Marilyn Monroe and Joan Crawford’s Feud and Their Reportedly Frivolous One-Night Affair
Marilyn Monroe and Joan Crawford were both leading ladies in the early '50s, and while the stage was big enough to accommodate them both, their years together teemed with feuds and even an alleged affair.
While Joan Crawford had already bagged several accolades in 1952, having been nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her role in "Sudden Fear," Marilyn Monroe was the new kid on the block.
Their feud was attributed to the 1952 Golden Globes, but in essence, the animosity between the on-screen giants began with a gold gown.
American actresses Marilyn Monroe and Joan Crawford | Source: Getty Images
Crawford was born in Texas, the daughter of Thomas E. LeSueur and Anna Belle. Her parents separated before she was born, and all through her teenage years, she worked several unskilled jobs.
She, however, had a gift for dancing and wanted to pursue a career in the entertainment industry and so she began performing in contests. Two years later, she was well on her way to Hollywood.
Determined to make it big in Hollywood, she took her first role in the 1925 "Pretty Ladies." She went on to feature in small roles for the better parts of 1927 and 1928. In 1929, she took on a role in "Untamed" that saw her become an on-screen success.
Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962), the Hollywood film actress. 1954 | Source: Getty Images
She would soon become one of MGM's most prominent actresses, featuring in the 1932 "Grand Hotel," the 1934 "Sadie McKee," the 1935 "No More Ladies," and "Love on the Run" in 1936.
Born Norma Jeane Mortenson in 1926, Monroe's life was riddled with controversy right from the start. Her mother, Gladys, unable to take care of her, gave her up to a foster home, then took her back when she was seven.
Shortly after taking back custody of her daughter, Gladys suffered a mental breakdown and was institutionalized. Monroe moved from foster home to foster home, finally ending up in an orphanage.
American actress Joan Crawford (1904 - 1977) wearing a pink and white striped blouse, circa 1945. | Source: Getty Images
At only 16, she married James Dougherty, a friend from her childhood, but soon after, he joined the army, and they divorced. Monroe started doing modeling gigs and, in 1948, did her first major part in "Ladies of the Chorus."
In 1950, she featured in "The Asphalt Jungle" and "All About Eve," then "Niagara" in 1953. That same year, Monroe took part in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," the movie that would launch her career as Hollywood's most admired sex emblem.
THE ALLEGED AFFAIR
Monroe had her fair share of affairs with both men and women, and one such fling was with the "What Happened To Baby Jane?" actress Crawford.
Marilyn Monroe poses for a portrait in circa 1953 I Image: Getty Images
Monroe opened up about the affair to her doctor, saying that they had had a one-off situation, and soon after, Monroe told Crawford that she did not want to pursue a relationship with her.
Monroe's rejection of Crawford started an animosity between them and as Evening Standard reports Monroe to have said in one of the tapes:
"I told her straight out I didn't much enjoy doing it with a woman. After I turned her down she became spiteful."
American Actress Joan Crawford. | Source: Getty Images
The 1953 Golden Globes may have been a reason for all the onscreen titans to come together and celebrate one of their own, but it ended up being one of the most piqued moments of Monroe's and Crawford's careers.
Monroe had won the Best Actress award for her role in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and "How To Marry a Millionnaire." That evening, she would be receiving her award.
To grace the big day, Monroe had designer William Travilla make her a decollete gold lamé gown, made so tightly that Travilla had to sew it on her.
Marilyn Monroe presents Photoplay Magazine's 'Dream House' contest winner Virginia McAllister and her son with the key to a new house, Warrenburg, New York, June 1949 I Image Getty Images
Before attending the award ceremony, Travilla advice Monroe to limit her movements as any animated activities would cause her gown to rip. Her then-husband, Joe DiMaggio, would not even accompany her to the ceremony due to the outrageous dress.
Monroe was on the rise, and Crawford was constantly receiving criticism for being an older actress.
THE GRAND ENTRANCE
Due to the nature of the dress, Monroe could not sit or sway properly, so she opted to arrive late to the ceremony. Two hours in, and just as she was about to be called to the stage to receive her award, she walked in.
American actress Joan Crawford (1904 - 1977), circa 1940. | Source: Getty Images
The room stood still. Jerry Lewis, who was emceeing the ceremony, started hollering while other guests at the party broke into animated applause.
Everyone's jaws dropped to the floor as Monroe swayed and danced in the room, with her gold gown tightly hugging her body.
Marilyn Monroe in California circa 1953 | Photo: Getty Images
But amid the uproar, Crawford and several other female attendees were blue with envy, and as Crawford would come to be later quoted saying in hindsight:
"Nobody can imitate me. You can always see impersonations of Katharine Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. But not me. Because I've always drawn on myself only."
YOUNG & UPCOMING MONROE AGAINST WASHED-UP CRAWFORD
And for the simple fact that Crawford had won two awards that same year, the animosity was not a result of work-related resentment.
American actress Joan Crawford (1905 - 1977) in a promotional still from 'The Best Of Everything', directed by Jean Negulesco, 1959. | Source: Getty Images
Crawford was 55 and slowly losing grip on her youth. With her tumultuous career overshadowed by her drinking habits, Monroe was a threat to her as a woman and to her career, as she would soon be taking parts in movies previously given to Crawford.
The brutal reality of the situation embittered and damaged Crawford, and she could not come to terms with the young and upcoming actress pulling the rug out from under her.
She went on a rant, castigating Monroe for her jaw-dropping appearance, saying she had taken the publicity too far. She continued to say that Monroe should have known that the industry loved alluring female personalities, but they needed to remain respectful.
Actress Marilyn Monroe poses for a portrait laying on the grass in 1954 in Palm Springs, California. | Source: Getty Images
The feud seemed too far-fetched, but when Monroe did not invite Crawford to her house party a year later, the spat between the two was confirmed.
Monroe was on the rise, and Crawford was constantly receiving criticism for being an older actress. The clash went on for so long that the two were still feuding when Monroe's passed on in 1962.
American actress Joan Crawford (1905 - 1977), circa 1940. | Source: Getty Images
Asked to comment on Monroe's death, Crawford had this to say: "She was cheap and an exhibitionist. But for God's sake, she needed help. She had all these people on her payroll. Why did she have to die alone?"
Suffice to say, Crawford outlived her nemesis and continued appearing in roles long after Monroe had passed on. Crawford died from a heart attack in 1977.