Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

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mongoII
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by mongoII »

Hi Casey,

It's Joe again. Does this portrait of your grandmother still exist?

Image

Thanks again
Joseph Goodheart
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caseylalonde
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by caseylalonde »

Dear Marco,

Thank you for the questions and thank you for the positive feedback!

The work to get Letty back to commercial release will be interesting and long-term, but in the end, well worth it to get this wonderful film back from obscurity.
As for the Home Movie Collection, I have had the opportunity to screen the films three times for the public, first at UCLA during a Joan retrospective, then MOMA in New York for their annual (and really neat) International Festival of Film Preservation, then at the TCM Film Festival in April. I would estimate that less than 1,000 people have seen the films coast to coast, so there is ample opportunity for additional screenings.

The Home Movies are approximately 25 minutes in length, so it makes a nice double feature with a Joan feature film. I specifically chose A Woman’s Face to be shown as the feature film at the TCM festival because it neatly fits into the Home Movies timetable of 1939 to 1943. The Home Movies deserve to be seen on the big screen, but a showing on TCM would marvelous as well. I do a bang up job with the narration, as all of the scenes have been carefully researched. The films are on 16mm acetate film and available on a digital transfer to me by George Eastman House.

Your comments on Mommie Dearest are on target. I no doubt believe my Aunt Christina’s efforts to destroy Joan backfired in a weird way. Christina did indeed destroy her mother’s personal reputation, but Joan is still a Hollywood icon to this day, thankful to Christina. It is a strange world we live in. The Mommie Dearest effect, as I put it, has brought an entire new generation of Joan fans to know her life and work.

My mom watched Mommie Dearest once, just once, and has never seen it again. I have seen it twice, once on television when I was a kid and in 2006, again, at The Castro Theatre in San Francisco as part of a Joan vs. Bette Davis film festival. It is high camp and should be taken with a grain of salt. My mother and Aunt Cindy (now deceased) would have sued Christina’s pants off if they were portrayed in the film, so that is why they didn’t appear.

On a brighter note, I have plenty of wonderful memories of my grandmother. I vividly remember driving into Manhattan once or twice a month with my parents to visit her at her apartment in Imperial House on East 69th Street at Lexington Avenue. She would be waiting for us at her apartment’s front door, usually in a house coat and with her hair and makeup done. She would make my sister and me a little lunch and my parents would go shopping or sightseeing. We would spend hours with her and have a great visit.

The funniest thing was, I knew deep down that she was something special and that she was in “the movies” but never that she was international screen star and Hollywood icon Joan Crawford. We just called her JoJo.

I also did a little more research this afternoon on the Mildred Pierce remake. Thankfully, your information is correct, in that the new mini-series is based more directly on the James M. Cain novel and not on the Michael Curtiz directed film. This is a relief and I look forward to the HBO mini-series.
Agreed, Susan and God could be remade now.

Mildred and Ida’s on-screen banter is legendary in Mildred Pierce. Eve and Joan appeared together in Mildred Pierce and Goodbye, My Fancy. Eve Arden and Joan got along famously during production on both films and were good friends. Joan credits Eve with giving her the fortitude to begin the adoption process.

Thanks for the great questions! I am around all week!
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caseylalonde
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

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mongoII wrote:Hi Casey,

It's Joe again. Does this portrait of your grandmother still exist?

Image

Thanks again


Dear Joe,

Great question!

Sadly, and to my knowledge, the painting doesn't exist anymore. Joan had a terrible habit (in my opinion) of throwing away everything she owned. No antiques, no scrapbooks. She only kept things that meant some serious things to her. Her Oscar, her Golden Globe, her Home Movies . . . She was not the sentimental type, and it showed with her changing out her home furnishings frequently. For example, when she passed away in 1977, she had all modern furniture and furnishings, with her apartment decorated by Carleton Varney. Nothing older than probably ten years in the household, except those few items. Very interesting indeed.
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by JackFavell »

Hi, Casey!

It's so great that you are visiting here at the SSO! Thank you so very much for coming to chat with us.

Thanks for talking about A Woman's Face and The Shining Hour- those are great favorites of mine.

Joan Crawford was a terrific actress. She put all her soul into acting, and she shows an inner vulnerability on screen in every film she made despite her sometimes tough exterior.

Though it was not a big hit, The Last of Mrs. Cheyney is a film I really enjoy. Joan does a great job of balancing earthy realism and high born sophistication. The whole movie is a balancing act - between comedy and drama, between good and bad, between rich and poor, and between William Powell and Robert Montgomery. I think it's a great fit for Joan. She balances her own emotions with the needs of her partners in crime. I like Joan best when she's conflicted like this and must make a choice. She played the role of a low down con artist with highly refined sensibilities and I think she caught both sides of the character perfectly. She has the manners and style to pass herself off as a rich socialite, but remains true to her working girl persona. I love the way she tosses off her lines while verbally sparring with Robert Montgomery. In fact, I think she carries off both the humor and the drama beautifully. Her guilt at rooking the people she has come to know is expressed in a nicely understated way.

Did she like this role? Did she enjoy working with William Powell and Robert Montgomery? Did she feel she was unfairly compared to the other actresses who played the role previously (Ina Claire and Norma Shearer)?

Joan was always able to convey the inner struggle between what she wanted and what was right. You can see the thoughts written on her face in countless movies: she deserves those nice things that money can buy, she's earned them a thousand times over.... why shouldn't she have them? or the man she wants... But you also know that Joan will be honest, above all with herself. She will never delude herself. And in the end, she will do the right thing. I think this is why women of the thirties and forties so identified with her. In her eyes is the desperate want, the toughness of life, and yet, she always made you believe that her heart was in the right place.

In movies like Paid, and almost any other movie you care to mention, Joan really represented all women - especially downtrodden women. I almost get the feeling that she wanted to show everyone what women could really do if given a chance. Was she aware of this identification of the American woman with her, or was she even responsible for it? Did she purposefully choose her roles with this thought in mind? Was she something of a feminist, even if the word might have been distasteful to her? Or was this image as the American working woman just a studio ploy foisted on her early on and it stuck? She certainly seemed to embrace the image, even as she also embraced the glamour of being a Hollywood star. Again, she had this duality, and I find it fascinating.

My other question has to do with family - do you have any favorite stories or memories of her? (although I see that since I started typing you have mentioned visiting her).

Thanks!

Wendy
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by Moraldo Rubini »

The trailer for HBO's Mildred Pierce has been released:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzgL7emRnXs[/youtube]
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

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Casey, could I please ask you to clarify some information about your grandmother's immediate family?

Do you know if Joan was close to her mother, Anna Bell Johnson (1884–1958), despite all the upheaval of their lives during Joan's childhood?

I have read that Joan did not really know her father, Thomas LeSueur as a child, but that she did meet him once again on the set of the movie Chained (1934). Do you have any idea if your grandmother had any kind of relationship with him after this? Do you think that either of her subsequent stepfathers, Henry J. Cassin and Harry Hough, provided any emotional or financial stability for her, her brother and mother?

Joan's brother, Hal LeSueur (1903-1963) (sometimes listed as Hal Losener) shared her interest in performance while they were children and he later became a bit player in Hollywood and even had an uncredited part as a reporter in the recently aired Jeanne Eagels (1957). What was the relationship of these siblings like? Did your mother have any contact with her uncle or her cousin, Hal's daughter, who was reportedly named Joan Crawford LeSueur?
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Above: Hal Le Sueur with his sister, Joan, c. 1930.

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MissGoddess
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by MissGoddess »

Mr. Lalonde,
First let me say what a pleasure it is to have you here. I remember being so very gratified when I saw Joan Crawford's grandchildren on a Good Morning America or some such program a couple of years ago…about the time Charlotte Chandler’s bio came out…talking about the GOOD things about her. I am not sure but I believe you were a part of that interview? Anyway, I have visited your website periodically and am delighted that Joan is getting a much more fair shake than before when it comes to personal publicity. That’s due in large part to you.

I have always admired your Grandmother not only for her dedicated professionalism and the countless hours of joy she brought to the world through her movies, but from what I’ve learned about her hard work ethic, her efforts to always improve herself and learn, whether it was to better her craft or beautify her life. I know what it’s like to be on your own at a young age (I was working since I was 14, on my own at 17 and I’m in my late 30s now) and Joan gets all my respect for that. I know it wasn’t easy. I like her down-to-earth side, that she seemed the kind of woman who’d roll up her sleeves and show you the right way to do a task if you weren’t getting it right, ha! And how beloved she was by crew people. You really know about a star by how the crew talk about them. I knew one old timer in L.A. who worked for Harry Cohn at Columbia, and when I asked him who was the star he personally liked the most, he unhesitatingly mentioned your Grandmother because she ALWAYS knew and greeted the crew and technicians by name, remembered important events in their lives and was as thoughtful of them as though there were no hierarchy, no barriers.

I believe that’s called “class”.

One more comment on your Grandmother and then my question. What struck me most and remains with me about her screen presence is, especially in her early films, an unmistakable and very infectious sense of absolute joy to be doing what she was doing. You could see this kid was having a ball and with co-stars like Gable, Barrymore, Montgomery, Cooper and Tracy, who can blame her? I just like that it seemed to come out of her pores, that unabashed love for her profession. Those early days in Hollywood must have been a blast, too.

My questions for you are, if you know or could speculate, where would Miss Crawford go and what did she do to relax, feel at ease and recharged? I ask because she lived in many lovely houses/apartments in many places, but I wonder where was “home” or where was her favorite place to be? Would you characterize her as a “people person” who needed company most of the time, or a reserved, more solitary type?

JackFavell has asked about your favorite childhood memories and you touched on your visits already, so I can only add that I’d love to know, if it is not being too prying, what your favorite one-on-one moment was with your Grandmother? How did she like having you kidlings over at her gorgeous home(s)? Was she fairly easygoing, I mean did you get a sense that family was really important to her? I imagine it was since her early life was rather hard and I can also identify with that.

Oh, I also want to thank you for mentioning she did a kind of “Martha Stewart” book…I’m going to look for it now! I know she had a great sense of style so I’m eager to learn.

Apologies for my rambling on and on, and thank you again for being here and for your efforts to shine a positive light on a fine lady and credit to her profession.
"There's only one thing that can kill the movies, and that's education."
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

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Dear Stephen,

After a long day at the office, I am so pleased to be back at the Oasis tonight! Thank you for your questions and lovely thoughts about my grandmother.

Even something as, well, just plain lousy as Trog, always brings a smile to my face. Whenever a Joan film comes on TCM or the local PBS channel, I have stop and watch at least a few minutes. Especially so, when one of the favorites you mentioned is shown.

I always enjoy watching Strait-Jacket! It is a cheesy, William Castle shocker. Joan brings as much star power to the film as possible, but it is still a William Castle film. Not to disparage Mr. Castle, as he did produce Rosemary’s Baby several years later.

By all accounts, Joan and William Castle got along well. One year later, she starred in Castle’s I Saw What You Did. I have a photo of William Castle and Joan hamming it up for the cameras during the publicity rounds for Strait-Jacket. Not much has been written about their relationship.

Joan was very nervous in front of live audiences throughout her entire career. The mental safety of working on a closed set and starring in films allowed her to express herself without exposing her to live audiences like those faced by stage actors. It wasn’t until much later in her life would she do extensive live, or taped interviews in front of audiences. She appeared on the Mike Douglass Show, David Frost and most famously in front of her adoring fans with John Springer at Town Hall. By this time, Joan was so sure of herself that no audience could scare her.

This question is interesting, because the woman was famous in her early career for winning dance contests at The Grove and performing in front of probably dozens of cast members and crew, yet she was afraid to appear in front of a live audience. Maybe it was a fear of failure in front of the public? Oh to be able to spend a day with grandmother, now, with all I know!

Oh, the eyebrows! She was plucking those things from her late teens. Joan was always self conscious of her look and took great pains to keep herself in the latest style. I am sure she took plenty of notice to gossip about her looks, so it must have affected her in some way.

Thanks for the questions and please write again!
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caseylalonde
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

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Dear Wendy,

Thank you for the warm welcome and insightful comments on my grandmother’s career. I wholeheartedly agree with all of your comments!

The Last of Mrs. Cheyney is a fine film and does showcase my grandmother’s delicate balancing act between comedy and drama. The film is filled with balancing acts, as you stated, that make for one interesting film. No matter the role, Robert Montgomery always has a sophisticated, yet boyish charm. William Powell holds that same sophisticated grace, but with a more mature and experienced demeanor. I love both actors, especially when paired with my grandmother.

My grandmother was quoted the following on Mrs. Cheyney, the quote sums up her love of the role perfectly. “For years, every time I thought of Mrs. Cheyney, I wanted to kick myself around the block. I didn’t stink, like I did in Rain, but at the time the film was made I was having personal problems and I let them get in my way. It showed; it was a beautifully put together film, all the way, but I only did a three-quarter job. If I’d done it right, I’m sure I’d have been nominated for an Oscar.”

Joan very much enjoyed working with Robert Montgomery and did so many times during her tenure at Metro, including my favorite, Letty Lyton. This was Joan’s only pairing with William Powell, if memory serves, but she enjoyed working with Powell just the same.

I just watched Paid the other day, having been shown recently on TCM. As in many of her films, she does play the “everywoman” to the hilt, first as the wrongly accused criminal to the new daughter-in-law not accepted by the social elite because of her past. Joan was definitely a groundbreaking woman: single (and sometimes married) career woman in the 1920’s, 30’s and beyond; a single mother who adopted four children; and a businesswoman in her later life.

Joan was keenly aware that the roles chosen for her affected an entire generation of woman through pop culture. Although she had little say in her awarded roles, especially at Metro, I believe Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg clearly understood Joan’s impact on women of the era and cast her accordingly.

Later in life, Joan would bristle at the term “feminist.” I think Joan wanted people, and women especially, to make their own way in the world. To quote Joan, and let me tell, the quote speaks for itself: “I’m not anti-feminist, but I’m inclined to agree with Adela Rogers St. John, when she said that Women’s Lib is a lot of hogwash, that women have always had their rights, but they were too dumb to use them. She says that any woman with intelligence and ambition has always been able to make it in the so-called man’s world. I think she’s right. Now, that I’ve set the Movement back five years, what’s next?” Pure Joan wisdom!

Thanks for the excellent insight and please write again!
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by caseylalonde »

Good evening Marco,
Thanks for providing the new Mildred Pierce trailer. The film looks and feels like a completely new take on the book. There is nothing that speaks to me as "Joan Crawford" here. It should be an interesting mini-series, as it looks much grittier, complex and involved than the film that won my grandmother her first and only Oscar.

I haven't read James M. Cain's Mildred Pierce in about five years, so I will have to pick it up before watching the new mini-series.

I am sure Kate Winslet will do a great job, and Guy Pearce looks very swarmy as Monte Beragon. Evan Rachel Wood as Veda? Not sure. I will have to see it to believe it!
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by Sue Sue Applegate »

Hello, again, Casey!

I can remember back in 1967 or 1968 seeing your grandmother on the soap opera "The Secret Storm." I was home in bed during a lengthy illness
while I was in junior high, and I can remember how excited by mother was to see Joan Crawford on one of her favorite soap operas.

It was a "big deal" for my Mom because she was star struck, and that's why I have developed a love for classic film.

Did you or your family members watch her on television? (You might have been too young.)If you did, what did you think about seeing her on television?
I remember how important it was for my mother to see one of her favorite actresses. She didn't miss any episodes that week because
"Joan Crawford is on." She loved every minute of her performances on that television show .
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caseylalonde
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by caseylalonde »

Good evening Moira,

To put it mildly, Joan had a troublesome upbringing. She is quoted as saying she had an awful childhood, with her mother “marrying the wrong kind of men and moving.” Joan’s biological father, Thomas LeSueur, left before Joan was born and only one of Anna Bell’s husbands, Henry Cassin, provided much of any fatherly guidance.

However, once Joan reaches a certain level of Hollywood success, Anna Bell and later Hal joined Joan in Hollywood. Joan paid for their lifestyle with charge accounts all over town. Joan was beholden to her mother strictly out of familial respect and responsibility than for devotion or love for her mother. I am sure Joan resented Anna Bell for most of the living conditions she allowed Joan to live.

It is pretty clear from the various biographies and Joan’s autobiography that Anna Bell and Hal LeSueur were living the high life in Hollywood thanks to Joan’s familial duty. Hal appeared to take advantage when he could, by asking for cash or using Joan’s car. Hal did try his hand at acting, who wouldn’t in Hollywood in the 1920’s or 30’s, but was never more than a bit player.

Hal and Joan were six years apart in age, so even that small age difference must have had an effect on their relationship. Hal never amounted to much, so Joan was left holding the bag and paying his way. Their relationship was strained at best, especially as Joan became more successful over the years.

To my knowledge, my mother, Cathy, had no contact with her Uncle Hal or Hal’s daughter. Although my mom and Aunt Cindy were only sixteen when Hal died, I am not sure Joan allowed any contact. Joan is quoted as saying she loved her mother, but I am sure their relationship was much more complex than that. I couldn’t imagine living Joan’s hardscrabble life and not blaming Anna Bell for at least some of the misfortune. I am sure Anna Bell was trying her best, but did Joan blame her? Possibly.

Given all of Joan’s early heartbreak and later incredible success in Hollywood, that dichotomy would make a very interesting mini-series in itself!

Thanks for the questions and please keep them coming!
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by charliechaplinfan »

Hi Casey,

Thank you for so many answers to our questions, Joan often gets a hard deal off writers, it's nice to hear about the side we seldom read about but know was there.

I'm interested in her relationships with Irving Thalberg, Louis B Mayer and Jack Warner. Did she have a cordial relationship with them?

Thanks

Alison
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by movieman1957 »

Hi again Casey:

Was there anything about being a movie star that Joan hated?
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by Ann Harding »

Dear Casey,

Thanks a lot for visiting SSO. It's thrilling to be able to speak to somebody as knowledgeable as you about your grandmother's career. :) My knowledge of Joan Crawford's pictures is not huge. But, I do love her in all her Borzage pictures (Shining Hour, Mannequin and Strange Cargo) and in Johnny Guitar. I have several questions for you.

I am a great silent picture fan. I have seen Joan Crawford in The Circle (1925, Borzage) where she is very youthful (and uncredited), in Tramp, Tramp, Tramp and in Our Modern Maidens where she is a very good flapper. Do you know if she cared about her silent career? Or was the sound a relief for her?

I read recently a biography of Louise Brooks and I read with interest Louise's comments on Joan Crawford. She wrote an assay about her image on film. Here is a small quote: "To me Joan Crawford's screen portrayals are all one: a series of transparencies through which she projects her daydream -herself- a wonderful abused kid. On the screen every ladylike effort is stretched by the memory of self-abasement; the salt of every tear is the salt of self-pity.
...Leading a life in triplex -the person she was, the person she thought she was and the screen person- she played [her roles] like Joan Crawford imagining herself to be Gloria Vanderbilt playing the part of the poor, kicked-around whore. To be a movie star and not approve of her private self; to feel that Hollywood does not, and the public would not, approve of her private self, makes for a deadly state of confusion..."
(the assay was never published)
What do you think of Louise Brooks' assessment of Joan? Do you find it insightful or just plain wrong?
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