JOAN CRAWFORD – A star at any cost?

 

 

Of all the movie stars that have come and gone down the decades, none strove so hard, or for so long, as Joan Crawford did, to get to the top of the pile and remain there. In effect, there was almost nothing she would not do to become and stay a star. She was born in 1905 with the unfortunate name of Lucille LeSueur, but MGM would later change that to Joan Crawford, a name she despised because it was ‘too plain’. MGM thought her real name sounded too much like ‘sewer’, hence the change.

At the age of eleven Lucille was raped by one of her step-fathers (she would have three of them). Two years later she was being regularly assaulted by her older brother and by her late teens she had already been arrested by Chicago police on prostitution charges while working at a mob speak-easy. Two highly explicit pornographic movies, Velvet Lips and The Casting Couch soon followed starring a very energetic Lucille. Years later, MGM executives would deny they existed, but would quietly spend thousands tracking down and buying every copy they could find. Even so, copies are still around today in private collections.

It was during those early, pre-star, days that the freckled Lucille (she was smothered in freckles from head to toe) contracted VD for the first time and underwent more than one abortion. ‘I happen to know’, said Veronica Lake, ‘that Joan Crawford and Tallulah Bankhead couldn’t have babies because of the illegal abortions performed on them.’ In 2002, a photograph surfaced that clearly showed a naked Joan in the arms of an equally naked woman, suggesting that her life-time denial of ever having female lovers may not have been entirely true. There was never any doubt about her having male lovers, however.

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Veronica Lake

Once she made it to Hollywood, an MGM contract and a name change, Joan quickly settled in to seducing men of all ages. One of the youngest was 17 year-old Jackie Cooper who she invited around to her home a number of times over a few months until she tired of him. ‘Put it all out of your mind’, she coldly informed him the day she ended their trysts. ‘It never happened.’ Bette Davis, with whom she would maintain a life-long feud, said of her: ‘She slept with every male star at MGM except Lassie.’ (For those who don’t know, Lassie was a boy dog, not a girl).

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a young Joan

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L B Mayer, head of MGM, knew her well. ‘I have great admiration for her as an actress, but she’s a slut’, he said. ‘She is what she is, a cheap flapper who likes to get laid.’ She also swore like a sailor, which turned off some of the big stars such as Henry Fonda and John Wayne. Her usual plan of attack was to arrive at a party unescorted, then select a man from the throng and ask him to drive her home later. Few refused, for her reputation was well and truly known. She would regularly undress in front of studio staff, both men and women, whilst casually discussing movie business.

On her death in 1977 it was discovered that she had disinherited both her adopted children, Christina and Christopher. ‘For reasons well known to them both’, she wrote. These days it is commonplace for actors to adopt children from around the world, but it was Crawford who first did so in Hollywood, and her reasons were all connected to her ‘image’, accompanied by a sizeable chunk of jealousy. When her rival Bette Davis gave birth in 1947 and attracted all the media’s attention, Crawford quickly arranged through her mob connections, for Meyer Lansky to ‘fix’ it so she could adopt two babies through his black market contacts. Joan was unmarried at the time, so money changed hands.

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Christina and Joan

Within 17 months of her demise she became the subject of a book by daughter Christina that portrayed her as a child abuser and a truly horrible mother. The book, Mommie Dearest, sold well and was made into a movie starring Faye Dunaway as Joan. Crawford’s friends insist that it was Christina’s way of exacting revenge for being cut out of her mother’s will, but many others who knew Crawford are equally adamant that it hits close to the mark.

Joan’s attitude to the industry and her career was summed up in an interview: ‘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’, she explained. ‘If you want to see the girl next door, go next door.’

7 Comments on JOAN CRAWFORD – A star at any cost?

  1. I feel the urgency to leave a response to previous paragraphs about Joan’s childhood abuse, rapes and later her promiscuity. We are now informed via Dr. Phil, “O”, similar talk shows and social media that early childhood abuse often, if not always, leads one to be totally fucked up sexually. These are the proven facts.
    I am in no way defending Ms. Crawford for her actions. I am stating facts. Persons are so eager to tear down a star rather than look at the cause of her actions. Her poverty ridden, uneducated mother was operating on her survival instincts in the turn of the century as most persons were and to some extent women today who have children to raise singularly. They marry to a great extent out of desperation to survive.
    Those women depend on the luck of the draw. Pity that Joan wasn’t lucky enough to have a decent childhood. Instead she had to scrub floors, work in unsophisticated laundries to wash clothes by hand and then be ridiculed by classmates. She probably had to bear the scars internally her entire life.
    However, she did pull herself up by the bootstraps, become a ravishing beauty and one of the great and admired movie stars of her era.

    • I have no desire to ‘tear down’ Joan Crawford or anyone else for that matter. I merely research and then write my findings. Quite often those findings are in direct opposition to the phony images served up by the studios to a gullible public. As for Joan, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that she prostituted herself in Chicago and made porn films before she became a star. She also slept with producers and directors to bolster her career. I did not make this up. Her own peers confirm it over and again. She did indeed have a tough upbringing, but so did countless other women in history and they did not turn to prostitution and porn because of it.

  2. The double standard is truly exlempified by Joan Crawford’s life. Had it been a man, he’d have been praised for his record in bed, and his peers would never call him the things her peers did. It’s really highlighted by male actors finding her promsnity to be vulgar yet they probably had no problem if a man did it. I find it disturbing that she should be faulted for having sex with her stepfather, she was 11! That’s paedophilia/ sexual abuse by the parent! Her behaviour throughout her life should also be looked at from the perspective of how she was raised, and the social environment where women are treated even worse than today. It’s easy to accuse someone of a lot of things when she’s not around to defend herself, and I think Crawford is generally attacked more than others, in part because of her daughter’s book and the movie that followed. Perhaps she wasn’t always the nicest person around, but I think it’s tough to tell who she really was when there’s always someone who might have a story that is slanted and when she herself was devoted to an image that, sadly, was, at least partially, created by those in charge of Hollywood, both the top cats and dogs and the fans that love to make and break their idols.

    • Thank you, Craig. I have just amended the passage I wrote on Lucille’s childhood. I honestly fell into the trap of focusing on Crawford’s reputation and in doing so I completely overlooked her age when she was assaulted at the hands of both her stepfather and older brother. I have rewritten the offending paragraph, having been advised of its shameful content by another reader as well. Personally, I detest any form of pedaphelia, (one of my own daughters suffered at the hands of a low-life step-father), and am truly ashamed that I did not think more closely about my wording of that particular paragraph. Thanks again for pointing it out to me, Craig.

  3. Wennsday Thursday // April 10, 2017 at 12:58 pm // Reply

    “At the age of eleven her mother caught the highly sexed Lucille having sex with one of her step-fathers..”

    If this isn’t the creepiest and most disgusting opener to a paragraph I’ve had the displeasure to read, I don’t know what is. An eleven year old child is being RAPED by a grown man and you phrase it like she was a pre-pubescent succubus. Shame on you.

  4. Found your site on Facebook, great post. Will share again.

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