Joan Crawford, an obvious strumpet, plays Sadie Thompson, another obvious strumpet, in Rain, 1932.
Eddie Goulding [prominent director] called me one morning and asked if I would like to join a welcome party going downtown to meet the Santa Fe train, which was bringing yet another young hopeful to the MGM roster of starlets. This one had been discovered and signed by [producer] Harry Rapf, who had picked her out of the chorus line at the Winter Garden in New York. Not having anything better to do, I went along. The name of the starlet was Lucille LeSueur.
When the train pulled in, I couldn’t believe what I saw. My first thought was that the name “LeSeuer” (pronounced sewer) was certainly applicable. She was a gum-chewing dame, heavily made-up, skirts up to her belly button, wildly frizzed hair. An obvious strumpet, I was introduced.
“You a writer, huh?” She looked me over, her gray eyes cold and calculating. Restless ambition was written all over her. Crude as she was, everything about her seemed to say, “Look out. I’m in a hurry. Make room!” We kidded among ourselves about Harry Rapf’s choice and forgot about it.
A week later, she looked me up. She had remembered my name from among the others she had met that first day. “They’ve given me a new name,” she told me. “From now on, I’m gonna be Joan Crawford, see? Lucille LeSeuer, I’m burying her. For good. I was thinkin’ I oughta change-like and kinda live up to being Joan Crawford. Because Joan Crawford is gonna be a Hollywood star—that’s why she came out here.” Her determination was fierce.
I wondered where I entered the picture, since she had sought me out. “How can I help you… Joan?” I asked.
“You’re a writer, right?”
“I like the way you dress. You dress like a lady. I need that. I want to be dressed right. Smart. I figured you could help.”
How could anyone turn down an ambitious young person like that? I took her on. Next day, Saturday, my Moon [a car] and I picked her up at a nondescript hotel where she was staying in Hollywood, and we went shopping.
You have to admire young Lucille’s pluck. She transformed herself into a lady—of sorts—and went on to become one of Hollywood’s greatest stars with a career that stretched from 1925 to 1972. In contrast, Frederica Sagor Maas became another show biz casualty, fleeing Hollywood in the 1950’s. Ms. Maas is now 109 years old. One of the few Hollywood pioneers still with us.