Joan Crawford

Six Degrees of Joan Crawford: Mommie Dearest by Karina Longworth

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The year after Joan Crawford died, her estranged, adopted daughter Christina published a tell-all, accusing her late mother of having been an abusive monster when the cameras weren’t around. Three years later, Mommie Dearest became a movie, starring the only actress of the “new Hollywood” who Joan herself had commended, Faye Dunaway. The disastrous production of that film revealed how much had changed in Hollywood since Joan’s heyday, and the finished film did much to mutate Joan’s persona in the minds of future generations.

Faye Dunaway and Mara Hobel in  Mommie Dearest

Faye Dunaway and Mara Hobel in Mommie Dearest

Faye Dunaway and Diana Scarwid in  Mommie Dearest

Faye Dunaway and Diana Scarwid in Mommie Dearest

Show notes:

Every episode this season will draw from the following books about, and/or based on conversations with, Joan Crawford:

Not The Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler

Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography by Lawrence Quirk and William Schoell

Conversations with Joan Crawford by Roy Newquist

Sources specific to this episode:

Looking for Gatsby by Faye Dunaway and Betsy Sharkey

The Mommie Dearest Diary: Carol Ann Tells All by Rutanya Alda (special thanks to Brad Simpson for sending this to me)

“Christina Explains 'Mommie'”, Susan King, Los Angeles Times, March 30, 1998

“Dunaway Does Crawford”, Peter Lester, People Magazine, October 05, 1981

“Abused Crawford Child Sees Sad Holidays for Some Kids”, Patricia McCormack, Reading Eagle, December 28, 1981

“Christina Crawford Redefined Herself After Devastating Stroke Recovery”, Cynthia Taggart, The Spokesman, April 27, 1994  

“Visiting Mommie Dearest At Home”, Roger Ebert, rogerebert.com, May 31, 1981

“Dunaway Dearest”, David-Elijah Nahmod, The Bay Area Reporter, May 9, 2013

“Christina Crawford Has No Sympathy For Faye Dunaway”, Michael Musto, villagevoice.com, May  3, 2013

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Six Degrees of Joan Crawford: Bette Davis and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? by Karina Longworth

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford publicity shot for  What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford publicity shot for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Listen, download this episode, or find on iTunes.

Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? has done more to define later generation’s ideas about who Crawford was than perhaps any other movie that she was actually in. Unfortunately, most of those ideas center around Crawford’s supposed feud with co-star Bette Davis, which began as a marketing ploy and turned into something quasi-real -- or, at least as real as certain celebrity “feuds” of today.

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford on set for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford on set for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 

Show notes:

Every episode this season will draw from the following books about, and/or based on conversations with, Joan Crawford:

Not The Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler

Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography by Lawrence Quirk and William Schoell

Conversations with Joan Crawford by Roy Newquist

Sources specific to this episode:

The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis - A Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler

Whatever Happened to Robert Aldrich?: His Life and His Films by Alain Silver and James Ursini

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Six Degrees of Joan Crawford: The Middle Years (Mildred Pierce to Johnny Guitar) by Karina Longworth

Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth in   Mildred Pierce  , 1945

Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth in Mildred Pierce, 1945

Listen, download this episode, or find on iTunes.

Joan Crawford struggled through what she called her “middle years,” the period during her 40s before she remade herself from aging, slumping MGM deadweight into a fleet, journeywoman powerhouse who starred in some of the most interesting films about adult womanhood of the 1940s and 1950s. That revival began with Mildred Pierce (for which Crawford won her only Oscar), and included a number of films, such as Daisy Kenyon and Johnny Guitar, directed by men who would later be upheld as auteurs, subversively making personal art within the commercial industry of Hollywood.

Show notes:

Every episode this season will draw from the following books about, and/or based on conversations with, Joan Crawford:

Not The Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler

Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography by Lawrence Quirk and William Schoell

Conversations with Joan Crawford by Roy Newquist

Sources specific to this episode:

Nicholas Ray: The Glorious Failure of an American Director by Nicholas Ray

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Six Degrees of Joan Crawford: Clark Gable, Franchot Tone and Barbara Payton by Karina Longworth

Joan Crawford and Clark Gable,  Chained , 1934

Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, Chained, 1934

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By the mid-1930s, Joan Crawford was very, very famous, and negotiating both an affair to Clark Gable (her most frequent co-star and the only male star of her stature) and a new marriage to Franchot Tone, who, like Joan’s first husband, was an actor who was not quite on her level of stardom. Crawford’s marriage to Tone would span the back half of the decade, as Crawford’s stardom peaked, and then began its first decline. Today we’ll talk about that, and then we’ll tell a story about what happened to Franchot Tone after Joan Crawford — particularly, the strange love triangle he entered into in the 1950s, with a gorgeous but self-destructive starlet Barbara Payton at its center.

Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone

Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone

Show notes:

Every episode this season will draw from the following books about, and/or based on conversations with, Joan Crawford:

Not The Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler

Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography by Lawrence Quirk and William Schoell

Conversations with Joan Crawford by Roy Newquist

Sources specific to this episode:

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story by John O’Dowd

A Woman’s View by Jeanine Basinger

This episode includes clips from the movie The Women (1939) 

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Six Degrees of Joan Crawford: The Flapper and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. by Karina Longworth

Joan Crawford,  Our Dancing Daughters , 1928 

Joan Crawford, Our Dancing Daughters, 1928 

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Joan Crawford’s early years in Hollywood were like -- well, like a pre-code Joan Crawford movie: a highly ambitious beauty of low birth does what she has to do (whatever she has to do) to transform herself into a well-respected glamour gal at the top of the food chain. Her romance with Douglas Fairbanks Jr -- the scion of the actor/producer who had been considered the King of Hollywood since the early days of the feature film -- began almost simultaneous to Crawford’s breakout hit, Our Dancing Daughters. But the gum-snapping dame with the bad reputation would soon rise far above her well-born husband, cranking out a string of indelible performances in pre-code talkies before hitting an early career peak in the Best Picture-winning Grand Hotel.

Show notes:

Every episode this season will draw from the following books about, and/or based on conversations with, Joan Crawford:

Not The Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler

Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography by Lawrence Quirk and William Schoell

Conversations with Joan Crawford by Roy Newquist

Sources specific to this episode:

His Picture in the Papers: A Speculation on Celebrity in America Based on the Life of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. by Richard Schickel

The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks by Tracey Goessel

A Woman’s View by Jeanine Basinger

The episode includes audio excerpt from Possessed, also a clip from the movie Grand Hotel and the moonlight singing scene from Untamed.

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Six Degrees of Joan Crawford: Douglas Fairbanks / Lucille LeSueur Goes to Hollywood by Karina Longworth

Joan Crawford, 1920's

Joan Crawford, 1920's

Listen, download this episode, or find on iTunes.

In order to understand Joan Crawford’s rise to fame, we have to talk about what Joan -- born Lucille LeSueur, and called “Billie Cassin” for much of her childhood -- was like before she got to Hollywood, and what Hollywood was like before she got there. To accomplish the latter, we’ll focus on Douglas Fairbanks: top action star of the silent era, the definition of Hollywood royalty, and the father of Crawford’s first husband.

Lucille LeSueur

Lucille LeSueur

Joan Crawford, 1926

Joan Crawford, 1926

Show notes:

Every episode this season will draw from the following books about, and/or based on conversations with, Joan Crawford:

Not The Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler

Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography by Lawrence Quirk and William Schoell

Conversations with Joan Crawford by Roy Newquist

Other books referenced in this episode:

The Shocking Miss Pilgrim by Frederica Sagor Maas

His Picture in the Papers: A Speculation on Celebrity in America Based on the Life of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. by Richard Schickel

The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks by Tracey Goessel

Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr by David Bret

Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford by Donald Spoto

Are the Stars Out Tonight? The Story of the Famous Ambassador and Cocoanut Grove, “Hollywood’s Hotel” by Margaret Tante Burk

The big winners from this list are The Shocking Miss Pilgrim and The First King of Hollywood -- the latter being probably the only silent film star biography on the market to correctly use the term “bromance.” Both books are highly recommended.

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, written and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

MGM Stories Part Five: William Haines and Hollywood's First Openly Gay Marriage by Karina Longworth

Find this episode on iTunes

The rare silent star who made a relatively smooth transition to sound films, William “Billy” Haines was one of the top box office stars of the late 1920s-early 1930s. Beginning in 1926, Haines started living with Jimmie Shields, and the two men became one of the most popular couples on the Hollywood social scene, facing little if any homophobia among the industry’s elite. But as times changed and the heat from the censors began to get hotter, MGM began to put pressure on Haines to pretend to be someone he wasn’t.

Very special thanks to Wil Wheaton, who played William Haines, and Craig Mazin, who reprised his role as Louis B. Mayer.

This episode was edited by Henry Molofsky.

The primary source for this episode was William J. Mann’s biography of Haines, Wisecracker. Other sources consulted include:

Bret, David. Greta Garbo: A Divine Star. London: The Robson Press, 2012. Kindle Edition.

Bowers, Scotty. Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars. Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 2013. Kindle Edition.

Chandler, Charlotte. Not The Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008. Kindle Edition.

Eyman, Scott Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer. Simon & Schuster, 2008 Kindle Edition.

Eyman, Scott The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930 Simon & Schuster, 1997. Kindle Edition.

E. J. Fleming. The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling and the MGM Publicity Machine McFarland & Co Inc, 2004. Kindle Edition.

Golden, Eve. John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2013. Kindle Edition.

Photoplay, Jan-Jun 1927