Born Lucille Fay LeSueur in San Antonio, Texas, she was the third child of Thomas E. LeSueur (1868-1938) and Anna Bell Johnson (1884-1958). Her older sister and brother were Daisy LeSueur, who died as a very young child, and Hal LeSueur, who was born September 3, 1902.
Her mother later married Henry J. Cassin (born 1873). The family lived in Lawton, Oklahoma, where Mr. Cassin ran a theater. The 1910 Comanche County, Oklahoma, Federal Census, enumerated on April 20, shows Henry and Anna Cassin living at 910 D Street in Lawton. Lucille is five years old.
Lucille preferred the nickname Billie, and she loved watching live acts perform. Her ambition was to be a dancer.
In about 1916, they moved to Kansas City, Missouri. Henry Cassin is first listed in the City Directory in 1917 and his residence is 403 East Ninth Street.
While still in elementary school, she was placed in St. Agnes Academy (a Catholic school in Kansas City). Later, after her mother and stepfather broke up, she stayed on at St. Agnes as a work student. She then went to Rockingham Academy as a work student. And in 1922 she registered at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where she attended for less than a year.
She began her career as a chorus line dancer under the name Billie Cassin, eventually making her way to New York City. In 1925, she signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer under the name Lucille LeSueur and went to Culver City, California.
Starting out in silent movies, she worked hard to ensure that her contract with the studio would be renewed. She was one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1926. A movie-magazine contest was the source of her well-known stage name. The female contestant who entered the name Joan Crawford was awarded $500.00.
Joan Crawford acted in numerous theatrical motion pictures over the course of her career, and she also worked in radio and television.
She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in Mildred Pierce in 1945, and was nominated for Possessed (1947) and Sudden Fear (1952).
In 1929, at the time she married her first husband, Joan bought a mansion at 426 North Bristol Avenue in Brentwood, midway between Beverly Hills and the Pacific Ocean, which was her primary residence for the next twenty-six years.
She had four husbands: actors Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (married June 3, 1929 in New York City, divorced 1933), Franchot Tone (married October 11, 1935 in New Jersey, divorced 1939), and Phillip Terry (married July 21, 1942 at Hidden Valley Ranch in Ventura County, California, divorced 1946); and Pepsi-Cola president Alfred N. Steele (married May 10, 1955 in Las Vegas, Nevada).
Joan moved to a lavish apartment in New York City with her last husband, Alfred Steele. He died there on April 6, 1959, leaving her a widow. She then sold her Brentwood mansion and stayed on in New York.
Besides her work as an actress, from 1955 to 1973 Joan Crawford was a publicity executive for Pepsi-Cola and traveled extensively for the company. Two days after the death of Alfred Steele, she was elected to fill his vacancy on the board of directors.
She was the recipient of the Sixth Annual Pally Award, which was awarded to the employee making the most significant contribution to company sales. It was in the shape of a bronze Pepsi bottle. She proudly kept her Pally next to her Oscar for Mildred Pierce.
Joan Crawford died in New York City of a heart attack while apparently ill with cancer. In her will, she gave the two youngest of her adopted children, Cindy and Cathy, $77,500.00 each. But she explicitly disinherited the eldest two, Christina and Christopher, with the phrase ...for reasons which should be well known to them.
She was cremated and her ashes buried with her last husband, Alfred Steele, in Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York.
After her death, an expose written by the eldest of Crawford's four children, Christina Crawford, was published. It was then made into a movie of the same title. For more indepth detail, see: Mommie Dearest.
Joan Crawford's hand and foot prints are immortalized in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, and she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 Vine Street.
Joan Crawford Facts
|Lucille Fay LeSueur
|March 23, 1904
|San Antonio, Texas, USA
|Date of death
|May 10, 1977 (age 73)
|5' 4" (1m63) How tall is Joan Crawford compared to you?
|1970 Golden Globe Awards: Cecil B. DeMille Award
|1946 Academy Awards: Best Actress (for Mildred Pierce)
|What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
|What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 50th Anniversary
|And Baby Makes Two
|Night Gallery: The Complete Collection