If you know anything about classic Hollywood, then you know that on set romances are as common as chain smoking.
People made up, broke up and repeated the process all over again.
In the case of Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, they did all of things – and then some.
Perhaps the most infamous couple is Hollywood history (besides Brad and Angelina) Joan and Clark had a long history of lust filled glances, late night phone conversations, and on set dalliances.
It first started all the way back in 1931 with Dance, Fools, Dance. Crawford‘s star was quickly rising in Hollywood and Gable was struggling to find his footing on the silver screen. It wasn’t until Crawford specifically chose Gable to star alongside her that his career really started to kick into gear.
“it was like an electric current went through my body…my knees buckled…if he hadn’t held me by the shoulders, I’d have dropped.”
– Crawford on meeting Gable for the first time
The production of this movie went pretty swiftly, and after filming ended, Crawford wanted to work with Gable again.
The next project they worked on was 1931’s Laughing Sinners. It wasn’t a memorable film, but Gable and Crawford continued to get to know one another. I will say that it is an enjoyable film and I hope I get to watch it again someday.
For all the flirtatious looks they had on set with this movie, it doesn’t compare to the blazing fire that they sent into overdrive on their next movie, Possessed.
This is where Hollywood lore was made.
By this point, Gable‘s star was rising and he was a hot commodity. Crawford was a bonafide star, at this point she was dubbed the ‘Queen of Hollywood.’
So, what happens when you combine a handsome young actor with one of Hollywood’s biggest stars?
Well…, let’s just say that many things were exchanged between the two, in more ways than one.
Here’s a quote from Crawford on how she felt about Gable during this time:
“In the picture, we were madly in love. When the scenes ended, the emotion didn’t–we were each playing characters very close to our own.”
– Joan Crawford, from Clark Gable by Chrystopher J. Spicer
While filming Possessed their affair become public knowledge, and naturally the MGM studio higher ups weren’t too pleased with this. Gable and Joan‘s affair nearly turned Hollywood on its head
It got to the point where Louis B Mayer requested that the two stop their romance. Of course, they didn’t comply and Mayer then threatened to destroy their careers.
Eventually they did separate after enough pressing from studio heads, but they didn’t quit seeing each other.
According to some sources, they continued to fool around even while they were married to other people.
Not my cup of tea, but I digress.
In the end, the couple never stopped loving each other, and it shows when Joan talked about him after Gable‘s death.
“Lovemaking never felt with anyone like what it did with Clark.”
– Joan Crawford, from Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography by Lawrence J. Quirk & William Schoell
In 2018, there has been a lot of hubbub surrounding the role of women in the world, especially the entertainment industry.
Films like Ocean’s 8,Girl’s Trip and many other female-centric movies have flooded the market over the past two years or so, but, the concept of women-focused movies isn’t new, however.
Back in 1939, the brilliant cinematic mind of George Cukor coupled with the manpower of Metro Goldwyn Mayer produced one of the greatest female-centered films of all time.
The Women, starring an all-star cast that included Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, and Norma Shearer is perhaps the most wildly entertaining film of 1939, and it still holds up 79 years later. It may have not passed the Bechdel Test, but the film is unique in that there isn’t a single man in sight.
Norma Shearer plays Mary Haines, a rather homely woman with a heart of gold. She and her daughter “Little Mary,” live a nice life riding horses, loving life, and just general happiness shared between the two.
In comes Mary’s husband, Mr. Haines.
The cool thing about this film is, there isn’t a single man that’s present during the duration of the movie. This means that the object of Mary’s affections, and the main subject of the picture, does not show up at all throughout the film’s runtime. Due to this, we get 133 minutes of pure ‘unfiltered’ womanhood.
On to the movie’s (unseen) subject, Mr. Haines.
In typical classic Hollywood fashion, Mr. Haines appears to be cheating on Mary, much to the surprise of no one considering the fact that all of her friends and “close acquaintances” including Sylvia Fowler (played by Rosalind Russell,) knew about it before she did.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
The woman in Mr. Haines’ life isn’t his wife at all, it’s actually a 5’5 brunette by the name of Crystal Allen (played by Joan Crawford,) and when, eventually, Mary and Crystal meet, let’s say that….it doesn’t go over too well.
The scene in question is quite a doozy.
Crystal and Mary finally meet at Crystal’s job in the dressing rooms, surrounded by their closest friends, and foes.
Mary ends up confronting Crystal at Sylvia’s insistence and what we have is possibly the wittiest scene in classic movie history.
The two tussle back and forth, spewing all the things that they’ve always wanted to say to each other: Crystal tells Mary to get a divorce and Mary tells Crystal that she’s a hussy (in 1939 terms.)
It really is quite an intense scene. When I initially viewed this I was shocked at the pettiness that stemmed from the two ladies. To be quite frank, I’m not sure why it surprised me, I was just startled at how well the scene was acted.
I suppose that’s why this film is so great. Not only is it unique for its time period, but it also gave the chance for women to flourish on the silver screen during a time where opportunities were few and far between. Knowing that it makes my enjoyment of the film 10 times greater.
When scrolling around the internet, one must be careful not to click on anything unsavory. This happens sometimes – of course, but it’s basic computer safety to stay away from websites that try to get you to book a “trip” to Naples for the discount price of $150 bucks.
Luckily, I managed to stay away from sites like that, but not before I ran into something absolutely horrid.
A couple of months ago, I stumbled across a forum named The Data Lounge. Their main audience is mostly gay men, but, I tend to visit it because I love the banter that goes on during the different discussions.
I also love the forum because there is a myriad of various conversations about classic Hollywood. There’s a search bar on the website that simultaneously functions as an archive. I often use it to look for threads that date back to 1995 – the year the website was founded.
This was the most absurd thing I’ve seen in a while.
The video starts off with Joan walking out of her station wagon (like she ever drove one, oh, please!) then sauntering into what looks like your typical grocery chain. She’s joined by, what looks to be, a neighbor and her blonde-haired snotty nosed child. They shop for various things, including tomatoes, Spanish sausage and a multitude of several kinds of seafood.
The rest of the 4-minute video sees Joan picking up ingredients to make a paella, deeps thoughts about life and some witty teasing between her and this 5-year-old toddler.
If you’d like to see this masterpiece of filmmaking, click: here. It’ll show you a hilarious side to a silver screen legend that will leave you stunned (in a healthy way) for hours after you view it.
God Bless you Joan Crawford for making this, I deeply appreciate it.
When I’m not watching classic films or laughing hysterically at What’s My Line? clips on YouTube, I spend my spare time reading.
Back in the day, I wasn’t a huge fan of reading; I would’ve much rather been working with my hands in some, unique, creative way, whether that may have been cooking, writing or playing an annoying soccer simulator on my phone that refused to let me win for some, frustrating, reason.
This toxic mindset of mine did a complete 180° when I discovered the love I have for classic movies my freshman year of high school. As I explained in a previous post, I was introduced to a number of classics through a very informative (and transformative) Film Appreciation class. It taught me that there’s more to movies than explosions, random sex scenes and lazy directing that were so prevalent in modern films.
From that point on, I found a new hobby – collecting, and reading, books about classic movies.
The more I watched these pictures, the more information I wanted to know about them. This lead me to seek out every and any book printed about that specific moment in time. I combed over a multitude of books that would help me get a better understanding of an era of movie history that I held so dearly.
The following are a list of books that I’ve read over the years. If you’re so inclined, I strongly suggest you pick up a couple. You’ll have a better understanding of the world of classic cinema and will certainly deepen your love and admiration for them.
5. By Myself and Then Some by Lauren Bacall
Written without the help of a ghostwriter, By Myself and Then Some is Lauren Bacall – unfiltered.
Ms. Bacall goes through each portion of her life with extraordinary detail.
It starts off with her birth in The Bronx, talking about her absentee father and being raised by her mother, then takes you through how she got her first job working as a theatre usher and how that lead her to be discovered by Howard Hawks‘ wife Silm thanks to a Harper’s Bazaar cover. Eventually, she takes us through the courtship, marriage and eventual death of Bogart, heartbreakingly describing the terrible night he passed away in 1957.
This sounds somber, yes, but there are quite a few upbeat moments as well. There several behind the scenes stories of rowdy on-set antics of some of Bacall‘s favorite films. The African Queen, How to Marry a Millionaire and To Have and Have Not are some of the many films that Bacall writes about in this book.
Since she wrote this herself, the book does run a little long, 500+ pages to be exact. But, it does provide a fascinating insight into what it must’ve been like living during the Golden age of Hollywood.
ISBN 10: 0061127914
ISBN 13: 978-0061127915
4. Grace by Robert Lacey
Much has been written about Grace Kelly, so much, in fact, that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.
Thank the Lord for Robert Lacey.
For a long time, I was trying to find a definitive Grace Kelly biography. I would search Amazon Books, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads to no avail.
Until I stumbled upon Grace by Robert Lacey.
Perhaps, the most lengthy biography of her, Grace covers every single aspect of Kelly‘s life. Now, the reason why I said I was searching so heavily for something like this is that there have been various, let’s just say – rumors, about Grace that no one would confirm or deny. I wanted a book that would clear up some of the stories that I’ve so often heard surrounding the Grace Kelly “legend.”
Lacey goes in-depth into Grace‘s life, from the highs (winning an Academy Award) to the lows (her overbearing parents rejecting every man she brought home to marry) and everything in between. If you always wanted to see the other side to Grace Kelly, this book is for you.
ISBN 10: 0399138722
ISBN 13: 978-0399138720
3. Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations by Peter Evans
I always wondered what it would be like to have a drink with Ava Gardner, luckily this book gave me the chance.
Written by Peter Evans, The Secret Conversations is a wild ride. Devilishly candid and wildly witty Ava Gardner sounds off on her life, loves and career in this recently released ‘memoir.’
The book is a hilarious look at Ava Gardner‘s stream of consciousness. With Peter Evans visiting her during her wine-fueled late night rants, this book is filled to the brim with juicy tidbits about Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rooney, Howard Hughes, and quite frankly, any person Ava came in contact with during her days in Hollywood.
It makes you feel like you’re eavesdropping into to a conversation between two friends, I think that’s what makes this book feel so…intimate. It feels real and down to earth, just like Ava.
I have to warn you, however, the book does get fairly explicit, and you may be shocked at some of the stuff you read, but, if you read it through the lens of modern-day Hollywood, I promise you, it’s less ‘pearl-clutching’ than you think.
ISBN 10: 145162770X
ISBN 13: 978-1451627701
2. Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the Dawn of the Modern Woman.
Everyone loves Audrey Hepburn.
Everyone loves Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Why not combine the two?
That’s exactly what Sam Wasson does in Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman. My favorite piece of in-flight reading material, 5 A.M, reads like a warm cup of tea.
In the book, Wasson tells the behind the scenes history of the production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s against the backdrop of the personal lives of everyone involved. Truman Capote, Blake Edwards, and Audrey Hepburn all had a hand in making ‘BaT’ the cultural icon as we know it today. Sam Wasson compartmentalizes their lives in a fun read that every fan of this 1961 classic should have on their nightstand.
ISBN 13: 9780061774164
1. Conversations With Joan Crawford by Roy Newquist
The first and final book on this list is one that I enjoyed the most.
Joanie, Joanie, Joanie, what have you done?
Maybe the funniest and most enlightening on this list, Conversations with Joan Crawford left me in tears – the good kind.
I absolutely adored this book.
It made me see a side of Joan Crawford that I never knew she had. Printed in 1979, it took me a while to find a copy of this book in circulation, but when I did, I never looked back.
‘Conversations’ is basically 179 pages of a collection of interviews Joan has done talking about her career, lovers, children and anything else that may have been bothering her at the time. Boozier than a bar the night prohibition was implemented, Joan confesses to a lot of things that normal Crawford biographies wouldn’t touch.
Raucously funny, and at times very emotional, Conversations with Joan Crawford is an intriguing look at the last days of a Hollywood legend, and a fitting end to this list of books that would fill any classic movie fan with glee.
Poor Joan Crawford, she can never seem to catch a break.
She meets a handsome younger man and they get married. All is going well until he plots to murder you and then run away with your fortune with his younger, more daring blonde girlfriend. This ‘younger man’ troupe was the common theme in most of Crawford‘s films when she made the move from MGM to Warner Brothers in 1943. In no other movie is this more prevalent than the thriller/film-noir Sudden Fear.
Released in 1952, Sudden Fear stars Joan Crawford (at her most fabulous), Jack Palance, and Gloria Grahame. Joan plays Myra Hudson, a successful Broadway playwright who runs her productions like a well-oiled machine. Looking for a new male lead for her next play, she hosts auditions, hoping to find that one lucky man. That one lucky man does show up as Lester Blaine, played by Jack Palance. Lester gets the part, but come rehearsals Myra fires him, rather harshly, due to lack of romantic chemistry with his leading lady.
A few days later, the play has it’s premiere. Myra, happy and ecstatic that she’s getting rave reviews for her newest masterpiece, boards a train home to San Francisco. Coincidentally, Lester Blaine happens to be on the same train ride; Myra, understandably, feels put off by this.
But, after a few hours of laughing, throwing back drinks, and sharing a couple of stories, Lester successfully ‘woos’ her. They fall in love and Myra is absolutely smitten with her new man. One night, Lester was due at Myra’s home for a get-together she was throwing for a successful play opening. After a few hours of being ghosted, Myra decides to seek out her beau, jilting a crowd of people who were now stranded at a house party without a hostess.
This is where the plot thickens.
She rushes over to his hotel, only to find him halfway down the steps getting ready to board the next train to New York. He claims that he has “no place in her life’ and that he doesn’t “belong to her world.” Despite that, the two reconcile and eventually get married. The newly hitched couple go on a mini staycation at Myra’s beachside home.
While walking down the steep steps of the beach house, Lester warns Myra that the way down has no guard rail. Why would he point this out? Why would a newly married man be worried about his wife suddenly dying? Anyway. The next day, Myra throws ANOTHER party, this time Lester actually shows up. However, what happens next changes the entire arc of the movie.
During the soiree, a mysterious blonde makes her way into the mansion. This throws Lester off guard as he drifts in and out of the conversation. The blonde introduces herself as Irene Neves, played by the amazingly talented Gloria Grahame. The pair seems to be a little bit too friendly with each other, but, Myra pays no mind.
Cue the next scene.
Irene is kissing her date goodbye and runs up to her apartment. Suddenly a man comes up behind her and stops her from putting her key in the door. Surprise, surprise, the man is actually Lester. By this point in the film, expectations have been subverted so many times that, I’ve given up on guessing what happens. The two have a very heated (and very sensual) argument about why she’s here in the first place. Irene’s feminine wiles convince Lester to leave his wife, unbeknownst to Myra.
The next few days Irene and Lester develop a plan to run away together- but first Myra needs to disappear.
They spend a couple of weeks plotting, scheming and conniving ways to possibly remove Myra from the equation. During these weeks, Lester behavior becomes increasingly bizarre. Myra, finally, becomes suspicious of her husband’s odd behavior. But, here’s the kicker, Myra ultimately finds out about this whole plot to have her killed by unintentionally listening to a recording, from her dictation machine, of Irene and Lester discussing ways to have her murder look like an accident.
Frightened and heartbroken, Myra falls into a deep depression- refusing to leave her room for days out of fear of being killed. During this time, she plans her way to preemptively stop this by killing Lester and placing the blame on Irene.
The plan sounds diabolical, but it just might work.
The next few scenes in the movie have Myra sneaking into Irene’s apartment with a duplicate key she had made a few days earlier. When she’s in the apartment, she hides in the closet until Irene comes home with a date. Irene’s date is very persistent on staying longer than he’s welcomed, but she eventually manages to get rid of him. She then leaves to meet Lester at a parking garage, leaving Myra in the closet.
Myra envisioned what it may be like to kill Lester, but when faced with the thought, she throws the gun away. Hysterical and disgusted with the prospect of killing her husband, she doesn’t go through her plan. As soon as she was about to leave the apartment Lester walks in. The phone rings and Lester pick it up. It was Irene’s date. Lester starts to get an uneasy feeling.
He walks around the apartment and he stumbles upon Myra’s gun wrapped in a handkerchief. Convinced Myra set him up, he rushes out of the apartment to his car and is hell-bent on finding her. Myra, stupidly, chases after him on foot. Lester spots her (or what looks to be her) out of the corner of his eye and then proceeds to hunt her down with his car. Lester slams on the brakes believing he was killing Myra, but it turns out to be Irene, who was wearing the same white scarf Myra was. Lester ends up killing himself and Irene while Myra in disbelief, walks of dazed and without a scratch.
I adore everything about this movie, the way it’s shot, the shadows, the acting performances- everything! Joan Crawford really gave it her all in this role. You felt the pain, and panic on her face when she found out that her husband was conspiring to kill her with a younger woman, and then that pain turned into concern for him when he ends up involuntarily killing himself at the end. Ms. Crawford unquestionably deserved that Oscar nomination she received in 1952, and in my opinion, she should’ve won.
I also have to give it up to the two other actors who were starring opposite Joan in the movie: Jack Palance and Gloria Grahame. Their chemistry when they shared scenes together were dripping with innuendo. At times, I rooted for them to get away with it. You know, the Bonnie and Clyde effect, but alas, never count out Joan Crawford.
Overall, I would give this film a 9/10. It’s a film noir that you must put on your watchlist. The cinematography will have you thinking about it hours after you’ve finished, and the acting performances will make it a movie to remember.