Did Joan Crawford have facial cosmetic surgery? The Answer is: No.
A common rumor, which is based entirely on speculation, is that Joan Crawford had a face-lift or some other type of cosmetic surgery after 1950. Certain rumors claim that Joan had multiple cosmetic surgeries which dated back to the 1920s. All of these rumors are unfounded, with no proof, no first-hand accounts of such surgeries, and most importantly, these rumors can be readily debunked by examining photos of Joan's face throughout her life.
In many instances, the rumors of Joan having cosmetic surgery are perpetrated by observers who are examining RE-touched photos of Joan, rather than candid photos, or UN-retouched photos. Additionally, these same observers appear to have little, to no, knowledge of how cosmetic surgery was performed during Joan's lifetime, or the telltale physical signs prior cosmetic surgery to one's face. This is particularly true for surgeries performed prior to the 1990s.
Since the 1990s, cosmetic surgery procedures have drastically advanced, allowing the surgical results to be much more subtle than in prior years. Such was not the case during the years Joan is rumored to have had cosmetic surgery - during the 1950s and 1960s.
To help understand cosmetic surgery results, let's begin with a brief history of its use in America. The pre-1920s cosmetic surgery procedures performed in America were primarily for restoration following an accident - not for vanity purposes. Following World War I, injured soldiers increased the need for cosmetic surgery in America. It was not until 1931 that the first face-lift was performed in America, and since that time face-lifts have advanced dramatically. There is an ignorant arrogance by some observers that cosmetic surgery procedures always had the same results that as they have in modern day. The results of face-lifts were typically noticeable; particularly due to the unnatural "tightness" of the skin.
For demonstration purposes, below are photos of actress Hedy Lamarr. Lamarr had several cosmetic surgery procedures to her face, starting in the early 1950s. The below photos exhibit a face-lifts results during the 1950s and 1960s, when cosmetic surgery was still considered in its infancy. Observers may note how unnatural the skin rests on Lamarr's face in the 1957 and 1966 photos. These photos are following Lamarr having undergone cosmetic surgeries (face-lifts) in the 1950s and 1960s. The skin alteration of these procedures are obvious upon visual inspection.
1. Understanding The Early Days of Cosmetic Surgery
2. The Origin of The Rumor
Joan's cosmetic surgery rumors vary depending upon the (always proof-less) source, but the allegations range from Joan having a face lift, a brow lift, her eyes made larger (blepharoplasty), her mouth made larger, a neck lift and breast implants. Then, of course, most infamously, the "Buccal" dental procedure; whereby Joan allegedly had her molars removed to make her cheeks more hollow. This never occurred, and the "Buccal" has been debunked on this website using Joan's dental records (click here to view that debunking page).
The rumor that Joan had cosmetic surgery is primarily based upon an alleged quote found in the book "Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud" by Shaun Considine. The quote is found on page 259 (first edition), and reads:
"After losing ten pounds and undergoing slight surgical improvements, Joan boasted to M-G-M costumer Helen Rose, "The face and the breasts are new, but my ass is the same - as flat and as firm as a twenty-year-old's."
This quote is within the context of the time frame of 1952 to 1953, shortly before Joan began filming "Torch Song" in June 1953. The quote is suspicious for several reasons, but primarily due to the source - Helen Rose. In addition to Helen Rose being a very respectable woman, who was not known to gossip about her friends or work colleagues, Rose and Joan were friends for many years after their association together on "Torch Song." Both respected the other greatly, and it is unlikely that Rose would have stated such a comment regarding Joan. Helen Rose passed away in 1985, four years prior to the publication of "Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud," therefore, there was never a means to verify this quote. Additionally, this is the only quote by Helen Rose in Considine's book. If Considine had interviewed Rose for his book, one would assume Rose would have shared additional usable information about Joan beyond this singular quote.
This Webmaster knew author Shaun Considine for years. Following Considine's death in April 2014, as per his wishes, Considine's brother sent this webmaster the research materials used in writing "Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud." I can confirm that no where within Considine's research is there an interview with Helen Rose, contact information for Helen Rose, or notes on Helen Rose. When Considine was living, I routinely asked him about passages in his book. My hope was to verify details on Joan in his book that did not correspond with information I had obtained from first-hand sources. Eventually, Considine admitted to me that he included a great deal of rumored information into his book - much of which came from second and third hand sources. These rumors had no verifiable source. Considine said he did this at the request of his publisher, who wanted the book as "juicy" as possible.
With this above knowledge, let's now visually compare photos of Joan's face prior to this alleged 1952/1953 cosmetic surgery procedure, and after.
3. Debunking The Rumor - Part 1
In the above unretouched photos, one can see there is no change in Joan's face after she allegedly had cosmetic surgery in 1952/1953. The same lines that exist on her face in December 1949 are present four years later at the Los Angeles premiere of "Torch Song" on November 19th, 1953. If Joan had undergone cosmetic surgery to her face these comparisons would not be physically possible. Below is further photographic evidence that Joan did not undergo any cosmetic surgery to her face throughout the 1950s.
The above photos demonstrate the same lines on Joan's face over the period of 14 years, 1947 to 1961. The only difference is 14 years of age to the face itself. The same facial lines exhibited in the 1947 photo are present on Joan's face in the 1961 photo. The only exception is that the facial lines have amplified with age. If Joan had any type of cosmetic surgery procedure to her face after 1947 this would not be physically possible. There is no visible evidence of a face lift, eye lift, brow lift or neck lift.
3. Debunking The Rumor - Part 2
Another published source which claims Joan had cosmetic surgery was the book "Mommie Dearest" by Christina Crawford. On page 229 (first edition) Christina wrote the following:
"Even when she was briefly in the hospital for a face-lift and the doctors there forbade her to drink..."
Note: for unknown reasons, this sentence was altered in subsequent anniversary editions of "Mommie Dearest," removing the phrase "face-lift" and replacing it with "cosmetic surgery," to then read:
"Even when she was briefly in the hospital for plastic surgery and the doctors forbid her to drink..."
This passage in "Mommie Dearest" comes within the timeline context shortly after Joan moved into Imperial House, apartment 22G. This move took place in November 1968. When one visually examines unretouched photos of Joan from 1968 until 1976, there has not been any alterations to Joan's face during that period of time. To best illustrate this point (and to give full benefit of the doubt to a "misremembered" timeline by Christina) below are high resolution scanned photos of Joan's face from 1961 until 1976. The photos exhibit the same lines on Joan's face consistently year to year, with no alteration in their formation, depth or degree. These photos are unretouched, and they provide evidence that Joan had no facial cosmetic surgery during this period of time.
In addition, according to an unpublished October 13th, 1977 interview with Joan's close friend, publicist Michael Sean O'Shea, Joan was "afraid of the knife" and she never had a cosmetic surgery procedure due to this fear.
Early 1940s September 1957
December 13th, 1949 November 19th, 1953