Screen siren Joan Crawford’s extraordinary 45-year career encompasses some 80 motion pictures. Nia Jones checks out the actress’s best performances from Mildred Pierce to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
10. Our Dancing Daughters (Beaumont, 1928)
Joan’s breakout film, Crawford is sizzling and wildly liberated as the young Diana, one of three flapper-Jazz-age girls who are finding their way in society. Hailing from the silent era Our Dancing Daughters has a charming musical score to go along with its lively parties and dance scenes.
9. Strait-Jacket (Castle, 1964)
Joan gives a terrific blood-chilling performance in this thriller from gimmick horror movie pioneer producer William Castle. A fun and camp murder mystery, she plays Lucy Harbin, a woman who goes insane when she finds her husband in bed with another woman; she ends up in an asylum for twenty years.
8. Johnny Guitar (Ray, 1954)
Considered now to be a camp 1950s McCarthy-era western cult classic, Joan plays Vienna, a brash gun-slinging frontier woman you wouldn’t want to mess with in small town Arizona. This ex-saloon harlot sets up a gambling joint alongside the building of the railroad and stands off against her nemesis.
7. Dancing Lady (Leonard, 1933)
A conventional Depression-era backstage romp, Joan plays Janie Barlow, a Manhattan burlesque show girl determined to succeed at all costs. Playing opposite Clark Gable and Franchot Tone (who became Crawford’s 2nd husband), the film offers wonderful and colourful musical numbers, and introduces Fred Astaire to the movie world along with The Three Stooges.
6. The Women (Cukor, 1939)
Crawford plays “the other woman” and she is immensely entertaining. A noteworthy film, which was very daring for 1939, as the cast is all female. The Women has an excellent screenplay with slick dialogue, George Cukor was known as a “woman’s director” and gets the best performances from the cast.
5. Grand Hotel (Goulding, 1932)
Joan plays the sexy stenographer at the Grand Hotel in Berlin, a film which also starred many great actors of the era. The ground-breaking film with its intertwining stories was the first of its kind; Joan gives a stellar performance as she moves up her ladder of successes.
4. Possessed (Bernhardt, 1947)
Possessed still holds up well as one of the best Joan Crawford’s movies. A truly suspenseful plot that follows Joan as Louise, who is obsessed with the charmer David and is driven to insanity by having to see him with her daughter in law, Louise’s descent to madness is quite believable.
3. Humoresque (Negulesco, 1946)
In this moody melodrama, Joan is wonderful as the glamorous, yet self-doubting alcoholic arts patron Helen, who underwrites the talented violinist Paul Boray’s big break. A strong woman with a vulnerability you don’t immediately see, her doomed love affair with Boray ensures a very dramatic, musically pleasing and watchable film.
2. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (Aldrich, 1962)
The film has superb plot and a well written script, two aged fame-faded sisters live isolated in their tinsel town home. Old rivalries bubble over into madness when Jane (Davis) puts the wheelchair bound Blanche (Crawford) through torment by keeping her prisoner – A superb showcase for two rival veteran actresses.
1. Mildred Pierce (Curtiz, 1945)
The film recounts the story of divorcee and devoted mother Mildred who works her way to independent financial success to provide everything for her two daughters Veda and Kay. A film noir classic; Joan plays Mildred’s heartbreak and struggles with an earthy grace, winning Joan the 1946 Best Actress Oscar.