Discover the life of this actress who made her fortune acting as a suffering older woman and had a well-known rivalry with Bette Davis. Her films include 'Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?', 'Mildred Pierce' and 'Password'.
Crawford was born Lucille Fay LeSueur into a poor family and her parents separated before she was born. Her mother was a cleaner. During her childhood, she knew three fathers and by 1915, she lived in Kansas city with her mother. She worked in a laundry to help her pay school tuition.
Lucille loved dancing, and as a teenager danced in competitions and nightclubs. In 1923, she won an amateur dance contest, which led to chorus work in Detroit, New York and Chicago. She moved to Los Angeles in 1925, and was soon cast in her first small role, in 'Pretty Ladies'. She also appeared in 'The Only Things' and 'Old Clothes' in this year. MGM's publicity head, Pete Smith, recognised her talent but felt her name sounded fake. The studio signed the actress for 18 years.
Her new name, Joan Crawford, was given to her when a magazine asked its readers to name the starlet. Her big break came in 1928, in 'Our Dancing Daughters'. She became an overnight sensation, and a symbol of the "flapper" movement.
Around this time, Crawford met Douglas Fairbanks Jr. They married in 1929, but weren't compatible, and divorced after only a few years in 1933. There were runours that she had had an affair with Clark Gable. She starred in her first film with sound in 1929. It was called 'Untamed'.
In the 1930s, Joan Crawford became one of the biggest stars at MGM; Depression-era women seemed to relate to Crawford in a personal way. She appeared in 'Grand Hotel' in 1933 and 'Sadie McKee' in 1934. She also starred in 'No More Ladies' in 1935 and 'Love on the Run' in 1936. At this time, she was at the top of her game impressing both film executives and movie patrons.
Her frequent co-star was Clark Gable, whom she was romantically attached to, on-and-off, for a decade. During this time, she married another of her co-stars, Franchot Tone in 1935, but this marriage also failed after a few years, as the pair divorced in 1939.
As the 1940s approached, Joan Crawford's star was fading. She adopted four children, but one, Christina, would later allege that her mother was a child abuser. Crawford endured yet another failed marriage, this time to Philip Terry.
Leaving MGM, in 1945, she starred for Warner in 'Mildred Pierce', and won the Best Actress Oscar of that year. She appeared in the well-received 'Humoresque' in 1946 and was nominated for another Best Actress Oscar for her role in 'Possessed' in 1947.
In the early 1960s, she starred with Bette Davis, in 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?'. The actresses had a rivalry and the feud, the origin of which no-one knows, was well-known by this point.
Her fourth marriage, to Alfred Steele, was to prove her happiest, but he was to die of a heart attack. He was the chairman of the board at Pepsi Cola company and after his death in 1959, she stayed on the board until she was pushed out in 1972.
In retirement, Crawford became a Christian Scientist, and seemed to grow closer to her children. She died of pancreatic cancer in May 1977, in New York City, and is interred at Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York, USA.
After being cut out of her will, her daughter Christina wrote a tell-all book called 'Mommie Dearest'. Crawford's first husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr defended the actress stating it wasn't about the woman he had known.
In 1981, the book was made into a film starring Faye Dunaway, which was a box office success but critically derided. Mommie Dearest has since gone on to become a camp classic.
New York Times bestselling author Donald Spoto has already brilliantly explored the lives and careers of numerous Hollywood stars and entertainment icons—Grace Kelly, James Dean, Alfred Hitchcock, and Marilyn Monroe, to name but a few. In Possessed, his subject is the inimitable Joan Crawford, one of the most electrifying divas of the Golden Age of American film. A more thorough, revealing, and sympathetic portrait of the often maligned movie star—most notably lambasted, perhaps, in the scandalous bestseller, Mommy Dearest—Possessed is a fascinating study of the real Joan Crawford, a remarkable actress, businesswoman, mother, and lover.