Joan Crawford - Wednesday, November 18, 2015

So, yesterday we told you about one of our two 'huge heads' on display in the Music Room.  We would be remiss if we neglected the second one, so we are not going to.  It is a larger-than-life rendition of Joan Crawford, but not the glamorous Joan Crawford of the silent film era but the middle-aged Joan Crawford more closely associated with the cult films in which she starred during the 1960's, notably Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? in 1962.  

Unlike Jane Russell, there is nothing authentic about Joan Crawford's name.  She was born in 1904 as Lucille Fay LeSueur in San Antonio, Texas (unless it was actually 1905.  Or 1906.  Nobody is really quite sure.)  Dad abandoned the family before Lucille/Joan was born, so she was raised by a stepfather who introduced her to vaudeville in the theater he owned.  Young Lucille/Joan preferred at the time to be called Billie.  So, Lucille/Joan/Billie worked her way through school, then got jobs dancing.  She danced her way to Broadway, which led to films.  Louis B. Mayer himself became interested in the young actress, and he was the one who said her name, which reminded him of "the sewer" needed to be changed.  And thus, Joan Crawford was selected by a fan in a magazine contest.  She started in numerous silent films and achieved superstar status as a famous flapper of the late-1920's, before making the smooth transition to the talkies.  The first time her fans heard her voice, she was singing a song in The Hollywood Revue of 1929.

Crawford's career had its ups and downs during the 1930's, but her Best Actress Academy Award for 1945's Mildred Pierce provided her a much-needed comeback.  She continued making films, of varying quality, for three more decades.  But the absence of good roles for older women proved as real a problem for Joan as it had for Jane Russell - Joan just tried longer.  In 1970, she starred in the famously bad Trog (if you like bad movies, see it.  Really.) and that was it.  She retired, passing away seven years later.  The next year, her adopted daughter Christina wrote a memoir that described Joan as an abusive and insane mother, forever tainting Crawford's image.  The film Mommie Dearest, starring Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford, came out in 1981.  Like Trog, it is also must see.

Joan is a fascinating Hollywood character - talented, complex and, in her day, quite lovely.  If you were to ask us why someone made the three-foot-tall image of her that we have lovingly placed on display in our Music Room, we would be hard pressed to  explain it.  We're just glad they did, because now we can show it off!
QUESTION:  Who was Joan Crawford's co-star in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  This Oscar winner famously loathed Crawford and allegedly sabotaged the film.
A)  Clark Gable
B)  Joan Fontaine
C)  Bette Davis
D)  Olivia de Haviland

NO MORE DIALS.  This day represents a marvelous advance in technology.  Only 52 years ago, the very first push-button phone was released.  This was a big deal, although that is difficult for people today to fathom, in our current era of touch-sensitive digital technology.  Then, it was all about transistors - the new answer to making radios compact.  Makes you wonder what they will come up with next!

ANSWER:  C)  Bette Davis