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Crawford, Joan Popular

Art: Secretary

One of the great myths of Holllywood autograph collecting is that Joan Crawford signed 100% of her own autographs. In fact, although Crawford did personally respond to fans' requests for autographed photos to an extent unusual for most Hollywood stars, she did employ the services of a secretary occasionally beginning in the 1930s and with increasing frequency as her career wound down in the 1960s. (reference in her biography about having "signing groups" at the home, often up to 6 at a time.)

Fortunately, it is fairly easy to distinguish authentic Crawford signatures from secretarial imitations, provided one knows what one is looking for.

Example 1 shows Crawford's signature circa 1930 on an album page. Note that the letters "ford" are all separately written out and easily distinguishable. This signature is characteristic of Crawford's autograph during the late 1920s and very early 1930s.

Examples 2 and 3 show Crawford's signature as it had evolved by the middle of the 1930s, at the height of her MGM career. Note in particular the change in the way "ford" is now written. The "f" has become larger and more elaborate," and the final three letters are no longer as distinct as they were in the earlier signature.

Crawford continued to sign this way until the end of her life.

Example 4

shows an example from the early 1950s. It is virtually identical to the 1930s examples.

Finally, Example 5 shows a secretarial signature from the 1960s. The difference between this signature -- especially the formation of the "ford" -- and authentic Crawford signatures is quite obvious. Any collector who contemplates purchasing one of these later signed photos should be certain that they are getting one that has been authentically signed -- of which there are many. Collectors would also be well advised to avoid purchasing typed letters that are signed "Joan," as these are likely to have been signed by the secretary. Look for a full signature -- first and last names -- and be certain that it bears the characteristics of an authentic Joan Crawford signature, as illustrated in the examples illustrated above.

Joan Crawford also sometimes employed a secretary in the 1930s. Most secretarially signed photos read, "Gratefully/Joan Crawford." Crawford, herself, also occasionally signed photos in this way and, unfortunately, no examples are presently available for posting in this study. However, the same rule as above applies -- all one needs to do is actually look at the signature and make certain it matches the examples illustrated here. If it does, it is signed by Crawford; if it looks different, it is signed by her secretary.

The first scan is a secretarial Joan Crawford signature -- "Gratefully/Joan Crawford."

The second scan is an authentic Joan Crawford signature, also signing "Gratefully/Joan Crawford." The authentic signature is a bit light, but it is the only authentic example of this sentiment that I have available.

If you have further reference examples regarding this entry, don't hesitate to contact us.

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