Friday, July 23, 2010

Joan Crawford's Wild Ride

Joan Crawford, photo from

Many people when they think of Joan Crawford probably think of the "Mommie Dearest" version, the lunatic woman who can't stop cleaning, who abuses her adopted children, and screams "No more wire hangers!" Author Bob Thomas, in his biography on Joan, shines a fair light on the actress, showing that she was not just some psycho, however, he does include a few anecdotes that show how she did present some eccentricities, especially in her later years. Here is an interesting story from Thomas's biography.

Sportsmen's Lodge, Studio City, California

In the early 1950s, at the time Joan Crawford was working on the film Female on the Beach for Universal Studios, she was seen going on dates with different men. One evening Joan was to go on a date with a businessman from Chicago. The man was quite nervous about going on a date with such a huge star so he asked his friend Tony Owen and his wife Donna Reed if they would join him on his date with Joan. Reed, who had never met Joan (she joined MGM after Joan had moved on to Warner Bros.) but who had corresponded with Joan and wanted to meet the legendary actress agreed to the double date.

The Owens and the businessman were to meet Joan at her dressing room (probably a bungalow) on the Universal lot then go to the Sportsman's lodge for dinner. Joan was living in the dressing room while filming Female on the Beach. When the Owens and friend arrived at the studio they went to Joan's dressing room where they exchanged pleasantries. Then Joan turned and exclaimed, "Oh, dear, the dogs have tinkled on the carpet." Joan got on her hands and knees and began scrubbing with a towel and soda water, vigorously brushing the floor. When she was done, Joan washed her hands, came back to the group and nonchalantly asked, "Shall we go?"

Joan suggested they take the freeway from Universal to the Sportsmen's Lodge but Owen said, "Don't you think we should go on Ventura Boulevard? The Sportsman's Lodge is only a couple miles away." Owen was right, it made sense to take Ventura but Joan replied, "No, the freeway is better."

Joan and her date got in her car and drove off out the studio gate, made a left on Lankershim Boulevard and onto the Hollywood Freeway before Owen could argue. Owen and Reed got in their car and quickly tried to catch up. "My God, she's going east." said Owen. "The Sportsmen's Lodge is west!"

"We've got to catch her" said, Reed. They passed the Hollywood Bowl and kept going. Finally, Owen and Reed caught up with Joan in the Silver Lake district. Owen gestured to Joan that she was going the wrong way. Joan nodded, exited the freeway and then got back on heading west.

"How on earth can she get out of this situation?" Reed thought. "What can she possibly say?"

"I can't imagine," said Owen.

Joan stepped out of her car in front of the Sportsman's Lodge and said, "Didn't I tell you - the freeway's great!"

Quite the story don't you think? I wonder what was going through Joan's head at the time. At least she covered for herself rather creatively.

Sportsmen's Lodge, Studio City - photo from

The Sportsmen's Lodge is a hotel on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, California and has been a landmark in the valley for over a century. Until the 1970s, there was even a lake for trout fishing. People would come to the Sportsmen's Lodge, catch their own fish out of the lake, and then have the Lodge restaurant prepare the fish. Even celebrities came to fish, including Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, and numerous other big time celebrities.

Stars still head over to the Sportsmen's Lodge for the restaurant and hotel. The Sportsmen's Lodge also hosts many special events such as political gatherings, weddings and anniversaries.

Your thoughts?


Robin@DecoratingTennisGirl said...

What a great story. As much as I know and have studied about Hollywood and the surrounding area, I never knew about the Sportsman's Lodge. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I don't know too much about Joan Crawford but when you said that most people think of her as the one who abused her children and what not, I might identify with that because those are the stories I've heard about her. ('Haven't seen any of her movies yet.) This was a very interesting story you posted about her and the sportsmen's lodge. And I agree with you, she DID cover herself creatively. :)


Diane said...

Now that is a great story. We almost stayed at the Sportsman's Lodge last year on our visit but changed plans ... I wish we would have. She did cover her self well - funny!

Marty said...

Great story, thanks. I've always been curious about the Sportsman's Lodge ... it looks like it hasn't changed a bit in years. I don't know if this is true or not, but I heard another story about Joan Crawford: It's said that when she lived in Hollywood Hills, she used to have fun with all the tourists who drove around trying to see the stars homes. She'd stop, roll down her window and ask them: "Pardon me, do you know where Joan Crawford lives?"

Lolita of the Classics said...

Wow! I beautiful photo of Joan C with gigantic eyebrows! The times are rare that she doesn't look like a freak in that era of her life.

perfectionishuman said...

Ohh I don't know. I think she had eccentricities and thanks to Mommie Dearest, thats how most people think of her.

VP81955 said...

Crawford certainly had her eccentricities, which likely didn't help her out as a mother, but most people in the Hollywood community liked or at least respected her. And no one in film history worked harder at being a star (not an actress, mind you -- though she could be a good one at times -- but a star).

Some fascinating anecdotes about her. Thanks.

50sme said...

Oh lord. We all have our eccentricities, some much more than others.
Every aspect, every minute gesture, every breath she took, every decision she made was done in front of the scrutinizing eyes of the public. She handled this with a superior grace and strength that few possess. Sadly, as perfectionishuman stated above, a majority of people perceive her as the wack job portrayed in Mommy Dearest. What a shame. By choosing not to know Joans whole story and ignoring the facets that were the make up of the entire woman, they are missing out on the beauty, elegance and srength that made her a true star until the very end of her life and on into legend.


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