Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star

Synopsis: In this documentary on the life of 'Joan Crawford', we learn why she should be remembered as the great actress she was, and not only as the "mommie dearest." caricature she has become. Friends, fellow actors, directors, and others reminisce about their association with her, and numerous film clips show off her talent from her start in silents to bad science fiction/horror movies at the end of her career. Daughter 'Christina Crawford' even explains the origin of the phrase "No more wire hangers!".
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Peter Fitzgerald
Production: Fitzfilm
87 min

lt's a great tragedy when people hear

the name Joan Crawford.

The first thing they think of is,

''No more wire hangers. ''

There is another Joan Crawford

that people should remember.

She really had to work her way...

...from a nothing,

from being a chorus girl.

Oh, she was a perfectionist

and so professional.

Crawford was very elegant and nice, but

you never quite believed what she said.

There were very few moments that l can

ever remember her just being a person.

She was just a control freak.

She didn't wanna be remembered

for shadows in her life.

l think to deny Joan Crawford

her place in Hollywood history... to eliminate the center

of the whole story.

She is really the ultimate movie star.

Get out, Veda.

Get your things out of this house

before l throw them into the street.

Get out before l kill you.

When she came to the studio,

she was nobody.

Just a dancer.

A 1925 MGM memo announced

the arrival of a contract player...

...named Lucille Le Sueur,

later known as Joan Crawford.

Signed by Vice President Harry Rapf,

her contract gave the studio the option...

... to discard her within 10 weeks.

So Lucille Le Sueur entered running.

With limitless drive, she observed

work on the lot, made contacts...

...and sought every opportunity

to generate publicity... order to succeed

in silent pictures.

In this 1925 studio short subject,

Lucille was presented to audiences... a new find, and made the most

of her first close-up.

But her attempts at landing roles

yielded only extra work.

The big stars then were Lillian Gish

and Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo.

She lobbied for parts in prestige

films such as Lady of the Night...

...featuring Norma Shearer, who was

conducting an off-screen liaison...

... with studio chief, Irving Thalberg.

The character Norma Shearer

was playing was a twin.

There was a good sister

and bad sister.

And when you needed the backside

of the head, that was Lucille's head.

l don't think that she got a very good

impression of Norma Shearer.

lt was the beginning

of a rivalry between them.

Lucille's first break came

in Pretty Ladies...

... where in this scene, she was little

more than a glorified chorus girl.

But later in the film, she was given

a featured role opposite Zasu Pitts.

This role generated publicity

for Lucille Le Sueur...

... who was making a noise on the lot.

She'd broken through

to positive public reaction of the film...

...and had made an important alliance

with film star William Haines...

... who encouraged her

to get to know the right people...

... to aid in her rise to fame.

Namely, studio heads Irving Thalberg...

...and Louis B. Mayer.

But Lucille's wild nightlife

as an exhibition dancer...

... was getting attention as well.

She was gaining a reputation

as a fast and loose party girl...

... with a penchant for dancing,

drinking and men.

She used to go to the Cocoanut Grove,

and she loved to dance.

She loved the crowds

and the crowds loved her.

She loved to do the Charleston.

She used to go there every week.

And she told me about...

...some of the affairs she had.

She was going with a very wealthy

boy from the Cudahy family.

The meatpackers family.

But the Cudahy romance was not to

endure intervention from his family...

... who found her

unsuitable for their son.

She was, after all, a movie actress...

...and came from a background

that was questionable at best.

The young actress was born into an

impoverished Oklahoma family in 1906.

l don't think she really knew

her biological father.

l think he left when she was very little.

She did not get along with her mother

and her brother...

...and l don't think she ever really did.

She always thought that

Grandmother Anna loved Hal the best.

She, as the girl, was left out.

She took the name Billie Cassin...

...after her stepfather that ran the

vaudeville house, and then he left.

The first love of a girl's life

is her father.

lf she doesn't trust her father...

...if she gets disillusioned about Father,

l think that stamps her...

...for the rest of her life

to distrust men.

She very often talked about

how humiliated she was...

...when she was going to school, where

she had to work as a maid, almost... get an education.

She started her career in show business

as a dancer in clubs... Chicago, Kansas City, and went

to Broadway and was a chorus girl.

She worked at Roseland

as a dance girl for hire...

...and then she came out to Hollywood

under contract as a dancer...

...not as an actress.

After only a few months at MGM,

L. B. Mayer promoted his new starlet... running a contest to

rename Lucille Le Sueur...

...a name he felt sounded

too much like ''sewer. ''

The first choice was Joan Arden,

but as that was taken...

... the second choice

won for the name Joan Crawford...

...and a new star was born.

When she was named Joan Crawford,

things started to crystallize for her.

She finally started to have an identity.

She created Joan Crawford.

That was a wall for her to shut out

that miserable childhood.

She'd crossed certain railroad tracks,

but she still could hear the train roar.

Her first break as Joan Crawford

was a leading role..., Sally, lrene and Mary,

also starring Anita Page.

l made four pictures with Joan Crawford.

l didn't consider her a great actress.

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Peter Fitzgerald

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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