Joan Crawford is one of the most famous and identifiable faces of the classic film era. It’s difficult to gauge the extent of her impact on popular culture because it has been so wide and varied. Along with her supposed rival Bette Davis, and her friend Barbara Stanwyck, she has become synonymous with strong, often ambitious women in film. Women who went out and got what they wanted, and hardly, if ever, apologised for this ambition. Her career spanned six decades: from the gentle waved haired beauty of the silent screen, to the champion of the “shop girl” in the 1930s, to the symbol of the powerful, ambitious, and vulnerable, woman of the postwar era, most memorably through her role as Mildred Pierce, and finally to the “scream queen” of the 1960s. Very few actors and actresses of Joan’s or any era have or will enjoy the long, varied, and very successful career that she maintained.
Joan was born Lucille Fay LeSueur on the 23rd of March, 1904, in San Antonio, Texas. She would have an incredibly difficult upbringing, experiencing poverty and hardship for much of her childhood and adolescence. Due to hard work and talent, she would eventually become a chorus dancer on Broadway, before being signed to a contract with MGM in 1925. Her name, which was disliked by MGM publicity head Pete Smith and studio boss Louis B. Mayer, would be changed to Joan Crawford, after a contest to choose her new name was held in a fan magazine. In 1927, she would star opposite Lon Chaney in the silent horror classic, The Unknown, and she would credit Chaney with having a large influence on her career and teaching her the difference between standing in front of a camera and actually acting. She would then be catapulted to super stardom by her role as the gentle flapper, Diana, in Our Dancing Daughters.
Throughout the 1930s she would become the representative for the “every girl” who wanted to make something of herself, perhaps best represented by her role in Possessed, opposite frequent co star and long time lover, Clark Gable; in which she played a paper factory worker who becomes the sophisticated mistress of a powerful politician. She would continue to fight for better roles, going on to play the very memorable viper Crystal Allen in The Women, opposite long time studio rival Norma Shearer.
In the 1940s, after growing increasingly dissatisfied with the mediocre roles being offered her, she would leave MGM, and reach the pinnacle of her success, with her Oscar winning turn as the titular character in Mildred Pierce. But her success would not end there, she would go on to be nominated for an Oscar for her performances in Possessed (1947) and Sudden Fear (1952).
The 1950s would see Joan further diversify her film roles with excellent turns in Female on the Beach opposite Jeff Chandler, Autumn Leaves opposite Cliff Robertson, and my favourite film of hers, Torch Song, opposite Michael Wilding, which marked her triumphant return to MGM after a decade.
And although cinema had shifted quite markedly since Joan’s silent film debut, she would continue to work into the 1960s, appearing in the surprise smash hit Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? alongside Bette Davis. She would go on to appear in memorable horror films such as Berserk!, I Saw What You Did, and Strait-Jacket. She would make her final film appearance in the science fiction film Trog, proving that Joan was always a working actress, as well as the statement that no one made her a star, she decided she wanted to be one and worked extremely hard to become one, to be true.
And so, Erica (Poppity Talks Classic Film) and I are as pleased as can be to announce this blogathon dedicated to the Queen of the Silver Screen, the one and only Miss Joan Crawford! It will be held on the 10th, 11th and 12th of May, 2019, as this year marks the 42nd anniversary of Joan’s passing.
- Joan had a very long career and so her filmography is very impressive. Because of this, we will be allowing only two duplicates per entry, and three posts per participant. Please only submit new work, as we won’t be accepting any posts written previously.
- You can write about anything you like pertaining to Joan’s film career, television appearances she made, books she wrote and her friendships and relationships with her fellow classic film stars etc.
- Erica and I will not be allowing any entries about the book, Mommie Dearest, written by her adoptive daughter Christina, nor any posts about the film based on the book starring Faye Dunaway. This blogathon is dedicated to Joan’s life and work and we want to celebrate her, so let’s please keep things nice and not write anything derogatory or defamatory about her.
- Just to reiterate: the blogathon is being held on the 10th, 11th and 12th of May, 2019. Please submit your entries either before or by that date. If you find that you need a little extension, please let Erica or I know.
- Please take one of the banners and put it somewhere on your site to promote the blogathon. We’d also very much appreciate it if you included one of the banners in your post for the blogathon.
- And most importantly, please let Erica and I know what you would like to write about for the blogathon, by either commenting on this post, Erica’s post announcing the event, emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, contacting me or Erica on twitter @noir_or_never or @ThePoppity respectively. Please include the name of your blog and a link to it, as we don’t really want to act as amateur sleuths and hunt for you! Please tell us your twitter handle as well so we can promote everything on there. If you don’t have a blog, that’s totally fine, just send your entry onto one of us and we’ll post it for you.
- Please check the participation list below to see what everyone else is covering and which subjects have been claimed twice.
We very much hope that you will join us and that you will enjoy writing all about our wonderful Joan!
Pale Writer: Joan’s Four Essential Later Performances; and The Perfect Double Bill: The Unknown and Berserk!
The Poppity: Spring Fever and a Featurette on MGM costume designer Adrian and his relationship with Joan
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Sudden Fear
Musings of A Classic Film Addict: Johnny Guitar
Dubsism: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Overture Books and Film: Goodbye, Mr Fancy
Caftan Woman: Grand Hotel
Realweegiemidget Reviews: The Karate Killers
The Midnite Drive In: “Eyes” from The Night Gallery tv series
The Stop Button: Rain
In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood: Joan’s marriage to Alfred Steele
Lifeisabanqvet: Sadie McKee
GwendaY: Joan and Clarence Brown’s collaborations
Silver Screenings: Daisy Kenyon
Margot Shelby: Mildred Pierce
The Old Hollywood Garden: Humoresque
Critica Retro: A Woman’s Face
Marsha Collock: Our Dancing Daughters
The Flapper Dame: Strait Jacket
Stars and Letters: Correspondence from Joan
Screen Dreams: Becoming Joan Crawford– From Kansas to Hollywood
The Wonderful World of Cinema: The Women
The Story Enthusiast: They All Kissed the Bride
Pop Culture Reverie: Possessed (1931)
Silver Screen Classics: Possessed (1931)
Diary of a Movie Maniac: The Best of Everything
In The Key of Karen: Mildred Pierce