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Joan Crawford "Committed Suicide"
by Pablo F. Fenjves
Originally appeared in the National Enquirer, October 16, 1979
Joan Crawford didn't die of a heart attack -- she committed suicide.
That's the startling claim of Doris Lilly, a close friend and neighbor of the screen star.
"All evidence points to one sad fact -- Joan committed suicide," Lilly declared to THE ENQUIRER. And for the first time, Lilly reveals her very last conversation with Crawford the day before the famed actress died.
"I've never told anyone about it before but Joan called me the day after Mother's Day 1977. She told me she was miserable and that she felt life wasn't worth living anymore.
"She said, 'Doris, I'm so unhappy. I can't go on living.' Then she began sobbing uncontrollably and I told her to pull herself together. I spoke to her for close to an hour. By the time I hung up, I felt that maybe I hadn't done enough. I was frightened for her. The next day she was dead."
Crawford, 69, was found dead in her New York apartment May 10, 1977 -- the 22nd anniversary of her marriage to her fourth and last husband, Alfred Steele, the Pepsi-Cola Co. chairman who died in 1959.
Joan had told friends that he was the only man she ever really loved.
Lilly and others close to Crawford point to several facts which show the actress was lonely, bitter, and reclusive -- and was actually planning her death:
1. The year before she died, she never stepped foot out of her apartment and suffered intense pain from a back injury.
2. Crawford felt she was completely useless because she wasn't getting offers to do movies.
3. In the final months of her life, she began giving her possessions away to her friends. And only three days before she died, she gave away her most cherished possession of all -- her little dog, Princess.
4. The following day -- Mother's Day -- she complained bitterly to a friend that none of her children made an effort to be by her side.
At the end of her life Crawford found it increasingly difficult to pull herself together. Close friend Earl Blackwell said he repeatedly tried to coax Crawford to leave her apartment. But had no success.
"I often tried to get her to come out to social events, but in the final year of her life she didn't leave her apartment," he said. Kathleen Carroll, a movie critic for the New York Daily News who had visited the aging actress, said Crawford may have become a recluse because she felt she outlived her usefulness.
"She wasn't getting any (acting) offers. Finally she became more and more self conscious about going out in public. She didn't look quite her best. She had come to the point where she could not live up to the public image of herself. I felt that she was desperately lonely."
And Crawford was also in pain. Michael O'Shea, a publicist who was a longtime friend of the actress', said that in her last months "She was miserable because she had hurt her back (while moving furniture). She was in agony."
It's for these reasons that Crawford began plotting her suicide, believes Doris Lilly, who still lives in an apartment at New York's Imperial House -- the same building where Crawford spent her last tortured years.
"You could see that it was a chore for her to pull herself together," said Lilly.
"About February 1977 -- just a few months before she died -- she started giving me and others some of her belongings such as garment bags, kitchen utensils, stationary and even an osterizer."
It was like a final house cleaning. But the real shocker came only three days before her death when she gave her beloved little dog, Princess, to a companion.
Princess hadn't been out of the apartment, much less ever separated from Joan. Joan loved that dog, she lived for that dog. It was constantly at her feet or on her lap. It slept in a custom-made crib and Joan treated it as if it was her own child."
Lilly said that the following day -- Mother's Day -- none of Crawford's adopted children had made an effort to be at her side. "She was beside herself with grief, she was ready to die and I only conclude that she took her own life. Obviously there is no way that we will ever know for sure, but I believe Joan took an overdose of sleeping pills."
Crawford's death was officially listed as "acute coronary occlusion." But her daughter Cynthia Crawford-Jordan insists that her mother "had no history of heart trouble."
When told about the new evidence uncovered by THE ENQUIRER, Dr. Dominick Dimaio, New York's chief medical examiner at the time of Crawford's death, said: "If I had been supplied with the evidence outlined for me now, I would have pushed for an autopsy."
Thanks to Bryan Johnson for this article.
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