Conversations with Classic Film Stars: about Joan Crawford – Exclusive Post by Authors James Bawden and Ron Miller

 CMH is thrilled to share the first in a special four-part series by James Bawden and Ron Miller, authors of “Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood’s Golden Age”… And don’t forget, you can enter to win a copy of the book this month on the CMH Blog courtesy of University Press of Kentucky.  Hope you enjoy the series!


What Legendary Movie Stars Said about Each Other
Part One of a Four-Part Series

Most movie fans who love the classic films of Hollywood’s “golden age,” probably have a pretty good idea what film scholars and movie critics think of the great stars of that era because their printed opinions have been circulating for generations.

But what did their fellow actors—the ones who actually worked with them—think of such luminaries as Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe, and Bing Crosby?

Conversations with Classic Film Stars

In our new book, Conversations with Classic Film Stars, James Bawden and I collect our in-person one on one interviews with 34 great film stars from the 1920s through the 1950s—and you may be surprised by how candidly some of them talked about the actors mentioned above—and a great many more.

For instance, many of us probably have been deeply influenced in our opinions of Joan Crawford by Mommie Dearest, the scathing best-selling memoir by her daughter, Christina Crawford, and the subsequent movie version, which portrayed Joan as a mean-spirited tyrant who mistreated her children for years.

Fay Wray, the King Kong star, gave some credence to that image of Crawford in her interview from our book. Though Wray remembered that Crawford wrote her a nice welcoming note when she joined the supporting cast of Crawford’s Queen Bee [1955], she also remembered that Crawford liked to choose a younger cast member to berate on every picture and, on that film, picked the film’s ingénue, starlet Lucy Marlowe.

Joan CrawfordJoan Crawford

“When she had to slap pretty little Lucy Marlowe, she did so with such fury it could be heard all over the sound stage,” said Wray.

Melvyn Douglas, who co-starred with Crawford in The Gorgeous Hussy [1936], was amazed at the entourage of “servants, hairdressers, maids, personal assistants, even her chauffeur” that Crawford brought to the set with her. As a prank, Douglas arranged to bring in his own crowd of “helpers” one day. Crawford got the joke, all right, and wasn’t too happy about it.

“Joan was not amused,” said Douglas. “and I got chewed out by director Clarence Brown, who told me he was having enough problems with Joan before this calumny.”

Joan Crawford and Bette Davis What Ever Happened to Baby JaneJoan Crawford and Bette Davis What Ever Happened to Baby Jane

In her interview, actress Anna Lee also confirmed the rumors that Crawford played dirty tricks on co-star Bette Davis while the three of them were working on Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? [1962].

“I could feel all those evil vibes slipping through the doors,” said Lee. “It is true Joan weighed herself down with jockey weights when Bette had to drag her across the floor.”

But Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who was Crawford’s first husband as well as her co-star in films, gave some valuable insight into Crawford’s character that may help explain some of the dark turns her moods often took in later life.

“She came from the poorest circumstances,” Fairbanks Jr. said, “Joan was terribly competitive. She never knew her father. She washed tables at the boarding school where her mother worked. Later, she was a taxi dancer and danced with escorts for 10 cents.”

Joan Crawford and Douglas FairbanksJoan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

That very difficult early life may have toughened Crawford in many ways, but Fairbanks said even her success in the early years of her career in the late 1920s, when they both were working in silent movies, didn’t take away her feelings of insecurity.

“She was petrified of crowds,” Fairbanks said. “At premieres she’d be sweating right through her dresses. She assumed with talkies she’d disappear just as [Clara] Bow faded fast. She was all career. On our honeymoon, I took her to Europe and she hated every minute of it except when we’d head for the local MGM distribution office where she could do some publicity.”


This is Part One of a four-part series…

–James Bawden and Ron Miller for Classic Movie Hub

Retired journalists James Bawden and Ron Miller are the authors of Conversations with Classic Film Starsan astonishing collection of rare interviews with the greatest celebrities of Hollywood’s golden age. Conducted over the course of more than fifty years, they recount intimate conversations with some of the most famous leading men and women of the era, including Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joseph Cotten, Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson, Joan Fontaine, Loretta Young, Kirk Douglas, and many more.

You can purchase the book on amazon by clicking here:

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One Response to Conversations with Classic Film Stars: about Joan Crawford – Exclusive Post by Authors James Bawden and Ron Miller

  1. Thank you, I enjoy reading about the older stars. and their lives….

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