The Hollywood Legend Whose Age Is Still A Mystery

When someone tells us how old they are, we assume they're telling the truth. But have you ever stopped for a moment to consider how it is that we know our own age? A birth certificate is one way, but most often we rely on our parents to tell us the year we were born. From there, it's just a matter of math. If a birth certificate is missing, though, or if for whatever reason our own parents can't tell us, such as they've died or they just can't remember, a person's real chronological age could be anyone's guess. That's precisely what happened to one Hollywood legend, whose real age to this day is a mystery (via Biography).

Having a birth certificate on file shouldn't be taken for granted. It wasn't until 1902, in fact, that a standardized birth certificate system was established in the U.S. And that system was not adopted across all 50 states until the 1930s (via Nature). For this reason, it was not uncommon for someone born prior to that point to never have had a birth certificate at all. In an era before digital record keeping, that birth certificate, if it ever existed, might also just end up lost. In instances like these, someone's age is only a best guess. All that an interested party can do is take someone's word for it.

Joan Crawford never knew her real age

The classic Hollywood film star whose actual age was never known for certain is Joan Crawford. Named Lucille LeSueur at birth, Crawford was born poor in Texas and raised in the Lone Star State, Oklahoma, and Missouri before dancing on Broadway in the 1920s and making her name in Hollywood in the '30s (per Britannica). The future Hollywood star otherwise had an unhappy childhood. Her father abandoned his family right around the same time she was born, which possibly explains why the actress never had an official birth certificate (via Biography). As for Texas, birth records were not kept until 1903, and the system was shoddy even then, per the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

After her father abandoned his family, Crawford grew up with several stepfathers and never really got along with her mother, as Bustle explains. Situations like the young Joan Crawford found herself in as a child were not all that uncommon. Not an orphan technically, neglected children of single parents like Joan Crawford at some point do fall under that category. The social services system for children and families was also not then what it has now become, as Classroom explains. Of her strained relationship with her own mother, Crawford later said in the book "Conversations with Joan Crawford," "I don't think she really loved me."

Joan Crawford was born on March 23 but what year?

Nevertheless, we do know what year Joan Crawford died, in 1977. Beyond that, though, Crawford's birthday is generally agreed to be March 23. It's the exact year she was born that remains a mystery. Look her age up in a number of resources and her birth year will vary. She always said her birth year was 1908, putting her at age 69 at the time that she died. Other estimates put her at 72 or even possibly 73, making her birth year 1905, and even possibly 1904, although her older brother Harold was born in 1904, making that last date highly unlikely, as Biography notes.

Crawford's own traumatic childhood was passed on to her adopted daughter, Christina Crawford. This abuse is chronicled in Christina's autobiography, which provided the basis for the 1981 film "Mommie Dearest" (via IMDb). In addition to physical, psychological, and emotional abuse, Crawford told her daughter that her grandmother, Joan's mother, had died in childbirth, which was a lie, as The Guardian reports. The fact that Joan Crawford never knew her real age makes Crawford's decision to lie to her daughter in such a way all the more striking. For her part, Christina Crawford's real age is established.