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Legendary Joan Crawford

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"Instead of being pretty, I was different."-Joan Crawford

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A young Lucille Fay LeSueur with mother, Anna Bell.

Joan Crawford was born Lucille Fay LeSueur on March 23, 1906, in San Antonio, Texas. Lucille was the third of three children; she had an older sister, Daisy who died very young and an older brother, Hal. Her parents Anna Bell and Thomas divorced when Lucille was just a very small child. Thomas actually abandoned the family and was never to be seen again. Shortly after the family's abandonment, a bitter Anna Bell packed up her family and moved to Lawton, Oklahoma. Only in town for a short time she met and married Harry Cassin, owner of an opera house. Young Lucille took a shine to her new father figure and the feeling was mutual for Cassin. Lucille's name was changed to Billie Cassin and she fell in love with the show business world.

The LeSueur family. Joan's father, Thomas, in the center of photo.

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Lucille as a young girl.

At the tender age of nine years old, she vowed to become a famous dancer someday. Billie had a hard time during her school years; she didn't fit in no matter how hard she tried. Billie would make her own clothes and try to fit in with the popular crowd but instead she came off different and was looked down upon. Billie concentrated all of her energy on becoming a famous dancer; she never wanted to do all the awful work her mother did. (Her mother worked several odd jobs to support the family). Anna and Harry's relationship was never built on love and Anna's relationship with young Billie was becoming strained and distant. When Billie was just eleven years old, a sexual relationship developed between her and Harry Cassin. Anna soon discovered this relationship. All blame was put upon Billie by both her mother and Harry. This incident ultimately ended their marriage and Anna resented Billie for the rest of her life. Billie was devastated by the departure of Harry and she was determined to be with Harry, to maintain the relationship they had developed. I feel this incident in her life made her sexually sophisticated at a very young age. She realized the power of youth and sex and used it to her advantage. I believe this was carried all through Joan's life; she used that sexual power against men.

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Lucille with older brother Hal.

Once again, the family moved, this time to Kansas City where Anna managed a rundown hotel and also handled the laundry. Billie and Hal were both put on laundry duty, a job Billie would never forget. Billie would work hard in the laundry room in order to stay in the motel with her family. At thirteen years old, she was enrolled in a catholic school consisting of mostly well-to-do girls who had money to pay for school. Billie was not so lucky and she had to work for her education. She would spend hours cleaning rooms, washing toilets, waiting on tables, and other menial tasks. Her peers and the nuns looked down upon her and treated her like a slave. (This is probably where Joan's obsession with cleanliness began and came in to play later in life). Billie envied the girls with all their pretty dresses and all the money they had. (As we know, Joan would get the last laugh.)

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Lucille as a teenage girl. Hard to believe this homely looking girl would blossom into "Joan Crawford."

At the age of fifteen, Billie was transferred to another boarding school. That, believe it or not, was far worse than the St. Agnes School she had been attending. Her new school was called Rockingham Academy and she was treated very poorly. Her education was actually increasingly ignored as they gave her more and more chores to do throughout the school. Back at home; mother Anna remarried again, a Mr. Hough. This would be a breaking point for Billie. Her mother didn't want her around her new husband, as she was afraid and jealous of Billie's youth and sexual energy, so Billie left home for good. She eventually attended Stephens College in Missouri and once again she had to work her way through school, but this time it was waiting tables. Her stay at the college was short-lived attending only one term and she headed back to Kansas City. Billie showed so much more drive and determination than other girls her age. She stood out for that and she was determined to get out of the lifestyle she was living. She was also very promiscuous, she was known as an "easy lay." (I think she ate up the attention that was missing in her childhood. I feel she longed for attention throughout the rest of her life). Now seventeen years old, Billie met a young man by the name of Ray Sterling. (Sterling is credited as being Joan's first love). Sterling was a great influence on Billie. He was very intelligent and well mannered. He also encouraged her to make something of herself to explore more opportunities of growth. (It is unclear if they ever married or not but some credit Sterling as Joan's first husband). Joan was in love with Sterling but Sterling was actually a homosexual. Billie was intrigued by this behavior and experimented as well with homosexuality

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Lucille LeSueur, aka Billie Cassin, blossoming into a young woman.

In late 1924, MGM producer Harry Rapf came to New York and spotted Lucille. She took a screen test and passed . She was then sent on a train to Hollywood. One could only wonder what was going through Lucille's mind. I wonder if she had any idea of what life was in store for her, what she was about to become. A dancer? An Actress? A star? A legend? Joan Crawford.



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Lucille LeSueur dancing her way into "Joan Crawford's" shoes.

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