Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

Posted on January 24, 2015

She was one of the most famous actresses of the early 20th century, from her early days as a contract actress to her famous turn in her middle years in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? with Bette Davis.

However, her legacy was marred when her adoptive daughter Christina wrote Mommie Dearest, a tell-all book about how Crawford was an abusive, alcoholic mother. This book was famously turned into the cult classic film, Mommie Dearest.

March 23, 1905
Born as Lucille Fay LeSueur in San Antonio, Texas to Thomas E. LeSueur Anna Bell Johnson. Her older brother is Hal LeSueur.

1924
Signs a contract with MGM.

Jan. 1925
Moves to Culver City, California.

July 15, 1925
Has a role in Pretty Ladies. It is the first and only time she is credited with her real name, Lucille LeSueur.

Aug. 18, 1925
MGM gives Lucille a new name: Joan Crawford.

Dec. 31, 1927
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. proposes to Joan at the Long Beach pier.

June 3, 1929
Crawford and Fairbanks marry at St. Malachy’s church in New York City.

Joan Crawford Douglas Fairbanks Jr. wedding day

Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. on their wedding day

Sept. 14, 1929
The couple places their footprints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

Joan Crawford Douglas Fairbanks Grauman's Chinese Theater

Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. place their footprints in front of the Chinese Theater

Dec. 1932
Joan meets future husband Franchot Tone.

May 13, 1933
Crawford and Fairbanks divorce.

Joan Crawford divorce

Joan Crawford on the witness stand during her divorce from Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

Summer 1933
Crawford and Franchot Tone are seen together on a regular basis.

Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone

Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone

Oct. 11, 1935
Marries Franchot Tone in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

1939
She and Tone divorce.

June 11, 1939
The baby that will be known as Christina Crawford is born at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital.

1940
Adopts daughter Christina from a baby broker. Initially names her Joan Crawford, Jr. before settling on the name Christina.

1941
Adopts son Christopher.

1942
After seeing newspaper reports of the adoption, Christopher’s biological mother sends letters to Joan, who finally gives Christopher back to the adoption agency. The biological mother regains custody, then sells the child for $250 before being institutionalized.

July 21, 1942
Marries Phillip Terry at Hidden Valley Ranch in Ventura County, California.

Joan Crawford and Philip Terry

Joan Crawford and Philip Terry

April 1943
She and Terry adopt Philippe but they do not keep him.

June 29, 1943
Her contract with MGM is terminated by mutual consent.

July 1, 1943
Signs with Warner Bros.

Late 1943
She and Terry adopt son Christopher.

Sept. 24, 1945
Stars in Mildred Pierce. It is a comeback of sorts for Crawford who has been dubbed “box office poison” by Hollywood. The trailer for the movie calls it “her most daringly different portrayal.”

Dec. 1945
Crawford and Terry separate.

March 7, 1946
Receives an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her role in Mildred Pierce. She is not at the ceremony because she claims to have pneumonia. Director Michael Curtiz accepts the award on her behalf. She invites reporters later that night to photograph her holding the Oscar in bed. She tells reporters: “Whether the Academy voters were giving the Oscar to me, sentimentally, for Mildred or for 200 years of effort, the hell with it — I deserved it.”

Joan Crawford receiving her Oscar in bed

Joan Crawford receiving her Oscar in bed

1946
Crawford and Terry divorce.

June 1947
Crawford, single again, adopts twins Cindy and Cathy.

July 26, 1947
Stars in Possessed.

Feb. 1950
Joan enrolls daughter Christina in the private Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, California.

March 19, 1953
Joan attends the first televised Academy Awards show.

Sept. 29, 1954
Joan appears on The Tonight Show with Steve Allen.

May 10, 1955
Elopes with PepsiCo president Alfred N. Steele, marrying him in the penthouse of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.

Nov. 7, 1955
Queen Bee is released. Joan stars as a ruthless, manipulative woman.

April 19, 1959
Steele dies of heart failure.

April 21, 1959
Crawford is elected to fill Steele’s spot on the board of directors of PepsiCo.

Oct. 1960
Redbook magazine publishes “The Revolt of Joan Crawford’s Daughter,” an interview with Christina Crawford that touches on the issues later written about in her book, Mommie Dearest.

Oct. 14, 1962
She appears on What’s My Line?

Oct. 31, 1962
She stars in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? alongside Betty Davis. It is based on the novel of the same name by Henry Farrell.

Jan. 19, 1964
She stars in Strait-Jacket, a thriller in which Joan plays an axe murderer. It also stars Diane Baker, Leif Erickson, and Rochelle Hudson.

1968
Christina Crawford begins playing the role of Joan Borman Kane on the soap opera, The Secret Storm.

Oct. 1968
While Christina is the hospital having emergency surgery, Joan takes over her daughter’s role on The Secret Storm, despite the fact that character is 28 years old and Crawford is 62.

1969
Christina is fired from The Secret Storm. She blames her mother.

Jan. 8, 1970
Joan Crawford appears on The David Frost Show

1970
A reporter asks Joan what she thought of her daughter’s stint on the soap opera. Joan replies: “On that soap opera, she played the best bitch I ever saw except for me in Queen Bee.”

1970
Crawford is awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes.

1971
She publishes a book entitled My Way of Life with Simon and Schuster.

1973
Crawford is forced out of PepsiCo by Don Kendall.

Sept. 23, 1974
Crawford makes her last public appearance at a party honoring Rosalind Russell at New York’s Rainbow Room.

Feb. 28, 1976
Crawford’s will is signed. From her $2 million estate, she leaves Cindy and Cathy $77,500 each. To Christina and Christopher she leaves nothing, writing: “… for reasons which should be well known to them.”

May 8, 1977
She gives away her Shih Tzu, Princess Lotus Blossom.

May 10, 1977 Crawford dies of a “acute coronary occlusion” in her New York City apartment while battling pancreatic cancer. Her last words are to her housekeeper, who is praying aloud for her. They are: “Damn it … Don’t you dare ask God to help me.”

1978
Christina publishes the memoir, Mommie Dearest, in which she alleges that her mother Joan was a cruel, abusive alcoholic.

Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford

Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford

1978
Christina appears on the Phil Donohue show to talk about her memoir.

1981
The movie version of Mommie Dearest is released with Faye Dunaway in the role of Joan Crawford. The movie becomes a cult classic.

2005
Transcripts of Marilyn Monroe’s sessions with her psychologist reveal that Monroe and Crawford may have had a one-night stand. In the transcript, Monroe claims that Crawford wanted a second tryst but Monroe declined and this made Crawford “spiteful.”

May 2013
Christina Crawford appears on Joy Behar’s show and speaks about her childhood with Joan Crawford.