Joan Crawford’s unique loyalty to her fans is arguably one of her most famous traits. Even when receiving virtually thousands of fan letters by the week, she took considerable time out of her days to reply to as many as she could. Her awareness of the people to whom she owed her success was (and still is) a startlingly rare trait among stars of her caliber, but Joan did not see any benefit in being distant or lofty—and so the Crawford bond with the public was perhaps the strongest in all of Hollywood. The correspondence with the starry-eyed fans, and her acknowledgement of them, their admiration, and their gratitude, usually did not stop after just one reply. Often Joan would carry on writing letters back and forth with these strangers, soon becoming familiar with them and their lives. (One fan gives an account of writing to Joan in eighth grade and continuing the two-way correspondence until she graduated high school—Joan would often ask her about her school, her friends, etc.) This devotion to her fans continued well up until her death in 1977.
Joan’s inimitable dedication to communicating with the people in her life extended, of course, most prominently to her friends. Joan never missed a birthday, an achievement, a congratulations—a holiday never went by for friends of Joan without a gift and a kind personal letter.
In Conversations with Joan Crawford, Roy Newquist dissects this unparalleled part of Joan’s character with her, telling her that when he had spoken with Otto Preminger “he mentioned how you hand-write greetings to everyone you know well—hundreds of people—at Christmas and on their birthdays, and that it isn’t at all unusual for people to get a thank-you note in response to their thank-you note. There’s nothing hard or detached about this sort of thing. It shows an unusual degree of concern and kindness.”
“I’m sorry that you have to use the word ‘unusual,’” Joan replies. “I don’t see why people can’t demonstrate, as a routine in their lives, their love or concern or respect for each other. It costs so little in time and effort and money to remember someone. I know how grateful I am when someone goes out of the way to pay me a kindness, and if they put some sort of personal stamp on it, so much greater the appreciation.
“I’m sure all of us have suffered the loss of a loved one and felt guilty as hell because we didn’t do more for that person when he or she was still alive. … I’m not religious enough to believe they know how we really felt after they’ve gone; I want to do as much as I can while they’re still here. And there have been quite a few times in my life when I know I didn’t do the things I should have and could have so easily done.
[…] “But about the thank-you notes, or just the best-wishes—they’re no big deal. People deserve to be remembered on special occasions, and appreciate being remembered, so why not do it?”