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"I never had any ambition whatsoever to become an actress."~Joan Crawford

Joan was coming off from a string of movie failures and needed a sure fire hit. She was offered the lead role playing Scarlett O' Hara in one of the biggest movies ever, "Gone with the Wind." Her partner in crime, Clark Gable nabbed the leading role and Joan was the first choice to star opposite with him but war films were not doing well at the box office and Joan needed a hit so she declined the role. One wonders what the movie would have been or not have been if Joan was cast as Scarlett. As we all know Vivien Leigh won the role and was outstanding in the role. Joan had her sights on another role, a role that would be totally unlike anything she had ever played before, a bitch! " The Women"(1939) had been a big Broadway hit and George Cukor was directing once again. She would also be co-starring with her MGM rival, Norma Shearer; Rosalind Russell also would star along side the two stars. Rumors buzzed around Hollywood about the feuding stars and the picture opened with a bullet. The picture was a huge hit and Joan was praised for her catty, evil, husband-stealing role as Crystal Allen. Rosalind Russell did however walk off with the film, her role was hilarious and she played it perfect. This picture was a comeback role and a start of another string of hits. After Clark Gable's huge success with "Gone with the Wind" and Joan's hit in 'The Women", the studio decided to team the old duo up in "Strange Cargo"(1940). This would be the eighth film for them, their last film and the best film they made together. Strange Cargo was a hit for them both, this filmed showed Joan totally shed of her glamour-girl image, she wore an off the rack tattered dress for most of the movie. The critics praised Joan in this role and her career was in full swing.


Joan on a photo shoot right before her comeback picture "The Women."


Joan as Crystal Allen the husband stealing bitch in "The Women.

Crawford's next role would be another Broadway smash, "Susan and God"(1940). This film was originally slated for Norma Shearer but Norma turned down the role. Ironically enough, Shearer's career ended in the early 1940's and she is pretty much but all forgotten in Hollywood. "Susan and God" was a hit for Joan and the movie continued to show Joan's ability to play parts that were different and dramatic. Her next role "A Woman's Face" (1941) would showcase some of her best work of her career. Cukor directed "A Woman's Face" once again. In this role she played a woman who is facially scarred, cold and bitter who overcomes her insecurities when a doctor helps her see her real beauty. Joan shows in this role that she is a true actress. The critics praised Joan in this role and fans saw Joan in a whole new light. This movie was a high point for Joan at MGM but it would be her last hit at MGM as well. Joan's next picture, "When Ladies Meet"(1941) was a real let down to Joan after coming off of such a great movie. The studio wanted her to play more glamorous roles and she was cast as just that. " They All Kissed the Bride"(1942) was a role that Carole Lombard was filming when she was killed in a plane accident and Joan replaced her in the picture. Carole Lombard was married to Clark Gable at the time. Crawford and Clark were still friends at the time and the death of Lombard cemented a strong friendship for the rest of their lives. This as also the year that Joan met her third husband, Phillip Terry. Terry was a B-picture actor. It was through Terry and with him that she adopted her first child, Christina, in 1943. It is unclear whether it is true or not if Joan could have children or not, she stated she couldn't have any children and had several miscarriages in the past, others feel she was too vain to get pregnant. Whatever the case, Joan was probably not mother of the year but one thing is for sure is she provided for her children and gave them a good life and a decent upbringing. Christina remains till this day the same spoiled ungrateful brat she was towards her mother. As time goes on very few find her portrayal of Joan in the movie "Mommie Dearest" to be credible. Christina continues to poke fun at the alleged abuse and poke fun at Joan. Ironically enough, right after the release of Mommie Dearest" in 1981, Christina suffered a severe stroke that almost killed her. A sign from above maybe?


Joan made two more pictures during this time, "Reunion in France"(1942) and "Above Suspicion"(1943). Both movies were ill suited for the star and she was on a string of bad movies once again. One is unsure of what happened next at MGM. Some say that MGM discarded Joan after 18 years like a dishrag. Others say that Crawford asked to be released from the studio since they were not giving her good scripts to work with any longer. Whatever the case, Joan was out of a job. The studio, which she called home most of her life, was now gone. She was now without work and approaching her 40th birthday. Most people would just settle into family life and enjoy the lucky and successful life they had. Most people. The odds were against Joan, everyone thought she was washed up and her career had ended, everyone but Joan. No one would have ever predicted the best was yet to come.


A bronze statue immortalizing Crawford in "A Woman's Face."

In 1943 Joan singed a contract with Warner Bros. studio for 1/3 of what she had been making at MGM. A drastic blow for Joan but it did not discourage her; she was determined to make a comeback. Her first film for Warner's was the forgettable "Hollywood Canteen"(1944). The picture was filled with stars and it was basically a showcase of actors and actresses and nothing more than that. During this time Joan and her husband adopted a son, Philip Jr. Joan was pretty much passing on all the scripts that were being brought to her attention. Jack Warner was furious it was taking this long for Joan to settle on a picture and he told her he couldn't continue paying her for not making any pictures. Joan agreed and was taken off the payroll. This really looked the end of her career. She was being very overall choosy and difficult at a new studio. Joan finally found a role she wanted to play, "Mildred Pierce." Bette Davis had turned down the role as well as her long time friend Rosalind Russell. Director Michael Curtiz wanted Barbara Stanwyck to play the part and Stanwyck wanted to play the part as well. Joan made it known she wanted the role and Curtiz did not want Joan for the part but she was granted a screen test and she changed Curtiz' mind. Once he saw Joan in the screen test he knew he found "Mildred." Mildred Pierce"(1945) was a monster hit. Joan won over the critics and her fans were thrilled to have her back. The picture was nominated for several Oscars included Best Actress. Joan Crawford had stiff competition that year: Ingrid Bergman, Jennifer Jones, Greer Garson and Gene Tierney all previous Oscar winners. Joan was so nervous and had a panic attack; she held up in her bed and did not attend the ceremony. Against all odds Joan won the Oscar for Best Actress of 1945. Michael Curtiz later that night went to Joan's bedside and presented her with the Oscar. Shortly after the release of "Mildred Pierce", Joan divorced Phil Terry and changed the name of her son from Phillip Jr. to Christopher. Joan later stated that she never loved Terry and spoke rarely of him after the divorce. It was also around this time Joan developed a drinking problem and it grew stronger as the years went on. In her later years, Joan talked candidly about her alcohol problem. Joan was at her prime at this point and was enjoying the success, a miraculous comeback and he joy of rubbing MGM's face in it.


Joan receiving the Oscar for Best Actress at her bedside from director Michael Curtiz for the film "Mildred Pierce."

Joan's career was in full swing and her next film was "Humoresque"(1946) co-starring the dashing John Garfield. Another hit for Joan and probably one of her most dramatic roles. The part is more of a supporting role for Joan and she was advised not to take the role. The picture is overall dramatic and Crawford even stated that she might have "overacted" the part. It really was a memorable part for her. The scene at the end of the movie where she commits suicide is rather affective and sad. Her next picture "Possessed"(1947) was actually slated for Bette Davis to play but Bette Davis was out on maternity leave. Joan stated that Possessed was the hardest and the best role she ever played in her lengthy career and it showed. Joan did a lot of research on mental patients at the time and really gave her all on this picture. She seemed more confident in the past in her pictures, maybe the Oscar gave her validation that she really could act. Joan received a lot of attention for this role and the picture was a huge hit. It also granted her a second Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for 1947. She did not win the award, losing to Loretta Young but many agree that was Joan at her best. Three hits in a row and two Oscar nods in the matter of three years, Joan was at the peak of her career and had proven that she was a bonifide actress. But how long could she maintain her popularity and success?


A true Diva with a cigarette in on hand and a drink in the other, Crawford in the movie "Humoresque."

"Daisy Kenyon"(1947) was Joan's next film costarring Henry Fonda. This was the first time they would work together and they hit it off rather well. The movie was a hit and continued Joan's success at Warner Bros. The same could not be said for her rival, Bette Davis, who was on a string of bad movies. It was also in 1947 that Joan adopted two more children, Cindy and Cathy, whom she called the "twins." "Flamingo Road"(1949) continued her string of hits at Warner Bros. The movie today is still very popular with the Crawford fans and was listed in the top 100 films of 1949. " It's a Great Feeling"(1949) was a Hollywood spoof that featured Joan as herself in her first colorized film. Joan had a long affair with the director of her next film, Vincent Sherman. Sherman a married man carried on an affair with Crawford for more than four years. "The Damned Don't Cry"(1950) was the first picture Sherman would direct her in out of a string of three consecutive movies. This movie was rather good and showcased Joan in a bunch of different roles, basically all of her past characters she had played. The movie is really quite amusing and fun to watch. "Harriet Craig"(1950) was a remake of the movie that was originally released in 1936 starring Rosalind Russell. This movie is said to be very close to the "real-life" Joan but many challenge that statement. Joan's next two films "Goodbye My Fancy"(1951) and " This Woman is Dangerous"(1952) would be the last two pictures made at Warner Bros. Once again the studio was trying to push Joan out of the studio. She was on a string of mediocre to bad movies and the last two were the nail in the coffin but this time Joan wanted to be released from her contract to be a free agent. Joan once again did not have a contract but Hollywood was changing and stars were becoming free agents and picking and choosing what movies they would make. Joan was on a new journey and again in need of another hit. She also wanted to marry Vincent Sherman but he was a married man and the relationship ended rather badly and Joan's drinking continued to escalate.


Joan Crawford at the end end of her Warner Bros. career.