Born Lucille Fay Le Sueur, Joan Crawford studied dancing from an early age, and eventually found herself dancing in a smalltime Broadway review.
While in New York, she was discovered by an MGM studio executive, and the name Joan Crawford was chosen for her through a national contest. Throughout her career, Crawford successfully reinvented her own image by choosing wildly different roles.
In the 1920s, for example, she personified rebellious youth, starring in films like Lady of the Night, Spring Fever and The Taxi Dancer. During the 1930s, in an effort to combat the Great Depression, she began to represent an independent and hard-working woman in such pictures as I Live My Life.
She then became a melodramatic heroine, winning an Oscar for her brilliant portrayal of a mother in Mildred Pierce. Crawford eventually married the chairman of Pepsi, so she became very involved with that company toward the end of her life.
One year after her death, Crawford’s daughter published a biography which accused her of being an abusive mother; entitled Mommie Dearest, the book was made into a film starring Faye Dunaway.