Joan Crawford (born Lucille Fay LeSueur; March 23,190? – May 10, 1977) was an American film and television actress who began her career as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies before debuting as a chorus girl on Broadway.
Crawford then signed a motion picture contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925; her career spanned six decades and fifty-five years, multiple studios, and controversies.
At different stages of her career, she was noted for her diverse roles playing sympathetic and unsympathetic characters, and for realistic yet mutli-layered performances.
Her films ranged in genres from contemporary crime, melodramas, film noir, several historical costume dramas, romances, mysteries, musicals, suspense, horror, to three westerns and over a dozen comedies.
Regardless, her greater successes and perhaps most memorable performances were in romantic dramas and melodramas.
In 1999, The American Film Institute ranked Crawford tenth on its list of the greatest female stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema.
In the 1930s, Crawford's fame rivaled and later surpassed that of MGM colleagues Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo.
Though she started portraying flappers, Crawford often played wealthy women in distress (Dance, Fools, Dance, This Modern Age, Letty Lynton, No More Ladies, I Live My Life, Susan and God) or hard-working young women who found romance and success (Our Dancing Daughters, Paid, Laughing Sinners , Dancing Lady, Sadie McKee, The Last of Mrs.
Cheyney, The Shining Hour, The Bride Wore Red, Mannequin).
These characters and stories were well received by Depression-era audiences, and were popular with women.
Crawford became one of Hollywood's more prominent movie stars, and one of the higher-paid women in the United States.
In 1945, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in Mildred Pierce, and received Best Actress nominations for Possessed (1947) and Sudden Fear (1952).
Crawford continued to act in film and television throughout the 1950s and 1960s; she returned to box office success and critical acclaim with horror film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), in which she starred alongside her long-time rival Bette Davis.In 1955, Crawford became involved with the Pepsi-Cola Company through her marriage to company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alfred Steele.
In 1970 Crawford made her last theatrical film, and until a few weeks before her death, she continued to tape numerous regular radio spots and announcements for a variety of not-for-profit causes.
Following a public appearance in 1974, she withdrew from events which required her to be photographed, becoming increasingly reclusive until her death in 1977.
Although she did appear in 1975 to host the 30th anniversary of Mildred Pierce.
Crawford married four times.
Her first three marriages ended in divorce; the last ended with the death of husband Alfred Steele.
She adopted five children, one of whom was reclaimed.
Crawford's relationships with her two elder children, Christina and Christopher, were acrimonious.
After Crawford's death, Christina released a well-known, but controversial, "tell-all" memoir, Mommie Dearest (1978).