E is for Ex-Husbands: Joan’s Marriages


“Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.”

Joan Crawford

Joan’s love life is a very fascinating subject to look upon. As a young flapper in the 20s, like most women, she had flings and short-lived romances with boys her age (or sometimes, even a bit younger than her). As a champion Charleston dancer, she frequented places where she could dance— and socialize with dappers.

This post is about Joan’s husbands, just a quick tour in each marriage. I won’t bore you all with the details, because you can always read more on the Internet.


In 1929, at age 23, she married for the first time. With who? A young actor named Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.— who happened to be part of Hollywood’s elite family.


They were married for four years, a length that will, weirdly, continue until Joan’s last marriage. They were both young and happy, and although Doug was younger than Joan (he was 19) and his stepmother, esteemed actress Mary Pickford, didn’t approve of Joan, they still lived an amazing married life… that is, until their divorce in 1933.


Husband number two is stage and screen actor Franchot Tone. He came from a prominent family, and was well-educated and highly respected. They were married in 1935 and divorced in 1939 (told you, four years).


Joan and Franchot fairly contributed to each other’s growth, both personally and professionally. In Franchot’s part, he introduced Joan to the ropes of radio and encouraged her to spread her wings a bit. Joan also learned a lot about Franchot’s well-mannered upbringing. In return, she let him in on her movie projects, letting him co-star with her in films like The Gorgeous Hussy (1936), Love on the Run (1936) and The Bride Wore Red (1937).


In the 1940s, Joan seemed to have matured already… but still in search for her one true love. Then she met B actor Phillip Terry.


After only six weeks of dating, they were married in 1942. Joan felt that her newly-adopted children, Christina and Christopher, needed a loving father, and she mistook the comfort she felt for love. She later said, “I realized I had never loved him. I think I’ve owed him an apology from the first.” They divorced after— you guessed it— four years, in 1946.


Joan did find her one true love… but it would be four years later. In 1950, she met Pepsi-Cola main man, Alfred Steele, and the two were married in 1955.

Joan Crawford, New Husband Cut Cake

Speaking of her union with Al, Joan said it was her happiest marriage. “He was so right for me in every way,” she said. Theirs was a mature, happy, and fruitful love story— it was when she married Al that Joan decided to turn a new leaf and became hands-on in the Pepsi-Cola business, temporarily leaving her acting career behind. Unfortunately, their happiness was cut short when, in 1959, Al died of a heart attack. Oddly, their marriage lasted the usual Joan course of four years.


Told you, Joan’s love life was a colorful one.;)

Happy blogging (and fangirling!)


(All photos from Joan Crawford Best)