Joan Crawford & Her Son Had A Strained Relationship

by Emily Belfiore
Suzanne Tenner/FX

Feud is putting the spotlight back on Joan Crawford and her struggle to solidify her place in 1950's Hollywood. The anthology series gives viewers an inside look into her legendary feud with Bette Davis and all the drama that ensued when these strong forces worked together, but it has yet to fully explore Crawford's strained relationship with her four adopted children, particularly with her son Christopher Crawford.

There has been much speculation into Joan's complicated dynamic with her children after her daughter Christina's memoir Mommie Dearest made claims that she and her brother Christopher suffered abuse from their mother. The book was published after Joan's death, but in Charlotte Chandler's biography Not The Girl Next Door, Joan made it sound like she did know about the book.

“I think she’s using my name strictly to make money. I think this book will be full of lies and twisted truths. I don’t think my adopted daughter is writing this book just to hurt me. If her purpose were to hurt me, she has already accomplished it without going to the trouble of writing a book."

Additionally, Joan's twins always refuted Christina's claims. “We lived in the same house as Christina, but we didn’t live in the same home, because she had her own reality," Cathy Crawford said, according to the biography. "Cindy and I had a different reality — the opposite. I don’t know where she got her ideas. Our Mommie was the best mother anyone ever had.”

But, Christopher seemed to have a different relationship with his mother. In that same biography, Joan claimed that Christopher only "seemed to enjoy bad attention." She continued:

"Christopher knew just how to do it. He seemed to enjoy only bad attention and didn't try for any other. That seemed to be the only kind of attention he knew how to apply himself to. His goal seemed to be to punish me by being a bad boy. He was very good at achieving this goal, if no other."

According to Vanity Fair, he was eventually sent to a military school for high school after being kicked out of school several times. He left home as soon as he could and moved to Miami where he worked as a lifeguard.

The last time he'd see Joan was in 1961, when the 19 year old brought his wife and child to meet her. It's safe to say that this gathering did not go as smoothly as planned. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Christopher recalled, "J.C. was staying at the Fontainebleau. My daughter was six weeks old and I thought J.C. would like to see her granddaughter. She held Janet for about 10 seconds, I think. I said, 'Janet, that's your grandmother; she's a very famous lady.’ J.C. said, ‘I'm nobody's grandmother. I'm Aunt Joan.’ Then she handed her back to me and said, 'She doesn't look anything like you!'"

Christopher remained estranged from his mother until her death in 1977, never repairing their relationship. Joan even disinherited Christopher and Christina and left them out of her will. Vanity Fair reported that Joan's revised will left a trust fund to her adopted twin daughters, Cindy and Cathy, and money to her longtime friend and secretary Betty Barker and to several charities and organizations, but nothing to Christopher and Christina. In her will she stated, "It is my intention to make no provision herein for my son Christopher or my daughter Christina for reasons which are well known to them.”

Both Christopher and Christina successfully contested Joan's will, according to The Guardian. He also told the Los Angeles Times that he'd received $1500 from waiving his rights to Christina's book, Mommie Dearest and the 1981 film based on the book. Christopher died of cancer in 2006 at the age of 62.