Back to Silent Stars Who Transitioned to Talkies
Lucille LeSueur was a Broadway chorus girl who broke into movies at 19 as a showgirl in 1925's 'Pretty Ladies' (also Myrna Loy's debut). A fan magazine contest gave LeSueur her new name. As Joan Crawford, she played a number of dancing girls and rags-to-riches heroines (a type she would play throughout her long career) before becoming a star with 1928's 'Our Dancing Daughters,' a movie that led F. Scott Fitzgerald to dub her the archetypal 1920s flapper. Having erased her native Texas accent through diligent diction lessons, she broke into talkies with the 1929 hit 'Untamed,' which also showed off her singing and dancing talents. She became one of the top box office draws of the 1930s and made several movies with Clark Gable (with whom she also had an off-screen affair). Late in the decade, her star waned, despite a minor comeback with her role in 'The Women' (1939). Her true comeback came with the 1945 drama 'Mildred Pierce,' which earned Crawford her only Oscar. She remained in demand as a leading lady for the next decade and a half. Her roles became campier and more grotesque (as in 1962's 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane'?), until she made her final screen appearance in the low-budget horror film 'Trog' in 1970, 45 years after her debut. Still, hers was one of the legendary careers in Hollywood, a legend only reinforced by her daughter's depiction of her in 'Mommie Dearest' as the ultimate self-made Joan Crawford character.