Jane Ellen Wayne, Crawford’s Men
“Joan [Crawford] had the ability to communicate with her fans, to speak the truth and remind them she came from nothing and deserved every cent she earned.”
Jane Ellen Wayne, Crawford’s Men
“You're just in time for tea. That's what we call it when we drink too much in the afternoon.”
Check out the selection of vintage cocktail books at the Nick Harvill Libraries store.
See also: Life Lessons from Game of Thrones
“Everything you hear about Joan Crawford is true. If not today, tomorrow.”
Nicholas Ray, via Gavin Lambert, Mainly About Lindsay Anderson
Director Nicholas Ray is best for remembered for Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo. A year prior to Rebel, he directed Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar, a sapphic western in which Crawford drives a Mercedes (specifically, the Mercedes was her co-star, Mercedes McCambridge, and Joan's on-set antics were driving Mercedes crazy).
Nicholas Ray was bisexual, and in 1956, he had a fling with a young British film connoisseur, Gavin Lambert. With Ray's help, Lambert immigrated to the United States and became a Hollywood insider, both socially and professionally. Though not a household name in Dubuque, those in-the-know in Santa Monica, Bel Air, and Beverly Hills were not only aware of him, they eagerly invited him to their parties.
Lambert's circle of friends included Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, George Cukor, and Natalie Wood. He penned screenplays (The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone) and wrote novels based in filmdom (Daisy Clover and The Slide Area) and biographies of Hollywood screen legends (Norma Shearer, Alla Nazimova, and Natalie Wood).
Lambert was reminded of his friend Nicholas Ray's wry comment about Joan Crawford's frequent mood changes by his own experience with her. He was hired to write a screenplay for a television project in which she was to star. Upon meeting Lambert, Joan cooed, “I just hope I can do justice to your wonderful lines.” Though later, within earshot of Gavin, she screeched to her husband, “How the [expletive] does he expect me to say a line like that?”
“I don’t think Women’s Lib came on very attractively. The leaders not only weren’t feminine, they looked as though they’d parked their semis outside when they came in to go on TV. Men didn’t like them, naturally, and a lot of women didn’t associate and didn’t want to. I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a housewife, but I wonder how many housewives wanted to be told they were leading useless lives and working as unpaid slaves. Later on they toned down a bit of issues like—oh, equal pay for equal work began to mean something. But at first, well—the wrong people led the parade.”
Joan Crawford, Conversations with Joan Crawford
“Everything about her was very precise, and this was reflected in the way we worked together. For instance, when we laid out a room, she had masking tape put down on the floor. She liked to walk around it and sense the way a room was going to work. Joan was used to this from the studio sets, where she would have to rehearse before the furniture arrived.”
Carleton Varney, Architectural Digest, Celebrity Homes
Image Credit: Richard Champion, Architectural Digest, Celebrity Interiors
“As far as being deeply religious … no. I believe in God, but I don’t think He cares a hell a lot about whether a person is a Catholic, Protestant, Jew, or Moslem, as long as that person has a record rolled up that includes more good marks than bad ones. I think Roz Russell is the example of a practicing believer; her Catholicism is very strong, but she doesn’t impose it on others. Not like Loretta Young and Irene Dunne; those ladies seem to be rehearsing to play the next Virgin Mary. I think faith is wonderful, but when you try to impose it on others, it’s irritating and boring…. Have faith, but don’t become a hooker, is about all I can say.”
--Joan Crawford, Conversations with Joan Crawford
Note: "Moslem" has since become an archaic spelling.
Pity the poor actor that attempted to upstage Joan Crawford or Bette Davis. Yet in the FX television series Feud: Bette and Joan, the brightest spotlight sometimes shines upon Mamacita, Crawford's housekeeper, companion, and no-nonsense guidance counselor. The writers give her some of the best lines, and Jackie Hoffman—the actress portraying her—delivers them perfectly. Audiences seem to have responded enthusiastically. Copies of Crawford's My Way of Life, in which Mamacita makes frequent appearances, are in high demand and priced accordingly.
“One of the scary things is the effects a heavy or demanding role will have on your personal life… I used to wonder how Charlton Heston acted offscreen while he was playing Moses.”
--Joan Crawford, Conversations with Joan Crawford
“Time is the only critic.”
--James M. Cain, Mildred Pierece
Guess who has checked into the Sunset Tower Hotel in West Hollywood? None other than Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. For our kiosk there, Nick Harvill Libraries curated a selection of books about the two Hollywood grandes dames. They are displayed in the vestibule window to the left as one enters the hotel. The display coincided with Ryan Murphy's well-received and much talked about television series Feud: Bette and Joan. Unlike the series, however, the display is still going, and the books replenished as they sell.
Books by or about these two fascinating women have long been on the shelves at NHL, but the research for this display took us to an entirely new level. We loved the series and feel it did much to enhance the image of Bette Davis and even more importantly, to repair that of Joan Crawford. At long last, Crawford's wire hangers have returned to the closet where they belong. And, Christina's infamous axe (to grind?) has returned to the gardening shed.
In researching these two women, NHL made some discoveries for which there simply was not room in the television series. Both led full and fascinating lives, connecting to a variety of other 20th Century notables, and they left a voluminous written and digital record.
rock, paper, scissors
"Shhh, baby. Close your eyes and pretend I’m Clark Gable."
Feud: Bette and Joan did not play up the camp element, which was a wise and refreshing choice. Had they opted to do so, however, one hilarious scene might have sprung from Joan Crawford's cougar phase. In the fifties, Crawford seduced—as if they were fish in a barrel—the young men signed to contract by Universal Studios. She had been forewarned that strapping Rock Hudson's romantic interests went another direction, but Crawford invited him over for a swim anyway. Afterwards, when Rock was showering in her pool house, the lights suddenly went out and he felt a naked Joan Crawford pressed against him. "Shhh, baby. Close your eyes and pretend I’m Clark Gable,” Joan allegedly purred. [via Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud.]
Feud: Bette Davis Versus Baby Jane Fonda
“Every time I see her face, I think of the hell she put me through on Jezebel."
It turns out that Joan Crawford was not the only Hollywood star with whom Bette Davis feuded. In fact, there is a two-time Oscar winner still living that was also the subject of Bette's ire. No, the answer is not Olivia de Havilland. She was too terrified of Davis to quarrel with her, and besides, she had a feud with her sister Joan Fontaine already going. Jane Fonda, though an infant, inspired Davis's wrath. Her father Henry Fonda was co-starring with Davis in the year Jane was born, and Fonda halted production so that he could travel to New York to attend Jane's birth. “Every time I see her face, I think of the hell she put me through on Jezebel,” hissed Bette.
Conversations with Joan Crawford
“Sometimes, I’m sorry to say, we even believed our own publicity. Nobody has ever walked with shoes on my white rugs ever since the publicity department told the press that I didn’t allow people to wear shoes on my white rugs.”
One of the major injustices of Joan Crawford's Mommie Dearest image is that it transformed an complicated woman into a cartoon that lacked self-awareness. The opposite was actually true. However, one would be forgiven for not recognizing that from either of Crawford's two autobiographical books. They are by the movie star Joan. Conversations with Joan Crawford, however, featured professional Joan. The book transcribes a series of interviews conducted over a two-decade period in which Crawford candidly and intelligently summed up Hollywood, her role in it, and the cost to her personal life. She comes across as witty, introspective, and literate.
When the book's interviewer asked about her rumored drinking problem, Joan was forthright and willing to return the volley. “Yes, I have a drinking problem. You know I have a drinking problem, and maybe you have, too—you’ve matched me drink for drink for years,” she cleverly replied. When asked what she would do different in life if given the chance to do it over again, she retorted, “My God, what an awful question. At the moment I don’t think I’d have given you all these damned interviews.”
Conversations with Joan Crawford is filled with such gems. It makes one believe that Joan might have been equally successful had she been studio mogul. She certainly had the drive and the knowledge of the business. The conundrum is that this book has been around nearly as long as daughter Christina's Mommie Dearest. Alas, actual truth and the public perception thereof are two different beasts. It took the well-regarded Feud: Bette and Joan to counter the sensationalism of Mommie Dearest and move the needle of public perception.
Vincent Sherman: Director, Husband, Lover
"As a human being, Joan Crawford is a great actress."
Everyone expects Hollywood stars to misbehave. As such, perhaps the most astonishing revelation in director Vincent Sherman's Studio Affairs, My Life as a Film Director is the saintliness of his longtime wife. She placidly remained on the sidelines as her husband carried on torrid affairs with his leading ladies, including, first Bette Davis, and then Joan Crawford. With Crawford, they were on and off for years. He even engaged in a tryst with her in her hospital room at Cedars Sinai when she was faking illness in order to avoid filming Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte.
Sherman sums up the differences between his two paramours as well and as succinctly as anyone ever has:
"In life and onscreen, Bette was simple, forthright, honest, and unaffected. The moment she began playing a role, she became actorish and theatrical. Joan, on the other hand, was simple, forthright, honest and unaffected when playing a role, but in life she was exactly the opposite: actorish, theatrical, and affected."
“The sum total of your having written this book is a glaring lack of loyalty and thanks for the very privileged life I feel you have been given.”
--Bette Davis, in a Open Letter to Her Daughter B.D. Hyman
Feud: Bette and Joan steered clear of Christina Crawford's tell-all Mommie Dearest. However, in a strange way, that book became yet another link between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. It was a best-selling juggernaut, whetting the publishing world's appetite for more "bad parent" Hollywood memes. Without doubt, Bette Davis was not the perfect mother, but the gravitational pull of Christina Crawford's book guaranteed that Bette was portrayed as a bad parent in her daughter B.D. Hyman's My Mother's Keeper. Crawford had advance word about Christina's tell-all but died prior to its publication. Davis was alive but in ill-health when My Mother's Keeper was released. She never spoke to her daughter again and published a book of her own refuting the charges.
Feud: Olivia and Joan
“My sister has decided to become an actress too. It has ruined the close-knittedness of our family life.”
--Olivia de Havilland
The casting of Catherine Zeta-Jones as Bette Davis's friend Olivia de Havilland leaves one wondering whether Zeta-Jones might return in a future Feud season, dramatizing de Havilland's lifelong feud with her sister Joan Fontaine. The material is certainly there. Check out the NHL post, A Tale of Two Sisters: Olivia de Havilland & Joan Fontaine. One snag might be Zeta-Jones's age. The halcyon years in the de Havilland/Fontaine contretemps occurred when the sisters were in early adulthood. Should the part be recast? Are there any actresses in the younger age category with the ability to portray someone of de Havilland's sophistication?
“Joan Crawford’s secretary called to ask me why Joan’s picture wasn’t in the show. So now I have to ask Don [Bachardy] to call her and explain. The real reason is that Joan signed it all over with loving words and a huge signature, absurdly and fatally upstaging the drawing.”
--Christopher Isherwood, Liberation: Diaries Volume Three, 1970-1983