Joan Crawford: Always the Star (TV Movie 1996) Poster

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Lucille LeSueur Faces Many Challenges on Road to Stardom
WeatherViolet3 April 2010
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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A fascinating look at the career of a legend
mountainkath8 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This profile of Joan Crawford's career is in depth and told by people that knew her. The public has been given a story that Crawford was, to put it bluntly, a total witch. The people interviewed for this program tell a different story.

Crawford's pre-Hollywood life is given a quick once over (that's all that's really needed) and the program really gets going once young Lucille LeSueur arrives in Hollywood.

Footage is used of her earliest screen appearances with emphasis on her song and dance number from The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and her many pictures with Clark Gable. One of my favorite features of this program is that Joan's actual voice is used during many segments. It's one thing to hear what she thought of the King of Hollywood and quite another to hear her say the words!

This documentary takes us through Crawford's Hollywood career and hits high points like The Women, Mildred Pierce and What Ever Happened To Baby Jane. Along the way we learn little snippets about her personal life (children and marriages). The portrait of the women is fleshed out by co-stars, costumers, directors and biographers.

Fans of Crawford will likely know most of the information in this program, but it's still a treat to hear for those who knew her and from Crawford herself.

I did learn two significant things from this program:

1. Crawford took in Franchot Tone (her third ex-husband) at the end of his life.

2. Crawford's daughter Cindy completely disputes her sister Christina's allegations about their mother.

I knew that people in Crawford's circle of friends did not believe the Mommie Dearest stories, but this was the first time I heard of another one of Crawford's children disagreeing with the contents of the book.

We will never know for sure if Christina's allegations are true, false, or somewhere in between. After hearing the memories of people featured in this documentary I suspect Crawford was not nearly the holy terror that we have been led to believe.
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Nice Look at Crawford
Michael_Elliott16 May 2013
Joan Crawford: Always the Star (1996)

*** (out of 4)

Nice, if all too short, documentary taking a look at the troubled early life of Joan Crawford who would rise to become one of the biggest stars in the world but then have her reputation ruined a year after her death. Cliff Robertson, Ben Cooper, Diane Baker and Vincent Sherman are just a few of the people who are interviewed about the actress and each of them have some pretty good stories to tell. It's pretty clear that Crawford had a very troubled childhood and this here probably helped her strong work ethics, which of course had her working in Hollywood for over fifty-years. It's rather interesting seeing how Crawford would change from one decade to the next and there's a good rundown of the type of characters she was playing in the silent era, the 30s Depression era and on through her career. We get a lot of behind-the-scenes talk from her most famous films including some rather creepy (or funny) stories from her working with Bette Davis on WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE. The Mommie Dearest book is discussed a bit and the majority of the people claim that they never saw any abuse. It should be noted that Sherman had given interviews saying he did witness the abuse but he's not asked about it in this documentary. With that said, at just 53-minutes this thing can't get into great detail about her career but fans should still enjoy hearing the stories.
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Always The Star.... And More
Dalbert Pringle1 January 2018
If you are secretly hoping that this bio-documentary (showcasing actress, Joan Crawford) will, indeed, reaffirm this woman's brutally notorious reputation as being "Mommie Dearest" (personified) - Then - I'm sorry, folks - You are in for a major let-down here.

'Cause - On the contrary - This highly-polished, well-researched presentation (from 1996) graciously bestows upon Crawford the "Good Mother/Actress/Citizen" Award of Approval.

Covering Joan's 50-year career as one of Hollywood's most enduring actresses of the 1940s & 50s - "Always The Star" pays respectful homage to Crawford whose tenacity, ambition, and determination firmly cemented her status as being one of Tinseltown's most beloved and admired stars of yesteryear.

Through stills, archival footage, and interviews with those who had worked around her - This celebrity-documentary (of only 54 minutes) reveals Crawford as being the consummate actress who reigned supreme during Hollywood's heyday.

*Note* - In 1977 - Joan Crawford (72 a the time) died of heart failure.
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