The relationship of Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Joan Crawford is one of the most riveting and scandal-ridden romances in Hollywood during the early 1930s. Douglas Jr is Tinseltown royalty seeing as how his father’s fame and loves actor Douglas Fairbanks. His stepmother is the late-great Mary Pickford. Jr is famous as the Prince of Hollywood and follows in his parent’s footsteps by also becoming an actor. It is his wife, Crawford that will ultimately become the huge movie star.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote of Crawford that she was, without a doubt, the very best example of a flapper. She is the kind of girl that you’ll see at intellectual nightclubs, always attractive and possessing exceptional sophistication. She had looks to kill, could dance like a Grecian goddess, and had these wide, striking eyes. Fitzgerald says that she’s a ‘talent for living’, and we incline to agree with him on at least one point.
Crawford made her big break in the 1928 film Our Dancing Daughters. A year later, the world gives her a chance to watch as she falls in love with her crown prince. Douglas Fairbanks Jr in the sequel to Our Dancing Daughters, Our Modern Maidens.
For film fans, the romance between Crawford and Fairbanks Jr seems to a match made in heaven. Could there have been a more perfect union? Well, in short – yes. Because as the years go by, we learn a lot of juicy and shocking details about the two stars’ relationship. It shows that it isn’t the fairytale romance that people thought it is. It seems that Joan Crawford isn’t the saintly figure that thinks of her as back in those days either. Accusations, rumors, and revelations come out in the decades since her passing in 1977 that warrant a bit of investigation.
Rags to riches stories are popular with Depression-era audiences and Crawford exemplifies like as she helps popularize the ‘Flapper’ aesthetic. Her fame wanes, in the late 1930s, and she labels it as ‘box office poison’ after her films lose money.
After Fairbanks Jr, whom she divorced in 1923, Crawford went on to marry three more times. Three of her four marriages ended in divorce. In total, she would adopt five children. One of those, however, would later reclaimed by his birth mother. Crawford’s relationship with her children one of the biggest reasons the public lost faith in her. She disinherits her two eldest children. After her death, Crawford’s daughter publishes a revealing memoir as Mommie Dearest that paints the star in a hideous light.
Join FactsVerse as we take a closer look at many of the rumors that have plagued Joan Crawford before and after her death. We’ll be paying extra attention to what her first husband, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. had to say about his ex-wife before his death in 2000.
Fairbanks Jr. Portrayed Crawford As Self-Centered
The marriage between Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Joan Crawford was the first for both the two young stars. Fairbanks is only 19, and Crawford is either 23 or 24, depending on who you ask when they first met.
Fairbanks Jr described meeting Crawford as ‘love at first sight’ but his parent’s didn’t approve of the relationship.
Douglas’s father called it an ‘overexploited affair’ while his mom called Crawford her son’s ‘current chorus-girl fling’.
Immediately the rumor mill got to work, and accusations that Crawford was merely using Fairbanks Jr to advance her career began circulating in the gossip rags of the day. Still, regardless of what anyone had to say about their relationship, the duo were fairly happy together.
Touching on their wedding day in 1929, Fairbanks Jr later said that they extremely relieved and happy to be married finally, and he further stated that they ‘lived happily….for a while”.
As the newlywed’s honeymoon phase ended however, Crawford and Fairbanks Jr began to drift apart. It wasn’t as if they were getting into these big explosive arguments or having clandestine affairs behind each other’s back – or at least not at first. What caused their love to erode was boredom and the banality of marriage. They simply hadn’t expected married life to be so mundane. After all, they were both two young, up-and-coming Hollywood stars at the time. They hardly seemed ready to settle down with a life of normalcy.
Eventually, Crawford began to look outside of her marriage for a bit of excitement and started having an affair with actor Clark Gable.
The studio brass was concerned that their leading starlet was falling into scandal and controversy, so they set up a second-honeymoon excursion for Fairbanks Jr and Crawford in Europe, hoping that it might reignite their passion for each other
Unfortunately, that tactic was ineffective, and according to Douglas, Joan was absolutely miserable the entire trip. All that she wanted to do while on the trip was return back to Hollywood, not the couple’s Cielito Lindo home. She missed the security of everything she knew and loved back at the MGM studios. So, breaking with the schedule, the couple returned to the states earlier than anyone expected.
At that point, Fairbanks Jr and Joan Crawford began living very separate lives from each other even though they were still living together. That only worked for a bit, but inevitably Crawford couldn’t take it any longer and had Fairbanks Jr kicked out of their house and moved all his belongings to a hotel.
At first, Fairbanks Jr felt blindsided by the ordeal, but then he learned about Crawford’s affair with Gable. In his memoirs, Douglas wrote that he had discovered that one of Crawford and Gable’s favorite hook-up spots was the portable dressing room that he had purchased for her as a gift. If that’s not a stab in the back, then we don’t know what is.
While Fairbanks Jr certainly had a lot to say negatively about his ex-wife, he would defend her after her death when her adopted daughter published her seething tell-all book, Mommie Dearest, in 1978 – although we’ll touch on that in just a bit, so be sure to keep watching. And if you’re enjoying this video so far, make sure you take a moment to show us a little support by giving it a like and subscribing to the FactsVerse channel.
While Joan Crawford known for many different things throughout her life and career, including her sexuality, femininity, charitable contributions, and her phenomenal body of work, an entirely different – and darker – picture of the star emerged after her eldest adopted daughter, Christina Crawford, published her previously mentioned tell-all memoir in 1978. According to Christina, Joan was a raging alcoholic and abusive mother who tended to fly off the handle in fits of anger.
The public always knew that things between this mother-daughter pair weren’t always perfect. Their relationship apparently began to fall apart sometime around 1968, when Christina, who was 29 at the time, took a medical leave from her role on the CBS soap opera The Secret Storm only for her mother to replace her. This came as a shock to Christina and drove a wedge between her and her mother’s relationship.
It’s rumored that Joan knew about her daughter’s book before her passing in 1977, but she never discussed it openly with her. She did, however, make sure to omit Christina and her brother Christopher from her will for “reason that they knew” – leaving her estate and wealth instead to her twin daughters Cathy and Cindy as well as charity. Christina and Christopher later contest getting cut from the will and ultimately won their case.
Since the publication of Mommie Dearest, the validity of the scenarios and details described within it have been hotly debated, contested, and thoroughly dissected. Fairbanks Jr, for one, said that the Joan Crawford that depicted within the memoir. Despite the problems that he too had with her – was not the woman he had known and once loved.
Christina has since published updated 20th and 30th-anniversary editions of the book. Other memoirs about her mother, including Possessed and Not The Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, have written by other authors in an attempt to discredit Christina’s claims. Of course, there was also that 1981 satirical film of the same name that starred Faye Dunaway.
Some of the most notable claims made in Mommie Dearest include the following:
Christina claims that when she and her brother, Christopher, were first adopted. They were named Joan Jr and Phillip Terry Jr; after their adoptive father, but when Crawford marriage with Terry fell apart, she had the children renamed.
Christina wrote that her mother hated wire hangers. On one occasion, as was famously depicted in the Mommie Dearest film. She woke Christina up in the middle of the night and dragged her by the hair, screaming ‘No wire hangers!’; while beating her profusely until her ears were ringing.
Christina also claims that her mother once shredded her favorite dress then forced her to wear it for a week to humiliate her. Beyond that, she insists that her mother would do things like starve her and her siblings. Tie them up to bedposts with something called a ‘sleep safe’ device. And force them to clean up messes they didn’t make in the middle of the night for hours on end.
All of these alleged abuses led Christina to attempt suicide at the age of 15 while at a boarding school. After that event, she says that her mother never tried to contact her again or address the situation.
How much of Christina’s claims about her mother are true, we may never fully know. But we can say for certain that the legacy of Joan Crawford has forever been marred.
Do you think that Joan Crawford really was as sinisterly abusive as her adoptive daughter says she was, or do you tend to side with her first husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr, who thought that most of these accusations were overly sensationalized? Let us know in the comments down below.
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