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Joan Crawford was born Lucille LeSueur in San Antonio, Texas in 1905 (later, she would claim she was born in 1908). Her father left her mother before she was born, and her mother re-married while she was a toddler, and for a while she grew up thinking that man was her father. Her mother divorced and re-married yet again before she was 16, moving to Kansas City. Lucille (now called Billie Cassin) started dancing as a chorus girl in Chicago, Detroit and New York City. In 1925, she went to Hollywood, and after her first movie, Pretty Ladies (where she was billed as Lucille Le Sueur), a movie magazine held a contest to pick her new name and the winning entry was Joan Crawford. Crawford had more determination to be a star than any other actress, before or since. One of her early major roles was as the love interest in Harry Langdon's Tramp, Tramp, Tramp in 1926, and by 1928 she had appeared in 24 movies, some small parts and some important ones. In 1928, she had the starring role in Our Dancing Daughters, and that made her a major star. In 1931, she made Laughing Sinners with up and coming star Clark Gable, which led to a series of movies they co-starred in (they also had a years long affair!). Throughout the 1930s, Crawford was one of MGM's top stars, in films like Grand Hotel, Rain, and The Women, plus a slew of romantic melodramas. She had a quickie marriage in 1923, and in 1929 she married Douglas Fairbanks Jr., which lasted until 1933, and in 1935 she married Franchot Tone, which lasted until 1939. In 1940, while unmarried, she adopted a daughter, Christina. In 1942, she married Phillip Terry, and together they adopted a boy, but their marriage only lasted until 1946. In 1943, after 18 years, MGM and Joan parted ways, by mutual consent. But Joan was not willing to fade from the limelight, and she made several very memorable movies with Warner Bros, including Mildred Pierce (winner of the Best Actress Academy Award for this film), Humoresque, Possessed (nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for this film), Sudden Fear (nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for this film), and Flamingo Road. My very favorite movie of hers is the bizarre 1954 Nicholas Ray western, Johnny Guitar (if you have not seen it, I highly recommend it!). By 1956, however, her career was finally winding down, and she married Alfred Steele, President and CEO of the Pepsi-Cola Company. This might have worked out well for her, but he passed away in 1959, and Joan stayed on the Board of Directors of Pepsi until her forced retirement in 1973. In the 1960s, Joan, still not willing to "fade away" appeared in a series of increasingly low budget horror movies, the best of which was What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? with Bette Davis, with whom Joan had had a bitter feud for years in the 1930s and 1940s. Joan passed away in 1977 at the age of 71. It is easy to remember the crazy lady she clearly was (see Mommie Dearest, based on the bitter tell-all book by her adoptive daughter, Christina), but it is also important to recognize that she had an amazing talent, and that her own remarkable perseverance kept her a major star for over three decades
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