Kurt Iswarienko/FX

Joan Crawford's Health Continued To Decline

The first season of Ryan Murphy's anthology series Feud is winding down on the careers of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in the mid-1960s. In Episode 7, "Abandoned!," it was said that sabotaging production on Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte ended Crawford's career. While it may have been true that she fizzled into obscurity after that, and she certainly never mustered up another Oscar nomination, Crawford did go on to make a few more films through ailing health. But her near-constant drinking and smoking well into old age as depicted on Feud might have viewers wondering: when did Joan Crawford die?

Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte filmed in 1964, and Joan Crawford died in 1977. After Sweet Charlotte, she went on to make four more feature films, with British horror movie Trog as her last in 1970. She made one more television appearance and three more made-for-TV movies after that, ending her screen career in 1975. Late in 1974, Crawford attended a party in honor of actress Rosalind Russell. The next day, she was so embarrassed by how unflattering the photographs of her at the party were that she never appeared publicly again, famously saying, "If that's how I look, then they won't see me anymore."

She became more and more reclusive after that, hiding away in her Upper East Side apartment until her death. From about 1972 to 1975, she suffered dental issues that required surgery and round-the-clock nursing care. In 1974, while mixing alcohol with antibiotics, she passed out and hit her face. It was this incident that finally led her to stop drinking. Crawford was eventually diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but she refused treatment on the grounds of being a Christian Scientist.

On May 8, 1977, she decided she was too ill to continue caring for her dog, a Shih Tzu named Princess Lotus Blossom, and gave her away. Crawford died of a heart attack in her apartment two days later, which, according to a biography called Not The Girl Next Door, "was what she had wanted, 'not a discussion of my insides.'" It was rumored that Crawford may have committed suicide, but her first husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr. insisted, knowing Crawford, that there was no merit to them:

She had the strong will to be able to do it, if it was what she had wanted to do, but nobody could convince me she would want to do that. Even in pain, even with no hope of ever getting better, I feel it was against her religious and ethical beliefs. It took the greater strength for her to go on. She liked to be in control of her life as much as possible, and she didn’t like to feel out of control. I believe that when she heard the bad news—no hope—she waited for a natural death without trying to prolong a life she didn’t consider would be worth living. She wanted to die in a dignified way, looking as well as she could. I know that.

Crawford was cremated according to her wishes and her urn was placed next to her late husband Alfred Steele's at a cemetery in Westchester.