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Dore Freeman; Joan Crawford Fan, Collector

November 20, 1988|BURT A. FOLKART | Times Staff Writer

Dore Freeman, who accumulated what is believed to be the greatest collection of memorabilia of any single film star--20,000 still photos of Joan Crawford, 3,000 personal snapshots, remnants of her wardrobe and even her Social Security card--died Tuesday of the complications of a stroke.

The veteran Metro Goldwyn Mayer publicist and photographer was 76 and was at work as a consultant for the Turner Entertainment Co., which purchased the MGM film library.

Freeman's fascination with Crawford began when he was a Western Union messenger and, along with hundreds of newsmen and fans, was meeting her train at Grand Central Station.

It was the 1930s and she was at the height of her career. Privately she was divorcing Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and was in the process of marrying Franchot Tone, who was secreted in her private rail car.

As reporters began screaming, "Are you engaged to Franchot Tone?" at Crawford, she grew flustered and began to stammer. Then she heard the youthful voice of Isadore Freeman, the messenger boy, over the crowd:

"Tell them, 'Time will tell,' Joan," he yelled.

She repeated the advice to the crowd, and a few days later one of Freeman's counterparts visited him bearing a gold watch. Inside it said: "Time will tell. Love, Joan Crawford."

Thus began a relationship that did not end until Crawford's death in 1977.

She helped him get a job at the MGM publicity department, where he worked under every studio head from Louis B. Mayer to Alan Ladd Jr. At his retirement in the early '80s, he was head of the publicity still department at the studio.

But his primary preoccupation remained with Crawford. His home became a repository for mannequins, portraits and the dozens of gifts she had sent him.

Freeman, a bachelor, lived alone with two schnauzers named for Crawford's adopted children, Christopher and Christina.

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