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My Life with Joan Crawford • The Site • Donations • Legal
My Life with Joan Crawford
My first introduction to Joan Crawford was in 1978. I was 13 and the book Mommie Dearest had just been released with tremendous publicity. Perpetually angry at my own mother, I asked for MD as a spiteful Christmas gift. My mom was supposed to get the hint that I somehow equated what I'd been reading about "mean Joan" with her. Mom sensibly didn't think anything of said hint, and pleasantly and unguiltily purchased my request. After that, my junior-high cohorts and I spent a few weeks feverishly discussing things from the book (which was being passed around a la Forever Amber): "She made her wear the same dress to school every day!" (And then we moved on to other burning issues, like "Who's better, Starsky or Hutch?" or, more funnily, "Which one of the Village People would you want for a boyfriend?") When MD the Movie came out in 1980, I was a freshman in high school and still lived way out in the country and had no way to drive 45 minutes into Fort Worth to see movies. Nor did I, at age 15, have any contact with any sort of gay community; I completely missed all the fuss and the beginning of the Joan Camp Craze.
Cut to seven or so years later. I was at college and worked in a campus library, on the floor with all the movie books. I came across Alexander Walker's Garbo bio and fell in love with her face. (Which also corresponded with my newfound realization that I was probably gay---Parents, BEWARE! Sexy movie stars really will help your kids come out!) : ) I started reading all I could about Garbo and, not having a newfangled (for 1987) and expensive VCR of my own, renting her movies and watching them at the library. I was pretty disappointed with her acting skills in her talkies and remember thinking, sans a girlfriend of my own but desperately needing some substitute: "Damn, now who will I like?"
Renting Grand Hotel answered that question! I hated Garbo's woodenness in it but was awestruck by Joan's extremely fresh, modern acting and her beauty. I'd been on such a Garbo kick that I felt somewhat guilty for moving on, but...There was Garbo-author Walker's equally good book on Joan, and Conversations with Joan Crawford, which made me fall in love with Joan's honest voice and humor, and the Thomas bio and Jazz Baby... and Rain and Autumn Leaves and Johnny Guitar (about the only Joan movies available in video stores at the time)... Then a local theater showing of a Mildred Pierce/Strait-Jacket double feature (the latter giving me my first introduction to the camp aspect of Joan). The woman was not only gorgeous, but also intense and smart and darkly funny and extremely talented and just plain driven, even in her latter-day films... The more I read and watched, the more I liked her and was fascinated by her.
Cut to Christmas 2000: Since the late '80s, school and life had interceded in my Joan fandom---I had continued to read more of her bios and see as many of her movies as possible, but just in passing. (Too busy pursuing degrees and bar-life, etc.) Then I found myself at 35 dead sick of partying, and dead broke, and kind of desperately dead bored... My generous mom (no "Mommie Dearest" after all!) gave me a computer for Christmas in 2000; the very first online search I did was for "Joan Crawford." Before, my friends had been merely tolerant of my Crawford obsession, but when I got online I discovered that there were other people just like me out there who really looooved her! (It's always a happy day when you find you're no longer "merely tolerated"!)
After participating in various Joan message boards for a couple of years, I realized that people were often posting very helpful and informative info re Joan that was subsequently being forgotten as the later messages scrolled on... And most of the Joan websites available primarily seemed to focus either on the camp aspects of her later career or on her "glory days" from MGM through Warners; or else the webmaster would get bored and discontinue the site on a whim.
Neither the Camp nor the Glamour Girl (um, nor the "discontinued") approach, I feel, is adequate for a star and woman whose career spanned an incredible 50 years from the Silents through the Television Age and whose various incarnations defy easy categorization. On this site, I don't just want to show pretty pictures from the '30s or make fun of her grand guignol era; instead, I want to show where Joan Crawford came from as well as every step of her journey, including what she had to say about what was going on around her. The woman had a brain and guts and opinions and talent as well as a face, and her longevity as an actress was hardly reliant solely on lucky breaks or pure sex appeal; she worked to get to the pinnacle of her field and subsequently worked to maintain her career and status long beyond what anyone thought tenable.
I'm extremely in awe of both her talent and her business acumen, as well as of her beauty and style, and this site is intended to honor all of these aspects of this astonishing woman and actress, as well as to be a repository for otherwise-scattered information.
Joan Crawford's contributions to film, and to the entertainment world and pop culture in general, have been immense, and her personal story inspiring. I'm proud to be able to make this small contribution in recognition of her talent and legacy.
March 23, 2004 (Austin, Texas)
A few weeks prior to my fast-approaching self-imposed online publication deadline of March 23, 2004 (Joan's birthday), I e-mailed a friend to bemoan the fact that I wouldn't have time to get every single bit of Joan information onto this site by that date. She "helpfully" responded: "Don't feel bad if you don't have everything there. You'll never be done with her."
"You'll never be done with her..." A rather ominous and weirdly giddy thought (!), but it is finally time nonetheless--on this most appropriate of dates-- to get this baby online. So, patience, please, regarding the entries that aren't fully fleshed out yet. All of the information (as much as I can find) will be forthcoming on an ongoing basis. (And your help here would be greatly appreciated: If you have any Joan info that you'd like to share with other fans, please e-mail me.)
Regarding what is here now: I've relied on dozens of books, magazines, and Internet sites--as well as e-mail and message board correspondence with knowledgeable Joan fans--to compile this encyclopedia.
In addition, the now-defunct Joan Crawford Online website was also initially an invaluable source of information. After the webmaster took JCO down in December 2003, he sent me a disc with the complete contents of his site, which proved helpful in the months leading up to the launch of this site in March of 2004. (I have in subsequent years added more than 10 times the material said webmaster initially provided.)
The following are the print texts that have also provided helpful information for this site. (The initials after the title are used in the Encyclopedia entries to indicate the source.)
Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud (DF) (Shaun Considine; 1989 E.P. Dutton)
Conversations with Joan Crawford (CWJC) (Roy Newquist; 1980 Citadel Press)
Crawford: The Last Years (LY) (Carl Johnes; 1979 Dell Press)
Crawford's Men (CM) (Jane Ellen Wayne; 1990 St. Martin's Press PB)
The Films of Joan Crawford (FOJC) (Lawrence J. Quirk; 1968 Citadel Press PB)
Jazz Baby (JB) (David Houston; 1983 St. Martin's Press)
Joan Crawford: A Biography (JCB) (Bob Thomas; 1978 Simon and Schuster)
Joan Crawford: The Enduring Star (Peter Cowie; 2009 Rizzoli)
Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography (EB) (L. Quirk/W. Schoell; 2002 University Press of Kentucky)
Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr (David Bret; 2006 Robson)
Joan Crawford: The Last Word (LW) (Fred L. Guiles; 1995 Birch Lane Press)
Joan Crawford: The Raging Star (Charles Castle; 1977 New English Library)
Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Star (US) (Alexander Walker; 1983 Harper and Row)
Mommie Dearest (MD) (Christina Crawford; 1978 William Morrow and Co.)
My Way of Life (MWOL) (Joan Crawford; 1971 Simon and Schuster)
A Portrait of Joan (POJ) (JC with Jane Kesner Ardmore; 1962 Doubleday)
Ruth Harriet Louise and Hollywood Glamour Photography (R. Dance/B. Robertson; 2002 University of California Press. This book has been most useful in helping to date the photos on the site from the 1920s and 1930s.)
The Best of Everything debuted in the Spring of 2004 at a mere 40 MB in size! In the nearly 10 years since then, it's expanded to something close to 1 GB! Anything you'd like to donate to The Best of Everything to help cover site costs would be greatly appreciated. Contributions received will be used to cover site maintenance and growth, and to keep the site ad-free.
Thanks, always, for your support.
Per the Fair Use Clause of Section 107 of the amended Copyright Act of 1976 (17 USC Section 107), images and text on this site are intended solely for non-profit educational purposes, to provide researchers and general readers with information about Joan Crawford's life and career. (A "joancrawfordbest.com" watermark on a photo here does not imply ownership of the photo. I have placed the watermark on some photos to prevent them from being copied and used elsewhere for commercial purposes. To reiterate: This site is a noncommercial, nonprofit site, with all information provided for educational purposes only.)
Sources, both photo and text, have been credited when known. If you're the owner of any unintentionally uncredited information, I'll gladly add a credit upon request. (See e-mail link in the "About" section above.) My original text (such as the Biography and Encyclopedia entries) is Copyright © 2004 - 2015 by Stephanie Jones. All rights reserved.
If you use info from this site for research papers, please credit the site per MLA style guidelines. Use of info for books, magazine articles, another website, etc., should also credit the site per standard practices and authorial etiquette.