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Joan Crawford (born Lucille Fay LeSueur; March 23, c. 1904 – May 10, 1977) was an American film and television actress who began her career as a dancer and stage showgirl. She has been romantically linked to Alice DeLamar, Barbara Stanwyck, Martha Raye, Dorothy Arzner, Claudette Colbert, Marilyn Monroe. By 1932, Hollywood had decided that Greta Garbo's dazzling stage presence would never compensate for her indiscretions. But before she was forced out of town, she angrily told Louis B. Mayer that she had slept with six of his top stars, including Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Crawford.
In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Crawford tenth on its list of the greatest female stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema.
Beginning her career as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies, before debuting as a chorus girl on Broadway, Crawford signed a motion picture contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925. In the 1930s, Crawford's fame rivaled, and later outlasted, MGM colleagues Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo. Crawford often played hard-working young women who find romance and success. These stories were well received by Depression-era audiences and were popular with women. Crawford became one of Hollywood's most prominent movie stars and one of the highest-paid women in the United States, but her films began losing money and, by the end of the 1930s, she was labelled "box office poison". But her career gradually improved in the early 1940s, and she made a major comeback in 1945 by starring in Mildred Pierce, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She would go on to receive Best Actress nominations for Possessed (1947) and Sudden Fear (1952). She continued to act in film and television throughout the 1950s and 1960s; she achieved box office success with the highly successful horror film Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962), in which she starred alongside Bette Davis, her long-time rival.
In 1955, Crawford became involved with the Pepsi-Cola Company through her marriage to company Chairman Alfred Steele. After his death in 1959, Crawford was elected to fill his vacancy on the board of directors, serving until she was forcibly retired in 1973. After the release of the British horror film Trog in 1970, Crawford retired from the screen. Following a public appearance in 1974, after which unflattering photographs were published, Crawford withdrew from public life and became increasingly reclusive until her death in 1977.
Crawford married four times. Her first three marriages ended in divorce; the last ended with the death of husband Alfred Steele. She adopted five children, one of whom was reclaimed by his birth mother. Crawford's relationships with her two elder children, Christina and Christopher, were acrimonious. Crawford disinherited the two, and, after Crawford's death, Christina wrote a well-known "tell-all" memoir titled Mommie Dearest (1978).
On May 8, 1977, Crawford gave away her beloved Shih Tzu, "Princess Lotus Blossom," being too weak to care for her. Crawford died two days later at her New York apartment of a heart attack. A funeral was held at Campbell Funeral Home, New York, on May 13, 1977. In her will, which was signed on October 28, 1976, Crawford bequeathed to her two youngest children, Cindy and Cathy, $77,500 each from her $2,000,000 estate.
She explicitly disinherited the two eldest, Christina and Christopher: "It is my intention to make no provision herein for my son, Christopher, or my daughter, Christina, for reasons which are well known to them". She also bequeathed nothing to her niece, Joan Lowe (1933–1999; born Joan Crawford LeSueur, the only child of her estranged brother, Hal). Crawford left money to her favorite charities: the U.S.O. of New York, the Motion Picture Home, the American Cancer Society, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the American Heart Association, and the Wiltwyck School for Boys.
A memorial service was held for Crawford at All Souls' Unitarian Church on Lexington Avenue in New York on May 16, 1977, and was attended by, among others, her old Hollywood friend Myrna Loy. Another memorial service, organized by George Cukor, was held on June 24 in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills. Crawford was cremated and her ashes were placed in a crypt with her fourth and final husband, Alfred Steele, in Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York.
Joan Crawford's handprints and footprints are immortalized in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1752 Vine Street for her contributions to the motion picture industry. Playboy listed Crawford as #84 of the "100 Sexiest Women of the 20th century". Crawford was also voted the tenth greatest female star of the classic American cinema by the American Film Institute.
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