Home |  PublicationsEncyclopedia |  Crawford, Joan

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

CRAWFORD, JOAN (1906–1977).

Actor Joan Crawford was born Lucille Fay LeSueur on March 23, 1906, in San Antonio, Texas. Her father, Thomas LeSueur, deserted the family soon after her birth. Her mother, Anna Belle Johnson LeSueur, moved six-month-old Lucille and her older brother to the frontier town of Lawton in Oklahoma Territory. There Anna married Henry Cassin, a vaudeville theater manager, who operated the Lawton Opera House and the Air Dome Theater. He also owned the Cassin Abstract Company. In Lawton Lucille LeSueur became known as Little Billie Cassin because her stepfather was sometimes called Billie. As a young child she played with costumes and set designs that her stepfather owned. When Cassin went to work at the theaters, he took Lucille and allowed her to watch the dancers and actors perform. She soon imitated their steps and aspired to become a dancer. In 1916 Cassin was charged with embezzling four thousand dollars in a land deal that he had handled. Although he was acquitted, the family moved to Kansas City in order to avoid the publicity. The Cassins soon divorced in Kansas City, and Lucille went to work at a young age. Unhappy with her life there, she left home to pursue her dream of becoming a dancer.

While she was performing in a chorus line in New York City, a Metro-Goldwin-Mayer (MGM) talent scout discovered her. In January 1925 LeSueur moved to Hollywood. During the 1930s she was considered one of the top ten money-making stars. In 1943, after eighteen years with MGM, she went to Warner Brothers. Two years later she appeared in the Warner Brothers film Mildred Pierce, winning an Oscar for best actress in 1946. During her career she was nominated as best actress in Possessed (1947) and Sudden Fear (1952). In 1964 the British Academy Awards nominated her as best foreign actress for her role in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Her rags-to-riches life was marred by three divorces and the estrangement of some of her adopted children. On May 10, 1977, she died in New York.

Linda D. Wilson


Christina Crawford, Mommie Dearest (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1978).

Joan Crawford, with Jane Kesner Ardmore, A Portrait of Joan: The Autobiography of Joan Crawford (New York: Doubleday and Co., 1962).

Leonard Maltin, Spencer Green, and Luke Sader, Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia (New York: Penguin Books, 1994).

Larry O'Dell, comp., Oklahoma @ the Movies (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 2012).

Bob Thomas, Joan Crawford: A Biography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Linda D. Wilson, “Crawford, Joan,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=CR003.

Published January 15, 2010
Last updated June 19, 2023

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS). This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and part or in whole.