Happy 113th Birthday, Joan Crawford!

The intrepid Joan Crawford was born Lucille Fay LeSueur 113 years ago (or thereabouts, there’s some debate about the correct year) today in San Antonio, Texas. Here are 10 JC Did-You-Knows:

  • Crawford’s parents separated when she was very young and by her teens, she’d had three different stepfathers.
  • After working a number of menial jobs as a young women, Crawford began to take advantage of her skills as a dancer, winning a number of dance competitions and earning a living as a hoofer first in the Midwest and later on the East Coast.
  • Crawford moved to Hollywood in her mid-twenties, making her movie debut in a bit part as a showgirl in Pretty Ladies (1925). After several minor roles in pictures, she was awarded her breakout role, the part of Diana Medford in Our Dancing Daughters (1928).
  • Crawford handled with transition from silent pictures to talkies with relative ease, as her first talking picture, Untamed (1929), was a hit.
  • Soon, Crawford was one of MGM’s biggest stars, and she remained such for more than a decade. By the early ’40s, though, her standing at MGM was in decline. She decided to cut her losses and make a fresh start at Warner Brothers, where her stellar portrayal of the title character in Mildred Pierce (1945), the noirish-thriller based on the James M. Cain novel of the same same, revived her career in a big way, as well earning her the only Best Actress Oscar of her career.
  • The 1950s saw Crawford’s career on the wane. Though she made a number of pictures in that decade, they tended to have the sort of campy quality that is today associated with her, if perhaps unfairly so.
  • By the 1960s, Crawford was reduced largely to parts in low budget horror films, such as What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Strait-Jacket (1964), and Berserk (1967). She also appeared on various television programs, among them the soap opera The Secret Storm, The Lucy Show, and Rod Serling‘s Twilight Zone followup, Night Gallery.
  • Though she was always an imposing on-screen presence, Crawford stood just 5′ 3″.
  • Crawford was married four times; each union lasted less than five years (though, to be fair, her fourth husband passed away). Each time she remarried, she changed the name of her Brentwood estate and replaced all the toilet seats in the house.
  • Crawford made a practice of responding personally to all of her fan mail.

Happy birthday, Joan Crawford, wherever you may be!

Joan Crawford

Happy 106th Birthday, Jack Carson!

Character actor and funny man Jack Carson was born John Elmer Carson 106 years ago today in Carman, Manitoba, Canada. Here are 10 JC Did-You-Knows:

  • Though born in Canada, Carson’s family moved when he was four to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which he considered his hometown. Carson’s father worked in the insurance industry.
  • Carson became interested in acting while attending Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. An imposing figure at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, his first collegiate role was Hercules. An inadvertent pratfall so amused a pal that he convinced Carson to pair with him in a vaudeville act—Willock and Carson.
  • As vaudeville began to lose its lustre, Carson turned his eyes to Hollywood, quickly finding success playing small roles in RKO pictures (he appeared in 14 films in 1937 alone). Beginning in 1938, he also frequently found work in radio, which led, in 1943, to Carson getting his own program, The Jack Carson Show.
  • Carson specialized in comedic roles, but he proved more than capable of handling dramatic parts, too, in such pictures as Mildred Pierce (1945) and Roughly Speaking (1945).
  • In the 1940s, while on occasional hiatuses from pictures, Carson disappeared for weeks at a time, and only his wife at the time, Kay St. Germain Wells, knew his whereabouts. It was eventually revealed that Carson had been touring as a clown with the Clyde Beatty Circus. “[Audiences] loved me and my routines,” Carson later said.
  • Carson appeared in seven RKO pictures with Ginger Rogers, with his character losing Rogers’ character to a rival in each of the first six. In the seventh, Lucky Partners (1940), his character finally got the girl.
  • From 1942-49, Carson appeared in 13 feature pictures with actor Dennis Morgan.
  • Carson was a trained pilot and tried to volunteer for the U.S. Army Air Corps and the Army during World War II. He was rejected by the former because of his height and by the latter because he had flat feet. Instead, he entertained the troops in the South Pacific.
  • Carson became an American citizen in 1949.
  • In 1957, Carson recorded an album entitled, Jack Carson Sings Favorite College Songs (here’s one track from the album).

Happy birthday, Jack Carson, wherever you may be!

Jack Carson