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The Five Roles That Defined Joan Crawford's Career

By    |   Thursday, 14 May 2015 05:28 AM

Joan Crawford had a career that spanned nearly 50 years and a total of 83 film roles, but her off-screen antics competed for the spotlight as well. Crawford reportedly had feuds with almost every other leading lady of her time, with an oversized ego and chip on her shoulder in part for her struggles to even become an actress and later for being coined box office poison until the film “Mildred Pierce” revived her career in 1945.

Here are five roles that defined Joan Crawford’s turbulent career:

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1. Mildred, “Mildred Pierce” (1945)

Crawford’s career was on the decline after several flops with MGM, so she decided to head to Warner Brothers with hopes of reviving her career and did just that with “Mildred Pierce.” She had to fight for the role, reportedly having to do a screen test before director Michael Curtiz would cast her. This role also gave Crawford her one and only Academy Award win in 1946.

2. “Sally, Irene and Mary” (1925)

This film marked the first time audiences took notice of the star-seeking Crawford, who had up until then only had bit parts – once even playing only the body double for her personal nemesis, the popular Norma Shearer. She must have proved her chops, as her “salary was raised in the middle of filming from $100 to $150 per week,” according to the website Legendary Joan Crawford.

3. Blanche, “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962)

Crawford plays the victim here to a T in what Roger Ebert calls “one of Hollywood’s best gothic grotesqueries.” This film pitted Crawford against another Hollywood superstar, Bette Davis. The casting alone was remarkable since, as Ebert shares, these two actresses were “rivals since the 1930s, competitive, vain and touchy, they by all accounts hated each other in real life.”

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There was even a book detailing the feud that was released in 1989 titled “Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud.” And while neither actress won an award for their roles, the film did cause a stir.

4. Vienna, “Johnny Guitar” (1954)

“Johnny Guitar” is notable because it displays yet another performance in which Crawford had to act in two ways; one, as the main character, and two, hiding her disdain for Mercedes McCambridge, another actress she shared an off-screen feud with, according to the Telegraph.

Director Nick Ray was noted as saying that he thought the feud brought out better performances from the women. Regardless, the film was added to the National Film Registry in 2008, ensuring a long-standing legacy for Crawford.

5. “Grand Hotel” (1932)

This film marked yet another feud Crawford maintained in her career, this time with Greta Garbo. Yet, what makes this film important to Crawford’s career is that it won an Academy Award for Best Picture, and Crawford proved she could hold her own among the outstanding cast that included John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, and Wallace Beery.

Legacy.com notes, “Though Garbo and Crawford do not appear in any scenes together, the two were fiercely competitive. Crawford was upset at not getting top billing, and as a revenge insisted on showing up late on set and playing Marlene Dietrich records – knowing Garbo loathed both.” 

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Joan Crawford had a career that spanned nearly 50 years and a total of 83 film roles, but her off-screen antics competed for the spotlight as well. Crawford reportedly had feuds with almost every other leading lady of her time, with an oversized ego and chip on her shoulder.
joan crawford, roles, actress, movies
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2015-28-14
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