The first thing I HAVE to say is that NO MATTER what history or films tell us, when Joan died on May 10, 1977, Christina lost her MOTHER. This was during a time in 1920s Hollywood it was already a town of folklore and the focus of national fantasy. Stars were tied to Hollywood studios, working a 6-day week, turning out full length feature films in a month. Hollywood was a small town in the '20s. If you could figure out how to meet people. That wasn't the problem. The problem was how to get into the movies. Billie Cassin was a Hollywood newcomer in 1925. She had already signed an MGM contract. During the day at the studio she did the usual stand-in and bit parts while she danced in exhibition contests.
Billie made close friends w/ the studio publicity dept, making herself ready at a moment's notice when needed. Billie changed her name back-and-forth from Billie Cassin to the young starlet's original name, Lucielle LeSueur, who was creating national excitement before she'd been given an opportunity to display her acting skills to any extent in a movie. She became Joan Crawford a year later through a movie magazine contest sponsored by MGM. Joan hated her new first name so much that she called herself "Jo Ann" at the studio for several years. She said that Crawford sounded like "Crawfish" and she hated it. Although she took the name Joan Crawford formally & professionally. In private w/ friends and family, she went by Billie.
|Metro (MGM) logo|
Regardless of what she overcame, Joan's career continued to skyrocket. During the next 4 years, she made a dozen more films. In 1929, Joan married Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., the prince of Pickfair. Joan acquired polish and she credited Douglas w/ her good manners and taste. During this time, the Fairbanks marriage was saddened by a miscarriage. Joan admitted years later to a friend that she'd really had an abortion. The marriage ended in the spring of 1933. Joan had achieved full stardom now. Appearing in 2-or-3 films a year w/ top billing. Competition was fierce at Metro, but Joan won more than she lost. Joan devoted herself to her career and to her first love affair w/ Clark Gable. In 1935, Joan remarried. This time to well-educated & cultured gentleman, Franchot Tone.
|Joan and new baby, Christina|
Finding herself a "has-been" at 37 was a shock for Joan. She was never quite the same. She carried the fresh pain of being treated a throw away for over 30 years. Joan carried a pain that people were destined to betray her. Her life was a battle she would always lose. It was during this time that Joan began to drink. After 17 years w/ Metro, Joan left and signed with Warner Bros, making less money than she did before. In 1942, Joan KNEW her days were numbered at Metro. She married a handsome but unknown actor, Phillip Terry, that same year. That didn't help anyone. In 1943, Joan & Phillip adopted a baby boy, Phillip Terry, Jr. A few years before she was born, the Lindbergh kidnapping occurred. Christina heard her mom talk about it before, which SCARED and mentally followed Christina.
After they were married, Phillip was given the job of administering spankings. Up until that time, Joan was using her hairbrush or her hand. Christina was around 4-or-5. She goes into her FIRST real disagreement and punishment w/ her mom involving the swimming pool. That particular moment set the stage for their future relationship lasting the next 30 years.
|Barbara & Joan|
But it was Christina's 4TH birthday party in June 1943 that was the grandest spectacle of them all. These legendary parties lasted until Christina was six. During her growing up years, Christina came to depend rather heavily on the servants for some sense of continuity. There were times when Joan's service help was at a loss: wishing they could help Christina in trouble. When Joan & Phillip were married, there were times when Christina was forced to choose between them. It wasn't long after that Phillip left. He just never came home again. He was just gone. This taught Christina a harsh and valuable lesson when it came to her mother: When Mommie Dearest got mad enough, she ripped people to shreds and made them disappear.
Joan valued a sense of humor and insisted everyone develop one. More often than not, it was at others' expense. In Joan's world & way, that was a way of teaching the kids about the outside world. There was something Joan's humor that made Christina naked and vulnerable. Joan would have her kids believe she genuinely and truly had eyes in the back of her head. Joan loved to go for walks along the ocean. One night Joan was restless and invited Christina to join her. She was only 7 years old. Joan talked w/ her daughter about her own life and past struggles. Christina tried her best to understand her mother's words. Joan began to be vulnerable and cry. Christina was comforting to be affectionate to her mom. Afterwards they went inside from the cold.
There were now four children in the Crawford household. Christina, Christopher and a new set of twin girls; Cathy & Cynthia. On Saturday mornings, when Joan was asleep, the ENTIRE household, from the kids, to the nurse, to the servants had to keep to a whisper until Joan was ready to get up. They also had to walk tiptoed until Joan woke up. This was NOT done by any special occasion effort. It was everyday in Joan's house. To be run on Joan's orders for her personal convience. NO ONE had any right or say. Joan was adamant about the dull whispering and wasn't hearing different. Joan was always in a terrible mood if anyone accidentally woke her up and the spankings would show Joan's anger. The spankings were so hard they would break whatever Joan was using, leaving large blisters and red welts that lasted for days.
On Sunday, if Joan got up in time, the family would go to church. Christina had to be re-assigned to different classes thanks to not going often enough. If they didn't go to church, they did the lesson(s) at home. Either way, Christina would daydream throughout all of it. The family had regular checkups by doctors and when they were sick, the doctor came to the house. Joan also had her doctors whom she relied on as years passed. She wasn't a hypochondriac, but she was close to it. When Joan wasn't working, she organized regular cleaning forays into every nook and cranny of the house and yard. They were an unlikely crew, always falling short of Joan's expectations. It was NEVER ENOUGH to please her.
|(The only image I could find)|
It was well after midnight. Christopher couldn't get up to see his sister due to being tied down to the bed. Joan had a barbaric device she called a "sleep safe" to make sure Christopher would not get out of bed. The device was designed originally to keep babies from falling out of bed. Joan had it designed to fit a little boy. They/the kids were forbidden to get out of bed FOR ANY REASON. From the time Christopher was a baby, Joan kept him tied down to the bed. Eventually this contraption became a source of punishment for Christopher. It took Christina hours to redo the closet neatly. Including her bed, light was beginning to show outside when Christina finished.
Christina didn't see or hear of her mom days after one of the night raids. It was like Christina was banished for a short time before things returned to normal. There was one night the whole house heard Joan's tirade because it took place in Joan's dressing room, that Christopher was to clean, w/ mirrored glass walls. both the nurse and Christina were satisfied w/ the good job done even though Christina was more than 9 years of age. When Joan got home late at night when they were all sleeping, Christina HEARD about the dressing room job. Joan threw open the door under the sink, grabbed a large can of Bon Ami scouring powder. When Christina got to her feet, Joan wielded the can at her like a baseball bat. Joan beat Christina w/ the can until it burst open. By now Christina was yelling at her mom to stop hitting her. Joan finally threw the can in total disgust. All Christina had to work w/ cleaning the mess was a broom, a bucket, a couple of big towels and a mop.
Throughout the whole night, Christina worked and sobbed. She prayed for someone to punish her mother and told anyone who listened how much she HATED her. It was nearly 5:00A when an EXHAUSTED Christina was able to go to bed. She goes into the relationship between her mother and grandmother. They didn't get along very well. Christina's grandmother wasn't invited to birthdays. She wasn't included in holidays. She never stayed for a meal. There were no photographs of her anywhere. Joan was always sketchy over the details of her own upbringing. Things would change w/ each telling.
In 1915, when Billie was 15, Daddy Cassin also left the family deserting them. After that divorce, the family was plunged into complete poverty. The only work that Billie's mother, Anna, could find was as a laundress. (That explains the wire hangers.) With no money, Anna made arrangements for the family to live in one unused room behind the laundry. Both children had to help w/ the work to make ends meet. Billie had to give up all thoughts of dancing lessons. Billie found a way of making it work w/ what she had dancing in the dirt and dancing. Anna made arrangements for Billie to attend The Sisters Of St. Agnes convent school on scholarship. She was to work a certain number of hours a week in exchange for room & board. Years later, Joan told her kids of the school/church feeding her false promises and hated her own mother for sending her away and keeping her brother, Hal, at home. Joan told the kids that the school used her while they sent passing grades home to Anna.
Anna married for a third time as Billie was finishing high school. Because of all of the mandatory chores, Billie never got more than an eighth grade education. She took various dept. store jobs and entered any dance contest she could. She eventually landed a brief job in a chorus in a Kansas City Hotel. From there to Chicago and Detroit dancing in various clubs. She had changed her professional name to her Lucielle LeSueur before being offered a job in a New York chorus. Between 1921-1924, Lucielle and her mother didn't see much of each other. Anna didn't want Billie going into the theater and tried to prevent it from happening. By 1925, when MGM decided to run a movie magazine contest to change her name. In an interview, Lucielle said she'd reconciled her differences w/ her mother, who was now living w/ her.
When Joan Crawford became a star in 1928, the family squabbles were well-known. Once she became a BIG star, Lucielle/Joan's family began making demands. The sad part was that Lucielle's mother had placed her early hopes on her son. Joan told Christina that Joan's mother favored her brother when Joan was growing up as Lucielle. Her brother, Hal, was given the best and Lucielle was given the rest. When Christina was growing up, Hal & her grandmother were put in the background of family w/o influence to their lives.
After an argument ensued between brother and sister in front of Christina involving money, the police took him away and Christina never seen him again. Joan had him committed to a sanatorium for 3 years. He was gone w/ NO MENTION of him ever again. Proving to Christina, if you make her mad, she can make you disappear. The kids would bring up their grandmother, but Joan didn't want to talk about it. In the years that followed, Christina would keep in touch w/ her grandmother from boarding school. The last letter Christina heard from her Grandmother included regards from her uncle.
When Anna was dying, her doctors called and Anna was calling for her daughter. She died in August 1958, NEVER seeing her daughter, Lucielle/Joan again. She/Joan did fly to LA to make funeral arrangements at Forest Lawn. In the end, Grandmother & Hal only represented pain for Joan. She/Joan rid her life of both of them, but they ALL paid a price. Christina recalls what it was like when her mother had "dates" whom she was told to call and refer to as "Uncle" and serve as bartender to! For some, these men were like family, but others made Christina uncomfortable. She/Christina was beginning to get tired of these "uncles" popping in everywhere.
In 1940s, Joan found herself out of work and labeled box-office poison. Joan felt she had failed, which to her was the worse sin of all. She won her battle in the eyes of the world, the press & the studio the night she won the Academy Award. In 1946, when Joan won the Oscar for Best Actress for Mildred Pierce, she was not present to accept it. She was home in bed w/ pneumonia. Later that night after the important moment came, Joan's health dramatically improved. She leaped out of bed to shower and makeup. She put on her prettiest negligee w/ a satin red jacket. She brushed her hair and waited for the public to arrive. After everyone left and the moment passed, Joan sat holding her Oscar, admiring it from every angle. She even let Christina hold the Award for a few minutes. (It surprised Christina by how heavy in weight it was/is.) Joan was a BIG star again.
There was a sizable crowd gathered at 21 waiting to see Joan. It was a different set of fans who grew tired of waiting to see a famous movie star. They were restless and beginning to get annoyed. Outside it was a big crowd and Joan had to be police escorted to be able to leave. Joan just thought the awaiting fans were cold and tired of waiting. The moment the big, heavy doors opened, fans were shoving for an autograph from Joan. The mob of fans scared Christina. Her & Chris were clinging together crying. Joan was screaming for the crowd not to hurt her babies. The staff from 21 tried to calm the fans down until the police finally arrived.
It was like a CRAZED, Joan Crawford MANIA w/ the press and fans. Joan calmed the kids down from the result of that hysteria and checked to see if they were hurt. Afterward they continued w/ their evening going out as planned. Christina wanted to be like Annie of 'Annie Get Your Gun' and be a cowboy. After the large crowds surrounding her mother's Oscar win, Christina didn't care much for them or fans. There were 2 men whom Joan truly loved in her life and were both married when she fell in love.
Although Joan received 2 additional Academy Award nominations in 1947 and 1952, she viewed the rest of her career as an uphill battle. Joan was clinging desperately to remain a star. She tried to get back what she once had. She began to drink more socially. Fan mail became an even more importance. It was her last measure of popularity and she devoted herself to it entirely, answering every single piece of mail herself. As her films declined, the fan mail was an infusion of her life's blood to hang on to! Joan was fighting for her professional life and it took a toll on everyone.
When it came to gifts or holidays, Joan preferred things that were matched and were monogrammed, so almost everything she received was exactly that. When it came to Christmas, after they took turns opening presents, each one had to have a thank you note written for it, so they had to write on the back of each card just as Joan would do. The children would have brunch w/ their mother. Then in the afternoon, the rest of the day was theirs to play as everyone else.
As the years passed, Christmas became less of a family holiday and more of a public spectacle. Everything was done on display in front of an audience. The process of Christmas would change as well. It became a production line w/ packages to be wrapped for others. An act to impress others w/ Joan's generosity. By the time she was 9, the Crawford family Christmas was mostly for show. There were LOTS of gifts under the tree, but they were NOT allowed to keep the majority of ones that were given by Joan's friends. They were later given away to others. Even though Joan could afford to buy new things/gifts.
As if it wasn't hard enough to open gifts knowing full well they would never see them again until they were given away, the kids were required to smile dutifully when guests would express awe, admiration & envy over the gifts and asked them about how lucky children they were? There were times when Christina just wanted to burst her mom's dramatic and staged bubble. Christina didn't try to express truth because she figured NO ONE would believe her. The worst part of the holiday was the thank you notes, written in ink and without error. If so, she had to start over until it was perfect. It was beyond tedious work. Sitting there in stiff boredom. NO music, radio or records.
When Howard was starting in the film business as a producer, he had wanted to put Joan under contract. She refused him a number of times even though Howard was insistent. Joan said that Howard used women for exploitation and she didn't want any part of it. When Howard couldn't get Joan to sign a contract, he tried to get Joan to go out w/ him. Joan went w/ him a couple of times and seen what problems Howard truly had. Joan & Christina usually had a good time on their mother/daughter dates. Since Joan never got up and visited another table, because she said it was bad manners, everyone else went to the Crawford table.
After detailing the evening when they got home, Joan would request that Christina sleep in her mother's bed w/ her for comfort. Or at least in the same room on the other big bed. Christina would lie awake for ages in fear that her wiggling would wake up and upset her mom. So she would lie there stiff all night. Christina was a very good student and enjoyed school. Because the work was so easy for her, Christina's teachers decided to skip her a 1/2 grade. Over the course of a weekend, Christina went to the top of third grade to the top of fourth. Her most difficult subject was math.
In a burst of civic mindedness, Joan directed her daughter's Brownie troop production of Hansel & Gretel. Joan managed everything real patiently. Christina got a classic case of stage fright during her acting debut and forgot half of her lines, shortening the play by 10 minutes. When she was in school, Christina was criticized for not having a father. Trying to explain her adoption, what she got in return were snickers and remarks. In contrast w/ the cruel teasing at school, there was also the business about being a "movie star's daughter". What Christina always wanted to do was fit in and be accepted. Due to the way Joan dressed her so formally, Christina was overdressed and uncomfortable at parties w/ classmates.
At the birthday parties, Christina's gift was re-gifted from the ones of the previous Christmas that she was allowed to have. Little by little, Christina learned that most people didn't live the way the Crawford's did. She was 8 when she realized that not everyone had a swimming pool. One minute the kids were assholes to Christina, the next be very nice to her. Up until this point, Christina had only seen one of her mom's films, 'Humoresque' w/ John Garfield, who Christina loved and adored. He was her hero. When she returned to school that Monday, the kids who were at her house that weekend returned to their asshole behavior. Christina was very hurt. She felt like a pawn, constantly being used all the time.
Christina already knew that Joan used her and the kids for all of the publicity stories in the movie magazines. Joan rehearsed Christina for the press on what to say exactly. She was to be Joan's very good girl. Christina was treated and her world was FULL of contradictions. It confused Christina as to who she was: A movie star's golden daughter or a bastard? Christina even tried to run away once. Before she was down Sunset Blvd., she was busted by her mom. It was getting harder to trust anyone. Joan was just as strict about school as she was at home. Joan demanded straight A's on ALL report cards - or else. Fortunately, it was all relative;y easy for Christina to achieve.
Over a weekend in February, Christina skipped another half grade of school. From the middle of her 5TH grade year to her 6TH. Joan had transferred her to the Chadwick School in
Palos Verdes. As what went other major changes for Christina as a child, there was NO discussion about it. Joan had asked Christina about the idea on her thoughts of boarding school on a Friday. On Sunday, she was there. When they stopped in front of a small house on school grounds known as The Cottage, it was really a dorm for elementary school girls.
This new experience for Christina, who was 10 1/2 years of age, made her shy and hardly speak. These changes made Christina unsure of herself. Christina didn't know what brought about this massive change or her mother's reason's behind them. She didn't particularly like the school and was always homesick. She would go home on weekends. She would cry on her returns to school, even Joan cried sometimes claiming she would miss Christina. Relationships from siblings, servants and Joan's new boyfriend were forming at home around Christina's absence. When she was home, Christina had to help w/ the work. Christina finished the year at school smoothly w/ decent grades.
Joan went to Lake Louise in Canada w/ one of her directors, Uncle Vincent. Christina liked him even though she had been at home watching TV alone when she heard noise 2 rooms away. A few minutes later, Christina heard screaming.She dashed toward the noise and ran. She had seen Uncle Vincent hit her mother while she tried to defend herself. Without stopping to think, Christina began to wail at him to let go. Mother & daughter were both in tears. In a matter of minutes, it was over and Joan was sniffling as she told him to leave. Christina was scared trying to be brave.
After he left and the doors were locked, Christina checked on her mom and escorted her upstairs. A few days later, Joan invited the same Uncle Vincent to a piano recital Christina was having, claiming it would be rude NOT TO! Christina was appalled. Joan then insisted that Christina apologize to him. Christina then delves into the "female" trouble she encountered at age 11. The most embarrassing part of that was Joan telling anyone who would listen. Joan seen it as an accomplishment.
During her next year at school, Christina began to appreciate her school. She seen that life is ALOT easier than at home. The best part about being at school was the anonymity. A student among students and NOT a celebrity's daughter. When Christina was able to go home at the end of the school year, it was nice to see her siblings again. But they how had a new HORRIBLE nurse, who treated the kids differently outside of others around. She was DOWNRIGHT mean. She spanked w/ a hanger or belt. She would twist their ears to get something done. The kids HATED her. She was more physically abusive than Joan was. When Joan asked what happened, Christina told her mom. The nurse was fired. They had trouble keeping any staff thanks to Joan's rules. One right after another.
In the middle of 1951, Joan did one of her last pictures for Warner Bros. It wasn't a good film and she knew it. She also knew she wouldn't be contracted w/ them much longer either. Joan had a way w/ life. Her way was the way and she wouldn't listen to different. She thought she could keep he world in order. Joan's weakest link was - alcohol. Thanks to Joan's constant hire/fire of staff, word filtered back to the employment agencies. So Joan began to hire fans as secretary and nurse. To make matters worse, Christina was having trouble excelling at school. At first, they wanted her to leave, but she stayed to see it through.
|Joan & Christopher|
Soon Joan didn't want and banished Christina from coming home. Christina was old enough to intervene at home and KNEW what went on throughout that house being the REAL reasons why. She didn't want to stay at school on weekends, bu it was kind of a relief. Joan would constantly calling the school to check up on Christina and verbally lash out at her. Joan would be drinking during these calls. Christina couldn't convince any one for help because Joan was so deceptive. It would be Joan's word against Christina's and Joan usually won. Finally, Mrs. Chadwick of the school began to see that Joan was lying. She lived w/ Christina every day and KNEW different. In short, there was NO way Christina could NOT win for losing.
There was a new student at Chadwick in Christina's summer school class. His name was Jim. At first, Christina didn't like him because he was a know-it-all. But Christina got to know him and set off to a wonderful friendship. Thanks to Joan's schedule of the summer, Christina was allowed to spend a week w/ a girlfriend at her family's beach house. That summer, Christina KNEW & FELT what it was like to be a typical teenager. It was like a paradise for her.
A few moths later, Joan began work on her first independent film, Sudden Fear. It was a great film that got Joan her 3RD Oscar nomination as Best Actress. She did NOT win, but it excelled her career. When the picture wrapped, Joan had to again occupy herself while finding another job. In reference to keeping herself occupied, she would enlist Christina's help. Joan's "comeback" w/ Mildred Pierce had gotten her a professional reprieve. Even w/ a 3RD Oscar nomination, one picture no longer automatically led to another. Joan was in her late 40s and fighting for every inch of her career.
Due to being so busy taking care of her professional life, Joan didn't pay much attention to Christina or Christopher. They had both been living at the Chadwick School and didn't go home very often. Christina had spent 2 years fighting for respect and friendship. She was getting worn out fighting for every single accomplishment each day of her life. What Christina needed was a boyfriend. Then she found Walter, someone everyone loved, captain of the football team and student body president. When he asked Christina out, she happily accepted.
Walter had graduated and Christina didn't know how they were going to keep in touch. Whenever Christina went home, things were oddly strange. There were the OBSESSED fans Joan would hire to work for her. Joan would offer to pay them. ANYTHING Joan wanted/needed, the fans worshiped her. (It was like jump and how high?) They wanted no money, no praise, only to serve. Even in this mix, Christina HATED all of it. Joan expected Christina to treat her w/ the same respect and praise that the fans did. Christina was made to call her mother "Mommie Dearest" whether she wanted to or not. Joan wanted Christina to act like a puppet fan and wouldn't do it. There were things Joan did that Christina thought were wrong. It was as though keep quiet or fear her wrath. It was a living nightmare living w/ a lunatic as her mother was.
It was a bad time for Joan. She was drinking HEAVILY at night. She was piling up w/ bills, a second mortgage and trying to get another film to do. Problems compounded and worsened w/ Joan's drinking. Christina began to think of ALL of the stunts/craziness her mom pulled when Christina was growing up. Joan made her weekly calls to the school. When she heard what she wanted, even though the school KNEW Christina was innocent. Joan showed up at the school at 10:00P having been drinking and driving. Christina was packed and ready to go. Joan wouldn't speak to her daughter unless it was to make orders at her. After a stop at a liquor store, Joan SLAMMED on her brakes, sending everyone into disarray. She slapped Christina across the face many times and ordered her to shut up. Christina then tried to do what she could to stay out of her mother's way.
Christina then goes into wanting an explanation of why her mother would lie in public about the TRUE Joan. Joan was afraid Christina would ruin the image her mother built in front of press. Joan then WAILED on her daughter trying to choke and kill her. She was someone else and NOT Joan Crawford and NOT her mother. When it was over, the next thing Christina knew was, she was being interviewed by a juvenile officer taking her side of the story detailing what happened. He explained what would happen if another call was made: juvenile hall. Christina had one black eye, cut on her upper lip and covered in blood. Puffy face, swollen eyes and a hand print across her cheek.
That Fall, Joan told the school she was unable to pay full tuition for both kids. So, Christopher and Christina were put on partial work scholarships. They were expected to work where they lived. They worked on the weekends. They were paid $30.00 a month, but NOT A PENNY from their mom nor did she pay ANY tuition that year. Christina couldn't figure out where her mother's money went. Joan was making one picture a year. Joan thought that Christina working would give her the value of money. Christina began to get the eerie feeling that Joan was making her relive the penance of her own childhood by Joan having to work her way through school. Joan told Christina that her real mother was a scrub-woman.
Joan's mood changed for the better when she was working. Christina went to visit her mom on the MGM lot many times while Joan was working on the film Torch Song. The school bus dropped Christina off every other Friday at the studio gate and she would stay w/ her mom until it was time to go home.
|Judy Garland and Sid Luft|
Even though Joan prided the party costing $5,000, when Christina returned to school, she returned still on scholarship. The school took Joan at her word saying she would pay the backup bills to today, which was becoming an unsizable debt. Christina was VERY GRATEFUL to Mrs. Chadwick to finish high school, even w/ a debt and scholarship. She/Christina had found a REAL sense of belonging. Success was also smiling on Christina on the swim team. Another notch under her belt was also cheerleader. That particular accomplishment was a long-awaited vote of acceptance. Life for Christina was everything she wanted it to be. Even though Joan was too busy for her at home, Christina's life was happy and productive.
Joan had followed her musical at MGM w/ a Western for Republic Studios called Johnny Guitar. But once again, even though it wasn't a very good film, Joan received ample publicity for it. Joan had brought Christopher out to Arizona for a visit during the summer. Chris had a good time and made some friends. It was important for him to feel a little special. He had his own share of problems trying to grow up in a houseful of women.
Christopher had run away from home on a number of occasions when he couldn't stand it anymore. He lived down on the Santa Monica pier for a week before the police found him. Joan was ENTIRELY TOO STRICT w/ him. He was never given an allowance. Joan was trying to keep a boy who was becoming his own man. In school, Commander Chadwick was the closest to a father figure Christopher had or knew. In another fight and confrontation w/ a drunken mother, Joan was acting demented and at her very worst. Mrs. Chadwick couldn't even hold her own temper. She raised her voice in confrontation w/ Joan defending Christina. Joan SCREAMED out in the conversation that after Thanksgiving break, NONE of the Crawford children were returning to Chadwick. Joan was having them all transferred.
At that point, Christina HATED her mother she was at the point to want to kill her. The Commander & Mrs. Chadwick were there with her. It was the three of them THERE joined together at what they went through because of Joan. They KNEW it was wrong and told Christina it wasn't her fault. At the Thanksgiving meal, Christina TRULY seen who was her REAL family now. The Chadwick's, Christina and, her brothers and sisters. Before the weekend was over, someone had come to take Christopher and the twins. Christina didn't even see them for a year after that. The Chadwick's were trying to find a way to keep all the kids together in school. From her throne in the eye of her hurricane, brandishing her wand of obsession ruled Mommie Dearest. Christina thought about all and what she had to overcome to get to the school. The school was there and had been there for her. Everyone felt helpless against Joan for what to do? They felt defeated against Mommie. When the car arrived for pickup, Christina had an urge to run for her life anywhere. Saying goodbye was a somber moment for everywhere.
Christina was then taken to Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, a Catholic girls school in Pasadena. After listening to the rules at this school, Christina was literally under house arrest. She was a prisoner in total exile. Christina soon found herself emotionally hold on any longer and let it all go. Four weeks of continuous crying. After that time, it was Christmas break. What did it matter? She was still banished to the school.
Christina had NO MORE fight left, NO MORE anger, NO MORE spirit of survival. EVERY BIT of her life within 5 years of pain, determination and finally success was taken and stripped from her. EVERYTHING was GONE and she was DRAINED. Christina fell into a CONSTANT sleep depression. People may have moved normally around her, but she was OUT of it. Christina didn't care anymore. She wanted to die and lost all desire to think. Her body was limp and SHUT DOWN. When she finally felt hungry, Christina was so weak she had to be fed to. She fell asleep then. When she awoke, Christina see the Sister sitting on the edge of the bed saying her rosary. Christina looked at her trying to manage a smile. Tears welled up in the nuns eyes when Christina tried to communicate.
The nuns and sisters gave Christina strength she wasn't used to seeing. Joan didn't care about anything else other than her public image. Christina received a letter from Christopher. Joan had made him under her spell that everything was ALL his/Christopher's fault. Christina was LIVID! From a point until her death, Joan sent Christina a telegram on her birthday. Joan clung on to whatever hurt she had and let it manifest. She demanded constant love and there was NO way to satisfy Joan Crawford.
The trip was so special to Christina, she kept a diary of it. Christina was showered w/ gifts from her mom. She gave up wondering the intention. It was a TRUE dream come alive. It was like a fantasy about what it's REALLY like to be a movie star's daughter. EVERY SINGLE THING that night was TRULY at her fingertips. Living a life of a movie star. The fanciest fine & dine on a cruise ship. Christina HONESTLY felt she was dreaming ans would wake up back at the convent. The kids hardly seen Mommie and Daddy. When Christina and Alford were alone, even if it was an instantaneous father/daughter relationship, Christina was basking in the happiness of being w/ her "daddy".
When they returned, a cold chill ran through Christina. She could TELL her mom had been drinking and about to go into a TEMPER. From years of past, Christina KNEW her only salvation was to get out quick. She manages some pleasantries and took her brother out w/ her. What you KNEW would happen happened when they returned. Aside from check-in at 6 each night, that was the only time kids seen the parents until New Years Eve. Christina had lost her convent school shyness during the last six weeks and was now the quiet young lady keeping her appearance.
In Paris, Joan had cut Christina's hair short. Christina's short hair reminded Joan of Norma Shearer, whom Joan co-starred w/ in 'The Women' in 1939. When they arrived in New York City, Alford took Christopher and the twins to the airport and Christina stayed another week. The last day Joan was aboard ship, she told Christina that a magazine 'Women's Home Companion' wanted to do a story on them. Joan thought she would teach Christina "the ropes" of being an actress. After 2 months of being dressy for photos, Christina was beginning to tire of the public spectacle. After everything was done & over, Christina said her goodbyes and flew back to L.A. solo.
It had been a year and a half since Christina seen the Chadwick's. She talked a friend into going for a visit. Joan was in Jamaica when all hell broke loose of what Christina had done. Joan sent a letter saying that Christina was punished until college. The visit occurred in February. Joan had twisted and used Christina's words to fit her. Joan held tremendous power over Christina even when she wasn't present. Christina was dependent on her mother and couldn't do anything. Her first good news came in months when Christina was accepted at Carnage Hall, the school of her choice.
School was ending and soon came graduation. Joan didn't even attend the ceremony. Christina's HATRED for her mother built. Christina was the ONLY girl in the graduating class without family in attendance. Christina was humiliated and angry. Everybody KNEW it was out of punishment that NO ONE attended graduation. This ENTIRE time, Christmas communication w/ her mother consisted solely through those letters. The defining blows of Christina's graduation came when Joan sent her 2 matching boxes that were separately gift wrapped. One box had a birthday card on it. The other had a graduation card. They each contained one gold earring! Christina was deeply hurt and couldn't find the words to reply to her mom until several days later. Joan chalked it up to having spent several hours having a fitting for a film to pay for the education.
Joan couldn't stand any kind of honesty outside the narrow confines of her own work. She couldn't tolerate personal honesty as she took that as criticism of herself. Joan was wrong for missing out this time and tried to make Christina feel bad about her actions. Joan's "excuse" was ALWAYS her work.
Christina then thought about what she had gone though in her own life: Being orphaned twice; once by her own biological parents, the other by her adopted parent. Growing up in institutions and foster homes at age 10. Receiving better treatment, more consideration, better understanding and fairness from the hands of strangers. For all of that, Christina was still extremely grateful. Shortly before leaving for college, Christina read an article from the L.A. Times about an auction. It was Joan, who was obviously miserable and being forced to live under subhuman conditions, just to support the kids. To be honest, Christina didn't care about her mom's nightmare. When Christina finally descended upon leaving the mountaintop where the convent was for college, she was NOT sorry and breathed a sigh of relief.
Coming from her college atmosphere, Christina was struggling on her $25.00/month allowance. She typed term papers at night for extra money. After the years of solace, Christina thought about getting out on her own. College was much better than boarding school was. But still as long as Joan was paying, she held the purse strings. Christina spent so much time under that control, it was difficult to imagine any other way of being. On one hand, Christina envisioned the freedom. On the other, she always seen Joan holding the strings.
Joan and her husband were constantly traveling for Pepsi. She could be counted on to draw huge crowds since she was the only major Hollywood star to make the transition from films to public service in the business world. In the late 1950s, NO movie star did commercials for TV or were associated w/ just one product. The "Pepsi generation" was coming of age.
|Joan and Alfred|
Christina realized afterward the major error in doing that. She went on there as an extension of her mother. A movie star's daughter w/ NO REAL credentials of her own. She had NO personal identity. Outside of the further mess she created for herself being "Crawford's daughter", Christina was determined to overcome the obstacles. Christina drempt of a career for years. She felt she had SEVERELY screwed herself w/ NO way to reprieve.
Their house in California was sold to Donald O'Connor. The family was moving to Manhattan. Christina was constantly worried about going to her moms. She was exhausted when she left. The household was in a permanent state of agitation. During the winter and spring of 1958, Christina tried to be what her mother wanted her to be, but she was evolving into her own person. It was impossible for her to be Joan's perfect child. Because of the extensive publicity she'd gotten though the soft drink promotion campaign, Joan was now getting offers to do TV shows and started working in Hollywood more frequently. As the company stock advanced, so did Joan's career.
Due to an unfortunate prank at school, Christopher, who was 15, was in TROUBLE w/ Joan. Shortly afterward he lived w/ his sister who was 19. They managed to survive once more. Joan won too! No longer responsible for Christopher. What followed the next year was the typical scariness of life beginning as an actress. Even though scary, Christina continued to grow into what fit her into her own person. She began to appreciate and understand what her mother had been through. The early years as a struggling actress. Something Joan NEVER talked about. Joan had gone out to film a cameo in Jerry Wald's The Best Of Everything. A small part was thrown to her during a difficult time after Alfred's death. Before leaving for Miami to do her first film, a writer did a story on Christina as one of the FIRST "Hollywood kids" to go into the business as an actress. It caused quite a stir. A month later, Christina got a long-term from 20TH Century Fox and was summoned for a screen test. It wasn't good, but good enough to get a part in the film w/ Elvis Presley. Joan sent her congratulations and later retaliated!
A week later, Christina's contract was cancelled. She never worked for Fox Studios again. She tried to get a few Hollywood jobs without much success. Finally she just gave up. Eventually, Christina took a job at a savings & loan in Hollywood. She met her first real love in a man who taught her to trust. She stopped blaming Joan or making excuses. All those years in the quiet stopped her from destroying herself.
Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? was released in 1962. It was the most successful film Joan made in years and the last important of her career. Joan's feud and "competition" w/ Bette Davis was a match for each other. Bette was every bit as shrewd a professional and indomitable as Joan. Years later, Joan would only have to hear her name to start a tirade.
In 1964, Christina ventured back into show business and the world was changing. There were now a number of "second generation" Hollywood actors/actresses. She auditioned for a play 'Barefoot In The Park' twice in New York and received the call a month later in Los Angeles that she was hired. It was the best job she landed and Christina was proud of it. The reviews were terrific. She received the Chicago Critics Award for Best Young Actress. In April 1966, after a hurried courtship w/ her director of the play, Harvey Medlinsky, Christina decided to get married. Joan was shockingly delighted when Christina told her. It was complete acceptance. From that point on, Joan and Christina were in daily contact. Joan decided to plan the ENTIRE wedding event. Christina was overwhelmed. Joan and Harvey became good friends and liked each others company. Christina and Harvey were married on May 20, 1966. She was on Cloud 9. After the honeymoon and Harvey went back to work, Christina visited w/ her mom nearly every other day. She was basking in it. A new apartment, a new life and her mother's love.
Christina would spend many nights at her mom's apartment. For the first time, Christina felt really comfortable w/ her mom. Joan would even go out of her way to plan fun things to do together. Including adding Christina in her social calendar. It was over the holiday when Christina and her husband were together that they realized they had difficulties to work through.
Christopher had been married, divorced and moved back to New York. He was drafted in the Army at the height of the Vietnam War just 2 months after the divorce. Christina was SCARED to death. She followed the newspapers and reports praying for a safe return. Joan and Christina had so many moments together that were filled w/ REAL understanding and GENUINE friendship that is was wonderful for both of them. While everyone else told Joan what they thought she wanted to hear, Christina told her the truth. She tried to show respect, but she was NOT a servant. Joan began talking to Christina more-and-more when they were alone. On Christina's wedding day, Joan had given her the pearl necklace Alford had given her. Joan expressed great love and a deep sentimental attachment to him/Alford. If it hadn't been for the money and success from '. . . .Baby Jane?' Joan would have had financial difficulty.
Joan was taking different "styles' of medicine. She was 63 and dependent on a a maid for companionship. She would fall several times at night, hurting herself seriously and worrying Christina. Usually small injuries increasing to more. Joan managed to conceal the facts of her drinking of maintaining a rigid schedule. She had a SERIOUS drinking problem, but NO ONE spoke of it openly. By summer, Christina and her husband opted for a clean divorce. While she was hurt, work kept her busy. Whether it was work or strain from the divorce, Christina was tired and losing weight. She was feeling something she couldn't shake. She broke into a cool sweat and pain in her abdomen. She couldn't work and was very scared.
Christina kept up the kind gestures and gratefulness, even though she was sick at seeing her mother drunk on-screen. As Christina grew older and achieved her own success, their roles were changing. She had everything her mother wanted. Youth & a job. Joan was beginning to re-live her life through her daughter. NOW, it was Joan looking for love and approval the way Christina did. She had given Christina tickets to an event that she was too ill to attend. She asked Christina to stand in and accept numerous awards on her mother's behalf. Christina would do ANYTHING to help or appease her mother. During this time, Joan's drinking increased. Due to the pills and drinking, Christina was afraid her mom would accidentally kill herself. Not only was her drinking affecting her health, it was affecting her work. The beginning of August was the beginning of the end of 'Secret Storm' for Christina. It was not a surprise to her.
Christina got another show at 'Universal' that would be the last of her career. It didn't matter anytime Christina showed her mother ANY affection, Joan stomped on it. As an actress, Christina would always be: Crawford's daughter. NEVER have her OWN identity. It wasn't right for her anymore. She went back to college. Christina graduated magna cum laude w/ a bachelor of art degree. Next was graduate school. Christina received a master's in communication management and worked in PR. She had to break free and wrote her mom about her progress. She was surviving. Christina had made peace w/ her mom, herself and her own life. She had built a life for herself outside of her mother - and what she's been through. Joan & Christina loved each other w/ an uncommon passion that too easily turns into strife and sorrow. The weekend of Mother's Day 1977, Christina felt her mother was going to die. They had been bound together for so many years. Christina KNEW. Joan died on the morning of May 10, 1977. During the funeral, Christina didn't realize it was on Friday, May 13TH. When it came to the will, NOTHING was left for/to Christopher and/nor Christina. The twins received a trust fund spanning 20 years. Cathy got all of their mother, Joan's, personal property. The entire matter was a disgrace. IT WAS OVER!
In 1981, a blockbuster and ICONIC-LY biographical film was made based on Christina's book (and life) of the same title, Mommie Dearest w/ Faye Dunaway in a REMARKABLE portrait as the LEGENDARY Joan and Diana Scarwid as an adult Christina, getting to give the last word.
|REAL Christina Crawford (today)|
An update on the Crawford children