If I can’t be me, I don’t want to be anybody. I was born that way
As the TV series Feud reminded us, Joan Crawford (played in the TV drama by Jessica Lange), enjoyed years of bitter rivalry with fellow screen legend Bette Davis.
The feud was very real: “The best time I ever had with Joan Crawford was when I pushed her down the stairs in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" Bette once said.
Joan, born Lucille Fay LeSueur, gave as good as she got, sweetly reflecting on Bette: “I don’t hate [her] even though the press wants me to.
“I resent her. I don't see how she built a career out of a set of mannerisms instead of real acting ability. Take away the pop eyes, the cigarette, and those funny clipped words, and what have you got? she’s phony, but I guess the public really likes that.”
Fascinating as their rivalry undoubtedly was, alongside daughter Christina’s shock memoir and the later film based on it, Mommie Dearest, it shouldn’t overshadow Joan’s genuinely impressive Hollywood career.
When Joan won the Best Actress Oscar for Mildred Pierce in 1945, it represented a major comeback for the actress who had first achieved stardom in the silent films of the 1920s, after surviving a difficult, unstable childhood.
Although still only in her fifties when she filmed Baby Jane, Joan’s career had been fading when the movie made them huge stars all over again. The well publicised rivalry between the two actresses undeniably added fire to the film about two warring sisters, whose years of stardom were fading into the past.
The American Film Institute ranks Joan among the top 10 stars of classic American cinema of all time; an enduring icon of the era of Hollywood glamour.
As Joan herself 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.”