Did Joan Crawford & Her Brother Get Along In Real Life? It's Complicated
Although Feud documents the legendary rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, it's also sparked a lot of interest in the personal lives of the two women off set as well. Joan Crawford's family is one of the most enthralling, especially given her fragile relationships with her children and relatives. Although the series hasn't gone into too much detail thus far, Joan Crawford and her brother's real-life relationship also had a tenuous undertone to it. Crawford's brother was Hal LeSueur (Crawford changed her last name when she got to Hollywood because she thought the surname sounded too much like "sewer).
LeSueur was also an actor, doing some bit parts in the 1930s, but was working as a motel clerk when he died at age 59 of a ruptured appendix. Crawford was in New York City working while he spent his last days in the hospital and reportedly sent him telegrams, though she did not attend the funeral. Although, in true Crawford fashion, there are rumors that only two people visited him in the hospital and one of them was a woman who identified herself to staff as a "sister in law" of LeSueur, though Hal didn't have one at the time. It's possible Crawford slipped in and out to see him.
But it's just as likely that she did not, since the two were not close, and though she was informed of his death a few hours after it happened, she attended a Time magazine party the day of his funeral.
Hal told reporters in 1954, "For personal reasons I must refrain from saying why I never see my sister. I don’t feel it’s the proper time to talk.” Friends of his who knew him from the motel said that he lived "paycheck to paycheck" and was just like any other regular person. In other words, Crawford was not helping her brother and he wasn't gloating about his kinship. Crawford allegedly didn't like her brother, too much, going so far as to insinuate that they were only "half" siblings in Roy Newquist's Conversations with Joan Crawford:
Let's start with Hal, my dear, sweet brother, first. To tell you the truth, I think he was my half-brother; Mother married so many times, and shacked up with so many men in between, I doubt we were one hundred percent brother and sister. People would look at us, after he came out to Hollywood, and wonder how the hell we could even be related.
Crawford also alleged he was a "louse" and mean to her:
When my mother needed help in the house, did she ever ask him to do anything? Hell, no! I waited on him hand and foot, and he was one of the big reasons why I wanted to get the hell out of the whole situation. Hal was bad news, all the way around. But because he was a boy he was always favored, and it was Lucille [Crawford's given name] who had to do all the dirty work.
Yikes. In the same conversation she claimed that she supported him "until the day he died," which is contrary to what people said of Hal in his obituary. Crawford was a complicated woman with many complicated relationships. Fans may never know the full truth about her and her brother. And she probably wanted it that way.