Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Love, Joan (1927 Joan Crawford Letter on Ebay)

 Good morning!

Today there are no ghosts on my blog, but instead some Ebay celebrity shop-spiration from Facebook. A couple weeks ago, my friend Jesse posted this on my wall:

AAAAH! Are you kidding me? Items from the estate of legendary drag performer Charles Pierce (known for his impersonation of Crawford co-star Bette Davis, among other classic Hollywood stars and starlets) were posted at the top of the month by Lloyds of Hollywood, among them this Lawery's salt and pepper rack made for Joan Crawford. Opening bid, only $295! Jesse, I thought we were friends!

Two things I would have loved to have from this high end auction in 2011...
JC stationery and a golden Pepsi bottle brooch!
Seeing this post got me to thinking about my early college Ebay exploits in which I would use "[Movie star name]" and "owned" as search terms on Ebay. Remember in college, when you had lots of time, hungover as the dickens, to just sit, eat waffle fries, and lounge around on the internet before starting the day well into the middle of it? Joan, being my favorite movie star, was a frequent search on the old Dell in Andy Holt Apartments, and I remember seeing brooches and hair falls and all kinds of things I would truly have liked to have owned of hers going sky higher than my highest limit on the second or third bid. I love hearing about rich kids in college (via Antiques Roadshow or collector's gossip) going, "When I was 18, I bought a Picasso $699, it was way more money than I used to spend, but an investment!" I'm like, did you miss a decimal in there somewhere?! I never had more than $20 on me at any time!

At any rate-- I don't know if it's nostalgia clouding my memory or what, but I remember there being lots and lots more celebrity-owned material on Ebay circa 2003 (oh dear God, how is that 10 years ago). In spite of the semi-drought, I found a pretty neat letter from eighty-six years ago this weekend (it's postdated Sepember 22, 1927). You know you want to read over Joan's shoulder! Take a look.

[Don't worry if you can't read her longhand writing, there's a transcript below]

The text reads:
"Dan dear. Everything happened so fast that I didnt [sic] know anything myself till I was on the train, In two hours time I had to pack eight bags, and four trunks, and catch a train with people like Harriet Underhill in between I know you'll forgive me but gee, Dan I was very miserable while in New York. Perhaps it was because I was so unhappy, that you saw the real me. Please forgive for that too? But Im [sic] home now, Home where I can run away from everyone and hide till I want, to come out of my shell, Home where Im [sic] able to relax. Home where the dear walls know my every secret. Well after all Dan dont [sic] you understand, its [sic] just my Home, the only place where I am able to hide, the only place in all the World. I can run to and as I walk in my front Gate and close it it seems as if Im [sic] closing the Gate to all activities all Human beings and deeds, Im [sic] in my world, to do as I well. Now do you know? My walls do not expect me to act, to be a woman or to be a lady. They expect only the child, who play's [sic] with her toys or they expect my tear's [sic]. Im [sic] so afraid this letter shall bore you, for Ive [sic] been rambling again Thanks so much for the clipping. And know that your faith in me and my success, will help me to attain that success. Please never lose that faith in"
All of these images are from the auction itself, which is still live-- if you have $4,999, I sure wish you would bequest it to me so I could...well, probably buy this letter. Can you imagine a round-faced, limberlegged JC, not yet the screen icon she would become, earnestly writing this letter and poem to a guy she'd "shown the real me" to a week earlier in New York? Harriet Underhill was a writer from the New York Herald Tribune in the twenties' and thirties' (remember cute Jean Seberg shilling for them on the streets of Paris, in the opening scenes of Godard's Breathless?)...can you imagine Joan Crawford being impressed by someone other than her being the biggest star on the train? It boggles the mind.

1927 Joan: What a difference! (PS lemme borrow that dress on the right) source
In 1927, Joan Crawford was still a year away from her breakout success, after two years in Culver City (and home studio MGM). She rose to prominence dancing on tables in 1928's silent Our Dancing Daughters--people forget that the woman had a screen career that not only successfully bridged the dangerous-for-actors transition from silents to talkies, but ALSO lasted almost fifty years. Years before David Bowie, years and YEARS before Madonna, Joan Crawford was never afraid to change her appearance to match the prevailing fashion-- from flapper to thirties' shop girl to forties' career woman to fifties' prim and perfect (and sometimes saloon owner) to sixties' grande dame (and sometimes possible axwielding psychopath), JC's professional words-to-live-by were NEVER SAY DIE, in great, bold type,  in font twenty feet high! She rode that motto right into the sunset of her working days. I think that's what makes this letter such an interesting insight into a vulnerable, tired, lonely back-lot player to a beau back East so interesting. This is before everything began! And isn't that something.

What about you? What have you seen on Ebay lately that caught your eye? Have any celebrities whose history you'd like to own a tiny piece of? Why can't I find something like this in a dusty antique mall for $10 rather than a worldwide auction in the four figure range? These are the questions to which I need answers.

That's all for today, but you guys take care! I'll see you back here tomorrow with more ravin' and a-ramblin'. Til then!

Update: I was trying to find more out about the letter's recipient, Dan Mahoney, when I found this entry on Legendary Joan Crawford website (one of THE Joan Crawford website on the internet...I can't tell you how much time I've spent on this and The Best of Everything). Turns out, he was only an early fan of Crawford's, with whom she maintained a friendly correspondence! Can you imagine writing a movie star, even a minor one, now and getting that kind of response? But no! Check out the rest of their letters back and forth here


  1. What a neat letter! It reminds me...prior to moving to Nashville, I worked for a small, liberal arts college that was the recipient of much of Tennessee Williams's estate, including some of his ordinary household possessions. I was friendly with the guy who was in charge of the collections in the universities archives, and we used to joke about making toast with Tennessee Williams toaster, which is part of the collection. We never did, of course...but the idea was tempting.

  2. I wish I had a $5K allowance to spend on JC letters.
    And I do remember when eBay first became popular it was filled to the brim with stuff owned by famous people back when people were dedicated trash-pickers of the stars. *sigh*

  3. I LOVE Joan Crawford, and I am so happy that younger people are enjoying her films and disregard the trash that is Mommy Dearest. I don't presume to know what happened in her home, but I do know she was a wonderful actress who deserves nothing but respect in that aspect of her life. Have you seen her movie Chained? She is absolutely adorable with Clark Cable, they have such chemistry!



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