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.
Born as Lucille Fay LeSueur in San Antonio, Texas to Thomas E. LeSueur Anna Bell Johnson. Her older brother is Hal LeSueur.
Signs a contract with MGM.
Moves to Culver City, California.
Has a role in Pretty Ladies. It is the first and only time she is credited with her real name, Lucille LeSueur.
MGM gives Lucille a new name: Joan Crawford.
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. proposes to Joan at the Long Beach pier.
Crawford and Fairbanks marry at St. Malachy’s church in New York City.
The couple places their footprints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
Joan meets future husband Franchot Tone.
Crawford and Fairbanks divorce.
Crawford and Franchot Tone are seen together on a regular basis.
Marries Franchot Tone in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
She and Tone divorce.
The baby that will be known as Christina Crawford is born at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital.
Adopts daughter Christina from a baby broker. Initially names her Joan Crawford, Jr. before settling on the name Christina.
Adopts son Christopher.
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.
Marries Phillip Terry at Hidden Valley Ranch in Ventura County, California.
She and Terry adopt Philippe but they do not keep him.
Her contract with MGM is terminated by mutual consent.
Signs with Warner Bros.
She and Terry adopt son Christopher.
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.”
Crawford and Terry separate.
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.”
Crawford and Terry divorce.
Crawford, single again, adopts twins Cindy and Cathy.
Stars in Possessed.
Joan enrolls daughter Christina in the private Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, California.
Joan attends the first televised Academy Awards show.
Joan appears on The Tonight Show with Steve Allen.
Elopes with PepsiCo president Alfred N. Steele, marrying him in the penthouse of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.
Queen Bee is released. Joan stars as a ruthless, manipulative woman.
Steele dies of heart failure.
Crawford is elected to fill Steele’s spot on the board of directors of PepsiCo.
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.
She appears on What’s My Line?
She stars in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? alongside Betty Davis. It is based on the novel of the same name by Henry Farrell.
She stars in Strait-Jacket, a thriller in which Joan plays an axe murderer. It also stars Diane Baker, Leif Erickson, and Rochelle Hudson.
Christina Crawford begins playing the role of Joan Borman Kane on the soap opera, The Secret Storm.
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.
Christina is fired from The Secret Storm. She blames her mother.
Joan Crawford appears on The David Frost Show
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.”
Crawford is awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes.
She publishes a book entitled My Way of Life with Simon and Schuster.
Crawford is forced out of PepsiCo by Don Kendall.
Crawford makes her last public appearance at a party honoring Rosalind Russell at New York’s Rainbow Room.
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.”
She gives away her Shih Tzu, Princess Lotus Blossom.
Christina publishes the memoir, Mommie Dearest, in which she alleges that her mother Joan was a cruel, abusive alcoholic.
Christina appears on the Phil Donohue show to talk about her memoir.
The movie version of Mommie Dearest is released with Faye Dunaway in the role of Joan Crawford. The movie becomes a cult classic.
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.”
Christina Crawford appears on Joy Behar’s show and speaks about her childhood with Joan Crawford.