In 1946, Joan Crawford received the Academy Award for Lead Actress for her role in the previous year’s Mildred Pierce. This was an example of a film noir movie. What is film noir? It’s where the atmosphere, plot and general feel of a movie is dark. A classic example is Double Indemnity, starring Barbara Stanwyck.
The Oscars in the Golden Age were much more interesting, as is all of entertainment, than what we are forced to put up with these days. Case in point, Joan Crawford received her award, guess where? In bed, with cameras trained on her. Maybe it was the first example of a reality show! And Joan Crawford would have been the perfect star for a reality show. If she were alive today, she would probably have one. She was always about the fans. We would probably see her at events in honour of her fans, signing autographs, etc.
The reason Crawford was in bed is because she was nervous about attending the Awards and being rejected by losing. If she had not won, the cameras would not have been allowed in her rooms. I find this much more interesting, this open display of neurosis. We would not get this self revelation in modern times. Everyone is so politically correct. It is all about appearances now. No one is allowed to be themselves, except for the spiritual derelicts on reality television. Nowadays all people care about is what the actresses are wearing and how much skin anyone is showing. When Crawford accepted her award in bed in 1946, she was wearing a nightgown. A fancy nightgown, and she was professionally made up, etc! (She was Joan Crawford after all!), but still, she was in a nightgown.
Have you ever heard of the phrase Mommie Dearest? This is where the term originated, with Joan Crawford. After she passed away, her adopted daughter, Christina Crawford, wrote a book with that phrase as the title. Joan is said in the book to have been a child abuser, and that is primarily what she is now remembered for. But before that, during the 1920s and through the 1960s, she starred in classic films. She was the queen of reinventing herself before Madonna was even born. Crawford started out being famous as a jazz dancer, as a symbol of the fast and loose 1920s. Then in the 1930s she was the shopgirl who rose to prominence on the arm of an older man. The 1940s represented her as an independent woman (like Mildred Pierce). In the 1950s, she continued being an independent woman but the roles were not as good. The 1960s saw her horror phase.
Joan Crawford is worth a million of today’s movie stars. Setting aside her personal life (and after all, what do today’s stars do behind the scenes that no one knows about?), she is one of the greatest movie stars of all time. Here is my recommendation for some of her best films:
Our Dancing Daughters
Grand Hotel (this one has Garbo in it, too!)
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Possessed (1931 version)
A Woman’s Face
Susan and God