EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|MOMMIE DEAREST (director/writer: Frank Perry; screenwriters: Frank Yablans/Tracy Hotchner/Robert Getchell/based on the book by Christina Crawford; cinematographer: Paul Lohmann; editor: Peter E. Berger; music: Henry Mancini; cast: Howard da Silva (L.B. Mayer), Jocelyn Brando (Barbara Bennett), Diana Scarwid (Christina Crawford as Adult), Mara Hobel (Christina Crawford as Child), Michael Edwards (Ted Gelber ), Faye Dunaway (Joan Crawford), Steve Forrest (Greg Savitt), Rutanya Alda (Carol Ann), Harry Goz (Alfred Steele), Xander Berkeley (Christopher Crawford as adult), Jeremy Scott Reinbolt (Christopher Crawford as child), Carolyn Coates (Mother Superior); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Frank Yablans; Paramount Pictures; 1981)|
|"Trashy soap opera drama on the
private life of screen queen Joan Crawford."
by Dennis Schwartz
Perry ("Diary of a Mad Housewife"/"The Swimmer"/"David
and Lisa") directs this trashy soap opera drama on the
private life of screen queen Joan Crawford (Faye
Dunaway), a reigning member of Hollywood royalty,
that's based on the 1978 memoir by her abused adopted
daughter Christina Crawford. It's an
unflattering portrait of Joan, who died in 1977,
that shows her as self-centered, vain, insecure, a
screaming witch and pressured star worried because
of aging she is losing her star status. The pic is
so poorly helmed it turns into an unintentional
silly comedy, that became a camp cult classic as
written as gloss by Frank
Yablans, Tracy Hotchner and Robert Getchell.
Hollywood insiders claim the damaging book was
written as revenge because Joan left her two adopted
children out of her will rather than that she was
such an abusive parent. The movie couldn't convey
the book's themes and instead made the star seem
like a pitiful comical figure.
Dunaway nails the Crawford role through her make-up
application, intensity in capturing Joan's domineering
behavior, and the way she imitated her compulsions
until it became parody. But Faye never got rewarded
for her effort, as the pic was received negatively by
the critics and the public never took the pic
seriously. So her career sort of died after the
pic. It shows the twice divorced, at the time, in
the early 1940s, Joan as a cleanliness freak,
who tells Hollywood powerhouse lawyer boyfriend Greg
she has risen to the top from the bottom but is
unfulfilled because she can't have children. Greg
arranges the adoption of Christina and later of her
young brother Christopher, when an orphanage agency
turns down her request.
demented scenes of Joan losing it in tirades as she
goes into a professional decline, include an enraged
Joan destroying her rose garden by chopping down a
tree with an axe in a fit of temper after being fired
by MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer (Howard
da Silva), for being "box-office
poison;" clipping off young Christina's hair with a
scissors after her daughter mocks her; and, the most
memorable and audience favorite tirade, in which a
cold-creamed Crawford maniacally screeches to the
young Christina about her use of wire hangers in her
wardrobe, "No wire hangers, EVER!"
bad film that's poorly helmed, but entertaining in a
creepy sort of horror pic way. It results in a
perverse Joan Crawford movie that shows her failure as
a parent because she could never offer her children
real affection or love. The pic puts the Crawford
family secrets out to the public so that it can have a
good laugh and brings down the respectable name of the
generous charity giving iconic actress by depicting
her as a monstrous mother.
is played as a child by Mara Hobel and as an adult by
Diana Scarwid, and the adult Christina is a
sullen and whiny character who doesn't gain the
sympathy the young Christina deserved to get; and
indeed, makes Joan appear more sympathetic than the
memoir writer wanted.
REVIEWED ON 2/17/2013 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ