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Joan Crawford's Plans For A Family
by Sonia Lee
Originally published in Movie Mirror, December 1938
We're more than proud to present---and you'll be more than proud to read---this first
"For the past two years I have wanted to adopt a baby. Until now that was impossible. Now the road is open."
Joan Crawford's voice is quiet and unhurried as she speaks, sitting on a divan in her portable dressing room between scenes of "The Shining Hour." It is a voice schooled not only to show emotion, but to hide it, to mask it, if need be. But in the wild acceleration of her fingers, as her knitting needles add row on row to the fluffy chartreuse sweater she is making, is the admission of her excitement over the decision she has just revealed.
"I discussed the matter with Miriam Hopkins, a member of the Board of the Cradle, in Evanston, Illinois. Her baby came from there. As have the children of many of Hollywood's stars."
"As soon as "The Shining Hour" is completed, I expect to go to New York. I shall stop off in Chicago and make the necessary arrangements, and try to sign the necessary papers."
"It takes a long time to get a baby from there! You don't choose the baby---but the infant is chosen for you. Your background, your character, your qualifications are carefully listed. Then a baby which will match you is entrusted to you."
"It's amazing how frequently these adopted children resemble the adopting parents. I presume it's because backgrounds are matched. The Hopkins baby, the Al Jolson baby, and the others closely resemble their foster parents. It sounds incredible, doesn't it?"
"I should like my first baby to be a boy. Later on, perhaps in two years, I want a girl. I should like the children to be very young when they come to me---six or seven months old."
"Ever since I was thirteen years old, when I had the care of thirty small children in the school I attended, I've been dreaming of the time when I could have a child of my own. Now, at last, the road is clear."
"If I am very fortunate, if there should be a boy available now which the Cradle director thinks I should have, I'll bring him back with me. That would be wonderful!"
"In any event, I hope I shan't have to wait too long for my son."
The quiet voice pauses, but the flying fingers continue their even rhythm, revealing not only excitement over the plan she has just outlined, but the fine tuning of her nerves, the dam she has built to hold in check her sufferings, her doubts, her griefs---yes, even her terrors---of the past few weeks since she and Franchot Tone made their momentous announcements.
"I've had some bad moments in the past several weeks," Joan says, as if reading my thoughts, "caused by gossip which has come to my ears, and by some of the comments in newspaper columns."
Bad moments they must have been indeed. Implications have been rife. It has been suggested that the marriage failed because "Joan made herself over" to fit into Franchot's scheme of life and background and psychic structure---and defeated herself by no longer being the woman Franchot had first loved.
It has been said Joan gave too much love, too much loyalty, too much intensity to her marriage. And that defeated her too.
It has been whispered Franchot brought "culture" into Joan's life and that this culture burdened their marriage.
This separation was not hastily conceived. For a year Joan has struggled valiantly to save her marriage. Partly out of pride; partly because Joan hates failure and defeat. And also because Joan, like all women, knew within herself that love is worth salvaging.
Joan tried desperately to hide the state of her domestic situation, not only from the eyes of the world, but even from the eyes of her closest friends. Women like Joan don't syndicate their troubles. They go off into corners to lick their wounds. They hide away when their troubles threaten to become too conspicuous.
Thoroughbreds don't cry! Thoroughbreds don't hang the family wash on public clothes-lines.
Joan, with that inner dignity, which has made her the idol of a generation which scorns sham and pose and anything less than ruthless honesty, has pledged herself not to discuss the factors which caused this marriage to fail.
That would involve another person. That would violate another's right to privacy. But it is right and it is fair that Joan speak for herself on those matters which involve her own personality, her own actions, her own attitudes.
"It has been said that my marriage came to an end because I make myself over continually", she says. "Let's dispose of this 'making over' myth once and for all."
"I am today, inside of me, no different from the girl who came to Hollywood. Innately, I have the same ideals, the same hopes, the same cherished dreams, as well as other additional ones, that I had then. I still want to make the most of myself, and the most of whatever talents I may have."
"I have made adjustments as new factors and new contacts have come into my life. A new set of conditions, change in environment, invariably impose new attitudes."
"I have changed only insofar as I have learned---as I have acquired new knowledge of things which had been a closed book to me before I came to Hollywood. As I have learned, also, to know myself."
"I have unfailingly, conscientiously, tried to make up my deficiencies, primarily in my education. My formal schooling was ended early. I had to earn my living. I made no secret of that."
"But that is no excuse for a person to continue in ignorance. In all the years I have been in Hollywood, I have diligently tried to improve myself. Because I knew nothing about music, I studied music."
"A year before I made "Today We Live," I was studying voice with the best vocal coach available. I studied languages, I read books which opened new vistas to me, which gave me an appreciation of the fact that the mind has no frontiers. I wanted so much to know about the world in which we live."
"Insofar as any experience changes us---whether it is emotional or spiritual or intellectual---I have changed. After all, no person remains static."
It has been said that Joan was "introduced to culture" by Franchot Tone. As a matter of fact, from the moment Joan's earning capacity permitted, she has bought books, attended concerts, and developed her mind under wise and authoritative guidance.
"It is the right and the privilege and the good fortune of every human being to learn, to develop, to progress," Joan asserts.
After all, culture isn't something you buy in bottles. It isn't something with which you can be endowed. It is the product of years of self-training. So it wasn't "culture" which caused the break between Joan and Franchot. It was, in a measure, Joan's tendency to give too much of herself to those she loves.
If Joan Crawford were a bit more selfish, more self-centered, more calculating; if she only gave part-time love and loyalty and understanding, she might save herself grief. If she had enough food to eat and clothes to wear; enough comfort and sympathy and graciousness and protection in her early life, she would not be so sensitive to the pain of others. She would have known how to be selfish. She would know how to give of herself in moderation. In short, how to have barriers, even against those she loves. It would have made her far less vulnerable, and far more objective.
But with those she loves, Crawford has no reservations. That is her nature. That is part of her character, the character that makes her face the future hopefully, gallantly; that has dictated her significant decision; to adopt a son as soon as possible and to adopt a daughter two years from now.
"To me, a child---children---will bring the sort of love I want and need. It will give me a sense of being needed. And every woman needs that."
And further considering the future, Joan says: "In every crisis in my life, work has been my salvation. Not a flight from unhappiness, but a cure for it."
Curiously enough---and this has been like a pattern in her life---each time Joan has faced sorrow, each time her private life has been involved---she has turned to work---to find her career more fruitful, more blooming, more worthwhile.
The future for Joan holds immeasurable possibilities. It is my belief that Joan will become a greater actress, a greater woman in the next year or so, than she has ever been before. "The Shining Hour" will mark the beginning of this new greatness.
Of her career Joan says, "I would like really to test my voice in a good singing vehicle. But I won't sing if the singing part of the picture is dragged in by the heels. I've discovered, however, that plans make fools of us all. I no longer plan---but I dream; I hope; I wish!"
Joan's fingers are still as she sits---poised and calm now---and on her lips is a smile which flies banners of courage. Her eyes are incredible wells of hope. A new kind of life ahead. A child, children, to come home to, to live for. Joan Crawford, mother---her greatest role soon to come.
Thank you, James, for contributing this article.
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