Thursday, March 10, 2011

Queen Joan

Was there every any real doubt as to who would ultimately wear SSUWAT's coveted crown? Joan Crawford's entire life was an upward struggle to succeed, and she fiercely protected and defended the image she had worked so hard to create and maintain. It's easy to make fun of Crawford: the exaggerated eyebrows, shoulders and lips; the overly coordinated ensembles (with plastic-covered handbags and f*ck-me pumps to match); the intensity she would bring to scenes and dialogue that sometimes cried out for a lighter touch; the endless spate of tacky Mommie Dearest jokes.

But, in the end, Joan Crawford deserves our respect for her unyielding devotion to the business of being a Movie Star. Whatever her talent was as an actress -- and we do think Crawford's abilities are often given short shrift -- it paled in comparison to the frighteningly focused way she managed her fame and her public. No one played the game better than Joan Crawford, and she rarely let the facade drop. If Joan's biggest failing as a human being was her complete lack of empathy for those who were less driven than she, it must be noted that she demanded no more of her children, co-workers or employees than she demanded of herself -- it's just that very few others possessed her superhuman capacity for self-discipline.

In compiling our list of the dozen most-frequently-posted divas (who actually comprise the Top 10; there were two "ties" with equal numbers of posts), Joan Crawford far outpaced the competition; we have featured her no less than 135 times! Her closest competition was, ironically, her old nemesis Marilyn Monroe, who logged 66 posts -- tying her with rival bombshell Jayne Mansfield. The "runners up" who didn't make the Top 10, but still have been featured over 20 times a piece are:

Arlene Dahl

Doris Day


Sophia Loren

Barbara Stanwyck

Arlene Francis

Susan Hayward

What sayeth thou, fair readers? Who do you think deserving of a place in the Top 10? Who should be edged out of the current crop? Discuss!


  1. I'll say it again: Ta-llu-lah! And God save Queen B! Tks!

  2. Well...I absolutely ADORE Arlene Francis, who *must* be there - she wrote the book on charm and class, both figuratively and literally. I am certainly a fan of both Missy and Sophia as well.

    BTW - We've missed you, darlings...I was beginning to suffer withdrawals! Welcome back!

  3. Yes I suppose no-one worked harder than Joan to maintain her image. But then so did Marlene and Sophia. Good to see Susan included, but where was Ava ?

  4. But, in the end, Joan Crawford deserves our respect for her unyielding devotion to the business of being a Movie Star.

    Having recently read Donald Spoto’s biography of Crawford, “Possessed”…I’d have to agree with your statement.

  5. Hooray! I'm just starting Donald Spoto's bio of Joan "Possessed". It's making commuting Very bearable.

    Arlene Frances deserves at least the title of Ambassador! And as always, I'm throwing in a vote for Ann Miller.

  6. Yes, Joan is always the top (oops, I mean "tops.") But I'd love to see more of two of my faves: Olivia and Joan. Great posts!

  7. I tend to agree, Crawford was THE female Hollywood survivor. I think it's what gave her both her power and her reputation. I would say Davis is just an inch or two behind, although Davis is my ultimate fave. Garland is up there, how she hung on as long as she did is a mystery of God.

    And, not to dis, but since we're talking Hollywood royalty, why Garbo is even allowed in the palace has always eluded me. She did not want to be there and she did not want to do what she did.

  8. If I had to coose from the ten pictured ... There was no one tougher than Barbara Stanwyck.. that bitch could siege on any role , take a bullet for ya and still come out on top .......

  9. Wow. Well darling as you know after spending a year with her aura while I was working on that documentary, I'll always adore and defend Miss Crawford.

    Since reading the Barbara Leaming biography of Miss Davis, it's permanently taken a great deal of the shine off of my views on Bette (most especially her as a person, but also as an actress).

    I agree with Ptolemy 1 about Garbo not wanting it, and the same must be said about Ava. Of course after her initial bloom the same can be said of Rita Hayworth. Now Rita does get an awful lot of coverage on my blog but that really has to do with my weak spot for Columbia Pictures as much as it does with Hayworth herself.

    As for almost all of the rest of your list: Love 'em. Was lucky enough to have spent a day working with Ann-Margaret once! The only one I waver on would be Arlene Dahl and that's only because I don't really know much about her.

    A name I would (with hesitation) suggest is Joan Blondell. Though a lesser light for sure, she had the wherewithal to keep shifting her image as age and times required, going from twinky-tart-good time girl, to old broad character dame.

    I just did a quick check on imdb and here's the Crawford-Blondell scoreboard:

    Number of titles
    Crawford - 102
    Blondell - 157

    Number of years from first project to last
    Crawford - 47
    Blondell - 51

    Blondell didn't have anywhere near the glam factor, but the dame did ok.

    Loved this post!

  10. Felix dear --

    I love that Blondell dame! I have a surprise cooking just for you.

    I haven't read the Leaming bio on Davis -- what, in a nutshell, caused you to reevaluate your estimation of Mother Goddam?

  11. I have to say, I find it interesting (and slightly amusing) that there's not a peep over Hepburn. I personally love the woman, and in the right role she was incredible. When I was younger, she was the tops for me before I snuck over to the Davis fort. Hepburn IS fun to watch, but there's always something...gimmicky about her, an affectation she seemed to permanently wear. But to look at, not too shabby.

    I've always been impressed if a star wasn't afraid to look ugly on camera for a role.
    Davis seemed to relish it.

  12. The funny thing about Joan is that she was a drinker in her later years and still managed to keep her waist girlish & her cheeks hallow. Everyone's metabolism is different, but most people retain water and look puffy & bloated, not Joan. She must have starved herself, that might explain her reported meaness. If Mommie Dearest prolongs Joan's legacy, I'm sure that even she wouldn't care just as long as you never forget her image as a bonafide movie star.

  13. Yes! Joan Crawford, triumphant! Love that short, anonymous little girl. A force to be reckoned with.
    And TJB, I've also read the Leaming biography of Davis. It's not a hack-job at all, it's actually one of the most intelligent biographies of Bette I've ever read, scholarly and thoughtful. Reading it, one can trace the point where genuine talent descended into rather horrifying ego (Bette's intellect is very apparent during Leaming's chapter on The Letter, but thereafter, it was intermittent and clouded by her penchant for fighting for violence' sake).
    Don't care. Still love her. With reservations.

  14. Here are the greatest, in no particular order, although obviously Bette Davis comes first, as she always should and always will:

    Bette Davis
    Joan Crawford
    Barbara Stanwyck (my favortist actress, ever)
    Greer Garson
    Catherine Deneuve
    Simone Signoret
    Claudette Colbert
    Myrna Loy
    Sophia Loren
    Ingrid Bergman