Steve Hayes regales us each week with his dishy, funny, and informative classic movie recommendations as the Tired Old Queen at the Movies!
Above: Rock Hudson
JOAN CRAWFORD: 1905-1977
Joan Crawford loved men and she liked sex. She surrounded herself with gorgeous hunks, both straight and gay. Her escorts were expected to be handsome, suave, polite, good conversationalists, but to know their place, expert dancers, eventual seducers and to be completely attentive to her every need. Wait, I say that like it's a bad thing! I love Joan. I always have. I find her compulsively watchable. Particularly when she carries a gun. I particularly love the ten year period of her career where she embraced Film Noir, from Mildred Pierce (1945) to Queen Bee (1955). Here she played the supreme Bitch Goddess, who would just as soon shoot her man as sleep with him. Yes, there's the eyebrows, the huge, padded shoulders that resemble a Green Bay Packer's and the mouth with it's slash of lip stick that got broader and broader as the years went by. There's the face in general, that seemed to turn to granite with each decade, like the fifth face on Mt. Rushmore. But, not unlike John Wayne, she could "carry a picture." Regardless of what's been said about her since the "Mommie Dearest" debacle, and I don't doubt that a lot of it was true, Joan Crawford was undeniably a star.
Above: Joan Crawford & Anne Blyth in Mildred Pierce
She was the original girl from "the wrong side of the tracks" who made it to the top. She completely re-invented herself, not once, but several times throughout her career and her drive and tenacity to stay on top, kept her there long after her contemporaries had faded from the scene. Undergoing painful dentistry, she changed her look countless times, conforming to fit who and what she perceived her public wanted her to be. Crawford loved and lived for the adulation of her fans. She was also one of the most gay friendly stars of the period and was acutely aware of and grateful for her homosexual fan base. Having risen from the chorus, she was helped early in her career, by silent film star William "Billy" Haines, who some years later, following an ultimatum from Louis B. Mayer to give up his gay lover, Jimmy Shields or his career, walked out on stardom and had to reinvent himself. Joan came to his rescue because he had stood by her when there were rumors that she'd done "Blue Movies" early in her career. Through the support and commissions of Crawford, who by then was a mega star and Carole Lombard, Haines was able to set himself up as a hugely successful interior designer both in an out of Hollywood. He remained her champion and confidante for the rest of his life.
Above: Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce
Above: Joan Crawford and first husband Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Her husbands included rumored bi-sexuals Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Franchot Tone and from the forties through the sixties, her frequent escort was Cesar Romero, once the lover of Tyrone Power, who squired many of the female stars of the era when they were between husbands. She even seduced an aspiring Rock Hudson in her pool house and upon joining him in the shower instructed him to; "Close your eyes and pretend I'm Clark Gable." Her decades long affair with Gable was well known and she was once bleeped on the Merv Griffin show for cupping her hands and saying : "He had balls!" when stating that the key to his success, was his masculinity. In later years, he slept with most of her directors and had a long, stormy affair with Hollywood attorney and rumored stud, Greg Bautzer. Bautzer was said to have climbed up and broken into her second story bedroom window in order to ravage her and even given her the occasional black eye, which she displayed proudly, while singing the praises of his virility.
Above: Joan Crawford and second husband Franchot Tone
Above: Joan Crawford and Clark Gable
Joan's sexual proclivities were rumored to include the occasional female as well, Marilyn Monroe among them. Upon being signed to Warner Brothers, she began a campaign to woo and win the reigning diva, Bette Davis, but Bette would have none of it, always referring to Joan as "That whore from MGM"!
In the early '70's, publicist John Springer hosted a series of on-stage interviews at Town Hall in New York with several of "The Legendary Ladies of the Silver Screen". Crawford was one of them and the packed house, filled with mostly gay fans, went wild. Shortly thereafter, some unflattering photos were published showing what age had done to that once fabulous face and she never appeared in public again. Thanks to revivals and Turner Classic Movies, Crawford's reputation is surviving the "Mommie Dearest" scandal and both film critics and new generations of fans are recognizing her work as an integral part of film history, especially in the Women's Pictures and Film Noir genres of the 1940's. In response to critics who claimed she was a "Movie Star" rather than an actress, Crawford once said: "I've heard that before, but not every actress can carry a picture." They certainly can't and she certainly did for a long, long time. Good for you, Joanie! You've made this Tired Old Queen a lot happier!
Recommended Films on DVD:
Grand Hotel (1933) - IMDB - Netflix
The Women (1939) - IMDB - Netflix
A Woman's Face (1942) - IMBD - Netflix
Humoresque (1946) - IMDB - Netflix
Possessed (1947) - IMDB - Netflix
The Damned Don't Cry (1950) - IMDB - Netflix
Harriet Craig (1950) - IMDB - Netflix
Sudden Fear (1952) - IMDB - Netflix
Torch Song (1953) - IMDB - Netflix
Queen Bee (1955) - IMDB - Netflix
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) - IMDB - Netflix
Recommended Bios: Joan Crawford by Bob Thomas
Above: Rock Hudson
Above: Rock Hudson
Above: Rock Hudson