Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Past chats with our guests.

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feaito

Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by feaito »

Dear Casey,

Thanks for answering all my questions and for your recommendations. I wish you a lot of luck in your plan of getting "Letty Lynton" restored and back in circulation! :D

Very sincerely,

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

Post by caseylalonde »

Thanks Fernando!
Restoring Letty and getting it back into public (and legal!) circulation will take some time and effort, but it will be well worth it in the end! Letty is lost treasure that should be available to all Joan fans and classic film fans like us.
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by charliechaplinfan »

Hi Casey,

Thank you for coming to talk to us about your Grandmother. Like may others here I've enjoyed many of her performances, she truly was a star. I have an ecletic set of questions.

Did she know that her's was the performance that stood out as the most natural and believeable in Grand Hotel? Also I've read that she and Wallace Beery didn't get along, he was disparaging about her acting, I don't think she was alone there, I don't think he was an easy man to know.

Was their any roles she wanted to play but didn't get the chance?

She left behind so many great portraits, am I right in thinking that Hurrell was her favorite photographer? Who were her other favorites and were there any she didn't like to post for?

Did she have any favorite directors?
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by moira finnie »

Casey,
Thanks so much for taking so much time to answer our questions at length. Here are a few I've wondered about:

The transition from silents to talkies
Did your Grandmother have any trepidation about this sea change in filmmaking?
Her natural manner of speaking always seemed fine to me, and as she grew as an actress in the '40s, she became more natural. Still, in some films in the '30s, occasionally her speech and that of other MGM actors and actresses occasionally seemed a bit mannered, even in intrinsically American stories. Was there a deliberate decision at MGM to encourage players to speak in an almost British manner in the early days of talking pictures? Is Lillian Burns Sidney to blame?? (Btw, I think that slight la-dee-dah manner of speaking worked very well in Susan and God, making some scenes funnier than written).

The Production Code
When the PCA went into force for real in July 1934, do you think that it had much impact on your grandmother's career? Joan C. seemed to have no problem conveying a range of adult emotions on screen with just a look or a raised eyebrow, almost as though she had a connection to the audience that superseded anything that the production code might censor. Did your grandmother think that the erosion of the production code was a good thing?

Directors
I love your grandmother's performance in A Woman's Face, and feel that she is so vulnerable and real in that film under George Cukor, from whom she learned so much. I've also felt that her performances with Clarence Brown were well done, (even when the story was a bit hackneyed), as well as her performances under Michael Curtiz. Did she have any favorite directors?

Your Favorite Films
Is there a relatively obscure Joan Crawford movie that you wish more people knew about?

Thank you very much for sharing your time and insights with us.
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by Sue Sue Applegate »

Hello, Casey!

We are so lucky to have you as a guest here at the SSO! Thank you so much for the time and attention.

Great questions Fernando, Paula, charliechaplinfan, mongoII, Cinemaven, and movieman! And thank you Lynn and Moira for all the
energy you expend to keep SSO in the know!

Casey, I was one of the lucky folks at the TCM Festival in April to see and be a part of your wonderful presentation of the home movies
of your family. And I know many of the audience members that Saturday afternoon were appreciative and impressed with your willingness
to share your family history with a roomful of unknowns and to answer such pointed questions in such a down-to-earth manner.

I am still so curious about the films themselves, and I didn't have the opportunity to ask a question at the time. Where were all the
films kept for so long and in such good condition? I know you had addressed some info concerning this topic at the screening, but I
want to know all about it!

My Dad was always revving up the motor on his 8mm and we have records of bullfights in Mexico, birthday bashes, and babies, so I am intrigued
about which of the films you screened that had the most personal meaning for you. And which of the films had the most poignancy for your Mom?

Thank you!
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by ChiO »

Casey,

Thank you for sharing your time with us. Some general questions about my two favorite Joan Crawford movies --

THE UNKNOWN: Did your grandmother ever reflect on that the near-start of her career was in a movie directed by Tod Browning and co-starring Lon Chaney, men associated with Horror, and that at the end of her career she became associated with the genre?

JOHNNY GUITAR: Did she ever say, "What in the world is going on here? This is a Western?" What thoughts did she have about the movie itself and working with such an interesting array of characters (both in terms of roles and performers/director)?
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silentscreen
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by silentscreen »

Casey,

Did your grandmother have any close friends among her peers? Whom did she admire as an actor?

Thank you for being here.

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

Post by caseylalonde »

Hi Moira!

The transition from silents to talkies was a groundbreaking, yet incredibly scary time for the studios and actors. The Hollywood Revue of 1929 proved that Joan had the voice for talkies. Metro then released Untamed that same year with Joan singing into the camera. Her voice was natural, melodic and fit in well with the new technology. Joan had no problem transitioning to talkies, as she stated, “Top executives were so busy worrying about what would happen to Garbo, Shearer and Gilbert, they had no time to worry about me.” How true.

I have noticed many younger actresses in the early 1930’s speaking with a diction that is not quite regional, American or British, but “trained.” Speech coaches must have had a field day working for the studios in the 30’s. Joan didn’t quite have that trained speech pattern, but her early films had a shadow of it, such as in Paid (1931). This odd speech affectation left for the most part by the early to mid-1940’s.

The Production Code really didn’t have an effect on my grandmother’s career, other than to change the scripts and storylines of her films. Take Letty Lynton for example, Joan gets away with murder. When the Production Code took effect for real, Letty would never have been produced. However, Joan was not an overt sexpot, but more subtle, as you said, and could connect with an audience through the wink of her eye or a raised eyebrow.

My grandmother became more conservative as she aged. Not politically conservative by any means, just of the mind that movies had become too filled with gratuitous sex and language into the 1960’s and 70’s. The enactment of the Production Code probably meant to her that directors and the studios were more constrained on an artistic front and she would not have approved of restrictions like those.

I forgot to mention Clarence Brown in an earlier post. His directorial work in Chained, Sadie McKee and The Gorgeous Hussy was at times hackneyed, but he worked well with Joan and they did their best with the script provided. The best of the bunch is of course, Letty Lynton. I really need to get that film restored and released!

One more director that needs mentioning is Tod Browning. Browning was a master storyteller and Joan worked with him in The Unknown (1927), starring the incredible Lon Chaney. The film is unsettling and the twist ending is crazy, but the film is nonetheless and classic.

As for an obscure Joan film, I would choose two: the already mentioned The Unknown and of course, the illegal to own Letty Lynton. The Unknown because who would ever think Joan Crawford, even in 1927, would be starring with Lon Chaney, directed by Tod Browning, the later director of Freaks. Letty Lynton, is obvious, because it is currently illegal to show or market the film.

Thanks for the great questions! Keep them coming!
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by caseylalonde »

Hi Christy,

It is my pleasure to be here and I look forward to being a long-term member of the SSO!

I can’t express how much fun it was presenting my grandmother’s home movies to the TCM crowd. I could have spent hours talking with the fans. The turnout was exceptional, as Club TCM was standing room only!

As for the films and their condition, it is as follows. My mother, Cathy, received all of the real property following my grandmother’s death in 1977. This included eight to ten film canisters that literally sat on shelves in my mom’s basement for almost twenty years. In 1997, my wife and I were leaving for Richmond, VA for me to attend grad school. I knew we had something potentially significant in those film canisters, so I contacted George Eastman House in Rochester, NY to make the donation. Soon after the donation, I received a receipt from Eastman House, stating that the films were in good shape, but that one of the reels was nitrate film and had deteriorated and there was a chance it could explode, so it was destroyed. However, at that time, the remaining reels had not been examined for content.

It wasn’t until 2005 that Eastman House received a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to preserve the newly discovered Joan Crawford Home Movie Collection. What I had donated were the earliest full color movies containing footage of Joan Crawford, taken between 1939 and 1943.
As you saw in Hollywood, the footage is incredible and provides an intimate look at my grandmother’s personal life, all in full color! Gorgeous red hair ablaze and freckles galore!

My wife and I visited Eastman House in May 2007 to view all two hours of footage. What you saw in Hollywood was the so-called “best of reel” of about 25 minutes. I inquired with the staff about how footage that was shot almost seventy years ago and kept in a musty basement for twenty of those years survived? Plainly put, my grandmother shot the film on Kodachrome acetate film. High, melting heat is the only enemy of acetate film. The color is still vivid and beautiful, as you saw and is now preserved for antiquity.

All of the films were shot even before my mom was born. All of the scenes are priceless to us, as they show Joan in a completely natural way, with little makeup and away from Hollywood’s lights and glamour.

I am working on a deal to get the Home Movie Collection published, so stay tuned!

Thanks for the great questions and reminiscing about the wonderful TCM Film Festival.
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by caseylalonde »

Dear ChiO,

Thank you for the questions!

Two of my favorite Joan movies as well.

It is interesting that most of Joan’s later films were of the horror genre. Strait-Jacket, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Berserk! of course her disappointing final film, Trog. Joan’s start in horror was 1927’s The Unknown, a more auspicious start than the films ending her career. By the 1960’s and 1970’s, low budget horror was the name of the game. Joan had to work to pay bills, so she took what she could get. By this time, it was a far cry from Mildred Pierce or Sudden Fear.

Her work with Lon Chaney in The Unknown, by Joan’s account, was very instructive on her work as an actress. She is quoted as saying, “The Unknown was a good film, and working with Lon Chaney was both traumatic and delightful.”

As for Johnny Guitar, it has become a complete cult film, both in America and overseas. I watched Johnny Guitar on the big screen at The Castro Theatre in San Francisco several years ago with over one thousand audience members. The film has become one of my favorites because of the strong female leads, Joan and Mercedes McCambridge. The background swirling around the film’s production is always a hoot to read with the Joan vs. McCambridge camps.
Add in Sterling Hayden as the titular character and Scott Brady as the Dancing Kid and you have one excellent western.

Joan is quoted as saying, “I should have had my head examined. No excuse for a picture being this bad or me for making it.” I wholeheartedly disagree. It is my opinion that Joan dismissed the film as soon as it was finished because of the poor time she had making the film. Tensions ran high during production, causing strife with the entire cast and crew. Maybe if Joan would have watched the film again later in life, she would have had a different opinion.

Thanks for the questions!
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

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Casey, we all thank you so much for visiting the SSO, and we do hope you
will be a permanent part of our membership.

I again want to tell you how much I enjoyed seeing you and watching your family
films at the TCM Festival. Audience members enjoyed it immensely.

It was a treat!
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by Moraldo Rubini »

Thank you so much for joining us at the Oasis. This thread is delightful reading already. I'm heartened by the hints of your work to get Letty Lynton to the public, though I can't image how one would begin to get around the legal obstacles. Is it just a matter of waiting for the rights to the original play to expire?

I'm one of the many who wished they could have attended last April's TCM Film Festival. I'm curious if there are any plans for you to take the Home Movies on the road? Certainly they'd sell out at New York's Film Forum and San Francisco's Castro Theatres too. Even a showing on TCM would be swell (though I'd much rather see them on a big screen). Are they 8mm or 16mm?

Did your mother ever see Frank Perry's Mommie Dearest? I imagine she was relieved that her life was not included in the film adaptation, and assume that she's sorry it was made at all. Though in a twisted way, I wonder if this film brought a whole new generation to seek out Joan Crawford's movies and helped keep them alive.

Do you have any childhood memories of Miss Crawford?

Ah, and I wanted to add a bit of hearsay: it's my understanding that the HBO Mildred Pierce is not planned to be a remake of the original movie, but rather will stick closer to Mr. Cain's book. Another Joan Crawford movie that I've always thought could be remade nicely today is Susan and God; so much of it is relevant even now. And if I may make one more tangent (my post seems to be a knot of figure 8s), one of my favorite screen teams is Joan Crawford and Eve Arden in Mildred Pierce. Ever hear anything about their working relationship? Were they pals off the screen?

Thanks,
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

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Moraldo, those are great questions. I also was wondering if Joan and Eve Arden were friends.
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by caseylalonde »

Good evening Brenda,

Thank you for the questions and the warm welcome!

My grandmother had many close friends, both male and female. In no order of strength of friendship or time period, this is a partial list:

Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy, Barbara Stanwyck, Judy Garland (Aunt Judy to my mom!), Ann Blyth, Cesar Romero, Glenn Ford, Van Johnson, Rosalind Russell, Clark Gable (both in and out of their sexual relationship), Franchot Tone (until the end of his life), and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Billy Haines was a great early friend at Metro and they continued to be close until his death in 1973.

Could you imagine calling up Barbara Stanwyck one Thursday night to ask her over for dinner and a movie in Joan’s home theater?

My grandmother admired many early Hollywood icons such as Lon Chaney, John, Lionel and Ethel Barrymore, Walter Huston and Greta Garbo. It didn’t hurt that she worked with luminaries on the Metro lot.

In Conversations with Joan by Roy Newquist, Joan spontaneously names a few contemporary Hollywood stars who she thought were that day’s bright stars. Newquist’s interviews took place in the early 1970’s, so keep that in mind with the following quote from the book: “I can’t talk about ‘stars’ I the real old sense of the word, can I? We don’t have them anymore.” Joan was reflecting on the death of the studio system and that production companies’ only interest is putting out films to make money, not nurture a stable of young stars.

Among those stars in the early 1970’s that she thought were good were: Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Jack Lemmon, Jack Nicholson and “the bunch from The Godfather.”

Thanks for the questions!
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Re: Welcome to the Q & A with Casey LaLonde

Post by srowley75 »

Hi Casey!

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions. I was hoping I'd have a chance to participate in the forum before I leave for job training this week. Just wanted to say beforehand that Joan Crawford is one of my favorite classic stars as well. Whatever type of movie she made, it was almost always an entertaining film, even if it wasn't a prestige project. I thoroughly enjoy virtually everything she made from 1945 onward, as well as The Women, A Woman's Face, Strange Cargo, Possessed '31, and Our Dancing Daughters.

A few questions:

1. What was her opinion of William Castle? Did she enjoy any part of working with him at all?

2. How did she feel about giving interviews on TV or in front of live audiences?

3. I've always wondered about whether or not she knew about those remarks people made about her eyebrows. Was she aware or did it affect her in any way?

-Stephen
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