It was a efficiency worthy of an Academy Award.
Smiling and radiant regardless of combating the “flu,” Joan Crawford laid in bed — in full glam — as she accepted her 1946 Best Actress Oscar for “Mildred Pierce,” photographers popping bulbs to seize the charismatic display screen queen’s triumphant comeback second.
“Whether the Academy voters were giving the Oscar to me, sentimentally, for ‘Mildred’ or for 200 years of effort, the hell with it — I deserved it,” she told reporters 75 years ago from the plush confines of her Brentwood boudoir.
The former flapper, regarded as 42 and already twenty years deep into her profession, huddled at residence on the night time of the 18th annual Academy Awards somewhat than be part of fellow nominees at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre for the first post-war ceremony — a fancy affair marking the lifting of wartime restrictions. Despite not being there in the flesh, Crawford, hair and make-up on level and tucked in a Helen Rose negligee, managed to steal the present with the last word diva second oft-overlooked in Oscars retrospective and “best of” lists.
Joan “pushed all the other winners off the front pages,” raved legendary gossip monger Hedda Hopper of Crawford’s publicity stunt seven years previous to the primary televised ceremony in 1953 — lengthy earlier than remote attendance on Zoom was even a concept to ban.
“I’m sure she relished it,” Turner Classic Movies host Dave Karger informed The Post forward of Sunday’s Oscars 2021 telecast. “Can you imagine how Twitter would react if someone attempted that today?”
Karger famous that “the majority of the talk was about her Best Actress win” regardless of “The Lost Weekend” profitable probably the most awards that 12 months.
Hopping in bed with Oscar paid off in an period when shameless social media manufacturing wasn’t even a twinkle in tinsel city’s eye.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who would have the guts, or maybe the lack of self-awareness, to try any of the stunts that Joan Crawford attempted over the years,” Karger informed The Post. “She just seemed to have no shame — and no problem showing the industry how badly she wanted the attention.”
As legend goes, Crawford was sick March 7, 1946 — or as “Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud” author Shaun Considine put it, she had “the flu and a bottle of Jack Daniels bourbon,” in any other case referred to as “a psychosomatic condition used by Crawford on her Oscar day.”
But in her personal phrases, influenza saved her bed-ridden — or so she stated in her 1962 autobiography “A Portrait of Joan.”
“On the night of the Awards, I was running a temperature of 104. I’d been suffering with flu for the past week, filming ‘Humoresque‘ … Flu coupled with the nervous tension of being eligible for an Oscar had me shaking with chills and fever.”
Crawford claimed she was all “dressed to go,” however her doctor, Dr. Bill Branch, ordered bed relaxation. She additionally recalled cameramen arriving at her residence — “just in case I won” — as she listened to the ceremony on the radio. “It took so long to open that envelope. I was crying.”
Crawford claimed her physician lastly “relented” after her Oscar win, however she was solely permitted to “go downstairs, in a flannel nightgown, heavy robe and with a scarf wrapped around my neck” — a far cry from her glamorous nightgown.
“We feasted on effervescence that night,” she recalled, “and I was so overheated, the fever broke.”
Only many years later did Crawford cop to the complete fact: She additionally was nervous 30-year-old display screen goddess Ingrid Bergman, nominated for “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” would snatch her golden glory.
“I was afraid of losing,” Crawford informed Charlotte Chandler in candid chats that might later be printed in the 2008 guide, “Not the Girl Next Door.” “The tension is so terrible when you’re sitting there waiting. Waiting for best actress means sitting there almost the entire evening. You have to look composed and applaud at all the right moments … Then, when you lose, and I was certain I would, you have to sit there through the last awards wearing your best face … I wouldn’t know what part to play after I heard the words that someone else had won, probably Ingrid.”
“I guess we’ll never know for sure what was really happening with her that night,” Karger stated. “It’s almost unfathomable to me that she would even think of passing up the opportunity to give her own Oscar acceptance speech.”
Whether worry or flu, the award-winning TCM host believes “it’s silly that Joan thought Ingrid Bergman would win Best Actress.”
“[Bergman] had just won that same award the previous year for ‘Gaslight,’ so I would imagine voters wanted to spread the wealth a bit and honor someone else,” he added.
But the stress was actual for Crawford since “Mildred” was her first A-list starring function for Warner Bros. after being kicked to the curb by MGM, the place she was dubbed “box office poison” in 1938 by the Independent Theatre Owners Association of America together with different starlets from Hollywood’s golden age.
“I remember how I felt the night the Awards were presented,” she recalled in Roy Newquist’s 1980 guide, “Conversations with Joan Crawford,” which was printed three years after her demise. “Hopeful, scared, apprehensive, so afraid I wouldn’t remember what I wanted to say, terrified at the thought of looking at those people, almost hoping I wouldn’t get it, but wanting it so badly — no wonder I didn’t go.”
Crawford additionally copped to boozing at residence.
“I stayed home and fortified myself, probably a little too much, because when the announcement came, and then the press, and sort of a party, I didn’t make much sense at all, even though I wanted to spill over,” she informed Newquist.
Even getting the function in the movie noir was a serious hurdle for Crawford, who, regardless of having began her profession in silent motion pictures as early as 1923, was compelled to take a display screen take a look at by director Michael Curtiz. He was famously not sure about casting her as Mildred — a hard-working single mama who sacrifices a lot whereas constructing a restaurant empire to help her spoiled brat daughter.
Karger imagines it will need to have required “a moment of humility” for a fading celebrity to be lowered to an audition.
“I think she knew desperate times called for desperate measures, and this movie was her greatest shot at reclaiming her career and trying to boost her popularity again. I’m glad she didn’t let pride get in the way, because otherwise we all would have been denied a wonderful performance,” he stated, noting that Crawford’s “Mildred Pierce” is “gorgeous, complex, human performance in a film that is the height of classic melodrama.”
“She definitely deserved it,” Karger added.
But regardless of his early doubts, Curtiz sat in bed smiling alongside his main girl on Oscar night time to current her with the statuette as members of the media documented the spectacle — which reportedly started with a scream, per “The Divine Feud.”
“Joan listened to the show over the radio then ‘took a deep breath’ when Charles Boyer read off the name of Best Actress nominees,” Considine wrote. “When he announced the winner … ‘Joan Crawford,’ she exhaled with a scream that alerted the newsmen on the lawn below her window that she had won. Jumping out of bed, the ailing star then called for her hairdresser and makeup man, on call in the next room.”
Crawford’s daughter Christina remembered the night time with barely totally different particulars in her 1978 tell-all “Mommie Dearest” that turned the idea for the Faye Dunaway-led 1981 film. (As for what that “no more wire hangers!” camp traditional bought flawed, Christina Crawford told The Post: “Everything.”)
“She was at home in bed with pneumonia,” the now-81-year-old wrote. “Friends called periodically to see if she was going to be well enough to attend that night, but she told everyone she was too ill. Late that night the all-important call came through: she had won the Oscar! Her health seemed to improve dramatically.”
Years later, Crawford was nominated for “Possessed” in 1948 — she showed up in person that 12 months — and “Sudden Fear” in 1953, however fell brief at profitable Oscar gold. (As for Crawford’s Oscar, the gold statuette infamously sold at auction in 2012 for a report $426,732.)
But ever the diva, she managed to get herself in the highlight once more in 1963 when she accepted Anne Bancroft’s award for “The Miracle Worker,” even posing for pictures with winners Gregory Peck, Sophia Loren and Maximilian Schell and making a speech on her behalf — a cringeworthy second depicted in Ryan Murphy’s FX miniseries “Feud.”
“Miss Bancroft said, here’s my little speech, dear Joan,” Crawford said onstage April 8, 1963, on the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. “Quote: ‘There are three reasons why I deserve this award: Arthur Penn, Bill Gibson, Fred Coe.’ Unquote. Thank you.”
But her “Baby Jane” co-star Bette Davis stated it was greater than Crawford wanting the highlight, telling Barbara Walters many years later that her rival — resentful Davis and Victor Buono had been nominated for the movie however she wasn’t — was actively campaigning in opposition to her in a fastidiously orchestrated coup, twisting the dagger in their bitter feud.
“Joan did not want me to have that Oscar,” Davis told Walters. “She worked very hard, campaigned very hard, talking to all of the New York people, saying, ‘If you win, I’ll accept your Oscar.’ I thought I should have had it. The foolish part was that because we were both [receiving] percentages of the profits, an award would have meant a million more dollars to the film. She cut off her own nose, just so I wouldn’t win.”
Karger stated “that debacle tarnishes her reputation a bit.”
“That whole Anne Bancroft story is just crazy to me — all of the planning and conniving that she apparently did just to piggyback off of someone else’s glory,” he stated. “I really do think the feud between Joan and Bette was real and probably did have a lot to do with Joan’s quest to steal the spotlight at the Oscars that night.”
In a closing victory lap, Crawford even personally delivered the trophy to Bancroft throughout a May 1963 curtain name for “Mother Courage and Her Children” on Broadway — with 59-year-old Joan in her Oscars most interesting and 31-year-old Bancroft costumed in rags and previous girl make-up.
The earlier 12 months, Crawford, who was a presenter for the 1962 Oscars, managed to steal some thunder from Maximilian Schell when she read his name because the Best Actor winner for “Judgment at Nuremberg.”
Smiling large with these dazzling excessive cheekbones, she even held Schell’s award for him, longingly admiring it as if it had been her personal, and posed in photos all through the night with the winner.
Or as Hedda Hopper put it in her column after the Oscars: “When it comes to giving or stealing a show, no one can top Joan Crawford.”
The 2021 Oscars airs Sunday, April 25 at Eight p.m. EST on ABC. TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar lineup runs by means of May — with “Mildred Pierce” airing at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 16.