Joan Crawford (born Lucille Fay LeSueur; March 23, c. 1904 – May 10, 1977) was an American film and television actress who began her career as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies before debuting as a chorus girl on Broadway. Crawford then signed a motion picture contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925; her career would span decades, studios and controversies. In 1999 The American Film Institute ranked Crawford tenth on its list of the greatest female stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema.
In the 1930s, Crawford's fame rivaled, and later outlasted, that of MGM colleagues Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo. Crawford often played hard-working young women who found romance and success. These characters and stories were well received by Depression-era audiences, and were popular with women. Crawford became one of Hollywood's most prominent movie stars, and one of the highest-paid women in the United States.
In 1945 she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in Mildred Pierce, and would go on to receive Best Actress nominations for Possessed (1947) and Sudden Fear (1952). Crawford continued to act in film and television throughout the 1950s and 1960s; she achieved box office success with the highly successful horror film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), in which she starred alongside her long time rival Bette Davis.
In 1955, Crawford became involved with the Pepsi-Cola Company through her marriage to company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alfred Steele. In 1970 she retired from the screen, and following a public appearance in 1974 withdrew from public life, becoming increasingly reclusive until her death in 1977.
Crawford married four times. Her first three marriages ended in divorce; the last ended with the death of husband Alfred Steele. She adopted five children, one of whom was reclaimed. Crawford's relationships with her two elder children, Christina and Christopher, were acrimonious. After Crawford's death, Christina released a well-known but controversial "tell-all" memoir, Mommie Dearest (1978).