Yes I know, Labor Day is over so let’s be done with Jerry Lewis. Not so fast–because I’ve found a clip that I never knew existed, a rare Jerry Telethon clip in which he’s the least offensive person on stage. It’s 1968 and Joan Crawford makes an appearance, reading a poem called ‘The Clumsy Kid’–at half-speed. Are pills involved? Vodka? There’s something a bit ‘off’ about Joan’s demeanor, her performance. She manages to make it through the poem and haltingly hands Jerry a check for five grand. Then things get really weird. Christina Crawford is waiting in the wings to make an appearance. When Jerry mentions her presence Joan looks frosty. Christina comes out, says a few unheard words to Jerry and is instantly led off the stage by her mother who says something like ‘We’ve got work to do’. Actually ‘led off’ is a bit light–Joan drags her off quite deliberately and takes her to the phone bank, where presumably they’re going to start working the phones. (My guess is that Crawford was out of there as soon as they went to commercial and didn’t give her daughter a lift home). She gives Christina a strange shove in the back that feels less than familial. I can’t help but wonder if even Jerry–one of the world’s most abusive fathers–was surprised by Joan’s on-air treatment of the clearly lost Christina, who would exact her revenge just a few years later.  Jerry, at least, put up a warm and cuddly front with his kids in public, though later one of his sons characterized him as ‘mean as a snake’. Wow.


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3 Responses

  1. I’m a huge Joan fan as you know, and I never saw this either. Wow. And I don’t really mean that in a good way. In Richard Burton’s diaries he alleges Joan only got through her Lucy Show guest appearance by getting blotto (because Lucy was unbearable, according to him) but I watched and she seems fine to me. Here, though … she was not at ease with live performance, film was her thing, but it seems whatever Joan took to still the nerves, she overdid it. And she’s definitely not happy with Christina.

  2. Joan’s ‘performance’ feels more like a pill miscalculation than an alcoholic blunder. She’s not out of control just very…slow…uncertain…in another place. If I didn’t know better I’d say she smoked weed before she went on but I just can’t imagine La Crawford toking out backstage on the fine Columbian.

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