Ryan Murphy knows what his fans want. The TV producer extraordinaire has found his niche with over-the-top, guilty pleasures like Glee, American Horror Story, and American Crime Story, and his latest effort, Feud, fits right into his wheelhouse. But in addition to offering the typical melodrama and scandal of a Murphy show, Feud has the added benefit of shining a light on two stars of Hollywood's Golden Age: Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. The series has fans longing for more information about the pair, and asking questions like, "Who is Joan Crawford's mom?"
Crawford's mother doesn't fit into the series in any way, as the show is about the behind the scenes feud between the two actresses during production of their 1962 film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Crawford was 58 at the time, and her mother had passed away four years prior. And while Crawford was a huge star, maybe the biggest in Hollywood for a time in the '30s, she had fairly humble beginnings, and her mother was not famous. Anna Bell Johnson was her mother's name, and she lived from 1884 till 1958. She had two other children in addition to Crawford (whose birth name was Lucille Fay LeSueur): Daisy LeSueur, who died shortly after Crawford was born, and Hal Hays LeSueur, who was also an actor. And since this is Joan Crawford I'm talking about here, her relationship with her mother was of course filled with drama.
Johnson married a man named Thomas LeSueur, who is the father of all three of her children. However, he left the family not long after Crawford's birth, and it wasn't long before Johnson remarried. Her new husband was a businessman named Henry Cassin, and Crawford believed him to be her actual father for much of her childhood. According to Crawford's accounts of her life, her mother was never loving toward her and greatly favored her brother. However, she doesn't hold that against her, as she considers that she had a rough life. Here's what Crawford said of Johnson in the book, Conversations With Joan Crawford:
I don't think she really loved me, but when you consider the life she led, what the hell. She married too young and too often. She was a little Swedish girl who wasn't too bright. All the way along, the wrong men appealed to her, and she worked her ass off, more often supporting them than they supported her. She was old and tired by the time she was 49, and when she came out here [Hollywood] at least a few of the fires had been put out, and she could be Hal's servant and my friend. She was a good woman, even though she ignored me when I was a kid, and she found life a lot easier during her last years... We weren't really close — we never had been... I let her live her own lifestyle, and that style included Hal, and I simply wouldn't have him around, so her loyalties had to have been divided.
Given Johnson's non-celebrity status, not much is really known of her life other than what Crawford has shared. And while the actress didn't paint the best picture of her mother, she nevertheless conceded that she was a woman with a good heart who was just trying her best to make it through life like anyone else.