. It mentions Henry and Anna Cassin and their children on April 20th of that year. The age of Lucille is given in these documents as five years. Since there are no birth certificates in San Antonio before 1908 and no official birth certificate of the actress exists, it is believed, based on this certificate, that the actress was born in 1905. Turner Classic Movies is based on the year of birth 1908 and accordingly celebrates the actress's 100th birthday in the March program.
  8. Walker, p. 13.
  9. Guiles, pp. 23, 139.
  10. Guiles, p. 24; Walker, p. 5.
  11. See Walker, p. 13, Considine, p. 7 ff .; Guiles, p. 26.
  12. She also took courses in English poetry , typewriter , preventive medicine and nutrition , see Joan Crawford Chronology on
  13. The principles were: (1) Never quit a job until you finish it. - (2) The world isn't interested in your problems. When your problems are the greatest, let your laughter be the merriest. - (3) If you find you can do a job, let it alone, because you're bigger than the job already, and that means you will shrink down to its size. If the job is impossible, you may never get it accomplished, but you'll grow in trying to accomplish it. - quoted in: Joan Crawford - My Way of Life ; See also Joan Crawford Encyclopedia on
  14. Walker, p. 15; Considine, p. 14 f .; Quirk: The Complete Films of Joan Crawford , p. 12.
  15. Considine, pp. 14/15; Quirk, p. 12.
  16. ↑ in detail: Walker, p. 10 ff.
  17. A transcription of the original article can be found at .
  18. ↑ in detail on the background: Walker, pp. 10/11; Quirk, p. 14.
  19. Joan Crawford initially found it difficult to accept the choice. She was of the view Crawford would very much like Crawfish to German Cancer sound. Her good friend William Haines gave her the nickname Cranberry , which she kept for decades; See Joan Crawford to Roy Newquist in Conversations with Joan Crawford - hereinafter CWJC.
  20. detailed information on production costs and box office earnings for most of her films up to 1952 can be found in the Joan Crawford Box Office .
  21. cf. Joan Crawford versus John Kobal; also Walker, p. 33.
  22. ^ Joan Crawford to John Kobal; in detail: Walker, p. 44 ff.
  23. [She] is doubtless the best example of the flapper, the girl you see in smart night clubs, gowned to the apex of sophistication, toying iced glasses with a remote, faintly bitter expression, dancing deliciously, laughing a great deal, with wide , hurt eyes. Young things with a talent for living. Quotes u. a. at: ; also: Guiles, p. 35.
  24. Detailed descriptions in Jerzy Toeplitz, Geschichte des Films - Volume I, p. 656ff.
  25. Eleanor Barnes in the Los Angeles News : Joan Crawford's popularity with the collegiate crowd is understandable. Joan is the spirit of youth. And her manner of singing "I've Got a Feeling for You" - coupled with her dancing to music furnished by the Biltmore quartet, which was a radium drop for the bill. ; further reviews at Quirk, The Complete Films of Joan Crawford.
  26. ^ Toeplitz, Volume I, p. 644.
  27. MGM's profits plummeted to $ 8 million in 1931 and $ 6 million the following year. The studio was able to defy the economic upheaval better than the competition. Paramount Pictures fell from a profit of $ 18.3 million in 1930 to a loss of $ 15.87 million in 1932. In the same year Warner Brothers lost $ 14 million, while Fox Film Corporation nearly 17 Had millions in losses. Overall presentation of developments: Toeplitz, Volume I, p. 642 ff, p. 669 ff.
  28. see the detailed description in Seeßlen, pp. 78–83; Toeplitz, Volume I, p. 658.
  29. Seeßlen, pp. 82-83; basic presentation by Lea Jacobs; Toeplitz, p. 669 ff.
  30. The lists from 1932–1970 are printed in Quigley's Annual List of Box-Office Champions, 1932–1970 . However, the lists themselves are only of limited informative value, as they only take into account the number of viewers in the USA. Some stars like Greta Garbo, who was no longer represented in the top ten after 1932, achieved the majority of film revenues on foreign markets, especially in Europe. Stars were also preferred who brought out several films a year, such as Will Rogers , Shirley Temple or Mickey Rooney . The accusation of influence by the big studios was also repeatedly raised. Deanna Durbin , for example, never made the top ten, but Jane Withers did. Despite this criticism, the publications are a valuable indicator of the market value of a star.
  31. Shearer got the productions, Garbo supplied the art, and Joan Crawford made the money to pay for both. Quoted from Gibbon, John: A Century of Crawford ( Memento August 9, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) on Towards Norma Shearer, who was married to the production manager Irving Thalberg , Joan Crawford developed a pronounced dislike, which she cultivated until her death. When asked why Shearer would always get the parts in the expensive literary adaptations, she said, Well, she sleeps with the boss!
  32. ^ Source: Curtis F. Brown, Jean Harlow - Pyramid - ISBN 978-0-515-04247-4 .
  33. James R. Quirk in Photoplay: The story is not all Garbo. Joan Crawford gives excellent competition and moves up along her ladder of successes. […]. You may argue about who deserves the most praise and not get anywhere, for the picture, as a whole, steals the show.
  34. Walker: p. 96.
  35. A very good overall account of the effects of the strict censorship regulations and the corresponding changes in the film roles that the stars then played can be found in the biography Kay Francis - I Can't Wait to Be Forgotten. Her Life on Film & Stage by Scott O'Brien, pp. 122-138; As is well known, similar problems also hit Mae West , whose film Belle of the Nineties , which was released in 1934, was severely cut by the censor and was not allowed to bear the title It Ain't No Sin .
  36. cf. in addition the partly malicious reviews of Bolsey Cowthers in the New York Times, collected by Quirk, The Complete Films of Joan Crawford ; cf. also the explanations for the films of the actress linked in this article.
  37. Detailed information on production costs and box office earnings for the masters of her films up to 1952 can be found in the Joan Crawford Box Office . There were comparable developments at other film studios, exemplified in the article Warner Bros film grosses, 1921–51: the William Schaefer ledger - Warner Bros. Inc .; Jack Warner's executive secretary by H. Mark Glancy in: Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television , March 1995.
  38. In comparison, Luise Rainer received only $ 54,124. Norma Shearer received $ 150,000. The complete list with numerous other names by the US Treasury see on pages 30 ff here: [1]  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. .@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  39. Louis B. Mayer received $ 1,296,506, the highest salary in the United States for fiscal 1937. Frederic March topped the list of actors with $ 484,687, followed by Greta Garbo with $ 472,499. The complete list with numerous other names by the US Treasury see here from page 57: [2]  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. .@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  40. ↑ For further information see here: [3] . Bette Davis received $ 143,458, Norma Shearer $ 300,000, and Wallace Beery $ 355,000.
  41. The article in The Independent Film Journal by Harry Brandt, President of the Independent Theater Owners Association of America, actually referred to the artists' sometimes poorly made films, which were only moderately accepted by viewers, not to the appeal of the stars in general.
  42. I'd play Wallace Beery's grandmother, if it's a good part. Quotes u. a. in Considine, p. 124.
  43. Joan Crawford in CWJC.
  44. cf. Motion Picture Herald of September 19, 1942, p. 24.
  45. cf. Joan Crawford MGM Buyout Letter at
  46. Walker, p. 126 f; also at: .
  47. A lot of People, who have a lot to give, are giving it all they've got . a. at Quirk.
  48. Walker, p. 126; Considine, p. 201; also at .
  49. cf. in detail: Considine, p. 232 ff.
  50. See the basic essay by Emily Carman: Female Agency in 1930s Hollywood . In: CSW Update . UCLA Center for the Study of Women, October 2006, pp. 14–16, ( PDF; 845 kB ( Memento from February 22, 2010 on WebCite )).
  51. see above. Essay and the presentation of the overall development of free-lancing in The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960 by David Bordwell, p. 311 ff.
  52. see above. "Encyclopedia of Television Pilots 1937-2012", entry 2312.
  53. I should have had my head examined. No excuse for a picture being this bad or for me making it. - Joan Crawford in CWJC.
  54. cf. in detail Considine, pp. 245ff.
  55. See Emily Carman, "Women rule Hollywood: Aging and Freelance Stardom in the studio System", p. 23 in "Female Celebrity and Aging: Back in the Spotlight", Edited by Deborah Jermyn, Taylor & Francis Group Ltd 2 Park Square , Milton Park, Abingdon Oxford, OX14 4RN, UK. There is also referred to Crawford's male contemporaries Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper and Humphrey Bogart , who are named in 1955 with fee claims of $ 250,000.
  56. Reviews for all films reprinted by Quirk, The Complete Films of Joan Crawford ; see also the information on the film articles themselves.
  57. ^ Considine, p. 269.
  58. While the films were usually dismissed as inferior, the actress mostly received good reviews. The critic Judith Christ judged in the New York Herald Tribune about the film The Straitjacket from 1964: […] it's time to get Joan Crawford out of those housedress horror B movies and back into haute couture. Miss Crawford, you see, is high class. Too high class to withstand in mufti the banality of Robert Bloch's script, cheap-jack production, inept and / or vacuous supporting players and direction better suited to the mist-and-cobweb idiocies of the Karloff school of suspense. ; For further references to the films from the period, see Quirk, The Complete Films of Joan Crawford and The best of everything: A Joan Crawford encyclopedia .
  59. I really think alcoholism is one of the occupational hazards of being an actor, of being a widow, and of being alone. I'm all three […] but when I realized the mess I'd gotten myself into I was strong enough to quit […] I just didn't want to turn into a blowsy old relic. I couldn't see myself walking into an AA meeting and getting up and saying, "Hello, I'm Joan and I'm an alcoholic." - Joan Crawford in CWJC; confirmed by Christina Crawford in my dear mother raven .
  60. ↑ in detail on this: Walker, p. 134 ff., Cf. also Chandler.
  61. on the whole topic see Chandler, who conducted numerous interviews on the problem.
  62. on the term cf. Toeplitz, Volume I, p. 656 f.
  63. compare the representations in: Esquevin and Gutner; see also the article about Gilbert Adrian on
  64. cited and a. at Esquevin; see also the longer article by Grace Glueck: DESIGN REVIEW; Adrian, Whose Elegant Styles Were Movie Scene-Stealers .
  65. The gowns worn by Miss Crawford will be the talk of your town for weeks [...] and how she wears them.
  66. Dressing like a refugee is certainly not in her contract.
  67. Furthermore, in two or three scenes her resemblance to Greta Garbo is extraordinary. Not only does she look like Garbo once or twice, but she employs that elusive Garbo technique that unfathomable expression, that thwarted yearning and lurking tragedy.
  68. Seeßlen p. 106f.
  69. ^ Walker, p. 157.
  70. Joan was a star in every sense of the word. She didn't remind you in any particular way. You just knew it. And you didn't think any less of her for it. - Henry Fonda in an interview with Charles Castle, reprinted in Joan Crawford: The Raging Star.
  71. 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! , Joan Crawford at CWJC.
  72. 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. Joan Crawford in CWJC.
  73. see Considine, u. a. Pp. 110 ff., With an interesting comparison between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in dealing with the press.
  74. Saint Joan of the Fanmags , quoted in Considine, S. 284th
  75. see the detailed description by Christina Crawford.
  76. a b see Considine, p. 284 ff.
  77. see [4] and - The Joans .
  78. It wouldn't be a Joan Crawford picture without plenty of anguish - so goes a rigid law of the film industry. And her fans will have their usual good time […] smiling through their tears, biting their nails, and otherwise purging the emotions […]. As you can imagine, this plot enables Miss Crawford to run a full-course dinner of dramatic moods , from loneliness to mother love, from pride in the girl to passion with her husband, and finally to smouldering rage when she takes a derringer out of her desk and goes to meet him for the last time. Somehow she pulls it off. This may not be your kind of movie but it is many women's kind of movie and our Joan is queen of the art form.
  79. She [Joan] has become unreal, a phantom of herself. Whiteness has invaded her eyes, muscles have taken over her face, a will of iron behind a face of steel. She is a phenomenon. She is becoming more manly as she grows older.
  80. For the lady is famously given to striking aggressive attitudes and to carrying herself in a manner that is formidable and cold. That is the principal misfortune of "Goodbye My Fancy". Miss Crawford's errant congresswoman is as aloof and imposing as the capital dome.
  81. Anne Chisholm: This Fabulous Century: 1920-1930 , Time Life Books, 1971, pp 23-25; see also: Nina Keith Nicols: A Case Study of Joan Crawford , The University of Texas, August 1981 p. 72 ff.
  82. on these studies see The Payne Fund Studies on
  83. Marjorie Rosen quotes one of the girls interviewed in her book Popcorn Venus as saying: When I go to see a modern picture like Our Dancing Daughters, one high-school sixteen-year-old wrote, I am thrilled. These modern pictures give me a feeling to imitate their ways. I believe that nothing will happen to the carefree girl like Joan Crawford. The results of the studies relating to Joan Crawford are also discussed in detail in Walker, pp. 75 ff.
  84. cf. in detail Nicols, p. 99 ff.
  85. cf. in detail Nicols, pp. 104–111 ff.
  86. Quoted and a. in Chandler, p. 95.
  87. CWJC , p. 22: I think a million or so girls with nothing in their pocketbooks and head full of dreams paid to see a Joan Crawford picture because, let's face it, between MGM publicity and the parts I played I was the original rags -to-riches girl and if they were lucky they could make it too.
  88. See review of the first performance in the New York Times of January 30, 1981: [5] .
  89. See review of the first performance in the Los Angeles Times of January 31, 1992: [6] .
  90. cf. in detail here: [7] .
  91. See review of the first performance in Variety from May 9, 2005: [8] .
  92. cf. in detail here: [9] .
  93. see detailed review in The Telegraph of May 11, 2011: [10] .

Web links

Commons : Joan Crawford  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

This article was added to the list of excellent articles on March 20, 2009 in this version .