Two daughters of legendary actress Joan Crawford continue to have a strained relationship, but their local court dispute appears to be over.
Cathy LaLonde of Allentown, Crawford's adopted twin daughter, has been awarded $5,000 plus court costs for public statements Christina Crawford wrongfully made about her. LaLonde and Christina Crawford were among four children adopted by Joan Crawford. The others were Cynthia, the other twin, and Christopher.
Christina Crawford told interviewers last year that LaLonde was not a twin, just a girl who looks like Cynthia.
She made the statements while promoting a new edition of "Mommie Dearest," her best-selling 1978 book about her Academy Award-winning mother.
A panel of three arbitrators issued the decision Nov. 4 after a one-hour hearing in Philadelphia, lawyers for both sides said this week. Neither side plans to appeal.
Lawyer Richard Orloski, representing LaLonde, said, "We proved our point, and her adopted sister should now be careful in the future, knowing she'll be held accountable for her words."
Christina Crawford made her statement to People Online, the Web site for People magazine. She repeated it to nationally syndicated talk show host Jim Bohannon and at four personal appearances.
"They were raised as twins. She (Joan Crawford) called them twins," Christina Crawford said. "Her career needed a boost, and one child alone wasn't going to get her the publicity she wanted, so she got two girls who both had brown hair and brown eyes."
The case opened last year when LaLonde sued in U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania. Orloski of South Whitehall Township attached birth certificates for LaLonde and Cynthia Crawford to the lawsuit, identifying them as twins.
Instead of going to trial in federal court, both sides agreed to use arbitrators. LaLonde accused Crawford of implying LaLonde had been lying for years about being Joan Crawford's adopted twin daughter. She also alleged that by talking about the adoption issue, Crawford violated laws that require information about adoptions to be confidential.
In addition, LaLonde alleged that Crawford harmed her reputation by implying that only Christina was legally adopted. According to the suit, Christina's implication was that Cathy, Cynthia and Christopher were bought on the black market and never legally adopted.
LaLonde repeatedly, constantly and proudly represented herself as Crawford's adopted daughter, according to the suit.
Christina Crawford, who runs an inn in Idaho, did not attend the hearing.
Her lawyer, John Ursin of Roxbury, N.J., said Crawford, in making the statements, was simply repeating what she had heard growing up from her extended family : that the girls were not twins.
Crawford's statements were credible because the adoption home later ended up with a controversial reputation, Ursin said.
According to Ursin, Crawford now acknowledges that she does not know if the statement is correct.
"She's certainly not going to say it again," Ursin said.
Crawford was making the statement in her role as an advocate for adoption reform, implying that the adoptions could have been handled better, Ursin said.
Crawford has not admitted fault, he said. She decided on arbitration for economic reasons, because a trial would have been much more expensive, he said.
Ursin said he doesn't think LaLonde or Crawford have talked since publication of "Mommie Dearest."
The book prompted bitterness from LaLonde.
"Mommie Dearest," which in 1981 was made into a movie starring Faye Dunaway, cast Joan Crawford as a child-abusing, alcoholic, sexually obsessed woman.
For years, LaLonde has denounced the book as fiction. In the lawsuit, she contended the book was intended to "defame the dead for crass commercial purposes." LaLonde has described the Hollywood legend as a "good, kind and loving mother." LaLonde and Cynthia Crawford were each left $77,500 in their mother's will. Christina and Christopher Crawford got nothing.
Born in Tennessee, LaLonde lived with her mother in Los Angeles and New York City. She married at age 21 and, at 25, moved to Lehigh County because of her husband's job.
Crawford, who died in 1977, won the best actress award in 1946 for her starring role in "Mildred Pierce." A year later, she was nominated for a second Academy Award for "Possessed."