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A Joan Crawford Chronology: 1920s

1920    1921    1922    1923    1924    1925    1926    1927    1928    1929

 

 

1920

Spring. Billie has her first date, a dance at the local Westport High School gymnasium

 

1921

[Anna and son Hal move away from Harry Hough to an apartment at the corner of Wyandotte and Armour Blvd.]

December 21. Billie and friend go to see a play at Northeast High School, featuring a young man she'd met at a dance earlier that year, Ray Sterling.

 

1922

Spring. Billie stops attending Rockingham Academy.

Summer. Billie works at Kline's Department Store selling "notions." She sees an ad placed by Stephens College and asks the headmistress of Rockingham for an official high school diploma so she can apply there.

September. Ray Sterling drives Billie to Union Station, where she embarks for Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. (There she enrolls for courses in English composition, typewriting, preventive medicine, shorthand, bookkeeping, psychology, foods, religious fundamentals, and rhythm, and gives her birth year as 1906.)

October 25. Unbeknownst to Joan, her stepfather Henry Cassin dies in Nashville, Tennessee, of a heart attack. He is buried in Lawton, Oklahoma, on October 31.

Late October. Sterling drives to Columbia for the weekend and escorts Billie to various Halloween dances. He competes for her attention with local college-boy rake Eddie Smith, who gets most of the dances.

December. Feeling she's a failure at school, Billie attempts to quit college before the holidays. College president James Wood sees her at the train station and talks to her on the way to Kansas City. Ray Sterling meets her at the station and he, Wood, and her mother convince her to go back to school. Billie does return, briefly, but does not go back for the Spring semester.

 

1923

Easter holidays. Eddie Smith comes home to Kansas City from Columbia and keeps Billie out all night.

Spring. After coming home late from a fraternity dance at the Edward Hotel, Billie's wicked stepfather Hough locks her out of the house. Sisters Lucille and Nell Cook find her crying in the restroom back at the hotel, then give her a place to stay at their apartment. A week later, Ray Sterling escorts Billie to a dance at the Ivanhoe Masonic Temple, where the Cook sisters are performing. At the dance, Billie meets a booking agent who asks her to audition for a show he's packaging featuring Katherine Emerine. Billie gets the job and steals the Cook sisters' stage outfits before Sterling drives her to the train station for her passage to Emerine's show in Springfield, Missouri. The show closes after only a couple of performances and Billie finds herself back in Kansas City.

Summer. Billie moves in with Eddie Smith. To make money, she is filmed naked doing a Charleston-type dance for a vignette to be distributed in mechanical peep shows.

Fall-Winter. In the fall, Billie, remembering Emerine's general invitation to her chorus girls to come to Chicago, heads for that city. Emerine is out of town. Billie remembers a name Emerine had mentioned--producer Ernie Young. She crashes his office and begs for a job, which she gets. In the next few months, Young sends her out to perform in strip joints in Chicago and Oklahoma City, then to Detroit as a chorus girl at the Oriole Terrace. According to LW, which cites 3 FBI documents as sources, Joan is arrested for prostitution in Detroit.

 

1924

Late April. Broadway impresario J.J. Schubert catches Billie's performance at the Oriole Terrace in Detroit. He offers her a chorus job in his upcoming New York City show, "Innocent Eyes." Billie skips out on the Oriole Terrace gig, leaving for New York that night.

April 26. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer opens its Culver City studio.

May 20. Schubert's "Innocent Eyes" revue opens at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City, with Billie, now using her original, showier name "Lucille LeSueur," in the chorus.

August. "Innocent Eyes" begins its road tour and Lucille chooses to stay in New York to appear in another Schubert production, "The Passing Show of 1924."

Fall. To earn extra money, Lucille works in Nils Granlund's Club Richman as a featured dancer.

December. MGM talent scout Harry Rapf discovers Lucille dancing in "Passing Show" and invites her to make a screen test. The first one doesn't get a great reaction from studio execs and Nils Granlund pulls some strings to have her make one or two more.

December 22.  A rather burned-out Lucille comes home to Kansas City for the holidays and is picked up at the station by Ray Sterling. She stays with her mother and step-father Hough.

December 25. Lucille receives telegram from Nils Granlund on behalf of MGM: "YOU ARE PUT UNDER A FIVE-YEAR CONTRACT STARTING AT SEVENTY-FIVE DOLLARS A WEEK. LEAVE IMMEDIATELY FOR CULVER CITY, CALIFORNIA. CONTACT MGM KANSAS CITY OFFICE FOR TRAVEL EXPENSES."

 

1925

[This year Joan begins to date meat-packing heir Mike Cudahy.]

January 1. Lucille boards train in Kansas City for California.

January 3. Lucille arrives in Los Angeles and is driven to her new home, the Hotel Washington, by MGM publicity man Larry Barbier.

February 23. Lady of the Night released. Lucille makes her first screen appearance, as an uncredited double for Norma Shearer.

March 28. "Name Her and Win $1000" contest announced in Movie Weekly magazine to rename "Lucille LeSueur."

June 26. MGM executives decide on name "Joan Arden" for Lucille.

July 10. MGM execs discover that "Joan Arden" has been sent in by more than one contestant. To avoid having to pay each person the $500 prize, they frantically search for another name.

July 15.  Pretty Ladies released. It's her only screen credit as "Lucille LeSueur."

August 18. MGM execs decide on "Joan Crawford" as official new name.

September 5. The LA Times announces Joan's new name to the public.

September 19. Movie Weekly announces Joan's new name to the public.

October 11. The Chicago Tribune reports:

The Montmartre on Wednesday evening played host to several genial picture folk. A Charleston contest, featuring Lucille LeSueur, known now as Joan Crawford, brought them all up on their feet, as Lucille did some new ones wonderfully. Bill Dooley, off the Orpheum circuit, now making “The Goofy Gob,” did some trick dancing to much applause. Roscoe Arbuckle, growing plumper again, was there with Buster Collier. Both of the boys were stagging it since Constance and Doris Deane Arbuckle went east last week.  Mr. and Mrs. John Patrick and Eddie Clayton were also noted.

November 9. Old Clothes released.

November 22. The Only Thing released.

December 7. Sally, Irene, and Mary released.

 

1926

[This year Joan is named a WAMPAS Baby Star by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers.]

March 21. Tramp, Tramp, Tramp released.

May 24. Paris released.

June 8. The LA Times announces that Joan and Mike Cudahy have broken up.

June 14. The Boob released.

October. Mike Cudahy's mother threatens to sue for annulment of her son's alleged secret marriage to Joan.

 

1927

January 5. Joan's former beau Mike Cudahy jailed for running off with a young actress.

January 15. Winners of the Wilderness released.

February 5. The Taxi Dancer released.

February 26. The Understanding Heart released.

June 4. The Unknown released.

July. With financial help from MGM, Joan buys a $28,000 house at 513 Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills.

July 9. Twelve Miles Out released.

August 29. While in West Point, NY, to film...West Point, Joan and co-star William Haines are sideswiped by a truck. From the New York Times:

WEST POINT, N.Y., Aug. 29, 1927 – Miss Joan Crawford and William Haines, motion picture stars, were shaken here today when the automobile in which they were riding was sideswiped by a motor truck near the West Point Military Academy reservation.  Miss Crawford received slight bruises on the forehead and right knee. Mr. Haines was jarred. They returned to the Thayer Hotel at Highland Falls, where they have suites during the filming of a picture in which one of the barracks at the Military Academy is being featured, declining the services of a physician. [Thanks to Norman for the article.]

October 17. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., opens in the play Young Woodley at either the Vine Street Playhouse (Portrait of Joan) or the Majestic Theater (Joan Crawford: A Biography) in Los Angeles. Joan, accompanied by Paul Bern, meets Doug backstage and later that evening sends him a telegram praising his performance.

October 18. Spring Fever released. Doug calls Joan to thank her for the telegram.

December 31. Close to midnight, Doug, Jr., proposes to Joan at a Long Beach pier.

 

1928

[Early in the year, a DeMille studio employee sues Joan for damages as a "hit-and-run" driver when the woman falls while trying to avoid Joan's speeding car. MGM settles the matter out-of-court.]

January 2. West Point released. Joan and Doug shop for a wedding band. (Conversely, Doug says he'll give her her engagement ring when they are married.)

January 21. The Law of the Range released.

February 11. Rose-Marie released.

March 7. Our Dancing Daughters starts shooting.

April 30. Across to Singapore released.

August 11. Four Walls released.

July. Joan and Doug Jr. are invited to Doug Sr. and Mary Pickford's beach house.

September 1. Our Dancing Daughters released.

September. According to The Divine Feud, Joan was named "the other woman" in two divorce cases this month.

September 7. The NY Times announces that Doug Jr. and Joan are to wed:

FAIRBANKS JR. TO WED

Young Screen Star Is Engaged to Joan Crawford, Former Dancer.

Special to The New York Times. HOLLYWOOD, Cal., Sept. 7— Douglas Fairbanks Jr. 19-year-old film star of the second generation, and Joan Crawford, former New York stage dancer, today issued double announcements of their engagement. Young Doug, whom Joan refers to as "my Dodo" denied that they have already been married. Miss Crawford, however; wears a wedding ring which is inscribed, “To my beloved wife from Dodo."

Miss Crawford was known when on the stage as Lucille Leseur.  Fairbanks is the son of Douglas Fairbanks and the latter's divorced first wife, Beth Sully.

[Thanks to Norman for this article.]

September. Doug helps Joan move from her Roxbury home to her new $40,000 home on Bristol Avenue in Brentwood. (See the 9/28/28 LA Times article for details.)

October - November. Joan's brother Hal moves to Hollywood from Kansas City, bringing along his wife. Joan attempts to find him work.

November 21. MGM head Louis B. Mayer announces that Joan and Doug will co-star in Our Modern Maidens.

December 1. Dream of Love released.

 

1929

February 18. After the previous fall's success of Our Dancing Daughters, an MGM accountant queries studio attorney re Joan's official status: "Is Joan Crawford to be considered a star?" The answer comes back: "Yes."

March 16. The Duke Steps Out released.

June 3. Joan marries Doug Fairbanks, Jr., at St. Malachy's church in New York City. Doug's mother Beth and her new husband Jack Whiting are witnesses. Afterwards Joan and Doug stay briefly at Manhattan's Algonquin Hotel.

August 14. Hollywood Revue of 1929 released.

August 24. Our Modern Maidens released.

August 29. Joan's brother Hal divorces his wife, Jessie Beryl LeSueur.

September 14. Escorted by husband Doug, Joan places her hand- and footprints in the cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

September 18. From the LA Times:

Joan Crawford in Novel Role at Vine-Street

Surprises are being provided for patrons of the Vine-Street Theater through novel roles as a volunteer theater attaché by Joan Crawford, bride of Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who is appearing in the role of “The Youngest” the Phillip Barry comedy being presented by Frank Panghorn.

In the past few days, Miss Crawford has filled in as an assistant cashier in the box-office, selling tickets to patrons, and has lent her talents as a make-up artist to her husband and other members of the cast of the rollicking comedy. So far she has not missed a performance in which Young Doug has appeared. She expects to become an expert on theater operation before the limited engagement of “The Youngest” ends.

November 23. Untamed released.

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