She dazzled audiences with her beauty and talent, but Joan Crawford had a hidden side that was far from glamorous. The star of ‘Mildred Pierce’ (1945) and ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?’ (1962) faced many scandals and controversies in her life and career, from her bitter feud with Bette Davis to her abusive parenting.
Here are some of the shocking revelations about the Hollywood icon:
- She was born as Lucille Fay LeSueur in San Antonio, Texas, to a poor and troubled family. She changed her name to Joan Crawford after winning a magazine contest, as she thought her original name sounded too much like “sewer”.
- She had a long-standing rivalry with Bette Davis, who co-starred with her in ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?’. The two actresses hated each other and often fought on and off the screen. Crawford even campaigned against Davis for the Oscar, which went to Anne Bancroft instead.
- She married four times and had numerous affairs with both men and women. Some of her lovers included Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, and John F. Kennedy. She once said: “Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.”
- She adopted four children, but was accused of being a cruel and alcoholic mother by her eldest daughter Christina. Christina wrote a memoir called ‘Mommie Dearest’ (1978), which exposed Crawford’s abusive and erratic behavior towards her children. Crawford denied the claims and said: “Damn it… I’ve given them everything I’ve got. They’re not children anymore – they’re ingrates.”
- She suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder and had a fear of dirt and germs. She would wash her hands until they bled and clean her house obsessively. She also had a phobia of wire hangers and would throw them away if she found them in her closet.
- She died of a heart attack in 1977 at the age of 73. She left most of her estate to charity, but cut off Christina and her brother Christopher from her will, saying: “It is my intention to make no provision herein for my son Christopher or my daughter Christina for reasons which are well known to them.”
Joan Crawford was a complex and controversial woman who left a lasting mark on Hollywood history. She once said: “I never go out unless I look like Joan Crawford the movie star. If you want to see the girl next door, go next door.”