Friday, March 23, 2018

Born Today in 1904, Iconic Hollywood Star Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford was born today, March 23, in probably 1904, though the year of her birth is uncertain. She was an American film and television actress who began her career as a dancer and stage showgirl. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Crawford 10th on its list of the greatest female stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema.

Beginning her career as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies, before debuting as a chorus girl on Broadway, Crawford signed a motion picture contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925. In the 1930s, Crawford's fame rivaled, and later outlasted, MGM colleagues Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo. 

Crawford often played hard-working young women who find romance and success. These stories were well received by Depression-era audiences and were popular with women. Crawford became one of Hollywood's most prominent movie stars and one of the highest-paid women in the United States, but her films began losing money and, by the end of the 1930s, she was labelled "box office poison." 

Her career gradually improved in the early 1940s, and she made a major comeback in 1945 by starring in Mildred Pierce, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She would go on to receive Best Actress nominations for Possessed (1947) and Sudden Fear (1952). She continued to act in film and television throughout the 1950s and 1960s; she achieved box office success with the highly successful horror film Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962), in which she starred alongside Bette Davis, her long-time rival.

In 1955, Crawford became involved with the Pepsi-Cola Company through her marriage to company Chairman Alfred Steele. After his death in 1959, Crawford was elected to fill his vacancy on the board of directors, serving until she was forcibly retired in 1973. After the release of the British horror film Trog in 1970, Crawford retired from the screen. Following a public appearance in 1974, after which unflattering photographs were published, Crawford withdrew from public life and became increasingly reclusive until her death from a heart attack on May 10, 1977.

Crawford married four times. Her first three marriages ended in divorce; the last ended with the death of husband Alfred Steele. She adopted four children. Crawford's relationships with her two elder children, Christina and Christopher, were acrimonious. Crawford disinherited the two, and, after Crawford's death, Christina wrote a well-known "tell-all" memoir titled Mommie Dearest (1978), which later became a film starring Faye Dunaway.

More recently she was portrayed by Jessica Lange in the 2017 FX television series, Feud, subtitled Bette and Joan, about the rivalry between Crawford and Bette Davis. 

The blog GO! Magazine reports in an post titled, "Queer Women History Forgot: Joan Crawford:"

In the Golden Age of Hollywood, queer stars were deep in the closet, and it’s only later in life through diaries, biographies and personal accounts that some of these histories are revealed. Crawford, an actress made famous for her roles in Baby Jane and Mildred Pierce among several other stage and screen performances, was said to have had romantic entanglements with both Marilyn Monroe, Barbara Stanwyck and Greta Garbo. According to The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling and the MGM Publicity Machine, Crawford was even part of a sexually explicit Sapphic film that American film producer and studio exec Eddie Mannix hid and eventually destroyed to protect her career. The book also detailed her love of “Harlem’s lesbian clubs, known for live sex shows called ‘buffet flats’ and sex between audience members.”

Crawford was married to men four times throughout her life and had four children, some of which is documented in the classic Mommie Dearest, based on a memoir by Crawford’s adopted daughter, Christina. Christina confirmed her mother’s lesbian affairs with Joy Behar in 2010, saying, “I understand that, of course I was very young. But I understand that, yes. In those days, people didn’t come out of the closet. Everybody knew it, but it wasn’t public information. And then the studios completely controlled all the publicity, so no matter whether people were gay, straight, murderers, child abusers, they kept it all secret. And then slowly, slowly, slowly the studios lost their powers over the stars, and the truth started to come out. … I think she was bisexual. That’s what I think.”

See full post here.

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