Monday, March 29, 2010

Joan Crawford: Flaming Youth

This is all Felix's fault.

He started it by posting his favorite picture of Joan Crawford - a 1931 or 1933 portrait that shows a luscious La Crawford making love to the camera. 

Then TBJ posted his tribute. 

And that got me thinking - because Crawford changed with the decades and kept herself relevant to the times.  With one notable role - Crystal from The Women.  For that role, Crawford's look was reverted back to 1929's Our Modern Maidens - the movie that shocked America.  In that role, Crawford's hair was set in tight curls, kept dark and her make up played up a wild eyed flapper who, caught in a loveless marriage, breaks another marriage up, divorces and lives happily ever after.

So it seemed logical that The Women's "Crystal" looked harsh - like a flapper turned perfume salesperson.

This image above is from the movie - two cars loaded with young people out for thrills roaring down the road and up stands Crawford - wild eyed, dressed in sequins, raises her hand to egg on the revellers, the fates be damned.  She was the ulimate silent film flapper - hurry, hurry: faster!

If you get the chance, watch Our Dancing Daughters (the film she did before OMM) and then watch Our Modern Maidens.  Then watch The Women and understand Crystal just a bit better.


  1. Darling, have you ever seen "Laughing Sinner"? Joan and Clark Gable and Joan "dances." Jeebus God, you have never sen such bizarre flailing around. Still, you have to admit, you can't look away.

  2. I love that film - she worked hard for the money, so hard for it baby. What I love about ODD and OMM is that its the end of an era and the "flapper" is like a flare about to burn out just for a bare moment it burns its brights before being snuffed out.

    AND La Crawford shows us how to do the "knee business" for the Charleston - os its instructional too.

  3. that old bit with crawford dancing? she looked like an ox.

  4. Well Done Cookie (Sister)!!!
    I've always been curious (and not in a good way) about the hair choice for the Crystal character, and you've posed a perfectly plausible and logical expaination; a modern maiden, ten years on. It's really brilliant and even if this idea never came up in meetings between Cukor, Guillaroff and Crawford, I'm stickin' with it!

    Unfortunately I've never seen "Laughing Sinners" but I've seen her bit in the "Hollywood Revue of 1929" and I agree with Norma (Sister) that it's an 'ox bow incident'. However, in Joanie's possible defense (a position I'll always take up) there was a very popular little thing around this time called "The Black Bottom", as dance craze that according to some is originally based on the image of a cow trying to unstick itself from the mud!

    I'm the same when it comes to Ruby Keeler. I'm gonna say this real fast and then duck to avoid the tomatoes flying at me. Keeler, to me, was the most ungraceful dancer of all, to watch her butcher a tap step is to long for the Nicholas Brothers or Eleanor Powell.

  5. Sister Felix,

    You and I would get along splendidly - I never got the Ruby Keeler thing either. And to think, until Ginger Rogers, she was the best hooferette in tinseltown. But I will say this for Keeler, she knew when to bow out and be graceful. I think that part of Keeler's appeal was that she had a face that was familiar to every farm wife in the US.

    But back to Joan in this picture - compare her face to every other actor in this scene. Vibrant, posessed and compelled. Now look at the faces around her, meh. Now think about this - did any of these people ever become stars like Crawford? Not a one. This picture speaks volumes to her skill as a actor (silent or otherwise).