In an interview with Closer Weekly, Joan Crawford’s grandson, Casey LaLonde, attempts to set the record straight about his grandmother’s reputation by revealing her kinder, gentler side.
Casey recently screened rarely seen home movies of his grandmother, whom he called “JoJo,” before a packed house at NYC’s Film Forum, where he said some of his best childhood memories were visiting her at her apartment on the Upper East Side.
The films, which were shot in the early 1940s, show Joan doting on toddler daughter Christina, who painted a darker portrait of an abusive monster in the shocking 1978 memoir Mommie Dearest (later made into a campy Faye Dunaway film).
Joan with her kids in 1948.
“I’m not here to attack Christina,” Casey tells Closer. “Those are her memories — I wasn’t there. I just want to present my side. Joan was a beautiful person.”
“It’s not the Joan Crawford you’d expect,” Casey notes. Joan never meant for these films to be seen, but “If she saw fans’ reactions,” he says, “I bet she’d love it.”
The reels were given to Casey’s mother, Cathy (one of a pair of twins Joan adopted in 1947), and kept in her basement for 20 years after Joan’s death from a heart attack in 1977. Casey donated some to the George Eastman House, which restored them, and now he occasionally shows the films. “I certainly don’t whitewash,” he says. “I’m just here to present my recollections.”
Joan and her fourth husband, Al, in 1956.
Some of the most revealing moments depict Joan cuddling with Charles McCabe, the married publisher of New York’s Daily Mirror, with whom Joan had an affair between her brief second and third marriages to actors Franchot Tone and Phillip Terry (her first husband was Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). Like her fourth and final husband, Pepsi exec Al Steele, McCabe was a businessman, and Casey thinks “she had better bonds with them because they weren’t her competitors. If McCabe wasn’t married, he and Joan probably would’ve been married for a long time. But it just didn’t happen that way.”
Alas, McCabe refused to divorce his wife, but Casey believes that if Joan had found lasting happiness with him, she might’ve been a more loving mother to Christina.
“Single moms are under incredible pressure, whether they’re a Hollywood star or anyone else,” Casey explains to Closer.
For the full story on Joan, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now!