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" I love playing bitches. There's a lot of bitch in every woman - a lot in every man."
~Joan Crawford"

Joan badly wanted the lead role in her first picture outside of the studio "Sudden Fear"(1952). Joan was so confident that the picture would be a success that she decided to be paid a percentage of the profits made from the movie. She couldn't of had made a better prediction, "Sudden Fear" would be one of Joan's best pictures of her career. This picture is one of the last great film noir pictures. Her co-stars Jack Palace and Gloria Graham were also superb in the roles and all three of the stars received Oscar nominations. This would be Joan's third Oscar nomination and her last. She would however lose the award to Shirley Booth. Once again Joan made a comeback and a hefty profit off of this film. She was approaching her 50th birthday and was still in demand. Joan had signed on to the movie "From Here to Eternity" in 1953 but she was demanding of her needs and she was fired from the picture and replaced with Deborah Kerr. Joan realized she didn't have the clout she once had when she was signed with a studio. MGM had summoned Joan back for her next picture "Torch Song"(1953). The movie was in color, one of the very few pictures Joan did in color, and she was more flattering in black and white movies and came off too harsh in colorized films. "Torch Song" was a dance and song movie and really a "B" movie, it was a bomb at the box office and it would be the last movie she would do for MGM.


Joan still looking glamorous in her 50s.

It was around this time that Joan started taking on a very hard and tough image. She had these short-cropped bangs, a very hard mouth line, harsh thick eyebrows and a stern clown-like appearance to her look that Joan detested. She was drinking heavily around this period and dealing with the fact that she was an aging actress and turning 50 years old. Work was becoming harder and harder to find the older she became. She is quoted in saying " I should have had my head examined" about her next picture "Johnny Guitar"(1954). This was Joan's first western since her silent picture days. Originally the director wanted Bette Davis to play Joan's rival in the film but the studio could not afford her. One wonders what "Johnny Guitar" could have been with Davis!! Instead, Mercedes McCambridge was the villain and gave a stunning performance. Joan and Mercedes had it out several times on the set and would have heated fueds."Johnny Guitar" was not a hit at the time but it has gone on to be one of the best camp movies and it is highly respected today. "Female on the Beach"(1955) was filmed with Universal studios. The picture co-starred Jeff Chandler as her love interest. The picture has a great story and a great surprise ending but it still comes off as a 'B" movie. "Queen Bee" (1955) would be the first of several pictures for the studio Columbia. " Queen Bee" is rather amusing to watch and one wonders how much of that character was true to life regarding Joan. The picture faired well and is another favorite among the Crawford fans of today. Joan was a mature woman now but very lonely she was longing for a man of personal strength and intelligence. A man she could work with, enjoy life with and maybe even fall in love.


The Queen Bee in a signed photo to a fan.

Joan met her fourth husband in 1955, Alfred Steele the Pepsi Cola executive giant. Joan and Alfred hit it off famously and he is said to be Joan's true love. Although Alfred wasn't like her former husbands; attractive, vain and in shape. Alfred was more stable and secure about himself and his career something Joan longed for. Joan knew her career was pretty much over with and she was planning on retiring from the movies. By marrying Steele, Joan now had time to focus her energy on promoting Pepsi. She became a spokesperson for the soft drink and she was thrilled to be a part of a giant company. Joan and Steel bought an amazing place in New York overlooking Central Park. Joan's long time friend, William Haynes who was now a famous interior designer, decorated the apartment from top to bottom. Joan had sold her long time residence in Brentwood and was now living solely in New York. Steele had taken out a huge loan to remodel their apartment, Joan did have expensive taste. Joan did continue to make movies, her next film was "Autumn Leaves"(1956) this was one of Joan's personal favorite movies that she had made. It was about and older woman with a younger man and her acting was quite good in the film and it was also the first time she would be directed by Robert Aldrich. It did all right at the box-office but not a hit like Joan could pull off in her hay-day. One wonders if she would ever have a hit again but she was very content with her marriage and everything that came along with it and was more than happy to leave Hollywood.


Crawford making her usual dramatic entrance.

Joan made her next film in London, "The Story of Esther Costello"(1957) which was actually a very good film. Joan was expecting an Oscar nod for her acting in the film but she was not nominated. Over the next four years, Joan would only make one picture and it would be one of her first pictures since her silent movie days that she would not be the lead actress in the movie. During this time however, Joan's mother had died at the age of 74 and Joan had taken it harder than she thought she would. Joan was supporting her mother right up until her mother died. Another harsh blow to Joan soon after that was the death of her beloved husband, Alfred Steele. Steele died suddenly of a heart attack and Joan was crushed. Once again Joan was alone and her career looked like it had pretty much ended at this point. "The Best of Everything"(1959) was made shortly after Steele's death in part for her to get over the death and she was in need of money. Steele's death had left Joan in a financial bind. The part was a supporting role for Joan who was cast with a bunch of "young bitches" as she would call them. Joan actually walked off with the picture displaying a mature and seasoned acting ability amongst the "young bitched." It looked like Joan was at a point in her life where her career had ended at the age of 55. She was once again alone and her financial status was on shaky ground. One could imagine how scared and frustrated Joan must have been at this point in her life. Four decades in the film business and she was pretty much washed up. One would never have predicted another comeback.


Joan had reached a true diva status at this stage in her career and was now "The Queen of Pepsi Cola."