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Joan Crawford’s Family Saga: An Inside Look at the Lives of Joan Crawford’s Children

Explore the untold stories of Joan Crawford's children within the context of Hollywood's Golden Age. Our article gives an intimate look into the relationships, controversies, and legacy left behind by this legendary figure.
by The Blinkist Team | Jan 19 2024
Joan Crawford's Family Saga: An Inside Look at the Lives of Joan Crawford's Children
Credits: Bettmann

Joan Crawford, born in 1904, is one of the most renowned actresses of the 20th century. Known for her powerful performances in movies such as “Mildred Pierce” and “Humoresque,” she carved out a unique place in Hollywood history.

She continues to hold her popularity even after many decades of her death.

A Romantic Rollercoaster: Joan Crawford’s Four Husbands 

Joan Crawford’s love life was as dramatic as the roles she depicted on screen. She was married four times throughout her life. 

She first married Douglas Fairbanks Jr in 1929, and after divorcing, she wed in 1935 the actor, producer, and director Franchot Tone. Her third husband was Phillip Terry, who married in 1942. Each of these marriages lasted at most four years.

Her last husband was Alfred Steele; they married in 1955, and he was famous for being the CEO of PepsiCo. Their marriage did not end in divorce, but it was his death that tragically separated them in 1959 when Alfred sadly died of a heart attack. 

After his death, Joan became a director in the company.

Despite having several relationships, her family life and how she managed it has attracted much attention.

Joan Crawford’s Children: Her Choice to Adopt

Despite her multiple marriages, Joan Crawford never gave birth to her biological children. She adopted five children during her lifetime.

Her first daughter was Christina, born in 1939. Following her mother’s footsteps, she became an actress, appearing in soap operas such as “The Secret Storm.”

In 1942, she adopted Christopher. However, in a twist worthy of a Hollywood script, his mother had a change of heart and came back for him a few weeks later. Then, in 1943, she adopted another boy named Phillip after her then-husband.

Years later, when she divorced Phillip, she renamed her son Christopher. 

In 1947, she adopted a set of twins: Cathy and Cindy.

Mommie Dearest: Christina Crawford’s Controversial Book

After Joan Crawford died in 1977, the world was shocked by the revelations made by her eldest daughter, Christina Crawford. The 1978 memoir “Mommie Dearestdepicted Joan Crawford as an alcoholic, abusive, and manipulative mother

Years later, in 1981, the story got to the big screen, directed by Frank Perry and starred by Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford.

The accuracy of these claims has been hotly debated, with Christina’s siblings, Cindy and Cathy, denying the allegations.

Christopher, however, claimed to have experienced minor instances of his mother’s harsh behavior. 

What Happened to Joan Crawford’s Children?

In terms of legacy, none of the children received any inheritance. Joan Crawford gave her money to various charities, stating that her children had been adequately provided for during her lifetime.

According to many sources, Christopher died in 2006 at 62, Cindy in 2007 at 60, and Cathy in 2020 at 73. The only Crawford’s daughter still alive is Christina. 

In conclusion, the intriguing story of Joan Crawford and her children provides a unique perspective into her personal life and family affairs, far from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. To continue your exploration of Hollywood’s Golden Age, we invite you to dive into another splendid biography, “Elizabeth Taylor” by Kate Andersen Brower. 

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