- Introduced to showbiz at an early age by her stepfather, who was a vaudeville theater manager. Dance lessons led to work on Broadway and in nightclubs as a teenager, performing under the name Billie Cassin. Although she was initially credited with her given name Lucille LeSueur, MGM later dubbed her Joan Crawford after a nationwide publicity contest. With more than 20 films under her belt, broke out as a star in 1928's Our Dancing Daughters. Labeled "box-office poison" by an exhibitors' poll in 1938. Was released from MGM by Louis B. Mayer, but regained her stature at Warner Bros., which led to an Oscar-winning performance in 1945's Mildred Pierce. After three failed marriages to actors, wed Pepsi-Cola chairman Alfred Steele in 1956 and became active on the company's board of directors. In 1968, at the age of 60, she appeared on the soap The Secret Storm, substituting for her ailing daughter Christina, 30 years her junior. Appeared in the 1969 pilot of Rod Serling's anthology series Night Gallery. Her segment was directed by newcomer Steven Spielberg. After her death, her adopted daughter Christina published a scathing tell-all book, Mommie Dearest.