Joan Crawford and The Precious Stone

“Dad, did you know that Joan Crawford is not her real name?” This is not the question a Father expects from his twelve year old son in 2010. First because he is making reference to bye gone Hollywood film star. More so, how the hell does he know who Joan Crawford is??? So I ask.

“You’ve got a book in your office called ‘Leading Ladies: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actress of the Studio Era’, I’ve read the whole thing.” Turner Classic Movies gave it out as a gift bag item at one of the Award show parties I attended. I tossed it up on my bookshelf without a cursory read.

Who else stood out to you? “Well, I like Lauren Bacall she was married to ‘Bogey.’ Bette Davis seems intense. She was the first female President of the Motion Picture Academy. Doris Day seems nice. She was a vegetarian and didn’t wear fur in her movies because she was a animal lover. Did you know that Ava Gardner was married to Frank Sinatra AND that little guy, Mickey Rooney. How weird is that? Marilyn Monroe was so beautiful + she was married to Joe DiMaggio. Can we see one of her films, please, please”

Why are you interested in the Leading Ladies? “Great-grandma was an entertainer. She knew a lot of show business people. I thought I would learn more. Plus the book has a great pictures and the women are so pretty.” Jake’s great grandmother legal name was Mary Precious Stone. She was 4 foot 11 spark plug. My cousin and I would spend our summer days hearing stories about Cary Grant and other remarkable film actors. Precious Stone had a sandwich named after her, supported her entire family during the Depression on the money she made from touring and headlining at Chicago clubs.

I talk about Grandma Mary to Jake and Lily all the time. We talk about what it must have been like for Precious to sing to Al Capone and dance in front of Senators and Congressman in the 1920s and 1930s. She had plenty of gossip and hysterical stories about her time on the road with Bob Hope and the Three Stooges. When Grandma Mary died Jake heard all of those tales at her funeral at Westwood Village Memorial in Los Angeles. The same place that Marilyn Monroe and many of the leading ladies in the TCM book are buried.  It made an impression on Jake.

“Lucille Fay LeSueur. Dad, that was Joan Crawford’s real name. How wild is that? I like the sound of the name LeSueur.” It is incredible how one dusty book on a shelf can connect the personal family memories to entire to an era.

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