My Mom and Joan Crawford

Cropped screenshot of Joan Crawford from the f...

In my last post I mentioned that my Mom adored movie star biographies. She really loved reading about her favorites like Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn and Bette Davis. Being the child of older parents I probably had a larger knowledge of the old movies and the old stars than other kids my age, plus I was a bit of a shy introvert!

I remember my mom even let me purchase a large coffee style type book that was chockfull of movie stills and I would pour over that book looking at all the beautiful faces and hoping I would one day get a chance to view some of those films.You have to remember there were no vcrs or dvds back then so the only way to watch them was if they happened to come on TV or if a movie theatre might have a classic movie night and show them. Boy, this makes me sound like I lived in the horse and buggy days!!

I was lucky that a lot of these old movies were shown on TV on Saturday afternoons. My mom and I would curl up on the sofa together and watch movie after movie. We both loved musicals and comedies but we would usually watch whatever was on that particular weekend. Though she would get up and leave if one of those cheesy monster movies came on, like The Attack of the 50 foot Woman, or Godzilla 🙂

I loved spending that time with my mom. She and my pop both worked all week so it was so comforting to have her by my side. My pop would usually join us after he got finished doing his weekly yard chores and more times than not we would end up eating our dinner on TV trays while finishing the movie. Good times for sure!

My trip down memory lane was prompted by something I rediscovered the other day in a box in my closet. It’s a typed and signed letter from Joan Crawford to my mom! I bet you’re thinking that this is just a form letter. That’s exactly what I thought until I did a little research and find out the Ms. Crawford was quite a prolific letter writer.

This is an excerpt from a 1951 Cosmopolitan magazine article about Crawford

“The filing cabinet contained some fifteen hundred names of Joan Crawford letter-writing fans. No other motion picture star would have bothered to look at them, let alone file them and dote on them, but to Miss Crawford a letter writer is a jewel, a cupcake, a sister-under-the-skin, a human being whose dignity must be protected at all costs. “By heaven,” she says reverently, “if my fans can write me, I can answer ’em.” The addresses never were found, and Miss Crawford, who will go to any unreasonable length to please a fan, was compelled to labor from sheer memory to answer admirers who, after twenty years’ intimate thralldom, now neglect to set down their return addresses. The ardor of Crawford fans, a special kind of ardor possibly not equaled by any other star’s, is actually overmatched by Miss Crawford’s passion for them. This passion is both sentimental and calculating: emotionally, Joan is as responsive as a strange and grateful child at a birthday party; at the same time, she is as professionally competent as a slide rule. And there you have it. Add the red hair, the big blue eyes, and the imaginative flair, and you’ve got yourself a movie star. No actress living works harder at her job.”

The book Joan Crawford: Her Life in Letters also mentions her detailed attention to answering her fan letters. She felt that if her admirers could spend time in their lives to write to her, than she would have the courtesy to write back to them. She worked very hard at being a movie star. It wasn’t a role that she took lightly. Maybe some of these so-called ‘stars’ of today could learn a thing or two from her!

I have no doubt that the letter sent to my mother back in 1951 was from Joan Crawford herself. Although she never mentioned it to me, it must have meant a great deal to my mother as she kept it among her possessions for over 50 years. I only discovered it when I was cleaning out my parents things in preparation for the sale of their house.

Maybe it was because of the circumstances that my mother found herself in back then that she neglected to show it to me. She was raising my sister alone after a divorce and she was struggling financially. It seems she had written to Ms. Crawford for advice on getting work as a script girl at a movie studio.

I only wish I had found this letter when my mom was alive so I could have asked her about it and her plans to move to California.

I’m sure glad that she didn’t end up moving out west because then there wouldn’t have been a me, as a few years later she met and married my pop! That turned out to be her happy ending.

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7 thoughts on “My Mom and Joan Crawford

  1. I was enthralled reading this post as I so admire and am a big fan of those ‘golden age of hollywood’ stars. That is just so very thrilling that your mother got a signed and written by letter by Joan Crawford. I would love to see it some day if I’m over at your place.

  2. The letter must have been a really precious memory. Nothing so great in my family on Hollywood stars! However my Gran was absolutely madly in love with a British variety act/comedian in the 50’s called Max Bygraves – so much so that she went to see him at Glasgow Empire and managed to “acquire” the full size cardboard cut out of him which had adorned the foyer of the theatre – she simply lifted it and took the train home with Max Bygraves under her arm! It then spent years having pride of place in her house!

    • That’s very funny! This put me in my mind of story about some new neighbors that moved in down the street. Every morning I would walk by with my dogs and see, out of the corner of my eye, a man in his bathrobe in their front room. I tried not to stare thinking I had caught the new neighbor in his jammies, but after 3 days of this I finally decided this was too weird that this man was peering out of the window every morning. When I really took a proper look I realized it was a life-size cut out of Elvis in his famous white jumpsuit 🙂

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