“Joan Crawford On The Double” by Harold V. Cohen for The Pittsburgh Post, January 8th, 1964
The products were two Joan Crawford was promoting: “Strait-Jacket” and Pepsi-Cola.
One is a movie, it opens at 25 theaters and drive-ins around the tri-state area today, at eight more on Friday and another 11 on Sunday.
The other is a soft-drink for those who think young.
In both of them Miss Crawford has a financial stake, a floating percentage of the gross intake from “Strait-Jacket,” a regular salary, besides 1,200 shares of stock of Pepsi-Cola stock, for serving as the most glamorous member of that company’s Board of Directors.
There are also fringe benefits.
One room of the Presidential Suite of the Hilton Hotel looked like a couturier’s room.
There were 32 hats, almost as many gowns, a dozen fur coats, at least six monk stoles. The suitcases they had been packed in here numberless.
A seasoned air traveler began speculating at once on what the excess baggage would amount to.
“Oh,” smiled Miss Crawford, “that’s no problem. You see, I’m making all these cities, around 30 of them, in the private Pepsi plane.”
The fringe benefits became immediately apparent.
The lady was royal, regal and lovely in hat, dress and shoes of matching colors. Pink, wasn't it?
“Cyclamen,” Miss Crawford corrected, graciously. Cyclamen or pink, on her the fuchsia shade looking good.
But on her, drab gray would look good.
At 55, the magic of that trailed after Joan Crawford and earned her a throne in Hollywood at 25 is still circulating.
Profits Over Pay
“Strait-Jacket,” she says, was made for $500,000 and “I took a small salary, preferring a share of the profits.
I’m having it stretched over several years for tax purposes.”
That’s the deal Miss Crawford also made on the fabulously successful “What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?” and on the recent “The Caretakers” as well. Besides the ins-and-outs of acting, she has mastered the hard facts of business. That world also intrigues her.
In fact, the Wall Street Journal has practically replaced Variety as the lady’s favorite reading.
Her movies are all corporate structures. Promoting Pepsi-Cola is a passion. And the Henry Kaiser complex in Honolulu is another far-flung interest. At the moment, she is only the official hostess for Mr. Kaiser’s annual $10,000 prize cookout on the islands.
Don’t be surprised, however, if one day Miss Crawford doesn't convince Mr. Kaiser that her services can be put to additional uses.
The drive and the persistence and the know-how are there for everybody to see on a moment’s acquaintance.
The persistence was to produce the big pay-off for Joan Crawford when her name had gone into eclipse little more than a year ago.
In 1956, she made a picture called “Autumn Leaves” for Columbia. The director was Robert Aldrich.
Saw The Chemistry
“Bob,” she told him then, “I’d like to do something with Bette Davis, I happen to think the box-office chemistry would be right.”
Miss Crawford had never met Miss Davis socially, occasionally they had exchanged how-do-you-do’s on the Warner Brother’s lot, but that was all.
Mr. Aldrich kept sending script after script. “Not right,” Miss Crawford kept replying. Then a mail brought this novel “Baby Jane” and “I knew this was it. I went backstage to see Bette when she was doing 'The Night of The Iguana' on Broadway, and simply asked her if she’d do it.
She said 'I will if you will'.
Each of us decided to go for a percentage. I guess I still felt the box-office chemistry stranger than Bette did.
She took $50,000 and a smaller percentage, I gambled on a $30,000 pay-check and a larger percentage.”
Easy street is where “What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?” will keep them for years on end. More important, Hollywood has rediscovered the box-office potency of these two seasoned professionals.
No Liz Fan
The unprofessionalism of some of Hollywood’s present crop bothers Miss Crawford. She minces no words either. Elizabeth Taylor was her principal target. “I don’t approve of her as a person and cannot stand her as an actress.
She hasn’t the slightest feeling for the business that has been so good to her.
She is selfish and will stop at nothing to get what she wants, even if in the process it means ruining a studio or other people’s lives.”
“Richard Burton’s being bought and paid for. Where do you think the $1,500.000 or $2,000,000 divorce settlement, whichever it is, on his wife is coming from? He doesn’t have that kind of money. It’s coming from Elizabeth Taylor, of course.
That marriage can’t last. He’ll walk out on her and then she’ll start looking around for another home to break up.”
Being an actress, looking like one and keeping the proper perspective on her profession have always been paramount with Joan Crawford. She can see the other side of the bargaining table, too.
“When I left Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for Warner Brothers and was there three months and nothing turned up that I wanted to do, I went to Jack Warner and told him to take me off salary until they found a script for me. He couldn’t believe his ears. But I meant it. And I did go off salary until Jerry Wald, a producer there then, came across “Mildred Pierce.” Then I told Jack Warner to put me back on payroll again.”
“Mildred Pierce” was to win Miss Crawford her only Oscar in 1945. No, she never thought of it being an Academy Award possibility at the time.
“No actress worthy of her salt,” Miss Crawford reflects, “ever thinks ‘say, there may be an Oscar in this.’ She just concentrates on giving the best kind of performance she’s capable of giving. And that goes whether it’s in a movie that costs millions or one like “Strait-Jacket” that only costs $500,000.”
For a time, the prospect of resuming her career never occurred to Joan Crawford. She was too happy being the wife of Alfred Steele, chairman of the board of the Pepsi-Cola Company. His death in 1959 faced her with a problem of personal reconstruction.
The tragedy of his passing still persists. You can perceive it when she talks of Mr. Steele. Another nagging weight is the attitude of her estranged daughter, 25-year-old Christina, who went to the Carnegie Tech Drama School here for a year.
“I tried to open every door I could for her,” Miss Crawford maintains, “and now she accuses me in the national magazines of having resented her efforts to become an actress, and of so many other things I did not do. Those magazines have asked me if I wanted to give my side of the story and my answer has always been ‘No comment.” It is still that, it will always be that.”
Beneath the rattle of glitter, glamour, success and so much else that mere mortals envy, there may be heard the sounds of heartache, too.