Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Women We Love: Joan Crawford

Today's post marks the 100th edition of Women We Love, so in honor of the occasion, we are shining the spotlight on our Movie Dearest namesake, Miss Joan Crawford.

- Born Lucille Fay LeSueur, she made her way to Hollywood (after dancing with touring companies and on Broadway) and was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925, where she was re-christened "Joan Crawford" by way of a contest dreamt up by the publicity department. Initial roles were small and undemanding, so she gained national notoriety as a flapper, and her star rose at MGM in such popular films as Our Dancing Daughters, Untamed, Grand Hotel, Rain, Dancing Lady, Sadie McKee, Chained and Forsaking All Others. One of the highest paid women in America at the time, Life magazine named her the "First Queen of the Movies" in 1937; however, by the end of the decade, she was branded "box office poison". Despite memorable performances in The Women, Strange Cargo and A Woman's Face, her contract with MGM was terminated in 1943.

- Signing up with Warners, she actively campaigned to be cast in the title role in the film adaptation of the bestseller Mildred Pierce, even consenting to a screen test. The movie was a huge success, and her performance a triumph, earning her an Academy Award for Best Actress. Her comeback was cemented with two more Oscar nominations, for Possessed and Sudden Fear, as well as such hits as Humoresque, Daisy Kenyon, Flamingo Road, The Damned Don't Cry, Harriet Craig, Torch Song, Johnny Guitar, Queen Bee, Autumn Leaves and The Best of Everything.

- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (in which she played the wheelchair-bound Blanche Hudson opposite her longtime rival Bette Davis in the title role) led to a string of bizarre thrillers in her later years, including Strait-Jacket, I Saw What You Did, Berserk! and her notoriously awful final film, Trog. Also during this time, she made several television appearances, including the pilot episode of Night Gallery in a segment directed by a then-newcomer named Steven Spielberg.

- Following her death in 1977, she was the subject of a "tell-all" book by her disinherited adopted daughter Christina, in which allegations were made that Crawford was emotionally and physically abusive to her and her brother Christopher. In 1980, the infamous Mommie Dearest was adapted into the camp classic film of the same name, starring Faye Dunaway in a performance that earned her a place as one of the top 50 cinematic villains of all time by the American Film Institute in 2003.

- The real Joan Crawford was ranked number ten on AFI's list of the top female screen legends in 1999. And, despite Mommie Dearest (or maybe because of it), her legacy as one of the greatest stars of the silver screen lives on, as both actress and icon (as seen here in this special video tribute).

With this 100th post, Women We Love will be going on hiatus for the immediate future.


  1. Congrats on the 100th Posting! And I can't think of a better woman than Joan Crawford to be the star of it!

  2. I love Bette Midler. I can never get enough of her!! First Wives Club is my favorite!!


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