Friday, April 22, 2011

"I'm NOT acting!!!"

Joan & clone
So protests Hollywood icon Joan Crawford to her lover and then her daughter in two key scenes of Mommie Dearest. After what the former Lucille LeSueur went through to get to the top (and to perch there precariously until her box office plunged), it's not too surprising that the line between real life and playacting may have become a tad blurred.

I had never seen the film before, but I'm glad I did so via this "Hollywood Royalty Edition" DVD. Faye Dunaway throws herself (sometimes literally) into a role that she later refused to discuss, possibly because critics jeered at some of the more over-the-top scenes. The fellow cast members in the Special Features all maintain she was great. Director John Waters, connoisseur of the outrageous—who provides a delicious running commentary on the entire film—agrees, pointing to the kabuki-like nature of  Faye/Joan's rants while in the throes of what appears to be borderline personality disorder on top of OCD.

Favorite scenes include the one in which Joan—looking fabulous and every inch a star—strides into Louis B. Mayer's office and is told her MGM days are over. When she bravely says she'll send her people to clean out her bungalow—which she'd occupied for decades—Mayer says her things have been removed while they've been talking. Not only that, but the shmuck refuses to walk her to her car! Later we see Joan winning the Oscar for Warner Brothers' Mildred Pierce, which was some consolation/payback for her (although not for the long-suffering Christina, who endured several psychotic episodes while Mommie D fought for the part). (Has anybody seen HBO's Mildred Pierce? How does it compare?)

In another scene of scrappy bravado, Joan tells Pepsi's Board of Directors "Don't f*** with me boys!" when they try to can her after her husband dies. "You drove Al Steele to his grave, and now you're trying to stab me in the back? Forget it. I fought worse monsters than you for years in Hollywood. I know how to win the hard way." 


The cover of the James M. Cain novel, reprinted with a still from the movie. It was Cain's friend Kate Cummings (mother of the actress Constance) who provided him with the point of view of a devoted single mother with two children to support.

1 comment:

  1. The Hollywood Royalty Edition DVD of "Mommie Dearest" is fabu. Love the John Waters commentary.

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