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Joan Crawford Home Movies

00:00 Introduction by Caroline Yeager, Associate Curator, Moving Image Department
02:46 [Joan Crawford - Home Movies]
03:22 Part 1 - New York City
05:54 Part 2 - Outdoor Activities
13:43 Part 3 - Children

[Joan Crawford Home Movies] (US ca. 1940–42)
Director: Joan Crawford and unidentified maker(s)

Length (in feet): 648 ft.
Length (in reels): 6 (16mm)
Sound: silent
Color: black & white; color
Running time: 18 min.

Gift of Casey LaLonde
Preserved with funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation
Preserved at Cinemalab
Digitized by Eastman Museum Film Preservation Services

The George Eastman Museum’s moving image collection contains a wide range of home movies, but few created by a star of Joan Crawford’s stature.

Joan Crawford’s home movies offer a different perspective on the Hollywood icon. Crawford was first and foremost a public personality; her very name had been selected through a fan contest at MGM’s behest when the young star, born Lucille LeSueur, was fast on the rise. The private Joan Crawford (always called “Billie” by her friends) fought as hard to create a normal family life as she did to establish her career. She forged her own path and to that end became a single parent, eventually adopting and raising four children.

Like many parents, she picked up a 16mm camera and began filming both the special and the ordinary events of her family’s life. Her home movies share qualities with thousands of other people’s—the earliest, in black and white, is out of focus; some later shots are overexposed.

These home movies present that which one rarely gets to see: a larger-than-life personality at home, unadorned, just being herself. Most of the home movies she filmed herself; when she is on camera, it is unclear who is behind it.

There is footage taken from a moving car, and some amazing color views of New York City from a balcony high atop a hotel. Stunning Kodachrome views (from a time when her feature films were black and white) show Crawford as the relatively unglamorized, freckle-faced, russet-haired, plainly dressed mom celebrating her child’s birthday, cradling her new son, and enjoying the great outdoors. Like many people, she also gets giddy in front of the camera and vamps a bit. In one shot, she is seen at a writing desk when the camera intrudes; her eyes appeal to the person behind the camera as if to say, please, not now, but she gamely carries on.

Other highlights include Crawford marching arm-in-arm with fellow actor Margaret Sullavan and a third unidentified woman, all wearing identical red, white, and blue pinafores; and Crawford herself canoeing, hunting and fishing, and enjoying private moments on sun-kissed days.

Donated to the museum by Crawford’s grandson, Casey LaLonde, these brief films offer a different perspective on a woman who combined enormous inner strength with raw talent, driving ambition, compassion, and the desire to have everything life could offer.