See glamorous young Joan Crawford showing her good side in the 20s & 30s

Young Joan Crawford

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Joan Crawford was a legendary actress and Hollywood icon who captivated audiences for over five decades. She is best known for her roles in classic films like “Mildred Pierce” and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” — but her career really began in the 1920s and 1930s, where she quickly rose to stardom.

In these early years of her career, Crawford showcased a range of talent and charisma that would pave the way for her success in the years to come. Despite her later reputation as a formidable and controversial figure, the young Joan Crawford was a breath of fresh air on the silver screen.

We’ve collected some vintage articles and photos from the early years of Crawford’s ever-so-glam film career that showcased her good side.

Looking back at her early career: Joan Crawford tells all in book (1962)

By Bob Thomas in Hollywood – Lancaster New Era (Pennsylvania) July 6, 1962

Writing of her early years in the movies, Joan Crawford comments: “Maybe I did play harder than anyone else — I worked harder, too.

Young Joan Crawford in 1927
Young Joan Crawford in 1927: She’s the dancingest girl in Hollywood, and her latest picture is Spring Fever – Joan Crawford, of course

“Perhaps it was because I had such an inferiority complex, because I was trying to compensate for all I lacked in education, poise and background. I wanted something out of life, and this was the only way I knew to acquire it.”

This helps to explain the phenomenon of Joan Crawford, which is described in depth in her new autobiography, “Portrait of Joan,” written with Jane Kesner Ardmore.

It is an arresting study of the longest-lasting of all the Hollywood stars — she made her first film in 1925, is starring in three this year.

ALSO SEE: 120+ gorgeous, glamorous actresses of the 1920s

The book is in Crawford style — realistic, down-to-earth, but with overtones of glamor and sentiment. That sounds paradoxical, I know, but Crawford is a paradox; a hard-driving woman who manages to remain feminine; a dream merchant with her eyes wide open.

Vintage beauty and makeup from the 1920s - Actress Joan Crawford
A dignified young Joan Crawford in the 1920s

She tells all, or almost all, about the ups and downs of her career and marriages. About the husbands:

No. 1, Douglas Fairbanks Jr: “Douglas was trying to prove something, that he was as good a man as his father, that he was a wit, a practical joker in his own right.

“He didn’t have to prove this to me. I was his best audience, but that wasn’t enough, he needed a larger audience, and entertaining constantly, he’d dispel his energy. When the guests would leave, alas, we were without communication.”

No. 2, Franchot Tone: “There was never a doubt in my mind that Franchot’s talent was greater than mine, and I tried very hard to give him more scenes, to build his ego. It just didn’t work. It was no wonder that he gradually broke away, tried to assert himself.

“He was working in a film, I wasn’t. One afternoon I dropped by his dressing room to surprise him. I did.”

1928 Joan Crawford
Young Joan Crawford in 1928

No. 3, Phillip Terry: “I had never really known Phillip, I realized that. I had not really loved him. I don’t like pauses, and this pause ended in divorce. Never marry out of loneliness. I owed him an apology from the first.”

No. 4, Alfred Steele: “For the first time in my life, a man was giving me emotional stability. We attained a precious height — the ability to love each other beyond the love of self.”

Joan also tells about her relations with stepmother-in-law Mary Pickford: “Mary and I became friendly after my divorce from Douglas. But during the time of that marriage, we never had a word of conversation, save in a group of people.

“Newspaper columnists harped on the fact that Mary couldn’t tolerate the idea I might make her a grandmother, but I’ve no idea whether or not that was true.”

She also tells of a love affair with Clark Gable at the time he was married to his second wife: “We talked of marriage, of course. But I dared not ruin the dreams. I’d rather live with them unfulfilled than have them broken.”

Clark Gable and Joan Crawford in Possessed (c1932)
Clark Gable and young Joan Crawford in “Possessed” — Joan takes the easiest way from the paper box factory and she takes you with her into surroundings where culture and refinement are house guests, but where the old-fashioned virtues would hardly know which fork to use.

Joan describes Gable’s sadness after the death of Carole Lombard. She asked him to drop by her house for a drink one night and he stayed and talked for hours.

He visited her every day for four or five months and talked moodily. Finally she told him: “You’re living in the past. You have a guilt complex because you didn’t go with Carole on that trip. You couldn’t go, you were working! You’ve had your grief, Clark now pull yourself out of it.” Gradually he did, she added.

Joan Crawford in 1931
Young Joan Crawford in 1931

Young Joan Crawford no longer just a dancing girl (1927)

Cinema astrologers say that this star is in the ascendant. Not too long ago, Joan Crawford was merely a dancing girl with ornamental legs. Recent pictures prove that she is acquiring a vivid and distinctive quality in her acting.

1927 Joan Crawford

Flapper Joan Crawford in 1928

In 1928, the young actress Joan Crawford was just 23 years old, and on the verge of making her first “talkie” film, Untamed (from 1929).

“Joan Crawford is doubtless the best example of the flapper, the girl you see in smart night clubs, gowned to the apex of sophistication, toying iced glasses with a remote, faintly bitter expression, dancing deliciously, laughing a great deal, with wide, hurt eyes. Young things with a talent for living.” – F Scott Fitzgerald

MORE: 25 vintage dresses from the Roaring 20s that would fit right into the Great Gatsby

Joan Crawford in 1928

Dancing daughters (1928)

Dorothy Sebastian, young Joan Crawford, and Anita Page in Our Dancing Daughters movie as flappers

Dorothy Sebastian, Joan Crawford, and Anita Page in Our Dancing Daughters movie as flappers (1928)

MORE: 120+ gorgeous, glamorous actresses of the 1920s

Joan – Hollywood’s best photographic subject (1928)

Joan Crawford goes more Spanish than the Spaniards themselves. Joan is Hollywood’s best photographic subject. Not only has she an almost perfect figure — as discovered by PHOTOPLAY — but she has a camera-proof face.

Joan is now tied with Clara Bow as being the most engaged person in the film colony. It’s a penalty these young girls pay for being interesting, vivid and popular.

1928 Spanish-style Joan Crawford

Blonde young Joan Crawford (c1930)

Blonde Joan in a pretty frock way down to her dancing toes is our best ad for marriage and stardom. She has been called the Venus figure of the screen and that’s flattery for Venus.

She has danced in many a nightclub and in many a picture, and still dances — but mostly for joy. “The Mirage” is her next adventure in giving delightful reality to ethereal visions

Blonde young Joan Crawford c1930 - Wearing a white vintage dress

John Mack Brown with young Joan Crawford in the never completed movie Great Day (1930)

John Mack Brown with Joan Crawford in the movie Great Day (1930)

Joan, sexed up for MGM

Is this the future Joan Crawford? First they said she was a model wife and knitted hooked rugs. And now they’re telling her, “Get hot, Joan, get hot.”

M-G-M has decided that Joan must be sexed up, and this is the first movement in the campaign. You’ll see the new Joan Crawford in “This Modern Age,” and she’ll be blonde-haired and pashy.

Actress Joan Crawford c1930

Joan Crawford in the revolving door from Grand Hotel (c1932)

A modernistic charmer in a modernistic gown deserves a modernistic setting — and what could be more so than the entrance to “Grand Hotel”?

So Joan visits the scene of her next-to-last triumph — before changing into the flashy garb of Sadie Thompson, the tortured heroine of “Rain,” who is no better and no worse than the reformer who tries to change her. Another big role!

Joan Crawford - Grand Hotel (c1932)

Crawford in 1933

No, Joan hasn’t gone back to taking life and herself so seriously as she used to. Her European vacation gave her a shining new outlook, as we told you last month. Photographer Hurrell varied his formula this time and instead of “Look pleasant, Miss Crawford,” he said, “Look dramatic, look brooding, look interesting!” And doesn’t she?

Joan Crawford in 1933

DON’T MISS THIS: About Greta Garbo: The legendary actress and 20th century icon

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