Happy birthday Mommie Dearest! On the day of what should have been Joan Crawford’s 110th, 109th, 107th or 112th birthday (the actress never confessed her true age, but there is a general consensus leaning towards 1906), we celebrate the diva’s life with this “shocking tell-all exposé” sort of list.
Born Lucille LeSueur, a swift step-father change seen her name transform to Billie Cassin and by the beginning of her studio career, the name “Joan Crawford” won a $1,000 public renaming contest. The winning name seemed to satisfy everyone except the lady herself, who thought it sounded like “crawfish”. Her adopted son went through the same procedure when after Joan’s divorce from Phillip Terry, the child’s name changed from Phillip Terry II to Christopher Crawford.
Her last movie credit is for the low budget horror flick TROG in 1970. The movie presents us with a fine-looking rifle-bearing Joan screaming and shooting at primordial beasts.
No. Wire. Hangers. EVER!
In the difficult years of poverty that followed her father’s leaving, Joan’s mother took on a laundry to make ends meet, purportedly commencing the actress’s lifetime terror with wire hangers (and subsequently, ours too).
A rather petite, freckled redhead
She looked huge didn’t she? She looked like a 20ft tall panther ready to tear you to shreds, didn’t she? Well, Miss Crawford was in fact only just below 5’ 3″ tall. The complete artifice of the studio system also erased the lovely freckles that adorned her visage and changed her scarlet coiffure according to her roles. In her technicolor debut in 1953’s high-drag camp extravaganza Torch Song, her original features are virtually nowhere to be seen, but to compensate the loss, La Crawford sports a faintly sketched blackface and what looks like a diamante bindi: Yay Hollywood, way to go!
She bought her children from the black market
One thing is to locally source your organic turmeric. One thing is to go and buy your children off the black market for publicity purposes: Joan adopted her first three children—Christina and twins Cathy and Cindy—as a single parent, which was prohibited in California. So, erm, yeah. No biggie.
Battle Royale: Joan versus Bette
Everyone knows the story, so let’s just take the time to appreciate this excerpt from Sky Art’s Psychobitches, featuring Mark Gatiss and Frances Barber
By Matteo Sarti