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Why Joan Crawford Has Adopted a Baby

This mother-for-a-day to so many youngsters now has one of her own -
and for a very heart-warming reason

by Ruth Waterbury
Originally appeared in Movie Mirror, September 1940

I have the honor to announce that I am among the lucky few who have met the very young and very new Miss Christina Crawford.

Not, I must hastily - and regretfully - confess, that I have met Christina in the flesh. But we have talked, by way of the long distance phone. At least her excessively fond mother says we talked. I said, "Hello, there," to which Christina replied, "Glub," or "Goo," or the usual snappy dialogue that very young babies go in for.

Searching for a proper retort to that, I told Christina she was certainly starting her life as a movie star's daughter quite in the star-spangled manner, calling up an unknown friend over the three thousand odd miles between New York and Hollywood at seven-thirty in the morning.

Miss Joan Crawford then horned in on the conversation, saying I should be proud to be waked up by anything so cute. Quick like a trigger, I asked, "Well, can I tell the world about Christina, now?" I was sure that at such a time Joan would be too sentimental to resist any request. And she was.

So here is the real story on how a very small girl in an orphanage and a very important, but heart-hungry movie star came into each other's lives.

To give you the whole plot I'll have to cut back into the past.

Christina came into Joan's life in person along about last March and officially became hers this June, but the thought of her - or someone like her - has been in Joan's mind and heart ever since the days when she was first married to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

Admittedly, the thought of a child - real or adopted - was only lightly in Joan's mind then. She was very happy and very giddy and her career was zooming. She and Douglas lived so vividly in the present that they didn't stop to ponder the future until it was too late to think much about it - together. For, strangely, a courtship that had been so exciting and romantic, did not work itself out into a marriage that was either. Its very drama forbade those moments of exquisite quietude that turn the thoughts of love toward parenthood.

I have always been convinced that Joan expected serenity and contentment to mark her marriage to Franchot Tone. Since Joan herself has persistently refrained from stating any of the reasons for the failure of that marriage, it is not my place to give out with my opinions on the subject (though, if you care, I most certainly have them). Suffice it to say, that she was unhappy and so was Franchot.

No studio likes to have a glamour girl become a mother, so she was being high-pressured there against maternity. But try as she would, Joan couldn't quite subdue her loneliness for children. She began to think over the score of the past. When she had married Doug, Jr., she had been so young that babies seemed far in the future. Then there was an all-important career to bridge the gap to her second marriage. But with the break-up of that union Joan began to consider soberly what she might be giving to or getting from life that would be with her in the years to come. Not even the call of her career at its most crucial moment, when she was literally fighting for her life as a future star, could smother the overpowering maternal yearning.

Again and again during the latter days of her marriage to Franchot, and almost daily after her divorce, she would gather the youngsters of her friends and neighbors about her. She'd jumble up her chauffeurs' babies and Sally Blaine Foster's cute daughter, and her niece, little Joan LeSueur, and her hairdresser's son, and Barbara Stanwyck's Dion and whatever other babies she could corral into excited parties at her Brentwood house, parties which included everything from riotous splashing in the Crawford pool to Punch and Judy shows in the Crawford little theater. A very fine time was always had by all, including the hostess.

The baby parties and Joan's long visits from little Joan LeSueur, whom big Joan never considered adopting because she would not even think of taking the child from her pretty mother, Kasha, were all good so far as they went; but they simply didn't go far enough for a lady who is always at the boiling point about everything.

Thus those of us who knew Joan best began hearing nothing from her last summer but adoption, adoption and adoption. Let Joan tell it and she was approaching the problem of foster-motherhood with the cold, steely detachment of pure intelligence. But we all knew she'd adopt emotionally in the end, acting as she does about everything with that flaming feeling and complete immediate sincerity which makes her so much a personality that all the ads in Christendom about her being "box-office poison" couldn't stop her from doing a "Susan and God" and skyrocketing right back to the top again.

Joan talked solemnly about eugenics, paternal influences, heredity and such, she kept insisting, as she visited orphanage after orphanage and adoption home after adoption home, that she was looking for "her" baby. Last summer "her" baby still had no sex or coloring. It might turn out to be a brunette girl or a blonde boy. It was simply, argued Joan, the icy intellectual about children, that when she saw "her" baby she would recognize it.

Which, of course, being Crawford, was exactly how it worked out. Back in New York for a week between pictures, Joan first saw Christina. "I knew she was 'my' baby right away," Joan told me. "I took one look at her. She looked right back at me and I knew she was the one."

It then became necessary to check up on Christina's parentage, and get all the legal details straightened out and the rest of it. Joan shuttled back and forth between New York and Hollywood frantically while this was going on, for "Susan" was shooting. This made her appear, perforce, mysterious, while the columns went into tailspins, shouting that she must be going to remarry Franchot, than which no rumor could be sillier. But finally came the day in June when Christina became her exclusive property and when Joan could, accordingly, safely talk about her.

Where Joan got the name Christina, she says she doesn't know. It's not the name of any relative or friend. She considered dozens of names but she liked the combination of Christina and Crawford together and she still further insists that when she said them to the baby, the mite smiled and that cinched it.

For your information, Christina is fair and is right now pleasingly plump. Her new mother says she doesn't particularly care whether she grows up to be a beauty or not. She does care terribly, though, about her being a good, intelligent person, Joan even going so far as to use that almost-lost word in today's dark world: the soul. Joan says, straight out, that she wants her daughter to have a beautiful soul. Accordingly, she has every intention of sending Christina at the earliest possible moment to both church and Sunday school. Also, just as early as she can understand it, she will tell her that she is adopted. She doesn't want any little children at school cruelly informing Christina of a fact that is actually a proof of love.

When it comes to her growing up, Joan is determined to let Christina discover her own talent. If she wants to be an actress, that's okay, except that Joan wouldn't let her be a child actress. If she shows musical talent - and Joan does hope that she will - she'll get musical training, and if she turns out to be a dancer, she'll get dancing lessons. But she will not be forced in any way. Her glamorous mother feels that too many children suffer for the ambitions of their parents and she wants none of that, any more than she wants to do any "living through" Christina or having Christina "live through" her.

As for Christina's getting any swelled head over having a movie star mother and living in a wealthy home, Joan says there will be nothing of the sort. Christina is going to be made to "mind" and also to earn what she gets. Joan even insists that Christina will have to learn to wash and dry dishes and make her own bed and pick up her own clothes and look after her toys and her pets. Such chores, well performed, will mean spending money and shirked will mean personal poverty.

All that, of course, is looking well into the uncertain future, a future that may include Christina's getting a brother or even a sister, though her new parent says that she does not think about that now, fearing that there may be refugee children in this country, all too soon; tiny, innocent victims of war, who will need to be cared for. If there are, then she will most certainly open, not only her home, but her arms to them.

"With all this hate in the world today, those of us with love left must spread it as far as we can," said Joan.

Her own actions are eloquent proof of this conviction. For she devoted the precious weeks of her vacation in a New York apartment to working frantically for refugee children in France. As an ardent supporter of the International Committee for Refugees in France, operating under the Committee of Mercy - and their most dynamic worker, I'll guarantee! - Joan has been interviewing the heads of department stores, asking for remnants of material, yarn and knitting needles.

Also, she has rounded up a disinfectant car, so desperately needed in stricken France. These cars are medical units on wheels, fully equipped to perform operations within the car, take care of the sick and control the inevitable epidemic conditions which come as pall bearers to war-ravaged communities.

"The desperate need at present for the children," Joan said, "is milk - dried milk, tons and tons of it. Already we have sent twenty tons, but we must have at least five hundred tons if starving little French babies are to be kept alive. Come on, America, here is something we CAN do!"

You might think all this would dim for Joan the joyous glow of having Christina. On the contrary, it is Joan's love for her tiny daughter which she is sharing with the suffering children of France.

I felt a little humble as the transcontinental call came to an end. Surely, the long association of Joan and Christina is having a brave and beautiful start.


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