Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star (2002) Movie Script

lt's a great tragedy when people hear
the name Joan Crawford.
The first thing they think of is,
''No more wire hangers. ''
There is another Joan Crawford
that people should remember.
She really had to work her way...
...from a nothing,
from being a chorus girl.
Oh, she was a perfectionist
and so professional.
Crawford was very elegant and nice, but
you never quite believed what she said.
There were very few moments that l can
ever remember her just being a person.
She was just a control freak.
She didn't wanna be remembered
for shadows in her life.
l think to deny Joan Crawford
her place in Hollywood history... to eliminate the center
of the whole story.
She is really the ultimate movie star.
Get out, Veda.
Get your things out of this house
before l throw them into the street.
Get out before l kill you.
When she came to the studio,
she was nobody.
Just a dancer.
A 1925 MGM memo announced
the arrival of a contract player...
...named Lucille Le Sueur,
later known as Joan Crawford.
Signed by Vice President Harry Rapf,
her contract gave the studio the option...
... to discard her within 10 weeks.
So Lucille Le Sueur entered running.
With limitless drive, she observed
work on the lot, made contacts...
...and sought every opportunity
to generate publicity... order to succeed
in silent pictures.
In this 1925 studio short subject,
Lucille was presented to audiences... a new find, and made the most
of her first close-up.
But her attempts at landing roles
yielded only extra work.
The big stars then were Lillian Gish
and Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo.
She lobbied for parts in prestige
films such as Lady of the Night...
...featuring Norma Shearer, who was
conducting an off-screen liaison...
... with studio chief, Irving Thalberg.
The character Norma Shearer
was playing was a twin.
There was a good sister
and bad sister.
And when you needed the backside
of the head, that was Lucille's head.
l don't think that she got a very good
impression of Norma Shearer.
lt was the beginning
of a rivalry between them.
Lucille's first break came
in Pretty Ladies...
... where in this scene, she was little
more than a glorified chorus girl.
But later in the film, she was given
a featured role opposite Zasu Pitts.
This role generated publicity
for Lucille Le Sueur...
... who was making a noise on the lot.
She'd broken through
to positive public reaction of the film...
...and had made an important alliance
with film star William Haines...
... who encouraged her
to get to know the right people...
... to aid in her rise to fame.
Namely, studio heads Irving Thalberg...
...and Louis B. Mayer.
But Lucille's wild nightlife
as an exhibition dancer...
... was getting attention as well.
She was gaining a reputation
as a fast and loose party girl...
... with a penchant for dancing,
drinking and men.
She used to go to the Cocoanut Grove,
and she loved to dance.
She loved the crowds
and the crowds loved her.
She loved to do the Charleston.
She used to go there every week.
And she told me about...
...some of the affairs she had.
She was going with a very wealthy
boy from the Cudahy family.
The meatpackers family.
But the Cudahy romance was not to
endure intervention from his family...
... who found her
unsuitable for their son.
She was, after all, a movie actress...
...and came from a background
that was questionable at best.
The young actress was born into an
impoverished Oklahoma family in 1906.
l don't think she really knew
her biological father.
l think he left when she was very little.
She did not get along with her mother
and her brother...
...and l don't think she ever really did.
She always thought that
Grandmother Anna loved Hal the best.
She, as the girl, was left out.
She took the name Billie Cassin...
...after her stepfather that ran the
vaudeville house, and then he left.
The first love of a girl's life
is her father.
lf she doesn't trust her father...
...if she gets disillusioned about Father,
l think that stamps her...
...for the rest of her life
to distrust men.
She very often talked about
how humiliated she was...
...when she was going to school, where
she had to work as a maid, almost... get an education.
She started her career in show business
as a dancer in clubs... Chicago, Kansas City, and went
to Broadway and was a chorus girl.
She worked at Roseland
as a dance girl for hire...
...and then she came out to Hollywood
under contract as a dancer...
...not as an actress.
After only a few months at MGM,
L. B. Mayer promoted his new starlet... running a contest to
rename Lucille Le Sueur...
...a name he felt sounded
too much like ''sewer. ''
The first choice was Joan Arden,
but as that was taken...
... the second choice
won for the name Joan Crawford...
...and a new star was born.
When she was named Joan Crawford,
things started to crystallize for her.
She finally started to have an identity.
She created Joan Crawford.
That was a wall for her to shut out
that miserable childhood.
She'd crossed certain railroad tracks,
but she still could hear the train roar.
Her first break as Joan Crawford
was a leading role..., Sally, lrene and Mary,
also starring Anita Page.
l made four pictures with Joan Crawford.
l didn't consider her a great actress.
No, not in the beginning at all.
The studio was uncertain about what
to do with their free-spirited starlet...
...and tried her out
in comedies, dramas...
...and even Westerns,
to moderate response.
But L. B. Mayer followed a hunch,
and took a chance on her...
... with a starring role
in The Taxi Dancer.
Crawford was a natural on the screen.
Whether from a youthful zeal,
or a lack of education...
...she came across as a fresh, new face
in an age of affectation.
But industry opinion rumored
that Joan 's inexperience...
...contributed to the film 's failure.
Once again, she was assigned
to supporting roles.
In her next film, Joan played
a seedy carnival performer...
...opposite Lon Chaney in The Unknown.
It was on this project
that she received an education... observing her costar's
total immersion in his character.
She was learning to use
inner resources...
...from an unhappy
and abused childhood...
... to make her scenes jump
from the screen.
The starlet was becoming an actress.
With renewed interest,
MGM made her a leading lady...
... to the studio 's top star,
John Gilbert, in Twelve Miles Out.
Their on-screen chemistry
struck a chord with audiences.
Off-screen, Crawford continued
to better herself at MGM.
She went on the other sound stages
to watch the other productions.
She took that time to learn as much as
she could, and also to make friends...
...because she found out that
your friends behind the camera...
...were more important than your
fellow players in front of the camera.
Joan 's achievements were noted
in Mayer's office.
She was one of his greatest discoveries,
and was rewarded in kind...
... with a down payment
for her first home, in Beverly Hills.
She was even given a new car
by the studio...
...but not all was going well
for Crawford, whose reckless drinking...
...led to her involvement as the driver
in a hit-and-run accident.
A matter which was silenced
by the studio.
Joan 's friend William Haines advised
discretion to protect her public image.
As a gay leading man,
he knew the price of fame.
Crawford and Haines remained the best
of friends for the rest of their lives.
MGM cashed in on their
much publicized friendship... teaming them romantically
in two films.
He was already playing leads
at that point.
He kind of let her in
on the rules of the game.
The two of them were just friends.
They could be comfortable
with each other.
They'd share a lot of intimacies,
as far as their little secrets.
Actually, it was when she was back
in New York doing West Point...
...with Billy Haines that she got into
probably her first trouble...
...with the studio, because a cadet
actually got kicked out of West Point...
...for going on a date with her.
Shortly after that,
she and Billy got into a car crash.
The studio wasn't too happy about this
when they got back to Hollywood.
Joan Crawford made the,
l thought, rather impudent remark:
''How can you get a decent part
in a picture...
...when Norma Shearer
sleeps with the boss?''
Joan could be very aggressive
in defense of her career.
She'd go up to the bosses,
including lrving Thalberg, and complain:
''Norma gets everything,
and l just get the other stuff. ''
lrving was very protective of Norma
and he bristled at this...
...and he put her in a Western
with Tim McCoy.
Joan served her time.
She learned a lesson:
Don't mess with lrving Thalberg.
Next, Joan was given a starring role
in a film that would cement her fame:
Our Dancing Daughters.
In the movie, Crawford came through
as her own unique creation...
... which MGM had been avoiding
from the beginning.
This was the Joan that had been
in the nightclubs...
... the Joan that had been impressing
everybody else.
She was finally allowed to be free,
and the public reaction was monumental.
Our Dancing Daughters. Oh, l love it.
Those pictures made us famous.
Crawford was supposed to be the one
that did all the dancing and everything...
...but was pure, and l was the one that
was supposed to be sweet but wasn't...
...and got the wealthy man
and it didn't work.
lt went over so well,
we made two more.
You see some of those pictures today
and they're really laughable...
...because she is so fluttery and dances
up a storm and plays very coy.
F. Scott Fitzgerald noted:
''Joan Crawford is doubtless
the best example of the flapper.
The girl you see in smart nightclubs
gowned to the apex of sophistication.
Toying iced glasses with a remote,
faintly bitter expression.
Dancing deliciously. Laughing
a great deal with wide, hurt eyes.
Young things with a talent for living. ''
Filmdom had a new star...
...and hers was the ultimate
Cinderella story.
That of a flapper who had made it
through the ranks...
... to become a credible actress
and a genuine box-office movie star.
Crawford's salary had slowly increased
to $ 250 a week.
But after the success of Our Dancing
Daughters, MGM doubled her income.
Her prosperity paid for a new house... the fashionable
Brentwood neighborhood.
She hosted glittering parties,
attended premieres...
...and answered a flood of fan mail.
Joan had it all.
She was the hottest commodity
at the biggest film studio in Hollywood.
But she lacked the social standing...
...befitting her position
in the film community.
She met Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
in the fall of 1927.
He was performing in Hollywood
in a play called Young Woodley.
She sent him a note telling him... impressed she had been
by his performance.
The movie magazines
rumored of the budding romance...
...between Metro 's box office star
and the son...
...of one of the 10 most famous
men on earth.
Pickfair was the piece de resistance
of all actors.
To be invited to Pickfair, that was-
You'd made it in Hollywood.
But the word from Pickfair
was negative toward Crawford...
... whose wild nightlife provoked the
disparagement of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr...
...and his wife, Mary Pickford.
Once again, Joan was found
... to sit at the table
with the privileged class.
lt's funny how Hollywood royalty
were all sort of...
...waitresses and vaudevillians...
...and how quickly they became
the heirs of aristocracy...
...because, actually, Mary Pickford
was just a poor dame from Canada.
In May 1929, Joan Crawford
was immortalized... the forecourt
at Grauman 's Chinese Theatre.
The following month,
the couple married in New York...
... where the absence
of Mary and Doug, Sr...
... was not looked upon
unfavorably by the press.
When they got married,
it was like a fairy tale.
They were Hollywood royalty.
The press just went crazy.
Tremendous amount of publicity, and
for obvious reasons, inspired by MGM... whom she was under contract.
But it was overblown in the press.
lt was just almost silly
to just sit aside...
...and see how much attention
was paid to it.
We made a trip to Europe
as a delayed honeymoon...
...but she was really unhappy
during the whole trip...
...and couldn't wait to get back
to Culver City, get back to Hollywood.
Joan Crawford was most at home
in Hollywood.
A place where she could enjoy her
new marriage to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr...
...and her newfound stardom.
Her box-office receipts rivaled those
of Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer...
...and ultimately, her financial success
earned the good graces...
...of production chief Irving Thalberg.
MGM fashioned something
of a sequel to Our Dancing Daughters...
...entitled Our Modern Maidens...
...awarding Fairbanks a costarring role.
The talkies came to Hollywood,
and some of the greatest stars...
...of the silent era came to perish
in risky projects.
By yonder blessed moon l swear, which
tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops-
MGM put forth a great effort
in selling their stable of stars... the all-talking,
all-singing Hollywood Revue of 1929.
And audiences heard Crawford
for the first time.
they had some voice coaches.
lf you look at the old films,
everybody has this coached voice.
Nobody sounds like a real American,
except some of the men.
l've sat here for 15 minutes listening,
seeing how far you would go.
While l give you the right
to tell me what to wear...
...when to get up, go to bed, what to
eat, there's one right l haven't let go of.
And that's the right to love
whom l darn please, and l love Andy.
When she'd meet important people,
she always played the lady elegant.
We used to sometimes kid
about being ''piss-elegant. ''
True love reigned on the home front.
She renamed her home El Jodo...
...a take on their first names,
and nicknamed him ''Dodo. ''
They hosted glamorous soirees
and held the mantle... Hollywood's hottest couple.
The ice melted with her in-laws...
...and she was finally received
at Pickfair...
... though still treated
as an outsider by Mary Pickford.
There were so many
different Joan Crawfords.
She seemed to have made
the very smooth adjustment... early-'30s women's pictures.
The shop girl who makes good.
In Dance, Fools, Dance,
she portrayed a girl reporter...
... who exposed a gangland killer
played by an up-and-coming Clark Gable.
Doug, Jr. couldn't understand
why she was always late...
...coming home from the studio.
Well, she was having
a little rendezvous with Clark.
You're going to have supper
with me tonight, in my room.
-We've gotta get better acquainted.
-l'd love it.
-l'll go undress now.
This led to three successful films
for them at MGM.
Laughing Sinners starred Joan
as a wanton woman...
...saved by
Salvation Army officer, Gable.
l often wonder if you don't
miss the things you used to do.
l've forgotten all about that.
lt don't seem like l ever was
Bunny Stevens.
l'm glad, lvy. l was afraid
seeing him again might bring it all back.
They were too much alike.
They were both people who had
really scrambled to get where they were.
They were both of the people,
they were the proletarian stars.
lt was during the film Possessed...
...that they probably had
their most serious affair.
lnside, l'm exactly what l was
when you found me, a factory girl.
Smelling of sweat and glue.
Common. That's what l am, common!
And l like it. That's what l like about Al.
He's my own kind.
That's the level l belong to,
and that's the level l'm going back to.
Certainly they did have an association
over a period of years...
...but he had a very convenient marriage
to an older woman.
He was always seen
socially with her...
...but he was very active
with his leading ladies and lovers.
He had this very protective shield...
...from any of his romances...
...who got a little too close
and too demanding.
For her 1932 film Letty Lynton,
Joan adopted an exciting look.
lt's really around Letty Lynton...
...that she comes into
what l would call her face.
Where the lips,
the eyebrows, the eyes-
You finally see
the Joan Crawford face.
The famous Crawford lips
became almost a joke in Hollywood.
But they were a great trademark
for her.
The eyebrows, which she exaggerated,
also became a trademark of hers.
l don't think l ever knew anyone
who was so aware...
...of her appearance on the screen
as was Joan.
Her wardrobe of gowns,
dresses and suits...
... were by the famed
costume designer, Adrian.
The relationship between
Adrian and Joan Crawford...
...was pretty much
the first great partnership...
...between a designer
and an actress.
The Letty Lynton dress
was one of the handful...
...of great costume designs
that really influenced that period.
The audience never stopped
to think why a girl...
...who is probably making $ 15 a week
can wear these designer gowns...
...but that's part of the Hollywood
She was tiny, you know,
and she had a very large head...
...for the small body that she had.
l was shocked when l saw her.
She was tiny, but, oh, she was mighty.
She really was mighty.
Letty Lynton was
a tremendous success for Joan.
But no film that year was bigger
than the Oscar-winning Grand Hotel.
lt had a magnificent cast.
Wally Beery, both Barrymores,
Lionel and John...
...Greta Garbo, and Joan Crawford
as a stenographer in the hotel.
And she kept up with them.
-You're a little stenographer.
-A little stenographer.
That's fascinating.
l don't suppose you'd take some
dictation for me sometime, would you?
lt was lrving Thalberg's
all-star masterpiece...
...about decadence in Berlin
between the wars.
You loved the baron, didn't you?
l could take care of you, if you'd let me.
l have enough money.
l'm ill, Flaemmchen. l won't live long.
Will you stay with me until-?
Oh, look here, that's nonsense.
We'll find a great doctor.
He'll cure you.
They can cure anything these days.
-You think so?
-Of course. You'll see.
She had no scenes with Garbo,
which she regretted.
lt was a very sympathetic role, and
she was thrilled to be in that company.
lt did a great deal for her.
In the wake of her greatest triumph,
Joan lobbied to go on loan-out...
... to United Artists
to play Sadie Thompson in Rain.
lt really is a remarkable
piece of acting.
l think it was the best thing
she had done that far in her career.
What's touching about her performance
is the rawness...
...and that she hadn't quite become
Joan Crawford yet.
-You've got to go back to San Francisco.
-Oh, no, Mr. Davidson.
Your God and me
could never be shipmates.
The next time you talk to him... can tell him this for me: That
Sadie Thompson is on her way to hell.
-Stop! This has gone far enough.
-Oh, no, it hasn't gone far enough.
You've been telling me
what's wrong with me.
Now l'm gonna tell you
what's wrong with you.
You keep yelling at me to be punished,
to go back and suffer.
How do you know what l've suffered?
You don't know. You don't care.
You don't even ask,
and you call yourself a Christian.
-Our father who art in heaven...
-You're a miserable witch.
-...hallowed be thy name.
-You believe in torture.
You're big, strong,
you got the law on your side...
...and the power to hang me.
All right!
But l've got the power
to stand here and say to you:
Hang me and be damned to you!
lt was a flop and she never forgot it.
Joan Crawford tended to base
her opinions of her films...
...on audience acceptance of them.
Rain was a film that she never forgot
was a flop.
Meanwhile, at Warner Bros.,
a young hopeful...
...named Bette Davis
was embarking on an acting career...
...playing tough young ladies
with gritty realism.
No one has any rights about me
except me.
Bette and Joan first encountered
each other at a press party...
...for the cinema 's hottest newcomers.
Bette was addressing the press when
Joan, already an established star...
...swept into the room,
effectively upstaging Davis.
Bette was pretty
contemptuous of Joan.
Bette Davis vowed then and there...
... to knock Joan Crawford
off her high horse.
lt was the end of her marriage
to Doug Fairbanks, Jr.
lt wasn't just Joan seeing somebody.
He was seeing other people,
and had been involved in a couple...
...alienation-of-affection suits.
He needed to break free
of this movie-star world.
Because she was very happy
in that world, and he wasn't.
In May 1933, Joan Crawford
filed for divorce.
She was about to begin
a new chapter in her life.
MGM put forth its biggest
Crawford vehicle to date...
... with the musical Dancing Lady,
which capitalized on the success...
...of the Busby Berkeley musicals
at Warner Bros.
The plot accented a love triangle
between Joan 's plucky hoofer...
... who wins the hearts
of Broadway producer Clark Gable...
...and wealthy playboy Franchot Tone.
Franchot Tone was a gentleman
of the Eastern school.
He was a very charming person
who came from money in the East.
She had never known
anybody like that intimately.
So l think she became
enamored with him.
Tabloids hinted that Crawford
was dating her handsome costar, Tone.
But her joy was circumvented
by family problems.
She didn't get along with her mother.
Also she had a brother that she didn't
care for, who gave her a lot of trouble.
lt's par for the course that when
one of the family gets to be a star...
...sibling rivalry makes their lives
pretty miserable.
Strangely enough, Bette Davis had
a sister who gave her a lot of trouble.
While filming Chained with Clark Gable,
Joan finally met her biological father.
She later recounted:
''Both of us were trying
to make a relationship...
... that never quite succeeded.
On his last day in town,
I looked across the sound stage...
...and saw his eyes filled with tears.
He waved goodbye and blew me a kiss,
and I never saw him again. ''
Crawford had become
a creature of extremes.
She knitted furiously,
complaining of having nervous hands.
She maintained an exhaustive
exercise regimen.
She had a pretty body
and always carried clothes very well.
She became bewitched by gardenias,
and every day for nearly four years...
...she wore or held the flower
almost every waking moment.
She was a Christian Scientist...
...and she believed that God is love,
and she was devout.
She was notoriously controlling
in her friendships.
She was very possessive
of her friends.
When she couldn't touch base,
she would have a fit.
Crawford was slavishly devoted
to corresponding with her fans...
...and contended that they were
solely responsible for her stardom.
More than any actress
that l ever worked with...
...she was aware of the public.
She knew how to get in the paper.
But her greatest obsession
had become one with cleanliness.
Everything was perfect in her house,
up to Emily Post.
She cleaned out all the ashtrays.
She was on her hands and knees...
...going around the sofa,
where people had dropped things.
She just wanted to make sure it was
right in the morning when she got up.
Crawford began
a successful collaboration...
... with writer-producer
Joseph Mankiewicz... which her person on-screen...
... was developing a more
independent and commanding air.
lt's my life
and l'll live it the way l want.
Upside down, catty-corner
or sliding down a pole.
She portrayed a woman that was
becoming the American woman.
The woman that didn't have
a father, husband, brother...
...or lover to take care of
and protect her.
MGM had signed her to play
a number of sophisticates..
...and feather light comedies, as well,
with Franchot Tone...
... whom she lobbied to be her costar.
Tone had begun to propose marriage
to Joan, who once told a reporter:
''If anyone ever catches me
marrying again...
...I hope they give me
a good sock in the jaw. ''
Tone encouraged her
to spread her wings artistically... performing the classics on the
radio, such as Ibsen 's A Doll's House.
I've been your doll-wife,
just as I used to be Father's doll-child...
...and in the same way,
my children have been my dolls.
That's what our marriage
has been, Torvald.
Before one such radio performance,
on October 11 th, 1935...
...Joan Crawford married
Franchot Tone.
He was educated, cultured.
She had great ambitions
to be educated and cultured.
At home, Joan and Franchot
spent quiet evenings together.
He introduced her to the works of
Chekhov, Shaw and Shakespeare.
For Crawford, it was a new
and exhilarating world of ideas.
Ironically, with Crawford's cultural
awakening both on-screen and off...
... there came a downturn
in her public appeal.
So MGM teamed Crawford with Gable
in Love on the Run.
But their famed chemistry...
... which always meant box-office returns
in their previous five films, dissolved.
As Gable's movies with other stars
were well received... was becoming clear that
it was Crawford who was slipping.
In another attempt
to boost her public appeal...
...MGM starred her opposite her
real-life husband, Franchot Tone... The Bride Wore Red,
where they played faithful lovers...
... though their actual marriage
was an open one.
l was about 14.
He was very much a ladies' man.
And he would keep getting
telephone calls...
...on Crawford's telephone
in her dressing room...
...from ladies that he was going with.
She apparently permitted this...
...and he would pick up the phone
and have his conversation.
She would read whatever
she was reading or talk to me.
He would finish. They would nod again,
and he'd go back to his dressing room.
l didn't really know what was going on,
so l didn't know how funny it was.
Though her second marriage
was on shaky ground...
... Crawford's relationship
with the technical crew at MGM...
... was one of her most cherished.
The grips, the electricians, all of them,
she knew them by name.
And when Christmas came along,
she had a gift for everyone...
...and not just a cheap old gift either.
She knew that these people sustained
her career and made her look good.
A gaffer, he fell and the spotlight fell
on top of him. Like, you know, 30 feet.
And he was rushed to the hospital
and she immediately stopped shooting.
Every day that l was on the set...
...she was phoning
or sending someone with gifts...
...and making certain
that he was provided for.
Mannequin was Crawford's next
and last picture for Joe Mankiewicz.
But their shop-girl-who-makes-good
formula had lost its audience appeal.
The film 's highlight would be
her work with costar Spencer Tracy.
Like Gable, Tracy was a man 's man.
He enjoyed playing the sport of polo,
a staple for the male elite in Hollywood.
Joan took a sudden interest in polo,
although terrified of horses.
Tracy helped her overcome her fears,
and an affair began.
But the actor was bound
to a Catholic marriage...
...and wanted no complications
in his turbulent life.
She couldn't control him,
and he was very obstreperous.
Their affair ended
with principal photography...
...and Mannequin flopped
at the box office.
In 1938, a trade paper ran an article
entitled ''Box-Office Poison. ''
It claimed theater owners were losing
money with films starring Greta Garbo...
...Joan Crawford,
Marlene Dietrich and others.
Crawford did not
take the attack lightly.
In only a year, she had fallen from being
Hollywood's ''Queen of the Movies''...
... to ''Box-Office Poison''...
...and the term of her seven-year
contract at Metro was soon to expire.
Louis B. Mayer was grooming
a new crop of stars at MGM...
...and Joan knew that the competition
was gaining on her.
The studio head used
''Box-Office Poison'' to his advantage...
...and offered her a mere
one-year contract.
In fear of leaving
the security of the studio...
...she was willing to cut her
price per picture in exchange...
...for a longer contract
at a lower salary.
She signed a new five-year agreement
and offered Mayer the advice:
''No more goddamn shop girls. ''
With newfound enthusiasm,
Crawford aggressively sought out...
... the role of the heartless mantrap
Crystal Allen in The Women.
Louis B. Mayer said, ''Why would you
want to play this awful bitch?''
She said, ''I'd play Wally Beery's
grandmother if the part was good. ''
And you think she would.
After much pleading
with director George Cukor...
...she won the part opposite
her MGM rival, Norma Shearer.
He had created quite a stir
on the MGM lot...
...because here was
''The Queen of MGM''...
...and ''The Dancing Girl,''
together in the same picture.
And they knew that there
might be some skyrockets going off.
Joan had not appeared
in a film with Shearer...
...since she had
doubled for her in 1925.
And after 14 years of accepting
Norma 's rejected roles...
...and suffering her
airs of condescension-
Oh, no, Stephen.
l couldn't think of your
disarranging your evening.
-Crawford had an arsenal of rage,
and now a vehicle to vent it.
So help me, l'm gonna slug you.
l only had that one
sequence with Crawford.
Thank God, l wouldn't have wanted
to be in the rest of them.
That was a catfight all the way.
George Cukor was aware
of the rift between Joan and Norma...
...and skillfully kept the two apart
until the very last minute.
People were expected
to do off-stage lines.
When they're playing scenes together,
they intercut.
-l beg your pardon.
-l am Mrs. Stephen Haines.
And then each one, in turn, respects
the other and does off-stage lines...
...with the other actress.
And Joan, just to be spiteful...
...kept knitting all the time
and never having to look at it.
But you could hear
the click of the needles...
...knitting needles going back and forth.
And put all the antagonism into it
and contempt...
...and a sort of a one-upsmanship
over Norma.
When it came time
for Joan's close-up...
...Norma wouldn't come out
of her dressing room.
When Crawford and Shearer
were called to shoot publicity stills...
...neither one would enter the session
first, so both circled the parking lot...
...until Cukor pulled them
from their limousines in tandem...
...and instantly they behaved
like the best of friends.
Say, listen.
l've worked too hard to land this meal
ticket to make any false moves now.
Listen, peace is a whole lot more
to me than any romance.
They're not gonna get me out
on that limb again, ever.
She is the villainess, and yet l find oddly
sympathetic at the end of the picture...
...when she's been defeated
by all these cats.
Her exit is really rather touching.
Well, girls. Looks like it's back
to the perfume counter for me.
And by the way,
there's a name for you ladies...
...but it isn't used in high society...
...outside of a kennel. So long, ladies.
The Women was an instant hit,
and a new Joan Crawford emerged...
... that of the legitimate actress.
She was a total, technical,
consummate artist...
...and yet could allow the emotion
to come through too.
When she showed up in the morning,
she knew her lines.
And she knew your lines.
And she knew his lines,
and she knew her lines.
All she wanted you to do
was know yours.
She understood cutting.
She knew where the camera was.
She knew what the best angles
for her were.
She was so experienced you didn't have
to worry about her hitting her marks.
She somehow or other could step in
and feel the light right on her.
The heat from the lamp
was better there.
When it was her close-up, she gave the
performance that she was there to do.
When it came around
to close-up on you...
...she stood right next
to the camera...
...and she gave exactly
the same performance...
...that she did when
it was her close-up...
...including exactly
when the tear came out.
She said, ''You want tears?''
And he turned to the director
and said, ''Of course, she's-''
''Which eye?''
Which eye? You gotta give her credit.
Now, l don't know how she did that.
Joan never got bored
with being praised.
Franchot said, ''l had to say,
'How gorgeous you look.'
How divine she was dressed. ''
He had his own ego
to be concerned with.
He couldn't always be placating hers.
l think she just got bored with the
marriage, and he just got tired.
The Tone marriage
was at the breaking point.
After her last
in a series of miscarriages...
...Joan was informed by doctors that she
was physically unable to have children.
When Louella Parsons contacted Joan,
suggesting a scoop about their affairs...
...Joan suggested a better story.
She said, ''I'm divorcing Franchot. ''
In March of 1939,
she signed the divorce decree...
...on the grounds of mental anguish...
... with her eye on the creation
of a new and exciting Joan Crawford.
Joan Crawford wanted to be a mother.
She applied to social services... be an adoptive parent,
but they turned her down.
Psychologically, they saw that she was
an unfit candidate, as a single parent... adopt a child.
So she used a baby broker
in Las Vegas.
We were bought.
There's no other way to say it.
l was named Joan...
...after Joan Crawford.
Oh, thank heavens, l didn't stay that.
-Hello, Julie.
-Go away, Pig.
Having achieved motherhood, Joan
went back to work with Clark Gable... his first film since
Gone With the Wind...
... the action-drama Strange Cargo.
The only woman in the cast, Crawford
roughed out the location conditions...
...and delivered one
of her toughest performances.
But the hardest blow came
when she lost top billing to Clark Gable.
Joan put up a fight...
...but soon gave in to get the
front office to give her better roles.
A Woman 's Face marked
a transition for Joan.
Here was maybe the most
glamorous woman in Hollywood...
...who was playing
this scarred woman.
You can tell that she's just been
starved for some kind of meaty role.
Cukor was determined to edit down
whatever mannerisms...
...she had accumulated
during that decade.
And there's a wonderful scene in the
film when she has to finally tell... she got her scar, you know.
What is, you know, her story.
Cukor evidently tortured her
and made her do it...
...take after take after take...
...until it was devoid of any melodrama.
And it's very effective.
She did do a good job in it,
but it was a bomb at the box office.
This is not the Joan Crawford
that people wanted to see.
MGM made no effort to get
Joan an Oscar nomination.
That was very disturbing for her.
A whirlwind romance bloomed for Joan
with B-movie actor Phillip Terry.
On July the 21st, 1942,
they were married...
...and soon adopted a son,
naming him Phillip, Jr.
He was the only father
that l knew when l was a little girl.
l did not meet him
until they were married.
Joan was cast in When Ladies Meet,
a film so inauspicious...
... that she saw the writing on the wall.
The studio was beginning to gently
nudge her out... it had with her female
...Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo.
Joan Crawford's days
at MGM were numbered.
l think that Joan felt this coming on.
The pictures they were throwing at her
were not up to her standard.
She wasn't getting the top
leading men that she used to get.
She must have known that they
weren't gonna keep her much longer.
But that wouldn't stop Joan.
She was career-driven.
After 18 years at the studio...
...Joan Crawford asked L. B. Mayer
to release her from her MGM contract.
And to her dismay, he accepted.
That was a very sad experience
in Joan's life.
l mean, this had been her home
her whole life.
And then to drive out of the studio
on her last day...
...with nobody but the gate man saying
goodbye, that was a terrific blow.
She was devastated
losing the MGM contract.
The house had to be closed up.
She didn't work for almost three years.
And it was during
the Second World War... she went to the Hollywood Canteen
every week to entertain the troops...
...pour coffee, do autographs.
We cooked off a Sterno stove
in the basement.
There were no people
to come and help.
That must have been very strange
for this workaholic actress...
...just being a war wife to Phillip Terry.
Even in those days,
she didn't scrub the floor... matter how many
publicity stories they did on it.
She had all of us scrub the floors.
We were never comfortable or relaxed,
except when she wasn't there.
''Mommie Dearest'' was supposed
to be a term of maximum endearment...
...but it ended up being
the terminology of our enslavement.
We very often said,
''Yes, Mommie Dearest''...
...instead of, ''Yes, Mommie Dearest. ''
Me particularly, l got in trouble
for the tone of my voice.
Jack Warner saw that there was
some life left in Joan Crawford's career.
He had another motive too.
Bette Davis was a pain
in the Warner butt.
He thought Crawford would
be an ideal opponent...
...with whom he could work
one against the other.
But the studio chief encountered
headaches with Crawford as well...
... who stalled for two years, knowing
a flop could end her career in pictures.
Joan had turned down
dozens of films...
... when she discovered a studio property
that had been in development for years...
...entitled Mildred Pierce.
Bette Davis turned it down
and Rosalind Russell too.
But Crawford felt it was
the perfect vehicle for her.
Warner Bros. assigned director
Michael Curtiz to the project...
...although he was
skeptical about Crawford.
-My third no is final.
-Yes, sir.
But after Joan submitted
to a screen test...
... the director was won over.
First time l visited her
on a set was Mildred Pierce.
She didn't know how
her public would react.
She was more mature now than when
she was playing romantic leads at MGM.
So it was a real change for her, and she
didn't know what was gonna happen.
l took that job so you and your sister
could eat, sleep and have clothes.
Aren't the pies bad enough?
Did you have to degrade us?
-Don't talk like that!
-l'm not surprised.
You've never spoken of your people,
who you came from... perhaps it's natural.
Maybe that's why Father-
l'm sorry l did that.
l'd have rather cut off my hand.
When the picture opened,
it was a huge hit...
...both critically
and with the audience.
We weren't expecting you, Mildred,
lt's just as well you know.
How long has this been going on?
Since l came home and even before.
He never loved you. lt's always been me.
l've got what l wanted. Monte's going
to divorce you and marry me.
No, Veda!
There's nothing you can do about it.
Oscar night was
a well-rehearsed drama.
She wants desperately to win the award
and doesn't know what to do.
So she takes to her bed
and says she has pneumonia.
She got the telephone call
that she got the award...
...and a miraculous and spontaneous
remission took place.
Suddenly, she brushed her hair.
She put makeup on...
...and scrambled back to bed,
waiting for the press...
...and the director
and the Oscar to arrive.
The next day there was the picture
in the newspaper...
...of her receiving the Oscar in bed.
Phil Terry was kind of a hiccup
in Joan Crawford's life.
There wasn't much there that was
really very substantial, and it ended.
She ripped out all
the photographs with him.
So there were photographs
that had big tears in them.
Or in some cases,
she just ripped off his head.
Crawford seemed very, very smart
about shaping a career.
She knew it would serve her well
to be seen with Garfield...
...who was at the peak
of his success then.
l'm a very difficult person
to insult, Mr....
You do have a name, don't you?
Mrs. Wright,
this is my friend, Paul Boray.
And l'm sure that any friend
of mine is not welcome here.
Bad manners, Mr. Boray.
The infallible sign of talent.
Soon the world will
divide itself into two camps.
Pro-Boray and anti-Boray.
Which camp are you in,
Mrs. Wright? Pro or anti?
But like her character in the film...
...Joan 's drinking
was becoming unmanageable.
My mother and l used to go into
Chasen's Restaurant, and in walks...
...Miss Crawford with Christina.
Only that night, Miss Crawford
had a little too much to drink...
...and had to be assisted
out of the restaurant.
l think there's no doubt
that she was an alcoholic.
How much it impacted
her actual ability to work...
...l didn't see until later,
but the impact was at home.
They used to have
little harnesses for cribs... that babies couldn't fall out.
She had them all modified
so that they were like torture devices.
lt was a means of saying,
''l am the one in control. ''
My poor brother was constrained
to that every single night.
Joan was a very tough taskmaster.
She was abused herself as a child.
And very often, abused children
turn out to be abusive parents.
Wire hangers, wire hangers,
wire hangers.
The actual incident
of the wire hangers was part...
...of a series of incidents
that we used to call ''night raids. ''
Because in the middle of the night...
...she would come out
of her bedroom already in a rage.
She was screaming about,
''Wire hangers, wire hangers.
You know you're not supposed
to leave the clothes on wire hangers. ''
She hauled me out of bed,
hit me severely...
...took all the sheets, blankets
and everything off of my bed...
...and then bounced out of the room,
saying, ''Clean up your mess. ''
And that was the end of it.
Later on, l thought:
''What was it about those
stupid wire hangers?''
And l remembered that...
...Grandmother had to take
a job in a laundry...
...when Mother and Hal
were very, very young.
She made a deal with the laundry owner
that she would work in the laundry...
...if she could move in
with her two children and a cot... the backroom to live...
...because she had no money to live
and no place to live.
They were basically homeless.
And one of the things
that a child could do most easily...
...was to put those clothes
on the wire hangers.
l know she hated that laundry
with an absolute passion.
lf you think logically back...
...that is a place that phobia about
wire hangers could have come from...
...because where else
could it have come from?
lt was really quite sad.
Humoresque continued her ascent... Warner Bros.
as a prestige star there...
...and led to films like Possessed, which
she was nominated again for an Oscar.
You're not going to marry her.
You're not good enough for her.
Don't you think
we should sit down quietly...
...and think up a little better reason
for you to shoot me than that?
l explained it to you, how important
it was for you not to leave me again.
l don't think you're that good a shot.
-You can't stop me.
-Oh, yes, l can.
Let me go. l'm going to tell him.
Possessed afforded Crawford the
opportunity to play the sort of roles...
...Bette Davis had monopolized
at Warner Bros.
In fact, the role was
originally given to Davis...
... who went on maternity leave
and had to decline.
Although Crawford's career
was on the upswing...
... the same could not
be said for Davis.
There must have been
something of a rivalry.
By '46, Davis had crested and was
on a series of worse and worse films.
Crawford was still doing
big movies there.
That must have stuck in Davis' craw.
After Louella Parsons reported Bette's
was the most beautiful child on Earth...
... Crawford arrived at the studio
with not one...
...but two brand-new infants.
l think the record shows Joan Crawford
was not the mother of the year.
But she'd also have these enormous
birthday parties for them...
...with merry-go-rounds
and pony rides.
l think there was a human need there,
too, that she wanted to be a mother.
Joan returned to the screen the following
year in another melodrama...
...playing the sort of tough role
that she was now famous for.
lt's a golden period for her as an actress
where she really did...
...a whole series of really
first-rate melodramas.
l'm not a carnival girl anymore.
Sure been acting like it
with young Carlisle.
l'm not running.
Do you understand that?
l've never denied you anything.
Anything money could buy.
That wasn't enough, was it?
Things are going to be different now.
Crawford had a sense of humor
about her new image... evidenced by her work in
lt's a Great Feeling.
Get out before l kill you!
-What's that for?
-l do that in all my pictures.
Self-respect. That's something you tell
yourself when you got nothing else.
The Damned Don 't Cry is kind of...
...definitive Joan Crawford. lt's almost
every one of her images rolled into one.
She runs the gamut. lt's so much fun.
She's so committed to this
rather tawdry vehicle.
The night we started, you gave me 20.
l learned from Grady,
it should've been 50.
-This straightens out the bookkeeping.
-lt does more than that.
lt closes the books.
l'm getting myself a new partner.
While you're at it, better get
a couple of other new items.
lf you'll excuse the expression.
She was wonderful to direct.
Before we started the picture...
...we went to a projection room
one night.
We were looking at Humoresque,
and l said:
''My God, that's a very sexy outfit
you've got on. ''
And she said, ''Thank you. ''
Then she took my hand...
...and she sort of put it on her breast.
Well, l thought
that was kind of strange.
She was ready for me
to take her on the floor...
...of the projection room,
for God's sake.
That began an affair that ran
for over three years.
She once said
that's the perfect woman.
Can be a lady in the parlor
and a whore in bed.
When we went to Palm Springs,
l was gonna live in one place... the racquet club,
and Joan, l thought, was in the other.
When l got there,
l found out that she had arranged...
...for us to have adjoining rooms.
But l wasn't trying to parade it,
you know what l mean.
l wanted to keep
the whole relationship quiet.
lf it was a young director, she always
liked to have an affair with him...
...because she felt that that way he
belonged to her and she belonged to him.
Joan wanted me to get a divorce
and marry her...
...but l also knew
that that wouldn't work.
All of the time l've been figuring out
what it is about women like that...
...that makes it so difficult for them
to remain married to one person.
There's a constant need for approval,
a constant need for admiration...
...a constant need
to be in the public eye.
Bette didn't trust men,
and neither did Crawford.
l had to tell my wife.
She said, ''What could l say?
l don't want you to sleep
with Joan Crawford?
lf l was a man,
l think l would feel the same way. ''
My wife was a remarkable woman.
Harriet Craig was about this woman
that cared more for her house...
...and the way things were,
than she did about her husband...
...or anybody else around.
That was true, in many ways, of Joan.
lt was what she had read
was the proper way to live.
That was one of her failings.
Joan was preparing lunch
for the children.
And then Christopher came in,
and she started bawling him out.
The poor kid was sitting there
with tears in his eyes.
l said, ''Joan, don't humiliate him
in front of people,'' you know.
And she says, ''l told you once not
to interfere with me and my children.
And if you don't like it,
you can leave right now. ''
So l got up and l
started out of the kitchen.
And as l went through the kitchen door,
she tripped me, and l damn near fell.
And l grabbed myself with the side of
the door, and l turned around angrily...
...and smacked her right in the face.
l knocked her on the kitchen floor.
When we were breaking up, we had
some argument about something.
She was inebriated, and she said,
''Goodbye, Vincent''...
...and dropped the phone.
And l got worried...
...because l thought that she might
do something emotionally-
You know,
attempt suicide or something.
She had taken an overdose
of sleeping pills.
Whether it was enough
to have killed her or not, l don't know.
Or maybe it was an act.
l just never knew,
and l never found out.
Let's hop into an imaginary sleigh...
... to the home of one of the foremost
actresses in America, Joan Crawford.
Well, l once spent Christmas Day... Joan Crawford's house,
and it was so funny.
And her children waited until 1:00
in the afternoon to open their presents.
They were like jittery beyond-
You can't imagine.
She made them open their gifts
one at a time.
Then they had to go write it in a book.
What it was, what they got.
l mean, it was the most
unspontaneous thing l'd even seen.
We didn't get to keep the presents...
...and we got less and less
as the years went on.
I don 't let them have
all their presents at one time.
From tomorrow on,
they earn their gifts.
If they stay on good behavior,
they're given their choice...
...of what present they want next.
I always see to it that they give up
something they really love.
Otherwise, they don 't really
learn the value of giving.
Christmas was just total torture.
By 1951, Joan 's last few films at Warner
Bros. had failed at the box office.
As a result, the studio began
sending her substandard scripts... an effort to force her out
for refusing work.
The whole country is gunning for you.
Such was the case with
This Woman ls Dangerous...
...a sordid melodrama,
which she accepted...
... while instructing her agent,
Lew Wasserman...
... to buy her out of her
Warner Bros. contract.
l came back.
And l'll never leave you again.
Crawford departed
Warner Bros. and joined...
...other former studio contract stars
who had gone independent.
Her first vehicle was
the suspense drama, Sudden Fear.
-It's the will.
-''Last will and testament...
...of Myra Hudson-Blaine. ''
Here it is. ''To my husband, Lester
Blaine, on my death, $ 10,000 a year. ''
-Is that all?
-Get a load of this.
''Until he remarries. '' If that dirty
double-crossing dame thinks that she-
Lester, she can 't sign it till Monday.
Suppose something happened to her
between now and Monday.
-Who 'd get her money?
-Lester Blaine. I'd get it all. Why not?
-I have a gun.
-Gun 's no good.
It'll have to look like an accident.
Joan wisely decided against
taking her usual salary...
...and instead took a 40 percent
profit participation in the film.
The decision paid handsomely
when the film became a hit...
...and she was nominated a third time
for a Best Actress Academy Award.
Joan Crawford was disturbed
by the changes going on in Hollywood...
... where she felt a new openness
about sexuality was running rampant.
lt was the Photoplay Awards dinner.
Marilyn Monroe came in an hour late... this gold lame gown
that she had been sewn into.
The whole joint went mad.
For Joan to be upstaged like that...
...was unforgivable.
She said, ''l think she flaunts sex.
l've always been very subtle about that. ''
That created a front-page story.
And Joan went
to Louella Parsons and cried:
''Of course l said those things,
but l thought they were off the record. ''
When MGM beckoned Joan to return
in the Technicolor musical Torch Song...
...she was thrilled. The studio 's publicity
department treated Crawford's return... a major event,
with a ''Welcome Back, Joan'' banner...
...and red carpet laid from the street
to Joan 's dressing room.
However, the film 's budget and shooting
schedule were less than stellar.
Torch Song was a B picture.
Yet it was a job. She could show off
her body, which was still pretty good.
lt was directed by Chuck Walters, and
he told me he went to Joan's house...
...and she was wearing a kimono.
And her first words were,
''This is what you're getting. ''
And she opened the kimono,
and she was stark naked.
That's our Joan.
Torch Song was a bomb
at the box office.
But Joan 's survival instincts
were relentless.
And she would try any genre possible
to refresh her public image...
...including a western, Johnny Guitar.
Someone described it as Beauty and the
Beast with Sterling Hayden as Beauty.
lt was interesting to watch Joan
and Mercedes McCambridge...
...who kind of had a rivalry going.
They had a big blowout.
lt was not a very pleasant set.
When one scene
involving McCambridge...
...elicited applause
from the cast and crew...
...director, Nicholas Ray,
gazed over his shoulder...
... to see Crawford shaking with fury.
She just snapped one day
and took Mercedes' costumes...
...and threw them out into the street.
-l'm going to kill you.
-lf l don't kill you first.
The director had to go
and fetch them back.
lt was one of the major feuds
in postwar Hollywood history.
Mercedes, many years later, discussed
the fact that she had been an alcoholic.
And l think maybe that might have
affected her attitude on the film.
By the mid '50s,
the Hollywood fan magazines...
... which had long been a haven for Joan,
gave way to scandal sheets...
... that exposed the sordid details
of movie stars ' personal lives.
l was being interviewed by the editor
of one of the fan magazines.
One of the assistant editors
came in and said:
''You wanted me to do that story
on Joan Crawford.
What do you want?
Nice girl or a bitch?''
And he said, ''Make her a bitch. ''
So later when l was visiting with Joan,
l told her about that.
And l said, ''How do you handle that?''
And she looked at me and smiled,
and she said ''Oh, my dear.
Suppose they never
wrote about me at all. ''
But it was Crawford's
relationship with her fans...
... that proved to be the most
enduring joy in her life.
She was always
so grateful to her fans.
She felt she owed them
to always look her best...
...and to be what
they wanted her to be.
She talked about fan mail as if it was
God. You had to answer your fan mail.
This woman would write letters...
...would go to luncheons
and parties and things...
...that her fan clubs would have.
lf we went to the theater,
she kept giving autographs...
...until she got the last one done.
She knew the public
created her as a star.
So she felt this great commitment
to them and to never disappoint them... always be Joan Crawford
whenever she was seen in public.
The fans were more loyal to her
than any man would have been...
...or ultimately any child.
She loved publicity. She knew,
unlike most of today's stars...
...that publicity
was part of her career.
When you look into her upbringing
of the children...
...and the way
she used them for publicity... was just another adjunct
of her career.
-Good night, Mother.
-Good night, Mother dearest.
Good night, darlings.
This is our best time.
The best time
for all mothers and children.
The moment of wonderful peace
and contentment...
...knowing your children
are all cozy in bed for the night.
When you're an actress,
there are all these women...
...who are lurking inside of you.
l'm sure they've carried over
into her private life.
For there are other mothers,
so terribly many...
... who no longer know such
moments of peace and happiness.
l feel sorry for any child that grows up
with a parent who is an actor.
We are strange.
We do come from another place.
As each of her roles became more
steely and harsh on-screen... did her appearance
off the screen.
And Crawford detested this change.
lf you look at her face on the screen...
...there was a toughness
that never went away again.
The look is really rather terrifying...
...with these huge eyebrows
and the teeth getting bigger... maybe she had them recapped.
The thick mouth line...
...and the short cropped hair. She was
creating this almost warrior aspect...
...invincible and indomitable,
that nobody could get her.
She felt she had to control her private
life as much as she did her career...
...sometimes with disastrous results.
In her 1955 dramas,
Female on the Beach for Universal...
...for which she requested that no
close-ups be shot after 4:30 p. m...
...and Queen Bee
for Columbia Pictures...
...Crawford's need for control often led
to conflicts with younger actresses.
l had been warned that she was gonna
be a very, very difficult woman.
She was looking after Lucy's wardrobe,
and Lucy.
She was like a mother
fluttering around a child.
l thought, ''How nice she's being
to this young actress. ''
That changed when we started
doing the movie.
Poor Lucy would just weep:
''She's just so angry.
When she hits me, she really hits me. ''
Maybe Joan was impatient...
...that there wasn't the talent there
that she expected.
Joan pretty much directed herself.
She, of course, would look
at the dailies every day.
So she knew what she wanted.
She certainly knew more about
filmmaking than the director.
She usually had affairs with the men
she worked with.
She and Johnny were having
this big romance.
They'd call in the morning about 7:00,
and they'd say, you know:
''Get yourself over here.
We can't shoot them today.
They've just been
boozing and balling too much. ''
lf that's what got her through the night,
that's okay.
Then, along came Alfred Steele...
...the magnate of Pepsi-Cola...
...and he was entranced with her,
and she with him...
...and his power.
Somebody said, ''Joan's in town...
...and she would like you to come
to her wedding celebration.
She married Alfred Steele
from Pepsi-Cola. ''
l said, ''What?''
Of course, she was there and Alfred
was there and she was just aglow.
l took her over to the side
of the restaurant, and l said:
''You stinker. You and Johnny,'' l said,
''l thought that was a big romance. ''
She said, ''We were in our cups
a little bit, l have to admit. ''
And he said,
''Why don't we just get married?''
And she said, ''All right. ''
And she said, ''Why didn't
you call me in Las Vegas?''
l said, ''Mother, l didn't
know where you were. ''
And she said to me, ''Well, all you
had to do was call lnformation.
Everybody in the world
knows who Joan Crawford is. ''
Crawford starred in Columbia Pictures '
Autumn Leaves...
... with a very young Cliff Robertson.
When l was told l was to go out and
play in this March/December romance...
...l was terrified. Here l was
gonna work with Joan Crawford...
...the essence of an older sexy woman.
l called Bob Aldrich and l said:
''When do we rehearse?'' And he said,
''Cliff, Joan doesn't rehearse. ''
l drove out to Brentwood, and the butler
met me at the door, and he called out:
''Miss Crawford,
Mr. Robertson is here. ''
And l looked out, and there was
a long terry cloth robe...
...with a very shapely naked leg
extended into a foot pool.
That unmistakable voice said,
''Come in, dear boy. We're waiting. ''
l said, ''Oh, my God. Oh, my God. ''
lt was not my idea of a rehearsal.
Another film,
The Story of Ester Costello, followed...
... which would be Crawford's last
for almost three years...
...for she had found a new outlet
to channel her boundless energy... the first lady of Pepsi-Cola.
She sees the opportunity
to keep herself in the public eye...
...and created the illusion that she was
actually the president of Pepsi-Cola.
She could go into a sales meeting and
all the boys would clamor around her...
...and she would shake their hands.
And she would go all over the world,
with Al or without, wherever she went.
He was big news and Pepsi-Cola
was big news.
She was acting Joan Crawford,
which was her most magnificent role.
l wonder if any corporate figure
before or since...
...has ever used the powers
of show business... the corporate advantage
as Joan Crawford did.
She made that product
synonymous with her name.
When she married Steele,
she got an apartment in New York...
...and spent $300,000 cash
to fix it up.
l don't think Steele had
that kind of money.
lt was a very, very Crawford-esque...
...kind of modern contemporary
Billy Haines look.
Joan had a pink bedroom and it was
built with a big terrace around it...
...all glass, facing Central Park.
Walls of dresses, walls of hats,
and everything coordinated.
There was more clear plastic
on that furniture...
...than was on the meat in an A&P.
Joan called me to tell me that Al had
passed away that Sunday morning.
What a shock. Because he was
in very good health, we all thought.
l went to Al's funeral...
...and, oh, Joan was just taken apart.
A fan came up and asked
for an autograph...
...and Joan didn't say anything,
just turned away, and with that...
...the fan took her veil
and ripped it off.
With the death
of her fourth husband, Alfred Steele...
...Joan was plunged into
personal and financial despair.
At the age of 53, Crawford knew
she had to find work in Hollywood.
She says,
''Herbert, l really need a job. ''
Their duplex penthouse
was not paid for...
...and she made a point of working
and paying it off.
l have one small corner of your life.
l've never asked for more.
And l will not settle for less.
Now, you and your rabbit-faced wife
can both go to hell.
She had just lost Alfred Steele,
and there were moments on the set...
...where she was having
a difficult time.
And l came over to her and l said,
''You're gonna do a great job. ''
And then she got herself all propped up
and got courage and did the scene.
And then she looked for me after
to see if l had seen it.
lt was a nice gesture on her part
to make me feel like l was important.
Next, Crawford embarked on a film that
would once again galvanize her career.
When Hollywood learned that
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford...
...were gonna costar
in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?...
...everybody was shocked.
l mean, here are two
of the greatest stars.
Academy Award winners,
queens of their studios.
The story was that Bob Aldrich
shouldn't direct the picture... should be Clyde Beatty,
the famous lion tamer.
Baby Jane provided an outlet
for the rivals to unleash the fury...
...of their longstanding feud.
You wouldn't be able to do these awful
things to me if l weren't in this chair.
In the film, they played a forgotten
child star and her crippled actress sister.
But you are, Blanche.
You are in that chair.
Our dressing rooms are on the stage.
Mine was in the center...
...and Bette was on the left
and Joan Crawford was on the right.
So l got all the vibes.
lt was fascinating to play with them...
...because you knew how much
they hated each other...
...but they were trying to keep it
concealed as much as possible.
She would do a scene,
and Davis would say to her:
''ls that the way
you're gonna play it?''
And Joan, of course,
got the reading and she said, ''Why?''
She says, ''Nothing. lf you're happy
with the way you're doing it, just do it. ''
Joan would come off and start crying.
Oh, Bette was so mean to her.
While shooting this scene, Davis
actually kicked Crawford in the head...
...and later apologized for the accident
and the two stitches that resulted.
Davis did a lot of cruel things
when she was tied in the bed...
...with her hands up in the air.
Crawford said, ''That's too tight. ''
And Davis' remark was,
''Well, it has to look real. ''
And Davis would discuss the scene
while Joan was hanging there.
When Joan was untied,
Bette had to pull Joan out of the bed...
...and drag her across the floor.
She said to Joan,
''When you do this...
...don't be a dead weight
as l lift you off the bed...
...because l have a very bad back. ''
Well, you could see sort of an invisible
light going on over Joan's head...
...and Joan was a dead weight. Bette fell
on the floor, Joan fell on top of her...
...and Bette went
into the hospital for two days.
Joan got up with the attitude of,
''Well, that was done. ''
She envied Davis. She always
felt that Davis was superior to her.
Davis and Crawford
had many similarities...
...and yet Bette Davis certainly
didn't wanna see that...
...because she thought of herself
as the actress...
...and Crawford was the movie star.
But at the same time
they both had troubled children...
...and were women alone
fighting for a career.
Within 11 days
of its nationwide release... recovered its entire
production cost of $825,000.
Then came the Academy Awards.
Bette was nominated. Joan was not.
She was in the wings
and so was Bette.
The presenter said, ''The winner is
Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker. ''
Joan had been designated to accept
the award for Anne Bancroft...
...who was in New York.
Joan pushed Bette and said:
''Step aside,''
and walked onto the stage.
Bette never forgot that.
Joan 's next film
was the psychological drama...
...The Caretakers for United Artists.
The public wanted another horror film
from Davis and Crawford...
...and they were cast in,
Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte.
From the beginning,
Bette was very crusty and aloof.
She even installed a Coca-Cola machine
on the set, instead of a Pepsi.
She played such strong ladies in films.
You'd think she could defend herself
in any situation, but she could not.
Crawford went to a hospital
and claimed she had pneumonia.
And she stayed in the hospital
for about three or four weeks.
When l got to the hospital, she said,
''l just wanted get out of the picture. ''
Bette had been talking to the director,
cutting Crawford's part down...
...and building her part up.
And she said, ''l just didn't
wanna be in, and go through...
...another picture with Bette Davis. ''
And with that, she locked the door
and we went to bed.
Joan was replaced
by Olivia de Havilland.
That was the end of the costarring
of the two great queens.
Baby Jane was the last
important picture Joan did.
She did some horror pictures
with Bill Castle.
She became known
as the scream queen.
This is Joan Crawford.
I urge you to see my new motion picture,
Strait-Jacket, from the beginning.
Strait-Jacket makes her look kind of
like Mildred Pierce, but with a hatchet.
l was hired to do the part
of her daughter.
The original ending in the script was me
at the door, screaming and yelling:
''l hate you, l love you, l hate you,
l love you,'' and everybody's shocked.
l did the scene. The next thing l know,
Joan says to Bill Castle:
''We'll end on me,
because it should be my reaction... my daughter going crazy. ''
She was so needy
to have the last word...
...that she wouldn't let me
be the last word in the movie.
Had to have her last shot.
lt isn't just Joan Crawford.
Every actor or actress today...
...with any control on a movie,
they would do the same thing.
Joan made a considerable profit
from the horror film...
...but her reputation in Hollywood
was suffering as a result...
...and the casting calls were few.
Crawford's suspense-horror films
of the '60s are interesting...
...because she is giving her all.
She is approaching it as if
it were still Mildred Pierce.
lt's becoming a nightmare. l keep
wondering and thinking, ''Who's next?''
Kill, kill, kill!
That's all l feel inside me!
l think that film was hard for her,
because it was a B movie.
She wasn't always easy, but there
was also something very likable.
When people do show
their vulnerability...'s hard not to forgive them
for other things.
When l was visiting her,
she opened this cupboard...
...and in it was a box of Corn Flakes...
...and a jug and a bowl.
Her husband used to like Corn Flakes
at night, and they were still there.
She just missed him so much.
She was lonely, she said she was.
And l could see it,
and l could feel it in her.
Crawford's identity
was inextricably bound to stardom... she continued her career on
television when film offers were scarce.
Did Simon ever speak to you about
the process he was working on?
Why, certainly. He kept me up
night after night for weeks.
l hope you can remember some of it.
After five marriages,
if a woman hasn't...
...well, learned to appear
to listen to a man...
...without actually
having heard one word...
...then she might just as well
turn in her wedding rings.
She did one with Steven Spielberg
when he was a very young director.
She was insulted that they assigned
such a young director... direct the diva.
By that time, her alcoholism actually
was interfering with her ability to work...
...and she just was not able
to memorize lines.
But she really didn't work much.
Basically, the only place that they'd
seen her were a few talk shows.
l think Hollywood now is the most
depressing place in the entire world...
...and l am the most grateful
human being in the whole world...
...for what it has given me.
lt's given me my education.
lt's given me everything l've ever earned.
The power to adopt five children,
to raise them, to educate them.
l will never be ungrateful for that...
...but now they're snobbish little cliques,
they are, and you may have it.
l got sick when l was
under contract to CBS...
...and doing the soap opera
Secret Storm.
She talked the network into
''Standing in for me,'' quote-unquote...
...and she did.
l was sick and she took my job.
lt was a very sad thing to watch...
...a woman in her 60s trying
to play a woman in her 20s...
...extremely unsuccessfully.
She was a leading lady
till the end of her life.
And it's too bad
that in this business...
...that they don't appreciate
that somebody can be older...
...and know even more than they knew
when they were younger.
But you're supposed to look pretty,
l guess, all the way to the grave.
And it ain't necessarily so.
A movie called Trog was her last film.
lf it wasn't, it should've been.
Please, Trog.
Let me have the child.
l want you to give me the child!
lt's unfortunate that actors can't
dictate the last act of their lives...
...and certainly, Joan's was not
one she would have chosen.
She had done a great job for Pepsi.
She was treated very shabbily...
...and just sort of
discarded by them.
She was very critical of somebody who
later became chairman of the board...
...and he got rid of her.
Forced to economize, Crawford
moved to a smaller New York flat.
She would take the mink coat...
...we'd arrive at 21, and she'd
drop it on the ground and drag it...
...and say, ''Lets show them how
a legend makes an entrance. ''
She invited me to lunch, and at
that table was Doug Fairbanks...
...Franchot Tone and Phil Terry...
...three ex-husbands.
And l kept thinking,
''l can't believe this setup. ''
She was scared. She was
definitely scared of getting older.
She was jealous of me...
...but mostly she was scared...
...of not being able to perform
as the great movie star.
ln the newspaper...
...was this photograph of her and
Rosalind Russell from the worst angle.
She said, ''lf that's the way l look,
they'll never see me again. ''
And no one ever did.
ln her building on an elevator,
somebody turned to her and said:
''Weren't you Joan Crawford?''
lf you go for many years,
people know you, people cheer you... of you everywhere,
and people wanna get your autograph.
lf that stops, you can imagine
how that affects you.
Joan even ceased to perform
as the spokesperson...
...for some of her favorite charities.
lt's the money you give
so that cancer victims can live.
l don't think she ever
told anybody she had cancer.
She wouldn't let regular nurses in,
because she was afraid...
...they would take her to the hospital.
Joan spent most of her time
tearing up her old pictures.
She was clipping up
and sending stuff through a shredder.
So she didn't want
anything left about her...
...for anyone to read that
was none of their business.
You just had the feeling
that she was preparing... send Princess off somewhere.
She was getting ready.
The woman that cared for her came in
and realized that she was dying.
And she knelt by the bed
and started praying for her out loud.
Crawford raised up her head...
...and said that, ''Don't you dare
ask God to help me. '' And she died.
Joan Crawford passed away
on May 10, 1977.
At her memorial service, director
George Cukor remembered the legend...
...saying, ''She was the perfect image
of the movie star...
...and as such, largely the creation
of her own indomitable will.
She had, of course, very remarkable
material to work with...
...a quick, native intelligence,
tremendous animal vitality...
...a lovely figure,
and above all, her face...
... that extraordinary sculptural
construction of lines and plains.
It caught the light superbly, so that you
could photograph her from any angle.
The nearer the camera, the more tender
and yielding she became.
Her eyes glistening,
her lips avid in static acceptance.
The camera saw, I suspect...
...a side of her that no
flesh-and-blood lover ever saw. ''
Upon Crawford's death her will read:
''It is my intention to make no provision
herein for my son Christopher...
...or my daughter Christina, for reasons
which are well-known to them. ''
l was surprised at the mean-spiritedness
of the language.
After that l started to think...
...that the only person that could set the
record straight about my life was me.
And so that's what ended up
being the book Mommie Dearest.
Christina Crawford did achieve
a good end with her book.
She did really bring child abuse
to public consciousness... a way that it never did...
...but it's a terrible tragedy
for her mother's image.
l don't know if her reputation
will ever recover from that terrible blow.
There is another Joan Crawford
that people should remember.
She achieved in a man's world
when it wasn't fashionable at all.
Some of her screen performances
are among the best of any woman...
...who has worked in Hollywood.
Much of that is forgotten now
and it shouldn't be.
Maybe in 50 years or so...
...her own saga
will be rather dusty and curious.
People probably won't even care
to look it up.
But the films last forever.