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Joan Crawford: Always the Star (1996)

This glamorous and hugely popular actress raised herself from brutal poverty to Academy Award-winning stardom by guts, determination and hard work. During her fifty-year career, she made ... See full summary »


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Credited cast:
Herself (archive footage)


This glamorous and hugely popular actress raised herself from brutal poverty to Academy Award-winning stardom by guts, determination and hard work. During her fifty-year career, she made over eighty films. But her obsessive perfectionism led to the later caricature of coat-hanger-wielding harridan that even the adoration of fans could not counter. Still, she has endured as one of the most popular icons of the movies, an early role model to a million young women who aspired to her image of stylish magnetic power and unquestioned independence. She was born Lucille LeSueur on March 23, 1904 (or 1906) in San Antonio, Texas. Her father soon disappeared and she took the name of her stepfather, calling herself Billie Cassin. When Cassin, too, vanished, Billie did menial work to help her mother and brother survive. Ill-paid sales jobs bought dancing lessons and the clothes she needed to enter amateur contests. Then came a night-club contract as chorus girl - $25-a-week and eight routines a ... Written by Janson Media

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Release Date:

30 September 1996 (USA)  »

Box Office


$500,000 (estimated)

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Did You Know?


Joan Crawford: I never went beyond the 6th grade - that's one of my hang-ups.
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User Reviews

Lucille LeSueur Faces Many Challenges on Road to Stardom
3 April 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Peter Graves narrates this account of the life and career of Lucille Fay LeSueur, a Texas native who arrives in Hollywood during the latter part of the Silent Film Era, and makes a successful transition to Talkies when she becomes film star Joan Crawford.

The first reviewer captures the essence of Joan's Biography very nicely, so I'll just add a little more detail from the episode....

Upon her arrival in Hollywood, Joan trains in acting, singing and dancing, as she spends many hours in the ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel, upon deciding that dancing marks her foremost talent.

Here, she is discovered by MGM talent scouts, and signed on to various minor roles in film, but does her very best to become noticed.

As the story goes, "Everybody who's anybody" in Hollywood is received at Pickfair, the estate of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and so her marriage to Douglas Jr. introduces Joan to "Hollywood royalty."

Joan promotes herself well and designs her very own facial appearance, by applying her own make-up. She makes the successful transition to Sound with the film "Untamed" (1929), co-starring Robert Montgomery, and from there begins a series of primarily sympathetic working-class roles, as shoppe-girls and secretaries.

In a career spanning some fifty years, Joan eventually overcomes her insecurities, to deliver many fine performances in many memorable films despite having to overcome many odds working against her.

This discusses the eldest daughter's portrayal of Joan in her tell-tale book as an elaborate hoax with no basis in reality, "a dreary and vicious attack," says Bob Thomas, as well as many others close to Joan Crawford, who verify that she was loving and caring, including Ann Blyth, Marlene Dietrich, Myrna Loy, Elva Martien, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Herbert Kenwith, Cesar Romero, Vincent Sherman, John Springer, Van Johnson, and Miss Crawford's other daughters, Cindy and Cathy.

This doesn't mention Joan's annulled marriage with James Welton (1923–1924), but her other four, with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (1929–1933), Franchot Tone (1935–1939), Phillip Terry (1942–1946), and Alfred Steele (1955–1959), and her adoptive children, Christina, Christopher, Cathy and Cindy.

Cathy Jordan speaks of Joan as, "A fine lady with two fine careers, a very caring and loving mother, who never lost her cool," Diane Baker as, "One who said always to look your best because you never knew whom you would encounter," Cliff Robertson as, "Very direct, well-organized and a great actress," Vincent Sherman as, "One who left audiences in awe, but she was never in awe of herself," and Tom Toth as, "A great actress and entertainer, never slumming through a performance, but showing perfection in her every scene."

Interview Guests for this episode consist of Daughter Cathy Jordan, Costumer Elva Martien, Actress Diane Baker, Actors Ben Cooper and Cliff Robertson, Directors Herbert Kenwith and Vincent Sherman, Publisher John Springer, Film Historian Tom Toth, and Biographer Bob Thomas.

Archive footage includes a Joan Crawford interview, as well as film clips featuring Joan and Co-stars Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Norma Shearer, Ann Blyth, Bette Davis, Walter Huston, Clark Gable, Franchot Tone, John Garfield, Jack Palance and others in speaking parts, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and others in non-speaking parts.

Film Clips include a screen glimpse of Joan through the years, in scenes from "The Hollywood Revue of 1929" (1929), "Grand Hotel" (1932), "Rain" (1932), "Dancing Lady" (1933), "The Women" (1939), "Strange Cargo" (1940), "A Woman's Face" (1941), "Mildred Pierce" (1945), "Humoresque" (1946), "Sudden Fear" (1952), "Autumn Leaves" (1956), and "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" (1962).

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