The Best of Everything
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All original Encyclopedia text, from A to Z, is copyright © 2004 - 2012 by Stephanie Jones.
The Best of S
Salamunich • Salaries
Irene, and Mary • Samuel
Goldwyn Theater • San
Sadie McKee. MGM, 1934. Directed by Clarence Brown, 88 minutes. Joan stars as Sadie-the-maid in her third film with husband-to-be Franchot Tone. Tone plays the rich son in the house she grew up working in and the friend of later Sadie Sugar Daddy Edward Arnold. Gene Raymond co-stars as the n'er-do-well Sadie runs off to the Big City with. (Trivia: A clip from this film is shown in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? as Joan's character Blanche watches one of her old movies on TV.) Says Joan in CWJC: Everything about "Sadie McKee" was right--Gene Raymond, Franchot Tone, the script, Clarence Brown's direction, Adrian's costumes, the works.
Salamunich, Yucca. Yugoslavian artist who sculpted the bust of Joan that appears in the '64 movie Strait-Jacket. The sculpture was originally presented to Joan on the set of A Woman's Face in 1941 and bears the dedication "To Christina." (In Strait-Jacket, the plot had the insane, jealous daughter sculpting the bust. Ahem.)
Go to the Art page to see 1941 and 1964 shots of Joan with the bust.
Salaries of Joan. (NOTE: Post MGM the record becomes spotty since other film and television companies have not always provided records of salary info.) To convert salaries from a year to today's money, click on this government "inflation calculator" link.
1923: $12 per week wrapping packages at the Wolff Clothing Store; $13 per week at Rothschild's department store; $15 per week selling women's wear at Emery, Bird, Thayer (all in Kansas City); $20 per week as chorus girl in Katherine Emerine's Springfield, Missouri, show. (JCB)
1925: 7-year contract. 1st 6-month option: $75 per week. Option picked up at $100 per week.
1927: $500 per week for first half-year, $400 for rest of year.
1928: $1000 per week, raised to $1500 per week after the Our Dancing Daughters fall release.
1931 (April 7): Received $10,000 bonus, plus contract of $3000 per week, with four options of one year each, rising by $500 per week until she was to reach $5000 per week in 1936.
1934 (Dec. 10): 3-year contract. $7500 per week for 44 weeks of first year; $8500 the second year; $9500 the third. $50,000 bonus if she exceeded 9 films in the three years.
1936: According to the US Treasury Dept., Joan earned $302,307. (Thanks to Norman for the 1936 and 1937 info.)
1937: In an Associated Press article published in the NYTimes 4/7/38, Joan earned $351,358, and was #14 on a list of only 17 Americans who earned more than $300,000 this year. The complete list:
1) Louis B. Mayer, movie executive: $1,296,503
2) J. Robert Rubin, movie executive: 754,254
3) N. M. Schenck, movie executive: 541,602
4) William Randolph Hearst, publisher: 500,000
5) Fredric March, movie actor: 484,687
6) Greta Garbo, movie actress: 472,602
7) Major Edward Bowes, radio entertainer: 427,817
8) Thomas J. Watson, president of International Business Machines Corp.: 419,398
9) E.G. Grace, president of Bethlehem Steel Corp.: 394,586
10) David Bernstein, movie executive: 382,816
11) George W. Hill, president of American Tobacco Co.: 380,976
12) Marlene Dietrich, movie actress: 370,000
13) A.M. Loew, movie executive: 356,074
14) Joan Crawford, movie actress: 351,538
15) F.B. Davis, president of US Rubber Products, Inc.: 322,999
16) Spyros P. Skouras, president of National Theatres Amusement Co.: 320,054
17) David C. [sic] Selznick, movie executive: 303,500
1938: $330,000 per year for five years and 10 weeks. For work in excess of 40 weeks per year, $8250 per week. (US)
1942: Columbia paid her $330,000 on loan-out from MGM for They All Kissed the Bride. (IMDb)
1943 (June 29): Joan paid MGM $100,000 to terminate her contract. (US)
1943: Two days after leaving the MGM payroll, Joan signed with Warners for a 3-picture $500,000 deal, on a weekly salary. She had herself taken off salary when Warners at first couldn't find a suitable picture. (JCB)
1952: Joan got out of her Warners contract and signed up for RKO's Sudden Fear, with the choice of either a $200,000 salary or 40% of the film's profits. She chose the 40%, which earned her more money. (JCB)
1953: Signed 2-picture deal with MGM for $125,000 each. (Contract lapsed in Oct. '54, so no 2nd film after Torch Song was made.) (JCB) Amount was paid in 83 installments for tax purposes. (IMDb)
1957: Received $200,000 from Columbia for Esther Costello. (IMDb)
1959: Began receiving $60,000 a year from Pepsi-Cola, as a non-executive director, which continued as a lifetime pension, though in '73 the company retired her, cutting off her $40,000 yearly expense account and $12,000 yearly secretarial account. (JCB) Also in '59, she received $65,000 for The Best of Everything. (IMDb)
1962: Her Baby Jane deal gave her $30,000 plus 15% of producers' net (JCB says $40,000 and 10% of net), which earned her nearly $1 million.
1964: $50,000 and percentage of profits for Strait-Jacket. (JCB)
$50,000 for I Saw What You Did. (IMDb)
$7500 plus $2500 hostess fee for her 10/9/65 Hollywood Palace appearance.
1969: $50,000 for TV's Night Gallery. (JCB)
1970: $50,000 for Trog. (IMDb)
1972: $2500 for TV's "The Sixth Sense." (JCB)
Sally, Irene, and Mary. MGM silent, 1925. Directed by Edmund Goulding, 58 minutes. (Based on the 1922 Broadway play that ran for 313 performances and remade in 1938.) Joan plays "Irene," a Broadway showgirl in love with a cad, and co-stars with Sally O'Neil, Constance Bennett, and William Haines. Reportedly Bennett, the biggest star of the bunch, snubbed Joan, but O'Neil and, especially, Haines became close friends. (LW) It was her first of four films with Haines. Said Joan in CWJC:
I loved "Sally, Irene, and Mary"--it gave me a character I could lose myself in and a chance to work with two fine actresses, Constance Bennett and Sally O'Neil, and a very good director, Edmund Goulding. He taught me a lot, and so did the cameraman--I think his name was Arnold. John Arnold. Anyway, that picture told me I was doing the right thing, that I might just last.
Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Where Joan's Los Angeles memorial service was held in June 1977.
San Simeon. William Randolph Hearst's ranch/castle in the Santa Ynez mountains, 200 miles north of Los Angeles. A congregating place for Hollywood royalty (Hearst's consort was actress Marion Davies, a friend of Joan's from MGM). Joan was invited there on several occasions, first with friend William Haines, later with husband Doug Fairbanks, Jr.
Saratoga. Clark Gable film that Joan turned down, thus straining relations between them. Jean Harlow took over what would have been her role.
Scarritt Elementary School. Joan attended 3rd grade at this Kansas City school around 1916. See the Geography page for photo and more info.
Schaefer, A.L. "Whitey." Photographer. Shot Joan on the set of The Bride Wore Red in '42.
Schafer, Natalie. Appeared with Joan in '42's Reunion in France and '55's Female on the Beach. (Perhaps best known for her role as Lovey Howell in TV's Gilligan's Island.) Said Schafer re working with Joan on the "Reunion" set:
I think Joan was just about at the end of her rope. She wasn't brutal or offensive to me or to anyone else--just tightly wound. I think she knew her days were numbered at MGM..But she remained very professional in spite of all that. Whatever was going on in her mind, you might see glimmers of it in her expression, in her off-camera mood, but she was always about getting the work done, being a pro. She thought of her colleagues who were there to do a picture, fair or foul. (EB)
Schenck, Joe. Produced Joan's 1932 film Rain, personally asking his brother Nick, president of MGM and Loew's, to lend Joan's services to the United Artists film.
Schrebnick, Paul. MGM studio worker who often asked for a gardenia from Joan at the end of her workday. When he died in a traffic accident, Joan sent a blanket of gardenias spelling out "Paul" for his coffin. (JCB)
Sears, Heather. Plays the title role of an Irish deaf-mute girl in Joan's 1957 film The Story of Esther Costello. Joan found her a "delight" and a "reward" to work with. (EB)
Sebastian, Dorothy. (4/26/03 - 4/8/57) Co-stars with Joan in 4 films: Twelve Miles Out ('27), Our Dancing Daughters ('28), Our Blushing Brides ('28), Montana Moon ('30), plus has an uncredited role as a "Saleswoman" in '39's The Women. Joan's press agent Jerry Asher claimed the two had a sexual relationship. (EB)
Secret Storm, The. Christina won the role of "Joan Borman Kane" on this soap opera in 1968. When she fell ill in October of that year, Joan took over her role (that of a 28-year-old woman; Joan was around 64) for the week of October 21 - 25. According to MD, she appeared drunk onscreen, but the show's ratings soared that week and the event garnered much publicity. (LW) Joan later said of her appearance: "I did try a soap-opera sequence once...And I was so ashamed of myself I did cry all the way home." (CWJC) See the TV page for more info.
Selznick, David O. Producer of Joan's '33 film Dancing Lady and, later, Gone With the Wind; in 1936 Selznick had wired his agent re GWTW: "I believe I would buy it now for some such combination as Gable and Joan Crawford." (LW)
Selznick, Irene Mayer. (4/2/1907 - 10/10/1990) Daughter of Louis B. Mayer, wife of David O. Selznick (1930 - 49), and successful producer (Streetcar Named Desire, The Chalk Garden). In her 1983 autobiography, A Private View, she writes of meeting Joan:
Going to the wardrobe department for a fitting just happened to give us the opportunity of meeting a newcomer the very day she arrived on the lot. She was later named Joan Crawford. I thought she was preposterous – moon-faced, overweight, with frizzy hair, and she was wearing a tight black silk dress and an unfortunate pair of shiny black shoes, notable for the pompoms which adorned them. She caught on quickly and changed her style.
Joan tried harder than anyone else had ever tried. With increasing recognition, her determination became almost tangible. She blamed her overwhelming sense of rivalry on the preferred position Norma Shearer came to hold as Irving's wife, ignoring the fact that even Norma didn't always get the roles she wanted. She alsooverlooked the fact that Norma had been with the company since early Mission Road and had traveled a long way. The truth was that as the ever-growing group of MGM actresses reached stardom, each found the competition intense. Every one of them had come up through the ranks except Garbo; she began as a star.
Serling, Rod. See Night Gallery.
Seven Springs Press. Vanity press founded by Christina Crawford in 1998 to publish the 20th Anniversary Edition of Mommie Dearest. Want to write her? Seven Springs Press, 11150 Sanders Road, Tensed, Idaho, 83870. Phone: (208) 274-2470.
I find suggestion a hell of a lot more provocative than explicit detail. You didn't see Clark and Vivien rolling around in bed in GWTW, but you saw that shit-eating grin on her face the next morning and you knew damned well she'd gotten properly laid...In my fallen-woman roles...nobody saw me do the actual falling...but they knew I'd fallen, and when it happened again--well, they got the point, and maybe the pornography that went on inside their heads was better than the actual thing would have been on screen...
Censorship was a pain in the ass--when it was moral or political--but in the long run, considering what I see now, I think it served a purpose. Marlon Brando...Oh, what was the film [Last Tango in Paris, Joan]...anyway the nude scene. He's at least 40 pounds overweight, and I think the only sex appeal he has would be to a meat packer. That's art?
...the emphasis seems to be on the seamier side of real life, as though we should be more interested in what happened in the bathroom and the bedroom instead of living room, kitchen, and office. The perspective is crazy. If we think about our lives, and divide time into the portions spent on making a living, eating, talking, reading, being entertained by TV or movies or radio or theater or whatever, and having sex, I think we'd find sex coming out on the short end of the stick. Unless you're a whore it doesn't give you the wherewithal to survive...
...good God, isn't it more fun doing it or imagining it than watching it?... I know I sound like some sort of old Puritan, but I still think back to GWTW, and that morning scene with Scarlett O'Hara. It was a hell of a lot more sexually stimulating than a glimpse of fat Marlon Brando. (And butter, yet; I hope it was unsalted.)
Shearer, Norma. (8/10/1902 - 6/12/1983) Married to MGM production head Irving Thalberg, Shearer was Joan's main rival at the studio because it seemed she was given the plum roles. (She was also a top moneymaker for the studio.) Joan's first screen appearance was playing Shearer's double in 1925's Lady of the Night, and the two co-starred in 1939's The Women, where Joan distracted Norma with her incessant knitting. Joan also took over the role of Susan in 1940's Susan and God after the 40-year-old Shearer refused to play the mother of a 14-year-old girl. (Leading to the famous Joan quote: "I'd play Wally Beery's grandmother if it's a good part!") (LW) Shearer retired from films in 1942.
Sherman, Vincent. (7/16/06 - ) Primarily a director for Warner Brothers (working with Bette Davis and Ida Lupino, among others) and director of Joan films The Damned Don't Cry ('50), Harriet Craig ('50), and Goodbye, My Fancy ('51). He and Joan also had an often violent affair during this time. (Christina writes in MD of having to break up one of their brawls, and he's also appeared in recent Joan documentaries gleefully discussing their knockdown-dragouts.) Click here for a Scarlet Street magazine interview with the director, who talks about working with Joan.
Shields, Jimmy. Husband of longtime Joan-friend, actor/decorator William Haines. Joan and the two men maintained a lifelong friendship, and Joan called them "the happiest married couple in Hollywood." (LW)
Shining Hour, The. MGM, 1938. Directed by Frank Borzage, 76 minutes. Joan stars as nightclub dancer "Olivia Riley," who marries a country gentleman (Melvyn Douglas) and has to learn to get along with his family (brother Robert Young, who's also in love with Olivia; the brother's kindly wife, Margaret Sullavan; and mean sister Fay Bainter). Says Joan in CWJC: "The Shining Hour" failed, but sort of nobly. On Broadway it had been a smash hit. Margaret Sullavan, Robert Young, Melvyn Douglas and I were all wasted, and I think this was about the time my loyal public began dwindling. You can't keep 'em coming to bad films.
Shubert, J.J. (1879 - 12/26/63) Polish-born Broadway impresario. In April 1924, he was in the audience of a show at the Oriole Terrace in Detroit that Joan was performing in. Enchanted after she "accidentally" kicked over a drink on his table, he came backstage and offered her a job with his "Innocent Eyes" show that would soon debut on Broadway. She skipped out on the Terrace and left for NYC two days later. (JB) Aside from "Innocent Eyes," he also produced Joan's 2nd and last Broadway appearance, "The Passing Show of 1924." Internet Broadway Database info.
Shubert said of Joan:
She had something. I don't know how to define it, but every man in the audience picked her out. She wasn't particularly sexy but she seemed to enjoy herself every minute she was on stage, and that made the audience enjoy the show more. (CWJC)
Silverman, Fred. Chief of daytime programming at CBS in 1968 when Joan made her appearance substituting for daughter Christina on the soap The Secret Storm.
Smith, Liz. Native Texan who made her way to the Big Apple and became a renowned gossip columnist. Click here to read excerpts from her 2000 book Natural Blonde about her encounters with Joan.
Smith, Pete. MGM publicity chief in the 1920s. Smith was impressed with Joan (then "Lucille LeSueur") and persuaded MGM chief L.B. Mayer to begin a major promotional campaign for her, including giving her a new name. (CWJC) He was also responsible for advising her to get into the gossip columns, and he set up her early series of athletic photos, many with fellow contract player Dorothy Sebastian (pictured at right), that were shot by Don Gillum and subsequently published in newspapers across the country in 1925.
Somewhere I'll Find You. After wife Carole Lombard's death, Clark Gable was working on this 1942 film when he received a note from longtime friend/lover Joan: "If you would like to stop by and have a quiet dinner, I'll be home rather late tonight and all this week." Almost every evening during the making of this film, Gable went to Joan's home on Bristol Avenue to pour out his grief. (JC)
Sorkie. In MD, Christina says that Sorkie was "a Christian Science practitioner who lived by herself in a small New York City apartment. My mother had met her when she was younger and was devoted to her. Sorkie was a rotund woman, and...is the only fat person my mother ever tolerated." In Los Angeles, Joan would call Sorkie regularly for advice ("on Sundays and almost every other day of the week for at least 25 years"), and Christina says "until her death in 1959, I know that she was the most influential person in Mommie's life."
Spielberg, Steven. The twenty-two-year-old Spielberg's first industry job was directing Joan in the pilot episode of the TV show Night Gallery, in a segment called "Eyes." The show aired 11/8/69. Said Joan of Spielberg: "He's got more security than any person I've ever known." She also taught him how to burp. Said Spielberg of Joan:
She is five feet four, but she looks six feet on the screen. In a two-shot with anyone, even Gable, your eyes fix on her. She is imperious, yet with a childlike sparkle. She is haughty, yet tender. She has no great range as an actress, yet within the range she can perform better than any of her contemporaries. (JCB)
Spring Fever. MGM silent film, 1927, starring William Haines. Directed by Edward Sedgwick, 60 minutes. Joan plays "Allie Monte," a golf groupie who falls for golfer Haines, who's pretending to be rich. Says Joan in CWJC: ...a waste of everyone's time and money. God, golf is dull on film.
Springer, John. Press agent and sometime producer. He created and hosted the "Legendary Ladies of the Screen" series at NYC's Town Hall, at which Joan appeared on 4/8/73. (He also wrote the introduction to "Conversations with Joan Crawford" and appeared in the A&E channel's documentary on her life, "Always the Star.")
In September 1974, he asked Joan to host a party for another of his "Legendary Ladies," Rosalind Russell, at the Rainbow Room; she did, but the next day when she saw the unflattering pictures of herself taken that evening, she said "If that's how I look, they won't see me again." It was her last public appearance.
Stack, Robert. Joan's co-star in the 1963 film The Caretakers.
St. Agnes Academy. A convent school in Kansas City (128 N. Hardesty, at Scarritt) that Joan attended from 3rd through 6th grades, one of 50 girls. Once her stepfather Henry Cassin left her mother and money became tight, Joan was forced to work for her keep there. See the Geography page for photo of the school and more info.
Stanislavsky, Konstantin. (1863 - 1938) Russian actor, director, and acting teacher, who deeply influenced New York's Group Theatre, of which Joan-husband Franchot Tone was a part. Said Harold Clurman, one of the founders of the Group Theatre: "When I sent Franchot a copy of Stanislavsky's 'An Actor Prepares,' she [Joan] grabbed it and read it first; her bold markings covered its pages."
Steele, Alfred Nu. (4/24/01 - 4/19/59) President of Pepsi-Cola, Joan's fourth and last husband, married from 5/10/55 until his death in April 1959. Says Joan in CWJC:
I was more in love with Alfred than any man in my life. He wasn't as handsome as Doug or Clark or Franchot or Phillip, but he had a virility, a sense of assurance, that made him the center of attraction in any room. Women were crazy about him and men liked him. He made everyone feel at ease. I fell madly in love with him the night we met and the all-too-few years with him were the happiest years of my life. I didn't even mind going into semi-retirement as an actress; life with Alfred was so fulfilling...we established wonderful relationships with the children, and we traveled a great deal. There was virtually nothing to disagree about. I miss him still.
They first met briefly at a party in 1953 when Steele was still married to his second wife. They became reacquainted when the newly divorced Steele phoned Joan on New Year's Eve 1954, when she was staying alone on the set of Female on the Beach. They married at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas that May, then sailed to Europe on the SS United States for their honeymoon.
Steele graduated from Northwestern University in 1923, where he played football, and began his career as an ad executive, eventually hired by Coca-Cola as VP for marketing. He began working for Pepsi in 1949, reducing the sugar content of the soda, modernizing their ad campaign, and beginning to focus on third-world markets in Asia, Africa, and South America. Sales tripled between 1955 and 1957. As noted in MD, Steele spent nearly $400,000 combining two apartments at 2 East Seventieth Street in NYC for his and Joan's living quarters. When he died, his estate was valued at around $600,000, but after taxes and debts, nothing was left. Two days after his death, Joan was elected to fill his vacancy on the Pepsi-Cola board of directors, a position she held until her forced retirement in 1973. (JCB)
Stein, Jules. Head of MCA (Music Corporation of America). In the early '40s he expanded his company from booking bands to representing film stars, and Joan became an MCA client, with Lew Wasserman as her agent. (JCB)
Steiner, Max. (5/10/1888 - 12/28/1971) Legendary film composer (primarily for Warner Bros.), who scored over 400 films, including Joan's Mildred Pierce, Flamingo Road, and The Damned Don't Cry (the latter uncredited). He was nominated for an Academy Award 18 times, winning 3 times. In 2003, he appeared on the U.S. stamp series honoring films (his hand is seen notating a score). IMDb info.
Stephens College. Women's college located in Columbia, Missouri. Joan went to college here during the fall semester of 1922, after which she dropped out. She was registered for the following courses during this semester: English composition, typewriting, preventive medicine, shorthand, bookkeeping, psychology, foods, religious fundamentals, and rhythm. She lived at Main Hall and worked as a waitress in the downstairs dining room. James Madison "Daddy" Wood, the president of the college from 1912 to 1947, became a mentor for Joan. (JB) In April 1970, the school administration honored her for achievements as "an actress, businesswoman, homemaker, mother and philanthropist." "My kids will never believe this," Joan told the audience, "because I was a dropout!" (LW)
Sterling, Ray Thayer. Early beau and confidante of Joan's. She met him in 1918 in Kansas City when she attended the St. Agnes school and he was a senior at nearby Northeast High. Joan said: "Ray was the one I called when anything went wrong, and I loved him with my whole fourteen-year-old heart. Ray wanted me to go out and get my dreams. Once I was in the process of realizing them, I lost him." The two maintained their friendship-- talking, taking drives, attending dances together and/or corresponding-- throughout Joan's chorus-girl travels and returns home, up until the time that she left Kansas City for good in January 1925 for her trip to Hollywood, after which they never saw each other again. He died a bachelor. (LW, JB) In CWJC, Joan says "I never would have gotten to Hollywood if he'd wanted me, but he didn't..." (Thanks, Ray!)
Stewart, Donald Ogden. Screenwriter of Joan's '41 film A Woman's Face. He was active in anti-fascist activities and Joan's friendship with him and attendance at anti-fascist events earned her a 100-page dossier in FBI files. (LW)
Stewart, James. (5/20/1908 - 7/2/97) American acting legend and Joan's co-star in Ice Follies of 1939 and The Gorgeous Hussy (1936). Stewart was born in Pennsylvania and was active in theater at Princeton before moving to NYC in 1932 to pursue a career on Broadway. (While in New York, he roomed with Henry Fonda and director Joshua Logan.) Stewart made his Hollywood debut in 1935's The Murder Man and made over 90 films before his retirement in the 1980s. He was nominated for an Oscar 5 times (1939's Mr Smith Goes to Washington, 1940's Philadelphia Story, 1946's It's a Wonderful Life, 1950's Harvey, and 1960's Anatomy of a Murder), winning for Philadelphia Story. Other notable films include his work with Hitchcock in '48's Rope, '54's Rear Window, and '58's Vertigo.
Writer Charles Castle interviewed Stewart for his 1977 Joan bio The Raging Star:
My first impression of Joan Crawford was of glamour. Glamour had nothing to do with aloofness or temperament, it had to do with friendliness, tremendous vitality and hard work, ambition and constant desire to improve her work, and to get knowledgable about things that were important to her work....In picture acting, I think she had the right idea. She had none of this "clear the set while I get in the mood" attitude. She developed a wonderful approach to her work by her desire to improve her craft. She studied voice. I remember when we were doing Ice Follies she would appear at the studio before five o'clock every morning for coaching. We'd all marvel at this....It was important to her to study opera because she felt it would be good as part of her training, and for her overall knowledge of her screen craft...
[re Ice Follies] I said to Joan, "Aren't you bothered about having to learn to skate for this movie?"And she just replied, "Oh, I don't think about ice skating. You just learn to do it the way you learn to do everything else in life." And sure enough, she learned to ice-skate without any trouble....
We have both been referred to as perfectionists, but I don't know what that word means. If it means trying to keep things going by learning your craft so that you can get it done to the best of your ability and not have the acting show, then I suppose that's what it is. If it means standing up against this tremendous technical thing which you have to cope with in the movies all the time, doing things with credibility and being believable when you're surrounded by machines and cameras and technical men with lights and everything else to surmount...This is part of a craft that takes learning, and if you get so that it doesn't bug you, then you can understand why Joan Crawford was so good at her job. It wasn't a question of take after take with Joan Crawford either...the spontaneity was a tremendously important thing. The fact that you can't have it show is, I think, where Joan scored. It was a good quality that she enjoyed. By learning her craft Joan was a very graceful person, not in the sense of being a ballet dancer, but in her grace of moving and in her natural movement. This is the thing that added to her glamour....
When you saw Joan Crawford there, right in front of your eyes, she was Joan Crawford up there, whether she wore a bathing suit or a long, regal gown. She was Joan Crawford, but the skill and perfection was the fact that she could be Joan Crawford, but with deference to the character, and make the character believable on the screen....
Strength is a good way to describe Joan....When she came into a room, whatever kind of room it was, everybody knew it. Everybody turned around and looked. Well, that's strength, but she didn't come on strong. It wasn't a force thing. She didn't need to exude that strength.
St. Malachy's. Church in NYC where Joan and Doug Fairbanks, Jr., were married.
St. Marks Theatre 80. Originally a speakeasy, this Lower East Side landmark (at 80 St. Marks) became a revival cinema in August 1971. Joan was one of dozens of film and theater legends to place her hand-prints on its sidewalk, in 1971. (In 1994, the site became home to the Pearl Theatre Company.)
Photos of Joan at St. Marks (see row 5)
Stokowski, Leopold. Famed conductor of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra (and later companion of Garbo). He came to Hollywood in 1937 to appear in two films, and was given a reception by Joan and husband Franchot Tone at the Ambassador Hotel. At this time, Joan had been training to sing opera and performed for Stokowski at the theater in her home several weeks after the reception. Joan later reported overenthusiastically to friend Anita Loos that Stokowski was "wild for me to give up the movies and study to be an operatic diva." (LW)
Stolen Jools, The. (aka The Slippery Pearls) Promotional short film (20 minutes) released 4/4/31 to raise funds for the National Variety Artists Tuberculosis Sanitarium at Saranac Lake, NY. Various studios contributed facilities, and the stars worked for free. Stars included Joan, Norma Shearer, Gary Cooper, Edward G. Robinson, William Haines. The plot was a whodunit involving a search for Shearer's stolen jewels. Joan appears early on in a short scene with William Haines; a detective overhears them discussing something she's taken from Shearer's party the night before--turns out it's only a little dog, not the contraband jewels. IMDb info.
Story of Esther Costello, The. Columbia, 1957. Directed (and produced) by David Miller, 127 minutes. Joan stars as "Margaret Landi," who, after a trip to Ireland, adopts a deaf-dumb-n-blind girl (Heather Sears). The two become a hit on the lecture circuit, and Margaret's seedy ex (Rossano Brazzi) steps back into the picture. Says Joan in CWJC:
This was my last really top picture, and frankly, if I think I deserved an Oscar for "Mildred Pierce" I deserved two for "Esther Costello." It was one hell of a demanding role, and David Miller directed it superbly, but I played it in my own pitch, the way I thought it should be played, and I was right. The complexities of the part were staggering. Nothing but very fond memories plus the usual nagging question: Why the hell didn't more pictures like this come along? Why did I get stuck in freak shows?
(Sidenote: In 1959, comedian Lenny Bruce did a bit on his "Togetherness" album called "Esther Costello Story." If anyone has any more details about this, please e-mail me.)
Strait-Jacket. Columbia, 1964. Directed and produced by William Castle, 93 minutes. Joan stars as "Lucy Harbin," who ax-murdered her unfaithful husband and his lover 20 years earlier and now returns after a psychiatric-hospital stay to her brother's farm to begin a new life. Co-stars Diane Baker as her daughter, Leif Erickson as her brother, with a creepy turn by George Kennedy as the chicken-chopping handyman. (Trivia: Real-life Pepsi VP Mitchell Cox makes a cameo as a doctor coming to check on Lucy. Lee Majors makes his movie-debut as the murdered husband. Joan Blondell was originally slated for the role, but was injured prior to filming.)
Strange Cargo. MGM, 1940. Directed by Frank Borzage, 113 minutes. Based on the 1936 novel by Richard Sale. Joan plays cafe chanteuse "Julie" and co-stars for the 8th and final time with Clark Gable. Ian Hunter and Peter Lorre co-star. Even after the studio cleaned up certain scenes after the Legion of Decency's initial "Condemned" rating, "Cargo" was still banned in Cleveland, Detroit, and Providence for its "lustful implications in dialogue and situations." Joan described her role as "a singer-tramp, who escapes from a French penal colony with a bunch of convicts who have only two things on their minds--freedom and sex with me." (DF) Says Joan in CWJC:
Clark and I did our best work together in "Strange Cargo." We had always been close, sometimes too close, but now we knew each other as mature persons and the chemistry was still there and it added to the fire. We both had good parts, the kind the critics call "fully realized." The story line was strong and the screenplay was splendid and Frank Borzage let us take it and run. And baby, we ran. I remember--it was the second day of shooting. We were rehearsing one of the big scenes that came early in the picture, and all of a sudden Clark said, "Joan, whatever you want to do, whatever you want me to do, that's the way it is. You've become an actress and I'm still Clark Gable." I think he underestimated himself, but that's the way it played.
Strassfield, Adele. A lesbian Hollywood secretary of Joan's in the '60s. She's mentioned in Liz Smith's book excerpt about Joan.
Strickling, Howard. MGM publicity head, who took over the handling of Joan post-Pete Smith. LW says: Strickling knew exactly how to handle the press, and was invaluable throughout Joan's career at Metro. While he was in charge, no Crawford story ever made the front page, with the exception of headlines about her marriages and divorces. Said Joan: I adored Howard Strickling...if Mayer did put us under lock and key, Howard was an adorable guard. (CWJC)
Stuttle, Effie H. Headmistress of the private Rockingham Academy in Kansas City, which Joan, responsible for cleaning the place as well as studying, attended. Stuttle was abusive to Joan, pulling her by her hair, beating and kicking her. (LW)
Sudden Fear. RKO Radio Pictures, 1952. Directed by David Miller, 110 minutes. Based on the novel by Edna Sherry. Joan plays wealthy playwright "Myra Hudson," who falls in love with a shady character whom she'd turned down for a role in her play (Jack Palance). Gloria Grahame co-stars. Joan received both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress for this role. Says Joan in CWJC: Melodramatic as hell, but the story and script were strong, not too original but strong, and the casting couldn't have been better, and the director...not only knew what he was doing but took cues from all of us. No regrets.
Sullavan, Margaret. (5/16/11 - 1/1/60) Film and stage actress. Appeared in The Shop Around the Corner and Three Comrades, among others. Died of a drug overdose at age 49. Joan's co-star in 1938's The Shining Hour. Joan specifically asked for Sullavan to play the role of Judy, despite L.B. Mayer's warning that the accomplished stage actress could steal the picture from her. Said Joan in US: I'd rather be a supporting player in a good picture than the star of a bad one. Sullavan's impending childbirth during the filming of "Hour" inspired Joan to want children, as well. But Joan later said in CWJC: She was a truly great actress and a fine woman, but she was so unstable she could barely cope with her career and she certainly couldn't cope with her children. (Sullavan daughter Brooke Hayward's 1977 account of her life with her tragic mother, Haywire, was more sympathetic than her counterpart Christina's book.)
Sullivan, Ed. (9/28/01 - 10/13/74) This television icon, whose famed Sunday-night CBS variety show ran from 1948 to 1971, began his career as a sports writer in 1919, eventually becoming a Broadway gossip columnist in 1929. In the '30s and '40s, in addition to his regular column, he also produced vaudeville shows and was a commentator for CBS radio.
Below is an excerpt from James McQuire's book Impressario: The Life and Times of Ed Sullivan re Sullivan and Joan. (My note: The time frame mentioned in the first paragraph re Joan and Ed's visits and magazine feud is incorrect. Mannequin was shot in 1938. The unflattering Sullivan column and Joan's response to it both appeared in Hollywood magazine in 1941, just after Joan's 1940 film Susan and God was released; this excerpt incorrectly indicates that the magazine interactions appeared prior to the Mannequin meeting. See the link below for a transcript of the magazine feud.) Thanks to Danny for sending in this excerpt.
In his first week he visited the MGM lot to chat with Joan Crawford and director Frank Borzage, who stopped work on MANNEQUIN for the publicity effort. Sullivan and Crawford had tangled in New York a few years earlier, when Ed tried to enlist her to appear in a charity event he was hosting and she refused. He had taken journalistic revenge, writing in his column, 'One wonders how Joan Crawford has gotten this far in show business with so little talent.' Crawford had hit back, sending an open letter to a fan magazine decrying Sullivan's efforts as 'cheap, tawdry, and gangster journalism.' But on the set of MANNEQUIN, all was apparently well between the screen goddess and the new Hollywood columnist.Crawford, according to Ed, greeted him warmly: 'The night we had dinner at 21 in New York I said you belong in Hollywood,' remembered La Crawford, 'And here you are...' For Ed, who had so often attacked phonies in his column, his report of an affectionate meeting with Crawford was a remarkable about-face.
He spoke with Joan Crawford a year after moving to Hollywood. His kind column treatment of the actress had won him extensive access. When he interviewed her in August 1938, Crawford was at the tail end of her third of five (sic) marriages. Says Ed, 'I asked Joan Crawford yesterday if she'd ever try Love again. She shook her head emphatically.' Joan replied, 'I don't believe there's a man in the world who has the capacity for taking love seriously for more than a few months. Girls can and do, but not men.' Said Ed, 'I suggested that perhaps her own driving ambition for a career had overpowered Daniel Cupid. She said: 'I was most ambitious to make a success of marriage.'
After speaking with her, he wrote an extended analysis of Crawford's troubled relationship with Franchot Tone, a serious dramatic actor on the New York stage. 'Undoubtedly he must have resented the fact that his wife was a star.' Perhaps, he theorized, it was alcohol---Tone liked vodka and Crawford reportedly didn't drink (though she later drank heavily), or perhaps it was something as simple as the noise he made brushing his teeth...'On such trifles was Reno constructed,' Ed noted.
By 1965, Joan and Sullivan had resumed a friendly professional relationship, as witnessed by this letter Joan sent him re USO activities in which they were both involved.
Sully, Beth Fairbanks Evans Whiting. Doug Fairbanks, Jr.'s mother. Says Doug: Once we were married, Joan's inlaw problem was with my own mother, Beth, not my stepmother, Mary [Pickford], and my father...My mother would have resented any young woman who took me further away from her. But Beth did try to be pleasant to her... (LW)
Sully and husband-to-be Jack Whiting were witnesses at Joan and Doug's 6/3/29 wedding. (US)
Susan and God. MGM, 1940. Directed by George Cukor, 117 minutes. Joan stars as religious convert/social gadfly "Susan Trexel," along with Fredric March, who plays her alcoholic husband seeking a reconciliation. (Rita Hayworth is a supporting cast-member.) Based on the play by Rachel Crothers that opened in NYC in 1937 and ran for 288 performances.
Says Joan in CWJC:
...big trouble at first. I simply didn't understand how a woman could give up her husband and her total lifestyle and everything she'd lived for to become a religious nut. I knew it had been a big success on Broadway, so obviously it had something going for it, but not until the day we started shooting, and I went to George Cukor a little hysterical, did I understand who the hell I was playing, and why. In 15 minutes George straightened me out, and from that time on I was Susan straight through the last days of shooting. It was a very difficult part, and I owe a lot to Fredric March--he played foil to me very generously.
Swanson, Gloria. (3/27/1897 - 4/4/1983) Silent screen legend who made over 70 films from 1915 to 1975. The diminutive (4'11") diva was born in Chicago and made her film debut in 1915 in a Wallace Beery serial. Swanson subsequently married Beery and moved with him to Los Angeles, where she went on to make over 50 films (including stints with Keystone and Cecil B. DeMille's company) before the end of the silent era in 1929. Her notable silent films include Sadie Thompson (for which she received a Best Actress nomination in 1928; the film was remade in 1932 as Rain, with Joan in the starring role), The Trespassor (1928, another Best Actress nomination), and Queen Kelly (the 1929 indulgence directed by Eric von Stroheim, which Swanson also produced). Swanson's career was rather lethargic once sound films took hold, until her legendary re-emergence in 1950's Sunset Blvd. as the decrepit diva Norma Desmond, which garnered her a third Best Actress nomination and re-teamed her with von Stroheim (this time in a supporting role as her faithful chauffeur). She went on to other minor film and TV appearances, and her last film role was as "Herself" in Airport '75.
In her 1980 Random House autobiography Swanson on Swanson, Gloria wrote of Joan and their mutual late-20s times:
People always remembered him [Edward Goulding] first as the man who had scripted and directed Sally, Irene and Mary at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925, shortly after he arrived from England. In that film of backstage rivalry, romance, and glory, he had cast three young actresses and made instant successes of them---Joan Crawford, Constance Bennett, and Sally O'Neil. Now, four years later, Joan Crawford was almost a star, grinding out an average of five pictures a year at MGM. Eddie had directed her once more, and she had also made several films with Jack Conway, my old flame from Triangle days, who worked now mainly at Metro. At the start of 1929 she was the talk of Hollywood for dating Doug Fairbanks, Jr., much to Doug Senior's chagrin. There were bets that the twenty-one-year-old actress could never catch Doug Junior, who was not yet twenty, and step up to the Pickfair set while Doug Senior breathed, but before many months were out, she had. Constance Bennett, the Sally of Eddie Goulding's film, was the daughter of the actor Richard Bennett. A beautiful slim blonde, she showed up everywhere with Hollywood's fast set. I knew both of these young women to speak to, but not well, and I was amazed when Eddie Goulding told me that I was Joan Crawford's idol, the woman she wanted to be like. I could not quite imagine a person feeling that way about another person.
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