Crawford, Joan: Beginnings

The instability of Joan Crawford’s family life meant lack of formal education beyond elementary school. Her ambition from young age was to become a dancer.

Stepfather Cassin was accused of embezzlement, he was blacklisted in Lawton, and the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri around 1916.

After her mother and stepfather broke up, she stayed on at St. Agnes as a work student. She then went to Rockingham Academy, also as a work student.

In 1922, she registered at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, giving her year of birth as 1906 It was actually 1904). She attended Stephens for four months before withdrawing.

Under the name Lucille LeSueur, Crawford began dancing in the choruses of traveling revues and was spotted in Detroit by producer Jacob J. Shubert, who put her in the chorus line in his1924 show, Innocent Eyes, at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway.

Loews Theaters publicist Nils Granlund arranged for a screen test which he sent to producer Harry Rapfin. On December 24, 1924 MGM offered Crawford a contract at $75 a week; she arrived in California on January 1, 1925.

As Lucille LeSueur, her first film was The Circle in 1925, followed by Pretty Ladies, starring ZaSu Pitts. She appeared in small roles in The Only Thing and Old Clothes.

MGM publicity exec Pete Smith suggested to change her name because it sounded like “Le Sewer.” A contest in the fan magazine Movie Weekly asked readers to select new name. Initially, the “Joan Arden” was selected, but, another actress claimed it, and the second choice “Crawford” was picked.

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