Joan Crawford wowed the world with her passion for entertainment. However, she made some personal choices concerning her kids that left them in an uproar after her death.
Joan Crawford was America's sweetheart during the Depression. Her talent earned her love from movie lovers, colleagues, and the film industry.
The actress died at age 69 but had already established an indelible success that is revered by many to date. She was an award-winning onscreen star, dancer, and executive, famous for her roles in "Mildred Pierce" and "What Happened to Baby Jane."
Joan Crawford at the time of her starring role in "Mildred Pierce," for which she won an Academy Award.[left.] Joan Crawford with her daughter Christina, her son Christopher and her adopted twin daughters, Cindy and Cathy, circa 1949 [right] | Photo: Getty Images
Crawford's fame was tagged with a tremendous fortune that allowed her the opportunity to live a life of affluence. However, her romantic life and motherhood journey was not as successful as her career.
The "Mildred Pierce" star enveloped herself in some type of mystery, and it was not until her death that some hidden truths became uncovered.
She had adopted four kids due to her inability to give birth naturally. Many would have thought that Crawford cared for all her kids equally, but sadly, that was not the case.
American film actress Joan Crawford at the Oscars award ceremony in Hollywood on April 11, 1962 | Photo: Getty Images
The details of how she treated her kids are in a publication by one of her mini-mes. Apart from the insider's stories, the actress left an overwhelming piece of evidence that showed friction in her relationship between her first two adopted children—through her will.
WHO WAS JOAN CRAWFORD?
Joan Crawford was born in San Antonio, Texas, and her birth date remains a mystery as some publications pen down 1905/1904. Irrespective of the irregularities, it has been obtained that the actress was born in the early 1900s.
She didn't grow up with both her parents, as the two separated before she was born. However, Crawford grew up with the presence of a man, Harry Cassin, in the household.
Joan Crawford helping her daughter Christina during her piano lesson in the United States on July 25, 1947 | Photo: Getty Images
Her mother remarried Cassin, a theater owner, but their union did not last. The pair split before Crawford became an adult, and due to this, she had to labor for funds, as she was enrolled into a private institution.
She attended Stephens College but did not complete her education because of her knack for dancing. While pursuing a dance career, she worked onscreen for MGM studios and later bagged some dance roles in films.
In 1928, the film star featured in the hit drama "Our Dancing Daughters," which brought her to the limelight. The following year, she acted in "Hollywood Revue" and later appeared in "Grand Hotel," "Dancing Lady," "Possessed," and "Strange Cargo."
Joan Crawford and four children, Christopher, Cathy, Cynthia, and Christina romp on lawn following party given by Ann Rutherford for daughter Gloria's 5th birthday. | Photo: Getty Images
Her reign was incontestable during the 1930s, but by the 1940s and beyond, she struggled to revive her career, which, thankfully, was a success.
By 1962, she made a comeback in the horror blockbuster "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" and subsequently starred on a few TV shows.
Nearly a decade later, the actress shared some details of herself in a memoir titled "My Way of Life." Before her death in 1977, she had built an unshakeable legacy that has gone on to inspire several generations.
American actress Joan Crawford (1905 - 1977) in a promotional still from 'The Best Of Everything', directed by Jean Negulesco, 1959. | Photo: Getty Images
A PEEK INTO HER ROMANCE
The American sweetheart was romantically involved with four different men, all of whom she married. Three of her marriages were to famous entertainers.
One of her husbands was Alfred Steele, chairman of Pepsi-Cola, whom she wed in 1956, but he died suddenly three years later, and she joined the Board of Directors at her deceased husband's company, becoming the first woman on board.
American actor Joan Crawford (1904 - 1977) hugs her adopted daughter Christina, wearing matching outfits, June 1944. | Photo: Getty Images
HIDDEN TRUTHS ABOUT CRAWFORD'S LAST DAYS
Crawford succumbed to her health issues by 1977, following a heart attack, just after Mother's Day. She was possibly 69 at the time, as she never revealed her real age.
The actress was faithful to her religion, Christain Science, which hindered her from seeking traditional medical care even in her ill health, despite not being oblivious of the signs and symptoms.
Some sources also add that she was horrified to discover the name of her illness, as it was later confirmed to be cancer.
American film actress Joan Crawford (1908 - 1977) in costume for her role in the western 'Johnny Guitar',1954 | Photo: Getty Images
A few years before her demise, the actress lived a secluded life, estranged from the outside world. This happened right after a party she attended in 1974—the paparazzi captured an unattractive appearance, and she vowed not to make a public appearance ever again.
Asides from her self-absorption, which is expected of most onscreen goddesses, Crawford was particularly conscious of being a great mother to her favorite kids.
Crawford had two favorite children out of her four adopted kids. They were the last two (twin girls), Cathy and Cynthia, who became chief beneficiaries to their mother's fortune.
Hollywood actress Joan Crawford strides along the platform of London's Paddington Station with her adopted twin daughters, Cynthia (right) and Cathy, 8/3/56-London, England: | Photo: Getty Images
The actress had written her will less than a year before her death and had explained that she never wished to give anything to her older kids, Christina and Christopher, for reasons known to them.
She willed her estate valued at $1.3 million, her personal belongings, and huge sums to Cathy Lalonde, which was paid over two decades after her demise.
Cynthia Jordan also benefited from her famous mother, who willed her money to her kids, payable when they reached 21. Other benefactors of her fortunes included a passionate fan and help, Bernice Oshatz, some charities, and health NGOs.
American actress Joan Crawford with her children Christopher and Christina, circa 1947. | Photo: Getty Images
LIFE AFTER JOAN CRAWFORD'S DEMISE
As explained in her will, she never left any dime or possession to her two older kids. This did not go well with them, and they went in and out of courts challenging the will.
In 1979, the affected parties concluded, and the siblings were stated to share fifty-five thousand dollars, with no tax levied on the sum.
Cathy, the possessor of all of Crawford's belongings, also presented her older sister with a 1941 plaster bust with the inscription "To Christina."
American film actress Joan Crawford (1908 - 1977) in her starring role in 'Mildred Pierce', circa 1944:| Photo: Getty Images
RELATIONSHIP WITH HER KIDS
Not many knew the complexities of Crawford's relationship with her four kids during her lifetime. The star was very secretive and, not many pried into her family affairs, especially where her children were concerned.
However, in 1978, her eldest child, Christina, an established writer, authored some truths about the actress. She claimed her mother was very abusive physically and emotionally.
A few decades after revealing the facts behind the tumultuous experience of her childhood, the author shared some candid tales, adding that her mother nearly killed her by strangling and would have ended up behind bars if that happened in today's world.
American film actress Joan Crawford (1904 - 1977) at the Oscars award ceremony in Hollywood | Photo: Getty Images
Christina allegedly suffered horrible treatment, including getting beaten and tied up until she left home. Her detachment from Crawford led the famous actress's daughter to alcohol and drugs.
Christopher, who passed away in 2006, has been known to have supported his older sister's claim. He did not have a good relationship with their mother either.
Cathy, on the other hand, debunked her sister's stories following the publication. She explained that their mother was a single parent and the sole breadwinner, who believed in discipline but not torture.
Christina Crawford speaks about Turner Classic Movies original documentary, "Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star". | Photo: Getty Images
According to the other half of the twins, Cynthia, their mother could be strict and show compassion and love.
Regardless of the disagreement on Crawford's parenting, many of her fans would remember her for the unbeatable legacy and acting prowess in the film industry, which has lived on for many decades.
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