8 March 2014

"I got good and mad and walked out without a tear."

From Joan Crawford's extensive correspondence comes this letter she wrote to actress Lotte Palfi. Lotte Palfi was a German actress who only played tiny parts in Hollywood films. I had never heard of her, which is not surprising since many of her roles were uncredited. (For example, she was the nameless woman in "Casablanca" (1942) who had to sell her diamonds to escape the Nazis).

The letter, dated 1 September 1943, is mainly interesting because Joan tells Lotte about her leaving MGM after eighteen years. During the 1930s, Joan was one of MGM's biggest stars, but in the early 1940s MGM wanted to promote new stars like Judy Garland and began to see Joan as a bad investment. Consequently, Joan's contract was ended (by mutual consent) on 29 June 1943. Her new employer Warner Brothers put her on the payroll two days later. At Warner Bros. Joan would establish herself as one of the studio's leading ladies (next to Bette Davis), achieving her greatest success in 1945 with the title role in "Mildred Pierce", for which she won her only Oscar. Incidentally, Joan mentions two films in her letter: "Reunion in France" (1942), which co-starred John Wayne, and "Above Suspicion" (1943), co-starring Fred MacMurray. The latter was Joan's final film at MGM. 



September 1st, 1943.

My dear Lotte Palfi:

How sweet of you to write me again. I must say I have really missed your notes. Thank you for your good wishes on my new venture at Warner Bros. and I am looking forward to our working together in the near future.

Yes, it was rather difficult to leave Metro after eighteen years but when I started to feel too depressed I suddenly remembered what lousy stories they'd given me and then I got good and mad and walked out without a tear. The people I hated leaving were my crews- the electricians, makeup, hairdressers, wardrobe. They really seemed like family to me. You were sweet to think of that because most people didn't. I guess they feel a job is a job and you can just walk in and walk out without any emotion.

"Above Suspicion" is not a very good picture I am sorry to say. However, it is far superior to that stinking "Reunion in France". But you are swell in it. I know you couldn't be anything but good in any work you attempted.

How nice that you and your husband both are working at the same studio and how sweet and generous you are to feel the way you do about losing the part to Nancy Coleman. This is a personal aside to you: She, in my estimation, could not be a better choice for any part nor can she be compared to you in any way because she is not an actress in my opinion. And youth and beauty are pushed far into the background when you compare them with a real actress.

I don't know when I will start yet. It may be a couple of months as we are having a little difficulty with scripts.

Do let me hear from you from time to time. It doesn't matter whether you feel that things are worth telling or not. I just love hearing from you.

Sincerely, Joan (signed)

Lotte Palfi,                                                          
8569 Nash St.,
Hollywood, California.


  1. These letters you publish are so interesting. To get an insight into how Joan felt about leaving MGM is fascinating.

    Vienna's Classic Hollywood

    1. I think so too, that's why I love doing this blog. Thanks, by the way, for recommending me on your blog!