Sunday, November 30, 2008

Joan Crawford 1925 - Timeline / Photos

Above: A very rare photo of Joan Crawford circa 1924/1925 where she signed her name "Billie."

I find the early years of Joan Crawford's life to be the most fascinating and mysterious. There are so many unanswered things about Joan's youth that do make researching her quite interesting. When she came to MGM in January
1925, she looked nothing like the "Joan Crawford" many remember today. She was still going by the name Billie Cassin in many circles but her stage name was her birth name, Lucille LeSueur. Many know the story already... In 1924, Lucille (Joan) was dancing in shows and making decent money in New York City. She loved to dance and she was doing just that, but as 1925 approached young Lucille was tired of dancing in clubs trying to make ends meet and competing with prettier girls. Lucille was ready to pack it all up and leave the dancing world for a while when she heard that an MGM talent scout, Harry Rapf, was going to be in New York looking for young talent for the newly opened Culver City MGM film studios. Lucille was granted a screen test but failed miserably, but her early determination that the world would eventually see, came out and she fought for a second screen test.

Above: Lucille LeSueur in J.J. Schubert's The Passing Show of 1924 as "Ms. Labor Day" in the shows production.

Lucille didn't immediately hear back from MGM and the holidays were growing near. Feeling defeated, Lucille heads back home to Kansas City three days before Christmas to be with her family and then "companion" Ray Sterling. Lucille was about to receive the biggest Christmas present she had ever received! On Christmas Day, Lucille received a telegram from Nils Granlund on behalf of MGM saying:

"You are put under a five-year contract starting at seventy-five dollars a week. Leave immediaely for Culver City, California. Contact MGM Kansas City offcie for travel expenses."

Above: A very young looking Joan Crawford in 1925.

Lucille was on her way to a new chapter in her life as she kissed her family goodbye she got on the train to Los Angeles, California on January 1, 1925. Lucille arrived in Los Angeles on January 3rd 1925 to be greeted by Larry Barbier an MGM publicity guy. Overjoyed, frightened, nervous a young Lucille probably talked his ear off as she was eventually dropped off at the Hotel Washington.

Above: One of the many cheesecake photo shoots Joan did in 1925.

During Lucille's first couple months at MGM she did the typical things a budding starlet would do. She posed for cheesecake photos, mingled with other upcoming hopefuls and doubled for established stars at MGM. Lucille's first film appearance was in Lady of the Night posing as a body double for one of MGM's biggest stars at the time, Norma Shearer. Lucille only appeared in the film for a brief moment when Norma is faced with her twin in the back seat of a car. You get a glimpse of a young Lucille's profile. The movie was released on February 23, 1925 and Lucille was uncredited for her minor part. Lucille's second film appearance was in Proud Flesh on April 27,1925 starring Eleanor Boardman. Lucille's first and only picture to be billed under her birth name was in Pretty Ladies released on July 15th 1925 starring ZaZu Pitts.

Above: Lucille LeSueur revealing her new name, Joan Crawford.

It was March 1925 and Lucille had just turned nineteen years old and the studio was not sure what to do with her. Studio head, Louis B. Mayer, was not fond of her name he thought it sounded too much like a 'sewer' and the studio launched a name contest to rename the upcoming actress. Originally Joan Arden was chosen for Lucille but there were more than one submission for that name. Finally, on August 18th 1925, Lucille was christened with the new name Joan Crawford! Joan was still given bit parts and uncredited in The Merry Widow released on August 26, 1925 starring John Gilbert and Joan also appeared in The Midshipman released on October 4, 1925 starring heartthrob Ramon Novarro.

Above: MGM files showing Joan's registration and photo in 1925 compared to a diva photograph of Joan from 1933 showing her metamorphosis.

Lucille was none to pleased with her new name; she thought it sounded like "Crawfish." Lucille had met another young upcoming star named William Haines on the MGM set and they formed a strong bond almost immediately. It would become a lifelong friendship for the both of them. Haines joked with Lucille on her new name saying, " Be thankful your name's not Cranberry like a turkey, hope you never make one!" Off and running with her new name, Joan ended the year with FOUR movies being released in only a month time frame! Old Clothes released on November 9, 1925 starring Jackie Coogan, The Only Thing released on November 22, 1925 again starring Eleanor Boardman, an uncredited part in The Circle released on December 2, 1925 and ending the year with a her first "hit" film Sally, Irene, and Mary released on December 7, 1925. Joan Crawford was born and a young actress was blooming!

Click here to see several more photos of Joan Crawford from 1925!

No comments: