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  • Writer's picturePaul


When will people learn not to allow the public to name anything? From Boaty McBoatface to, er, Hooty McOwlface, the general public have a long track record of not taking these things all too seriously.

Thankfully, things were a little different back in 1925, when film studio MGM signed their brand new 20-year-old silent movie starlet, Lucille Fay LaSueur.

Born in Texas in 1905, LaSueur was a dancer who’d already made her big screen debut as Norma Shearer’s body double in Lady of the Night (1925). Several equally inconsequential and uncredited roles followed in a number of early MGM movies, before LaSueur’s obvious star quality caught the eye of MGM producer and publicist Pete Smith.

Smith wanted to sign LaSeuer, but was concerned that her name was too fake-sounding (and, moreover, reminded him of the word “sewer”). So, a profile-raising competition was organised in Movie Weekly magazine, in which the public were asked to decide what MGM’s newest signing was to be called. And the winning name, after all the votes were counted, was Joan Crawford.

No, it’s really not. (Public domain/Wikimedia)

Crawford went on to become one of Hollywood’s most iconic and eccentric filmstars, thanks to an Oscar-winning performance in Mildred Pierce (1945), and a career-long feud with Bette Davis, her notorious co-star in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962).

Although it was the name by which she eventually became world famous, Crawford reportedly hated the public’s choice of her stage name: she preferred “Jo-Anne” to straight-up “Joan”, and hated “Crawford” because it sounded too much like “crawfish”. But, hey, that’s showbusiness...

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