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Meticulously researched, Joan Crawford: The Last Word deals in full with her long movie career and explores in detail her turbulent private life. Respected biographer Fred Lawrence Guiles uses newly discovered sources and recent interviews with many who knew her, and some who loved her, to establish the person behind the carefully crafted screen icon.
For most of her adult life she was a Star who dedicated herself entirely to her career. But since her death her luster has been tarnished. Here, at last, is a biography that sets the record straight. In her heyday Joan Crawford was probably the most imitated woman in the world. Magazine covers featured her face, and high school and college girls copied her makeup and clothing.
Born Lucille LeSuer in Kansas City, she spent her childhood on the edge of poverty. But an iron will developed in adolescence drove her to New York City and eventual work in a chorus line. Spotted by a Hollywood talent scout, she was soon on her way to the film capital. Four times married (to actors Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Franchot Tone, Philip Terry, and Pepsi-Cola executive Alfred Steele) and driven by a powerful sexuality, Joan Crawford lived her life on the razor’s edge. Yet she was a woman of great generosity who cared deeply for her four adopted children, although her ideas of discipline were colored by her own harsh upbringing. Her professional career spanned more than forty years and included such classics as Grand Hotel, Mildred Pierce, and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Her remarkable progression from silent films to talkies to television exemplified her ability to adapt, chameleonlike, to the ever-changing demands of the industry that in many senses invented her.