Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Past chats with our guests.

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

Post by caseylalonde »

Hi Christy!

Oh, the “The Secret Storm” scandal! One of the high points of the Joan vs. Christina struggle. Christina was cast in 1968 as a supporting character on the CBS soap opera “The Secret Storm” but took ill. Joan was asked to replace Christina during her illness. Mind you, Christina’s character was twenty-four years old and had already appeared on the show. Joan was sixty-two at the time and in no way could pass for a twenty-four year old woman! A very tongue-in-cheek appearance. Christina made no bones about the temporary replacement as a slap in the face, but the audience loved Joan’s guest appearance.

I was born in 1972, so I have never seen the show, nor the four episodes in which Joan replaced Christina. I am sure it was a hoot!

I am sure my own mother watched the episodes, as it was a big deal to have such a Hollywood legend as Joan Crawford appear on a soap opera. I am sure Christina was not happy, given the adoration of Joan’s incredible fan base.

Thanks for the question!
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Post by stuart.uk »

Hi Casey

I wrote to you twice before and you were good enough to post both letters on your website.
One question was about Joan and her film with Harry Langdon Tramp Tramp Tramp. However, I've since read Paul Merton's book Silent Comedy, where he suggests Joan appeared disinterested in her role in the film. He also suggested Langdon was a comic actor of limited ability and appearing in one of his films was nothing special

I also said that I thought Joan looked attractive in the 1950s and 60s and it was a pity she never got roles that were still worthy of her talent. I thought she looked as good as co=stars Judy Geeson and Diana Dors in Beserk which was one of the many horror flicks she made in the 60s. I was thinking while Barbara Stanwyck was able to capitalize on her successful 50s westerns with the tv series The Big Valley, maybe Joan could have played a western heroine not to far removed from her role in Johnny Guitar.

I was defending Joan the other day with a friend of mine, who was raving about Mommie Dearest. I said there was another side to the story and that Joan's 2 youngest children adored her.
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by Sue Sue Applegate »

Thank you, Casey!

I enjoy reading all the questions from our members and your informative responses so much!
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by mongoII »

Hi Casey,

Why do you think Joan Crawford gave Mercedes McCambridge such a hard time while making "Johnny Guitar"? It seems that many of the cast members witnessed that this was happening and would later comment that it did.
McCambridge would presumably say "She was a mean, tipsy, powerful, rotten-egg lady."

Thanks,

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

Post by Vecchiolarry »

Hello Mr. LaLonde,

First, let me say that although I do not post here anymore, I want to thank the 2 people who E-Mailed me about your being here. They thought I should let you know that I knew your grandmother, although I didn't know her that well.....

And so: -
1) I first met her at Bill & Edie Goetz' home at a dinner party in 1955. Joan had just finished "Queen Bee" and B & E were showing it that night.
Joan sat across from me at diiner and was all smiles and very gracious to all.
After the movie, I told her that she scared me to death (I was 13) and she laughed and said, "That's the general idea, dear!"...
I got a big hug 'good night' and a"God bless!!".... I loved her!!

2) Next went to Warners with a picture of her and another of Bette Davis when they did "Baby Jane". Joan signed and said I was "all growed up now" (I was 20) and then we had a cup of tea... I went over to get Bette to sign her picture but she refused and Joan came over and said something like, "Bette, we wouldn't be here if not for the fans; please sign the photo".. And, Bette did....
Funny aside: _ I said to Miss Davis, "It's a very good picture of you!" and she hissed, "Yes!!, ISN"T IT!!!"...
3) Next saw Joan at the 1963 Oscars... She was signing autographs for bleecher fans and had kneeled down to sign two older womens' books... In her tight beaded gown, she couldn't get back up and Cesar Romero and I helped her to her feet. We all had a great laugh when she sang out, "It isn't all easy being a glamour girl"....

Larry
Last edited by Vecchiolarry on September 14th, 2010, 5:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by Vecchiolarry »

Hi,

Continued: -

I have always championed Joan Crawford and will not countenance any derogatory comments about her..
All that "Mommy Dearest" B/S is over-exagerrated garbage.
I believed she did discipline her children - all of us were; and some of us were spanked.
But, I don't believe she was any better or worse than a lot of parents; and she certainly provided a good life for those children. Who knows where Christina and Christopher would have been raised if not for Joan Crawford!!!

She was always especially nice to Mae Murray, whom she emulated to a certain degree when she first when to MGM..
She always said that she learned how to move gracefully and be a "movie star" from Mae...

At the Oscar in 1963, I served as her semi-bartender, and she came over to me and asked about Mercedes MacCambridge (I was a good friend of 'Mercy') and said she wished her well.
So, I don't know what to say about all that hastle on "Johnny Guitar"...
Maybe she was nervous because she thought Mercy was a better actress or a scene stealer (which she was actually!!)....

Larry
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Post by caseylalonde »

Good evening Alison,

Thank you for the questions and welcome!

I agree with your comment regarding Joan’s biographers. Until Charlotte Chandler’s book two years ago, some of Joan’s biographers appeared to have at least a slight problem with her. I just don’t know how to describe it. The worst was David Bret’s Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr. Just plain crap.

You named some of the most famous heavyweights of classic Hollywood. Joan worked with all three, first under Irving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer at Metro, then under Jack Warner at Warner Bros. Joan’s relationship with Mayer was pretty straight forward. She very much enjoyed working for him. As Charlotte Chandler wrote in her recent biography, Joan felt very secure at Metro and she believed Mayer was looking out for her professionally and personally. Joan goes on to say, “I only have wonderful things to say about Louis B. Mayer.”

Not so much for Thalberg. Joan believed Thalberg was spending too much time nurturing Norma Shearer’s life and career and their later marriage. I think some of Joan’s resentment for Thalberg stemmed from Shearer getting some plum roles that (maybe) should have gone to Joan. She was especially upset that Shearer won the leading role in Idiot’s Delight. Joan thought Shearer just wasn’t up to the role and I have to agree. She lacked any chemistry with Clark Gable. At the least, Crawford and Gable would have lit up the screen, yet again.

Jack Warner provided Joan with some her most adult, dramatic roles following her departure at Metro. Mildred Pierce, Humoresque and Possessed, can you imagine this dramatic production of work in a few short years after Joan languished in her final years at Metro? Warner was very supportive of Joan’s career at her new studio. He made key critical decisions that made this Joan’s most productive period. For example, Warner convinced Michael Curtiz to direct Mildred Pierce, a move that would help win Joan her first and only Oscar. Overall, their relationship was cordial and professional. This was apparent until Warner starting handing Joan less than spectacular films like Goodbye, My Fancy and This Woman is Dangerous.

Warner, Crawford and Bette Davis were reunited under good terms for the release of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? in 1962. The press expected fireworks between the three of them, but apparently the three got along very well.
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Post by caseylalonde »

Hi Chris,

That is an easy question. Simply put, no. Well, one thing. Her name. “Sounds like crawfish!”

She loved her fans, the lifestyle afforded by her career, her many love affairs with the likes of Clark Gable (among many others) and the family she could have never had otherwise. She was The Ultimate Star and she played the game to the hilt.

Unlike stars today who complain about autograph seekers, the paparazzi and hectic schedules, Joan relished every bit of public attention and ounce of work she could get from the studios. She had a six-decade long career in all forms of entertainment: film, television, radio and books. She only backed out of projects in extreme circumstances, like Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte, so she would always work to support herself and her family.

Joan understood that her one and only job was being a movie star, 24 hours a day. She always looked the part in public and never took her place in Hollywood for granted.

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

Post by caseylalonde »

Dear Ann Harding,

It is my pleasure to be here at The Oasis!

My grandmother’s films helmed by Frank Borzage are all very enjoyable. Strange Cargo is a very interesting film, especially for its time.

Johnny Guitar is one of my secret favorites.

I have seen many of Joan’s early films, including Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, Across to Singapore, The Unknown, West Point, Our Dancing Daughters and Our Modern Maidens, among others. She cared deeply for her early films, especially the good ones like Our Dancing Daughters. Joan said that the film was a field day for her and that for the first time, she thought the film was made just for her. Joan also stated that working on The Unknown gave her incredible access and insight into Lon Chaney’s acting methods.

However, the studios’ entry into talking pictures signaled a new era for Joan. With the failure of some silent actors to transition to sound, Joan maybe had more opportunities, as her voice was just perfect for talkies. She found talking pictures another way to interact with the cameras and audiences, so it worked out well for her.

As for Louise Brooks’ comments, I think Louise should have had Joan lay on her couch for some psychoanalysis! I agree that some of Joan’s inner torment of her uneasy and, some say tormented upbringing, was used to color her characterizations over the years. This is true of anyone, regardless if they lived a perfect childhood or one filled with horrors. We all have our personal demons and inspirations. My grandmother, sadly, possessed more demons than the average person.

Thanks for the questions and the insightful Louise Brooks comments. I have never read those before and I am always interested in reading other actors’ views about my grandmother.

Please write again!
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by Birdy »

Welcome to SSO, Casey. It is such a thrill to read all your comments and stories. All our friends questions were wonderful. I am just fascinated by the 30s movies, and there are so few people left who can give us insight on that time period. My favorite movie of Ms. Crawford's was The Last of Mrs. Chaney, as mentioned earlier by Wendy. (I'm not surprised; she and I often have similar tastes.) I appreciated your description of Bob Montgomery and William Powell's types, and I thought Joan was a fulcrum for them in that film. I was surprised she thought her performance wasn't 100%, because it is my favorite of hers. I also enjoy her as the flapper, but haven't seen all of her earliest work. This conversation has made me curious to look for more of those early films, especially the silents, and I will be heading out on a search soon.

I don't have a question, but wanted to expression my appreciation. Thank you,
Birdy
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by Lzcutter »

Casey,

Again, thank you for being here! I just finished reading Jeffrey Vance's wonderful biography on Doug Fairbanks, Sr. He talks briefly in the book about Doug, Jr and Joan.

According to Vance, Doug, Sr befriended Joan at a critical moment at a dinner party and it sounds like Joan was fond of her then father-in-law. It could not have been easy marrying into Hollywood royalty at such a young age and I was wondering if Joan and Mary Pickford got along or if Mary was as distant with Joan and she was with others?
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by Ann Harding »

Dear Casey,

Thanks a lot for your answers. I guess Louise Brooks knew all too well about inner demons as she had many herself. So she probably percieved more acutely Joan's attitude than others. If you want to read more of Louise's assay on Joan, it's in Louise Brooks by Barry Paris (Doubleday, 1989) p. 452-453.

Thanks a lot.
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Post by moira finnie »

Hi Casey,
Thanks for coming back again today.

I wonder if you could please talk about Joan's performance in Rain (1932)?
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I read once that she said “I hope they burn every print of this turkey that’s in existence.” I found her characterization of the cheerful floozie and the victimized Mary Magdelene figure that she became to be one of her best early performances, and this movie seems to prove that she was far more than another MGM manufactured product. While the film drags in spots, it has some beautifully shot images such as the small raindrops that become a downpour at the beginning and some moving dramatic moments, such as Joan's emergence from her room after been "ministered to" by Huston's hypocrite.
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Having read William Gargan's autobiography and The Hustons by Lawrence Grobel recently, I was surprised that both Gargan and Walter Huston felt negatively about this film and Joan's Sadie Thompson in this movie. Reportedly, cast member Walter Catlett went so far as to say to her, "Listen, fishcake, when Jeanne Eagels died, Rain died with her."

Do you think that your grandmother's star power was being emphasized during the making of this film while the supporting players were neglected by United Artists and director Lewis Milestone? (I thought that Gargan and particularly a restrained Huston were both very good too)

I wonder if the negative and condescending attitudes of her co-stars may have provoked her to be more defiant in her portrayal of Sadie Thompson and that her character's poignant vulnerability and sense of isolation may have come out of that too.

Was this really the least favorite of your grandmother's movies because it had been a box office failure?

Thanks for any insight you might be able to give on this movie.
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

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Hi Casey

I was just checking the Paul Merton book Silent Comedy. He suggests in a scene from Tramp Tramp Tramp Joan wears a hat in such a way she hides her face from the camara, as if she's embarrassed to be in the film. He adds Joan's clearly not an actress who regard her role in the film as a career highlight
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Post by kingrat »

Casey,

Thank you so much for meeting with us. I want to echo Moira's admiration for RAIN and for Joan Crawford's performance. Perhaps people who had seen Jeanne Eagels on stage in RAIN felt like later generations did about Marlon Brando's Stanley in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, that no one else could play the part.

Jeanine Basinger in her excellent book A WOMAN'S VIEW mentions how effectively both Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell conveyed a woman's anger in many of their films. PAID, recently on TCM, is another good example. Joan's character has been mistreated, she's angry, she vows to get even, and she does. The anger is channeled into strength, determination, and will. This pattern occurs in a number of Joan's films, and she plays this kind of character very convincingly. Perhaps this was her own response to what she endured on the way up. At the end of THE DAMNED DON'T CRY and socialite "Lorna Hanson Forbes" has been been exposed as poor but not so honest Ethel, one reporter speculates that eventually she'll be back on top again, and who can doubt it?

I first enjoyed Joan Crawford as a star and a larger than life personality, but the more of her films I've seen, the more respect I have for her acting ability.
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