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Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

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Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby moira finnie » September 12th, 2010, 8:51 am

Here is the spot to post your questions for our guest, Casey LaLonde. Our stalwart moderator, Lzcutter, should be along shortly to host this event, but until then, perhaps members could begin to post their questions for our guest here.

This Discussion is now closed to new comments. Our thanks to Casey and all those who participated in this visit!
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby pvitari » September 12th, 2010, 9:15 am

Dear Mr. Lalonde,

Thanks so much for answering our questions! I am a big Conrad Veidt fan, so I'm wondering what Miss Crawford had to say about working with Veidt in A Woman's Face. (She was wonderful in that film, of course!)

Sincerely, Paula Vitaris (pvitari)

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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby caseylalonde » September 12th, 2010, 10:10 am

Good morning Paula!

Please call me Casey!

Conrad Veidt is one of my favorites as well. His early work in such silents as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Man Who Laughs to his later films including Casablanca and Above Suspicion is uniformly excellent.

My grandmother had the opportunity to work with Mr. Veidt in A Woman's Face. They had clear on-screen chemistry that produced one of my grandmother's most memorable roles. Joan fought hard to have Metro make the movie and as she admitted later, the film was her high point at Metro. However, in my opinion, the film would have not had the impact without Conrad Veidt. He portrays a creepy, desperate man who will stop at nothing for money.

Joan thoroughly enjoyed working with him on A Woman's Face and later in Above Suspicion. By 1941, Joan had worked with most of the best and most talented stars Hollywood had to offer. I would dare to say that Joan's pairing with Conrad Veidt A Woman's Face should be noted as one of the best on-screen "partnerships" in history.

Mr. Veidt died way too young. He had an on-screen presence that is second to none, even today.

I had seen Mr. Veidt on the big screen only one time before in Casablanca. Seeing him larger than life on the big screen in A Woman's Face at the TCM Film Festival in April solidified my opinion that he is one of Hollywood's greatest actors.

Your thoughts?

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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby pvitari » September 12th, 2010, 10:48 am

Dear Casey,

Thank you so much for your response. My apologies for forgetting to mention Above Suspicion. My thoughts are that I agree with everything you say. :) I'm just very sorry I missed you at the TCM festival, which I had a blast at but was also a constant source of frustration because one had to make impossible choices about which movies to see.

Here is another question for you. (I hope you don't mind.)

How do you feel about the remake of Mildred Pierce as an HBO mini-series with Kate Winslet? I'm looking forward to it myself, though I doubt it will eclipse the 1945 classic starring Miss Crawford and directed by Michael Curtiz.

-- Paula

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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby caseylalonde » September 12th, 2010, 11:17 am

Hi Paula,
I am new to Silver Screen Oasis and I am sure this was discussed in depth, but I would like to hear more from you and other guests on the TCM Film Festival. Charlie Tabesh, the TCM crew and the festival organizers did a wonderful programming job, but like you, I had to make some serious choices! I missed Louise Rainier and Jean Paul Belmondo!

Okay, back to your question.

What has been coined in recent years as Hollywood's "death of creativity" with many sequels, "reboots" and simple variations on a theme, I am hoping HBO's mini-series version of Mildred Pierce lives up to HBO's usual high quality productions. I have some faith that HBO will produce a quality Mildred Pierce mini-series, given their critical success with The Pacific, Band of Brothers, The Sorpranos and a show on my all-time best series list, The Wire.

Kate Winslet is one my generation's best actresses and I know she will put in a great performance. However, with any reboot of a quality classic film like Mildred Pierce, the new mini-series will be compared with the classic at length. Critics and fans will compare Ms. Winslet's performance with Joan's and so on. Is it being shot in color? Will HBO inject more sex and language that was not allowed in 1945?

Overall, I am looking forward to the mini-series based on HBO's track record and Kate Winslet's acting prowess.

As long as it doesn't end up like the reboot of The Women . . .

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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby movieman1957 » September 12th, 2010, 11:23 am

Hello Casey;

First, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us.

Would you talk about your grandmother's time making musicals for MGM. Did she enjoy them? Did her lack of them after a certain point in her career come from her or MGM's desire?

I am not sure some people think of her as a dancer/singer that often and thought it might be interesting to hear about.

Thanks so much.

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."


Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby feaito » September 12th, 2010, 11:24 am

Hi Casey! It's Fernando from Chile,

I have been an admirer of Joan Crawford's talent ssince very young. I have always found quite biased and unfair certain cristicisms towards her acting talents; in fact some of her films and her performances in them are great favorites of mine, especially "Grand Hotel" (1932), "A Woman's Face" (1941), the unique "Strange Cargo" (1940) and "Humoresque" (1946), among others.

The first time I saw "Grand Hotel" her performance seemed so fresh and natural to me, and to be honest I liked her performance in that film much more than Garbo's, who seemed mannered in comparison -although later on as I grew up and learnt to appreciate Garbo's particular way of acting, especially in Silents. What were her thoughts of that fim? Did she have in high regard her performance in it? Did she like making the film?

Did she have any particular favorite roles or films in which she starred? Is it true that her least favorite film was "Ice Follies of 1939"?

Also, I must admit that notwithsanding the fact that I like and admire Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford fared better playing the bitchy Crystal in "The Women" playing Crystal than Norma playing Mary. She's superb in that movie too? I know that much has been written about the supposed rivalry between both stars, so: Do you know what were her feelings towards Norma Shearer and did she talk to you about her experience working with her and all the other great actresses who were featured in "The Women"?

I also had the chance of watching Joan Crawford in the elegant and slickly done "Letty Lynton" (1932) which due to some legal entanglements can't be aired, screened or be released to DVD or Blu Ray. Have you seen this good film? Do you know if there's a chance that in the near future we'll be able to see a general release of the movie?

Thanks for your answers!


Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby feaito » September 12th, 2010, 11:34 am

Can't refrain from asking more dear Casey, ...

Another film of your grandmother that I loved and I've seen twice is the underrated Borzage picture "The Shining Hour" (1938) in which the contrasting acting styles of her and Margaret Sullavan give the film a great interest, in my opinion, besides the fact that it was directed by the master of Romanticism (Mr. Borzage). Also, Fay Bainter playing Joan's sister-in-law who rejects her and is jealous of her is another must to see this film. This is a Woman's film supreme and male actor play mere second bananas to these great three actresses. Did she tell you anything about making the film and her opinion about the finished product? Did she like acting with Ms. Sullavan and Ms. Bainter?

Joan Crawford's look change a lot during her long-lasting career. Have you any particular favorite look of hers? I think that your grandmother was beautiful especially when she wasn't so heavily made-up -I must admit though that her different looks during the first half of the '30s and late '20s, with heavy make-up or not, are my favorites-; In "Strange Cargo" (1940) for instance, she looks very beautiful and in "Paid" (1930) too.

Do you recommend any particular Biography about Joan Crawford?

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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby caseylalonde » September 12th, 2010, 11:52 am

Hi Chris!
It is a pleasure to be here!

By all accounts, my grandmother enjoyed her time singing and dancing during her early years at Metro. Some of her (and my favorites) of the time include some silents and a few talkies including Our Dancing Daughters (1928), Our Modern Maidens (1929), Untamed (1929) and Our Blushing Brides (1930). As Joan had been literally plucked from a chorus line by Harry Rapf in Kansas City, she had little fear in showing off her dancing moves and singing prowess. During the mid to late 1920's, the Jazz Age was in full swing.. Joan was christened a "Jazz Baby" and film history was born.

As she states in her autobiography, Portrait of Joan (1962), the newly signed Metro player and her friends would go dancing at the Montmartre overlooking Hollywood Boulevard on Wednesday nights for "exhibition dancing." Joan says she would "work all day and dance all night." I believe it! On Fridays, she and her friends would dance at the Cocoanut Grove and soon became known as a champion Charleston dancer.

I have to say my favorite singing / dancing film is Dancing Lady (1933), co-starring one of the loves of Joan's life, Clark Gable. The movie has everything: dancing, signing, comedy and some great choreographed scenes. Following Dancing Lady, Joan moved into more straight comedies and dramas, until revisiting her old dancing and singing days with the just plain, over the top Torch Song in 1953.

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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby Lzcutter » September 12th, 2010, 12:17 pm

Welcome Casey!

I hope everyone enjoys your stay with us this week. I see people are already asking questions which makes me happy. I also want to thank Moira for opening the "door" bright and early this morning. I overslept having stayed up late watching Raoul Walsh Night on TCM.

I just wanted to say thank you for being here and taking the time to be a Guest Star with us. So, back to the questions!
Lynn in Lake Balboa

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"For me, John Wayne has only become more impressive over time." Marty Scorsese

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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby caseylalonde » September 12th, 2010, 12:45 pm

Hello Fernando!
Please ask any and all questions!

I wholeheartedly agree with your position regarding somewhat harsh criticism of my grandmother's acting. Grand Hotel, Mildred Pierce, A Woman's Face, both versions of Possessed, Daisy Kenyon, Humoresque, Sudden Fear, Strange Cargo . . . I could go on and on. Joan has far more solid performances than failures. Even take such low budget shockers as Strait-Jacket, Berserk and, sadly her last film, Trog. She was still Joan Crawford and no matter how cheesy the film, her acting style still came through.

As for Grand Hotel, Joan was in awe of the incredible cast assembled for the film. John and Lionel Barrymore, Greta Garbo, Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone and Jean Hersholt all in one film? Incredible! Joan was overjoyed to be a member of this prestigious cast. Her biggest disappointment on the film was that she did not have a scene with Ms. Garbo. She truly enjoyed working on Grand Hotel.

Although Joan was always severely critical of her own performances throughout her career, she had many favorites including Grand Hotel, A Woman's Face and her famous trio of films at Warner Bros., Mildred Pierce, Possessed and Humoresque. It is very true that she did not like The Ice Follies of 1939 much at all. To her, it was a throw-away role in a silly movie. As she stated eloquently in her autobiography, "This was trash."

I too love Norma Shearer. I especially like her pre-code films such as The Divorcee. No other two actresses at the time could have pulled off the incredible adversarial roles of Mary Haines and Crystal Allen. I point again to the horrible recent remake. The original version was lightning captured in a camera lense, never again to be captured again.

Norma and Joan were obvious rivals at Metro. Joan (and a few other actresses, I am sure) would blame Norma's prime acting roles on her relationship with Irving Thalberg, but Norma was a great talent. The relationship between Joan and Norma was cold for many years, but as they both matured, they actually became friends. I have a photo of Joan and Norma speaking with each other at a restaurant, probably in the 1950's. They looked happy to see each other and genuinely friendly.

Joan very much enjoyed working with the cast of The Women, although she had to lobby hard for the role as Crystal Allen. Hunt Stromberg and director George Cukor didn't think it was a good idea to cast Joan as the villain. Joan won the role anyway and history was made.

Letty Lynton, sadly, may not be commercially released or screened for the public. Due to a case that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, Letty is on the shelf. The court upheld lower court rulings that Letty plagiarized the stage play Dishonored Lady, written by Edward Sheldon and Margaret Ayer Barnes. I have a poor copy of the film on DVD, but it has been out of circulation since 1936. I am working on a plan to get the film restored and back in circulation.

Joan thought the possibility of turning The Shining Hour into a feature film was not something to pass up. She had seen the play on Broadway and convinced Metro to purchase the rights. Joan also insisted that Margaret Sullavan play the role of her rival and Fay Bainter, a talented stage actress, to play the role of the sister-in-law. All three actresses do a superb job and Frank Borzage did a wonderful job of directing this interesting film. As Joan stated at the time, "I'd rather be a supporting player in a good picture than the star of a bad one." I wish some actors would follow that advice today!

The always wonderful Melvyn Douglas played Joan's husband in the film.

The film was a critical success and Joan looked forward to her next role. However, her next role was the "trash" of The Ice Follies of 1939 . . .

The Shining Hour is one of Joan's overlooked gems that should not be missed.

My grandmother was a master at reinvention. When a particular look wasn't doing well or she thought it was time for a change, Joan did it! I agree, the more natural the Joan, the more beautiful the Joan. I particularly like her looks in the 20's, 30's and early 40's. However, by the 1950's, I don't know who was doing hair styles. I just can't stand her hair in Queen Bee, Harriet Craig and Johnny Guitar. But it was just Joan, most actresses of this time period had the super-short, matronly looking hair doos. I just don't like the time period, I guess.

As for biographies, I suggest Joan's autobiograpy, A Portrait of Joan (1962), followed by Conversations with Joan Crawford (Roy Newquist), Joan Crawford (Bob Thomas), Joan Crawford: Her Life in Letters (Michelle Vogel - I did the forward) and Charlotte Chandler's Not the Girl Next Door. For a very interesting look at Joan's later life, I suggest picking up a copy of My Way of Life (1972). Think of this as a Martha Stewart lifestyle "How To" book. This book would make an entertaining movie!

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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby CineMaven » September 12th, 2010, 12:47 pm

Hi there Casey,

I am a Joan Crawford fan. She undoubtedly was one of the great movie stars of Hollywood's Golden
Era. By all accounts, Ms. Crawford enjoyed being a movie star. Do you know if she personally felt herself more movie star than actress or vice versa?

Did your grandmother ever have any favorite actors she worked with? You spoke of her chemistry with Conrad Veidt, but I'm also wondering about 'The King" Clark Gable. Crawford's in distinguished company with actresses like Lombard, Loy, Garbo, Shearer, Kerr, Doris Day, Stanwyck, Marilyn, Vivien Leigh, & others who worked with the Leading Male Star in Hollywood. Any thoughts on that?

I am a big fan of Kate Winslet's but I'm a little fearful of the re-make of "MILDRED PIERCE." I thought the combination of your grandmother with Ann Blythe was sublime. Kate's got some big shoes to fill b'cuz Joan Crawford gave a fantastic perfomance that has stood since 1945.

Many years ago my aunt & I saw Joan Crawford along with Sylvia Sidney, Myrna Loy and Bette Davis speak with John Springer. Legends all, but there's something visceral about the magic of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. (What were her thoughts of Bette Davis...c'mon Casey, you can tell us). If young folks today know of no other actresses, they know Bette Davis and Joan Crawford). I felt lucky to have seen her speak in person...and I'm feeling pretty lucky speaking with you here at the Oasis.

Thank you.


Theresa Brown
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby mongoII » September 12th, 2010, 1:13 pm

Hi Casey,

Welcome to Silver Screen Oasis, it's a pleasure having you with us.
I too am a big Joan Crawford fan. In fact I corresponded with her in the 1960s and received autographed photos and little notes on blue writing paper (which I still have). She was a very cordial movie star.
I was also going to ask about the lowdown on her relationship with Bette Davis. Was it as severe as was reported?
Also, during all your forums, what is the most asked question about your grandmother?

Thank you kindly,

Joe aka Mongo
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby caseylalonde » September 12th, 2010, 2:00 pm

Dear Theresa,
Thank you for the warm welcome!

I stated in the intro to this week's Q&A, I will present as an unvarnished look at my grandmother's life. That includes being honest about Bette Davis!

In my opinion, Joan was an actress at her core. Of course, the trappings of being a Hollywood icon and actress include being a MOVIE STAR.

Lon Chaney, William Haines, Ramon Novarro, Melvyn Douglas, Franchot Tone, Robert Montgomery, Lionel Barrymore, John Barrymore, Conrad Veidt, Dana Andrews, Sterling Hayden, Jack Palance, Robert Taylor, Spencer Tracy and the unmistakable "King" of classic Hollywood, Clark Gable. What a list of co-stars! Joan shared the screen with some of the most legendary actors in Hollywood history. This short list makes today's actors seem rather insignificant.

I do believe Joan's many films with Clark Gable showed their intensity as an on-screen and off-screen couple. My favorite Crawford / Gable pairing is Possessed (1931). This was the beginning of a several decade long affair between the two and that relationship most decidedly shows on-screen.

Your thoughts on the Mildred Pierce remake are right on target. Ms. Winslet is a great actress, but time will tell if she can overcome my grandmother's intense performance. No one can ever replace Eve Arden as Ida. Evan Rachel Wood is cast as Veda. I have only seen Ms. Wood in her feature film debut in Thirteen (2003), but no one can play Veda like Ann Blyth! I am just hoping that HBO takes the story directly from the James M. Cain novel and tries to make it their own, and not a Mildred Pierce remake per se. We shall see . . .

You were very lucky to see Sylvia Sydney, Myrna Loy, Bette Davis and my grandmother's frank discussions with John Springer. They are classics! I just wish Mr. Springer's conversation with my grandmother was videotaped, because the audio is legendary.

In my opinion, Joan and Bette were clearly rivals. Different studios (for a time), but rivals just the same in their professional and personal lives. I think what goes for petty comments back and forth became something larger in the tabloid press of the day. I don't think either person wished any true ill will on the other, but it always made for interesting press when one would snipe about the other. No publicity is bad publicity!

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? cemented the Joan / Bette rivalry for all time. The casual viewer assumes the two just hate each other, and that is how the film conveys their relationship. No doubt, but their relationship is more complex than a simple hatred between the two.

I find it amazing that of all the classic, successful Hollywood actors of the 20's through 50's, only a few remain widely known in pop culture, namely Joan and Bette. Other giants of their day, such as Norma Shearer, Kay Francis, Ida Lupino and Barbara Stanwyck are largely remembered by enthusiastic fans like us, and not generally in the general public's consciousness.

Thanks for the questions and warm welcome!

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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Postby caseylalonde » September 12th, 2010, 2:20 pm

Hi Joe!

Thanks for the questions and the welcome!

My grandmother knew very well that she would not be a Hollywood star without fans like you. She tried her best (and she succeeded) in treating her fans with the utmost respect and corresponding with them, in some cases, for decades. Her habit of sending cards, letters and photos to all of her endearing fans continued right up until her death in 1977. By all accounts she mailed at least one million pieces of correspondence and signed photos to her fans around the globe. I hear from fans all the time and that they have a personalized photo or letter on that special blue stationery. That is what Joan did, day in and day out. She took care of her fans because she understood without them, she was nothing.

I do believe there was an underlying rivalry to explain the Joan vs. Bette slug fest that continued even after my grandmother's death. Jealousy on both ends? Probably. Joan was at least a little jealous of Bette because Bette was the queen of Warner Bros. and got all of the juicy, Oscar worthy roles. Bette was probably at least a little jealous of Joan because of Joan's incredible glamour and that Joan was "The Ultimate Star."

Even the slightest sniping by one side was reported widely. In the 30's through the 70's, the media picked up quickly on a Hollywood feud like this and fans had an unrelenting appetite for such information. With today's 24/7 media and fragmented fan bases, petty rivalries like these are quickly forgotten because there is always a new scandal to talk about.

The questions I get most from fans include:

* Given your grandmother starred in over eighty films, which were her favorites?
* Tell me more about the Joan vs. Bette feud!
* What was Joan like as a grandmother?
* Was she always "Joan Crawford," even in private?
* Did she ever drink Coca-Cola?
* Christina / Mommie Dearest questions (my favorite!).
* Questions about her relationship with Clark Gable.
* What are your mother's memories of living with Joan?
* When is the next Joan DVD box set coming out?
* When are you writing a book?

These, plus many more hundreds of topics!

Thanks for the questions and keep them coming!

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