Thursday, July 8, 2010

Joan Crawford: In The Beginning :

Joan Crawford, went by the the nickname "Billie" as a child and she loved watching vaudeville acts perform on the stage of her stepfather's theater. Joan life long dream was to become a dancer. Unfortunately, while playing she jumped from the front porch of her home and cut her foot on a broken milk bottle. Crawford had three operations and was unable to attend elementary school for a year and a half. She eventually fully recovered and returned to dancing.

Around 1916, Crawford went to Rockingham Academy as a work student. While there she began dating trumpet player Ray Sterling. It was Sterling who inspired her to begin challenging herself academically, and in 1922, Crawford registered at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. Crawford attended Stephens for less than a year, as she recognized that she was not academically ready for college.

Joan Crawford, began dancing in the choruses of traveling revues in 1928 and was spotted dancing in Detroit by producer Jacob J. Shubert. Shubert put her in the chorus line for his 1924 show Innocent Eyes at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway in New York City. Where Crawford met a saxophone player named James Welton. The two were married in 1924 and the couple lived together for several months. She wanted additional work and approached Loews Theaters publicist Nils Granlund. Granlund secured a position for her with producer Harry Richmond's act and arranged for her to do a screen test which he sent to producer Harry Rapf in Hollywood. Rapf notified Granlund on December 24, 1924 that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had offered Crawford a contract at $75 a week. Granlund immediately wired LeSueur who had returned to her mother's home in Kansas City with the news. The night after Christmas she left Kansas City and arrived in Culver City, California.

As Lucille LeSueur, her first film was Pretty Ladies (1925).
A silent comedy-drama film starring ZaSu Pitts. The film is a fictional recreation of the famed Ziegfeld Follies. Directed by Monta Bell, the film was written by Alice D.G. Miller and featured intertitles written by Joseph Farnham. The film is about Maggie a Broadway dancing comedienne who's husband leaves her for one of the show's beauties, and who longs for the life of other chorus girls but eventually finds love by being herself.

Also in 1925 she performed in a small role in Silent movie: The Only Thing, a costume drama written by Elinor Glyn. The movie is about: Harry Vane, the Duke of Chevenix, travels from England to the mythical kingdom of Chekia, where he falls in love with Princess Thyra. Thrya, is duty-bound to marry the king, even though he is old and ugly. When she refuses Vane, he is determined to win her anyway, even after her wedding. A revolution rises in Chekia and the king is assassinated. Revolutionary leader Gigberto then carries Thyra away. When the people jail Gigberto, Vane disguises himself as the rebel so that he and Thyra will be tied together. The two of them are thrown into the bay, Vane frees himself and rescues Thyra. They escape to his yacht and she confesses her love for him.

Also Joan performed in the Silent Film: Old Clothes (1925). Starring Jackie Coogan and Joan Crawford. This was the first film in which Crawford was credited with her new name, Joan Crawford.

The movie is about, Tim Kelly and Max Ginsberg, who have struck it rich by investing in copper stock. But when the stock takes a dive, they are ready to call it quits and go back into being junk dealers. They take in the destitute Mary Riley as a boarder and she hits it off so well with them that she winds up becoming a partner in their rag & junk company. Mary falls in love with a man named Nathan Burke, the son of wealthy parents. Nathan's mother, disapproves of Mary. Eventually they find out that Mrs. Burke, also came from a poor background. and decides to give the couple her blessings. The copper stock recovers and Kelly and Ginsberg are back in the money.

MGM publicity head Pete Smith recognized her ability but felt that her name sounded fake; it also, he told studio head Louis B. Mayer, sounded like "Le Sewer". Smith organized a contest with the fan magazine Movie Weekly to allow readers to select her new name. Initially the name "Joan Arden" was selected but, when another actress had claim to that name, "Crawford" became the choice. Crawford wanted her new first name to be pronounced "Jo-anne". She hated the name Crawford, saying it sounded like "crawfish". Her friend, actor William Haines, said: "They might have called you 'Cranberry' and served you every Thanksgiving with the turkey!" Crawford continued to dislike the name throughout her life but, she said, "liked the security that went with it".

1 comment:

  1. Like you Dawn, it's hard imagining Joan singing and dancing. I'm used to her melodramas. But I'm starting to see her in a new light. And by god, she was gorgeous in these early days. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post.