Audio: Recordings Main Menu
Joan Crawford Live at Town Hall
April 8, 1973
Note: The transcript below is from the 1978 LP. Sides A and B are the introduction to the interview. Sides C and D are the transcript of the actual interview.
Side C (
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Joan Crawford!
JOAN: I never knew there was so much...love!
JOAN: Thank you.
JOHN SPRINGER: There was a Lucille LeSueur, and there was a Billie Cassin, and then suddenly there was a Joan Crawford. Could you trace the evolution?
JOAN: All I know is I'm here!
SPRINGER: You were always on top of the trends, in fact, you started most of them. When Flappers were in vogue, you were the definitive one. And you did more for eyebrows, lips and shoulders than anyone else in the world. I'm sure that's your own individuality. But, uh, do you give credit to anyone else for...for helping with the Crawford image?
JOAN: Adrian. Edith Head. And everyone I've ever worked with, really.
SPRINGER: Is there a designer who's replaced Adrian in your life?
JOAN: No. To each his own. Uh, there's only one Garbo. There's only one Adrian; Edith Head; Helen Rose; Jean Louis.
SPRINGER: Joan, you're the ultimate movie star. By that, I mean you care about your public. You couldn't possibly be the girl next door. But sometimes, don't you feel like saying "To hell with it!" and just letting go?
JOAN: Uh uh. I just love people.
JOAN: Thank you all!
SPRINGER: It's obviously shared. I think everyone who knows you, and many who don't, consider you the most thoughtful of women. You answer letters immediately. You send personal notes on special occasions.
You keep in touch with your friends and fans. How do you find time for all that in your busy schedule?
JOAN: You don't find time, you make time.
SPRINGER: When I first knew you, you wouldn't go near an airplane and now you fly everywhere. And you were a nervous wreck at the thought of a personal appearance but look at you now!
JOAN: What the hell do you think I am tonight?
<laughter and applause>
SPRINGER: But you've gotten a lot of courage over the years haven't you?
JOAN: Yes, we grow in spirit and wisdom. And I was fortunate to have a husband who told me we were going into thunderheads before the captain of the ship told us. And I said "We are?" Uh, so I learned...after he died...I learned to tell myself we're going into a thunderhead and then the captain announced it, you see, I was ahead of the captain again.
SPRINGER: You've sometimes been accused of being super-critical about the way other actresses conduct themselves. Yet, I know you give great encouragement to young talent. Could you talk about that a little?
JOAN: Well...let's talk about the Academy Awards. I think everyone tried to have the "cutes". And each one who came after the couple before, um, tried to be funnier. The dignity and the beauty of the Academy Awards I must say has been lost without the Gregory Pecks. And the Charlton Hestons.
The Gregory Pecks come on. The Frank Sinatras come on. And they...yeah, I like Frank too...uh, they come on with dignity and they set the stage really for what everyone else should do. Some don't. And this year I was appalled at the behavior of everyone including Mr. Brando.
SPRINGER: In addition to being a great movie star, you're also a great movie fan. And as a movie fan, who are the stars that you feel about the way we feel about Joan Crawford?
JOAN: I don't know how you feel about Joan Crawford...
SPRINGER: You know how...you can't help knowing how we feel about Joan Crawford!
<laughter and slight applause>
JOAN: I am the biggest movie fan in the world, really. Uh, I think Miss Glenda Jackson...is one of the greatest...
I adore Miss Katharine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn...
And I wish to God we could get Garbo back!
SPRINGER: Oh, yes! I was with you one night when David Frost asked you for your ideal of the most exciting actor with whom you had worked. You mentioned the actor and told why and they bleeped your answer. How 'bout that?
JOAN: They bleeped me. I said something that the reason he was the greatest actor in the whole world and the most exciting and the most...
JOAN: Gable. The King.
That he had, and I said the word but I did that and everyone knew exactly what I meant. He had 'em!
<laughter and applause>
I...I said, "David, are...am I going to be bleeped?" He said "I'm afraid you are." So, um, he was bleeped five times after that by saying "a bitch" about this and "a bitch" about that. And I said "Are you being bleeped?" I went home and saw the show and I was bleeped once and he was bleeped seven times.
SPRINGER: Are there any other actors with whom you've worked of whom you're particularly fond?
JOAN: Yes. Mr. Spencer Tracy.
Sir Robert Taylor. Jimmy Stewart. I can go on and on but we don't have that much time tonight. And I have been the luckiest woman in the world...to...have had the career I've had.
SPRINGER: We've been lucky too.
Can you tell us about some of the directors who meant most to you?
SPRINGER: He's been unappreciated all these years, hasn't he really?
JOAN: Oh, boy!
SPRINGER: But he's a great director.
JOAN: Ah, Van Dyke. Could I tell you a story about Van Dyke?
SPRINGER: Oh, please do!
JOAN: Um, he did a picture with Rosalind Russell, Robert Montgomery...I was in it.
SPRINGER: "Forsaking All Others."
JOAN: Um, yeah. And...we had what you would bleep out then. We just went on, he didn't rehearse at all. Did our dialogue. He said "Okay, move the cameras stage two"...we were on stage four at the moment, and I said "What's he gonna do with Garbo?" He's directing her next picture. Well, she likes rehearsals and nobody on stage and finally he said, "Let's go kid!" and she said "What did you say?" He said "Let's go kid!" and she walked on, did the scene, he said "Okay, baby! Let's go!" and the cameras all moved to another stage. She said "I haven't done the scene," He said "Yes you did, we filmed it."
SPRINGER: Would you like to direct, Joan?
JOAN: No! Produce, yes. Direct, no. Uh, most actors refuse to take direction from an actress or a lady director. They resent it.
SPRINGER: I know you were approached on "Butterflies are Free" but you won't set foot on stage as an actress. Why is that?
JOAN: I don't know why the hell I'm here tonight!
No, I...I'm really frightened. I, um, was born in front of a camera and I don't really know anything else.
JOAN: I suppose I could do it...
SPRINGER: Of course you could.
JOAN: If I had people like you!
SPRINGER: The one...the one thing is for sure you'd always have people like there. Uh, there have only been a few other actresses who've reached the same peak you have. Do you feel a sense of competition with other actresses?
JOAN: Oh, I love competition! I really think that competition is one of the great challenges of life. And we must have challenges. Otherwise, we don't grow. I think with Bette Davis, in Baby Jane, was one of the greatest challenges I'd ever had.
I meant that kindly.
I had more control and learned more discipline...
No...no, let me explain that please. Uh, Bette is a...is of a different temperament than I. Uh, she has to yell every morning. And, so, I just sat and knitted. I knitted a scarf from uh...Hollywood to Malibu.
<laughter and applause>
JOAN: I went down to 119 lbs from 130 but that's all right.
SPRINGER: Tell us how you felt when you won the Academy Award just a couple of years after having been called "Box Office Poison."
JOAN: Well, I was in good company with "Box Office Poison"...
SPRINGER: You sure were!
JOAN: Um, Katharine Hepburn and Fred Astaire and a few others. Um, I thought well I'm through. You know, we get to that point every now and then where...like today, there aren't jobs enough, really. They're not written for women any more. I wish I were Duke Wayne, really. But I can't ride a horse that well. I can't shoot that good. But, uh, they just don't write for the...for us any more. Barbara Stanwyck feels the same way, we talk about it. Not often, cuz I don't live in the past. I live in today preparing for tomorrow. And...so, if it has my name on it, the next script, it'll be mine. Until it comes along, I'm a happy dame.
SPRINGER: How about getting that Academy Award? Wasn't that one of the great experiences?
JOAN: Yes! But I wasn't there.
SPRINGER: I know, you were sick, weren't you?
JOAN: Hundred and four.
SPRINGER: Everybody seems to have rebellious children these days. You raised four and were considered a loving mother but a stern disciplinarian. Do you feel you would have done it the same way if you were raising children now?
JOAN: Mmhmmm! Yes. I think...uh, this is merely my opinion. I believe that the reason most of the kids are on pot and other junk is because they don't have enough love or discipline at home.
SPRINGER: Tell us about your life as a business woman, an executive of Pepsi Cola. Is it an extension of the life of Joan Crawford, movie star or is something else?
JOAN: Well, I sold Joan Crawford for so long all I have to do now is let Joan Crawford sell Pepsi Cola.
<laughter and applause>
SPRINGER: I'd like to add that one of the best ways to know Joan...how Joan Crawford lives and what she feels about life and beauty and all kinds of things is to read her very good book, "My Way of Life" which was published last year by Simon and Schuster. And on that note, I think we should turn the meeting over to questions from the audience.
Our first question is why was your 1930's Vincent Nueman's musical "Great Day" never released? Does a print still exist?
JOAN: Um...well, we never finished the picture, really. I went to L.B. Mayer and said "I can't kick the stuff around and talk Southern. And I'm never gonna be an ingenue. I never was and I just can't talk that kind of dialogue. It stinks.
Please look at the rushes Mr. Thalberg...hasn't...please look at it. I've shot ten days and nobody has told me what the hell I'm doing! Not even the director. But I've seen the rushes. And I received a call that night from his executive secretary...Miss Kaye...and said "Mr Mayer said stay home. You're right!" He cancelled the picture. So I only shot ten days. And it was on the shelf and at that time, $280,000 was quite an expensive film.
SPRINGER: Who was playing in it with you?
JOAN: I couldn't care less.
SPRINGER: Oh! Earl Blackwell asks if you knew Garbo at MGM and were you good friends. Is she truly one of the greats in your way of thinking?
JOAN: Miss Garbo to me...well, you can tell how I feel about her...Miss Garbo! Uh, we all dressed...we had to run up a whole big staircase and we were all lined up there at the top of the stairs with Renee Adoree, Joan Crawford, Miss Garbo, and on down the line. And, finally...we got to Grand Hotel. And I thought, oh God, I say "Good morning" to her every morning and she never answers back. I always go that-a-way down the stairs cuz her dressing room was there. And I could have gone a shorter way but I just wanted to say "Hello, Miss Garbo!" and curtsy. Whether she ever looked out the window or not, I'll never know. But, um...one day I was late...on the set. And I ran that-a-way and I didn't say "Good morning, Miss Garbo" and she came out and she said "Allo!"
Then when we got to Grand Hotel, um...I was with a public relations man Jerry Asher whom you remember...
JOAN: And Miss Garbo worked from nine to five. Curfew. And I had to be ready at five to go on. And I was standing outside the dressing room and I said, "Jerry! Stand back! Stand back! Here comes Miss Garbo!" and I said "Hold your breath! Stand back! She doesn't like to see anybody!" So she came up and she paused and I started to run down and she was below me, I was on the top step and she was two below me...and I didn't know what to do. And I said "Excuse me, Miss Garbo," and she took my face in her hands and said, "Oh, I am so sorry we have no scenes togedder. I am so sorry." And I looked at this face with the sun in the west...on this beautiful face. It was five-thirty at that time and she was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life and I went BOINNNNG!
<laughter and applause>
JOHN SPRINGER: Is there any one film that you regret having made? Helen Phillips asks this. If so, why?
JOAN: Yes. "This Woman is Dangerous."
SPRINGER: Bill Dwyer asks, have you ever seriously considered playing Scarlett in "Gone with the Wind"?
JOAN: I wasn't asked!
SPRINGER: That's a good reason. Uh...the Hollywood Canteen, Sunday, 1944. You and Phillip Terry gave me sandwiches and milk and the single most glamorous minutes a kid could have. You wore a yellow pinnafore by Adrian, I'm sure. Thank you, so much!
Do you still have those magnificent topaz bracelets?
JOAN: Yes I do...and the pinafore too.
<laughter and applause>
SPRINGER: Kenneth Lowell asks, uh, he said you made four pictures with John Gilbert...uh, you only made two that I remember...
JOAN: That's right.
SPRINGER: Perhaps you could comment on his personality and his image. Also, it's very annoying to read about the "whiteness" of his voice. Anyone who saw him in "Queen Christina" knows that there was nothing wrong with his voice. Would you set the record straight?
JOAN: Well...in 1929, um, everybody panicked at Metro. But I mean everybody. Executives, actors, producers...starlets didn't know enough and I was a starlet. So I...I wasn't afraid. They said we have to do talkies! We have to speak! In a microphone! And I saw John Gilbert and all these people out there; Wally Beery, the Barrymore's...and they had a man to teach us to speak. So I was be...I was so young I, I didn't know what the hell they were talking about so I just went in and did my first talkie. And, uh, everyone else got frightened. And John Gilbert did a test. I didn't. I just did "The Untamed" with Bob Montgomery and I hear my voice and I said, "That's not me! That's a man!"
Well, I sp...I...I...I had such a deep voice that I said, "That's not me singing. Somebody else has dubbed that." And, uh, we had, um, a great, great man who was a singing teacher. He was, um, Carusso's teacher...and, uh, I said I, I don't want to take singing lessons. I just wanna learn how to talk. But I think I already know. But, uh, anyway...John Gilbert took a test. And it was way up there. Career gone. This is why I say to young actors and young actresses...learn to breathe; learn to speak; but first, learn to feel.
SPRINGER: Carl Johnes says that after the famous magazine contest which named you Joan Arden, then Crawford, is it true that you hated the name so much that you called yourself Jo-Ann for several years?
JOAN: No, and I think you told me, uh, that Joann Woodward's mother called her Joann after me.
SPRINGER: That's true.
JOAN: Well, I was named Joan Arden, uh, in a contest and then I said "Yech!"
JOAN: And there was a Joan Arden and sued Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer because I did two pictures with Joan Arden and then they took the second choice which was Joan Crawford and uh, the little crippled lady received a...was it a hundred or five hundred dollars for naming me?
SPRINGER: I think it was five hundred.
JOAN: Five hundred...
SPRINGER: I think it was very big...
JOAN: And I said this sounds like I'm going to be served at turkey dinner...cranberry. So Billy Haines has called me "Cranberry" ever since, but I'm so very grateful for the name Joan Crawford.
SPRINGER: Robert Rosterman says that it was a bit daring to have a near-sighted leading lady in 1946. But Helen Wright in "Humoresque" did much to glamourize the wearing of glasses for ladies. Was this innovation the idea of the script, director John Negulesco, or a suggestion that you made?
JOAN: I think it was between the writer and director...um, I wore the glasses...couldn't see through them, which made it good because I squinted all through it looking at Johnny Garfield and boy, you don't have to squint to look at that guy! He was sensational!
SPRINGER: The best...
Hess Tatum asks if you have any special memories of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
JOAN: I only remember him as coming to my house in California with Helen Hayes and Charlie MacArthur and all he did was sit in my kitchen or stand where the liquor was.
That's all I remember.
SPRINGER: Someone who hasn't signed asks if you were offered a role in the film version a classical play...for instance, Lady Macbeth, would you accept it?
JOAN: If I could have Larry Olivier...
SPRINGER: They also ask would you accept a role in a film of a musical comedy and utilize your voice training?
JOAN: Well, I studied opera for nine years but, um...goodbye Charlie!
SPRINGER: Fred Zenator of Forbes Magazine says, "Dear Miss Crawford, now that you've made this first stage appearance in New York, do you think this is likely...I would have given anything to see you in the Eileen Heckart role in "Butterflies." I even thought of calling you. Please decide to try something. Believe me, it'll run for at least a year even if it's a mistake." Well...?
We've talked about that; I think we know your answer.
JOAN: No, wait a minute. I don't think anybody could have been better than Eileen Heckart in "Butterflies are Free."
She's great! I talked to her the other night, day before yesterday, and I said, "Eileen, I'm going to Town Hall on Sunday" She said, "I know!" And she said "You know, I gave a lecture recently at a University...the drama students...of senior.." And she said "I couldn't get through to them. And I thought, well, Eileen, ya bombed out. You just bombed out. And all of a sudden, a kid stood up and said "WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT POT?!?" And she said, "Honey, obviously that's your problem. Scotch is mine."
<laughter and applause>
SPRINGER: What do you think of the current poltical stances of various actors and actresses? Do you think they should use their names to influence people?
JOAN: I think people who go on the Academy Awards and...oh, brother! Just accept and be grateful for the honor. And don't try and get on national television and make your pleas. And never...p-l-e-a-s that is...and never discuss politics or religion.
SPRINGER: This, uh, this gentleman or lady says how do you feel about the fact that "Johnny Guitar" has gained such a cult following in France and that when asked to name the greatest performances in films, Jean-Pierre Léaud, star of "Stolen Kisses," says that the greatest film performances were given by Buster Keaton in all of his films and Joan Crawford in "Johnny Guitar."
Did you think that well of the film when you made it? And have you changed?
JOAN: Well, I had a few problems with "Johnny Guitar," with the cast.
Buster Keaton wasn't there.
SPRINGER: Too bad. You would have preferred him to a couple of the people, wouldn't you?
JOAN: I would have preferred him to a couple of people, yes.
SPRINGER: <chuckles> Please clarify the rumors about your feud with Norma Shearer during filming of "The Women."
JOAN: She was married to the boss and I was just an actress.
<muted laughter and applause>
She didn't like my dress...so she changed it nineteen times; it cost the picture a fortune!
JOAN: But I ended up wearing the gold dress and turban.
<muted laughter and applause>
SPRINGER: If you had done the scene with Bette Davis in "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte," would you have slapped her as savagely as did Olivia de Havilland?
JOAN: I didn't see the film!
<laughter and applause>
SPRINGER: This one asks if you've been tempted to play any of the classic women's roles; she talks about Hedda Gabler, Medea, Mrs. Alving...uh, same thing as Lady Macbeth.
JOAN: I did "Doll's House" on Lux Radio Theater.
SPRINGER: Did you? I didn't know that.
JOAN: Yes, I did a few of those lovely things. The classics.
SPRINGER: Someone who hasn't signed their name and says, "You have been quoted as be..."
JOAN: Has to be a dirty question!
SPRINGER: <chuckles> "...as being shocked at the permissiveness of this generation and the flood of obscene and pornographic films. Were you not in your early career a centerfold calendar girl yourself?"
JOAN: You have three questions there.
JOAN: Let's start with the top.
SPRINGER: You've been quoted as being shocked at the permissiveness of this generation...
JOAN: I am.
SPRINGER: ...and the flood of obscene and pornographic films.
JOAN: I think sex is beautiful. But you have to be alone, you know, with somebody else you love. Not on the screen. Not in the theater. I get embarrassed. Go ahead...
SPRINGER: Second question - <chuckles>
Were you not in your early career a centerfold calendar girl yourself?
JOAN: I was never that lucky. I didn't know Hugh Hefner then.
SPRINGER: <chuckles> This one, Madeline Armadola, asks if it is true that Milton Caniff used you as the model for the character of the Dragon Lady in his strip "Terry and the Pirates"?
JOAN: That's right! He did!
SPRINGER: Did you like that?
JOAN: Yeess! I was so flattered.
JOAN: No! He said in Time Magazine, recently, um, he said, um, I was the model for Dragon Lady. Not in character, but with face and figure. Now, take it from there!
SPRINGER: Robert Sheldon asks about contrasting working with Jack Warner and working for Louis B. Mayer.
JOAN: One was a beautiful man and one was a stinker!
SPRINGER: Which was which?
JOAN: Mr. Mayer was beautiful.
SPRINGER: That's a surprise! Uh, Milton Stiffel asks don't you think a return...
JOAN: Stifftell is...
SPRINGER: Stifftell; I'm sorry.
JOAN: He's my friend.
JOAN: Are you there, Milton?
SPRINGER: He must be there.
SPRINGER: He asks do you think that a return to the star system and the glamourous stars is necessary for Hollywood to survive? Uh, elevate itself out of mediocrity.
JOAN: I must say that I read recently that Bette Davis said "Pictures are gone forever." and I think she's quite right. Um...television has taken over to such a degree and they chew up - this is my quote - they chew up and eat up so much material doing five a week. There's no material left...for motion pictures. And the movies of the week, which Miss Davis quoted, uh, she's right again. You get "Monday Night at the Movies". Some are two hours. Some are an hour and at ninety minutes. Um, Monday, Wednesday, Friday...and there's nothing left for movies anymore, really. And I'm sad to say that...cuz everything I have in this world...was given to me by the motion picture industry. Everything I have. Everything I've learned in life. My children that I adopted; everything. I'm so grateful for that. Let's pray to God that it's not through.
SPRINGER: Will you ever appear with your daughter Christina either on TV or on the screen?
JOAN: Uh, she's a very fine actress. I've never been asked to appear with her.
SPRINGER: Anna Toomey asks have you ever returned for a visit to Stephen's College?
JOAN: Yes. Three years ago. I received my diploma and I said, "You know, I left here at the age of thirteen. I adopted five children and four are dropouts and believe me kids," and I had six hundred kids up there, I said, "I was a dropout too. I don't know how I got this tonight." My diploma. And...they were just wonderful! It's a great, great college!
SPRINGER: Gus Fort asks would you care to comment on John Garfield. He says the scene in "Humoresque" where you first meet is still an all-time classic. I think you've already commented on how you feel about Mr. Garfield.
JOAN: Yes, but I love playing bitches and I was a bitch in that.
You know, I think there's a lot of bitch in every woman. And a lot of bitch in every man, too!
SPRINGER: What were Nicholas Ray and Robert Aldrich like as directors?
JOAN: Wow! <sighs>
Nicholas Ray was the only one I know that could have gotten through "Johnny Guitar". Uh, Bob Aldrich...has many, many insecurities. Loves evil...things. Horrendous things. Vile things! I think I've said it!
SPRINGER: George Shide says that he can't recall that you made any costume picture other than "The Gorgeous Hussy." Was this your preference?
JOAN: I did do another one with, uh, Tim McCoy. Sorry 'bout that!
SPRINGER: Ah, yes!
JOAN: Yes, you asked me that...about three weeks ago and I said that's the only one I made. Uh, Tim McCoy..."Winners of the Wilderness." How can you forget a career?
SPRINGER: Joe Roberts asks...says that once cut a record in the late twenties. Would you please tell us the name of the song and if it's possible, to obtain a recording. I think it was the late thirties...that you cut that record, wasn't it?
JOAN: Uh, you talking about...
SPRINGER: If I remember, it was, uh...
JOAN: Ice Follies? Yes?
SPRINGER: Didn't you...didn't you record "I'm in Love With the Honorable Mr. So-and-So" and "Tears from my Inkwell"...I remember that recording.
JOAN: "Honorable Mr. So-and-So" - yes I did.
SPRINGER: I don't imagine that...if you can get it, it's a collector's item. I'm sure.
JOAN: I'd like to collect it.
John Fitzgerald, uh, asks about a picture you did with Jeff Chandler called "Female on the Beach". Didn't you do...
JOAN: Yeah! I loved that! Thank you!
SPRINGER: He says"I think I remember your saying in that film, 'the instincts of a stallion and the pride of an alley cat...' "
JOAN: That's right!
SPRINGER: Uh, do you have a secret for serenity? You have such a beautiful expression.
JOAN: The secret for serenity is just believing...beautiful expression comes from that.
SPRINGER: Andrew Hughes asks if you are aware of the nickname your famous ankle-strap shoes are known by.
JOAN: I think I know the first letter - F !
<laughter and applause>
But I think if you remember, they held me up a goddamn long time!
<laughter and applause>
SPRINGER: That's it! You can't top that! Joan, there's nothing left to say but thank you Joan Crawford! Thank you! From all of us!