Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Presented by its author as nonfiction, the book depicts Christina's version of her childhood and her relationship with her mother. She alleges that for many years she was the victim of child abuse during her mother's battle with alcoholism. The message she conveys is that her mother cared more about her motion picture career than she did for her children, Christina and Christopher, and that she had adopted them only for publicity purposes.
Friends of Joan Crawford were shocked by the tales of outrageous cruelty and many called it fictitious, attacking Christina's honesty and maintaining that her claims are not corroborated with evidence. Myrna Loy, Joan's friend since 1925, became one of her staunchest defenders in the aftermath of the book and the tarnishing of her carefully created image. Loy said that she had personally observed bad behavior on the part of Christina on numerous occasions, both during her childhood and when she was completely independent of her mother; especially during the Broadway run of Barefoot in the Park, in which Loy and Christina both appeared. Loy said she believed Christina's motivation in writing the book was nothing more than her jealousy that she could never achieve the level of success or adulation that her mother had achieved.
Some biographers have also stated that in the subsequent retelling of events she has written about, Christina is particularly weak in recalling sequences of events and dates and that the substance of particular stories changes significantly in the retelling. They have accused her of fabricating some of her anecdotes and, while acknowledging that Joan Crawford was a highly ambitious woman and was an alcoholic for most of her life, have also suggested that Christina largely embellished the areas of her story where she had legitimate grievances. Perhaps most tellingly, the two younger Crawford children, Cindy and Cathy, who grew up in the Crawford household from the late 1940s, have stated categorically many times that they did not witness any events as described in the book, even though they were there, and have distanced themselves from their elder sister.
But some of Joan's friends later stated that the book had changed their opinion of her. The damage was done, right or wrong, and Crawford's name has become a byword for parental abuse and cruelty.
Christina has stood by her story, releasing a "Twentieth Anniversary Edition" with one hundred pages of additional material, and in the years since the original book was published she has acquired a large number of supporters who accept her story at face value, as well as an equally large group of detractors who do not.
In 1981, Mommie Dearest was released by Paramount Pictures. The story was adapted for the screen by Robert Getchell , Tracy Hotchner , Frank Perry and Frank Yablans. Directed by Frank Perry, it starred Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford and Diana Scarwid as an adult Christina Crawford, with Mara Hobel playing Christina as a child. Xander Berkeley played Christopher Crawford as an adult and Jeremy Scott Reinbolt played him as a child.
The movie's exective producers were Christina Crawford's husband, David Koontz , and Terrence O'Neill . The associate producer was Neil A. Machlis and the producer was Frank Yablans.
The story of the movie centers on Christina and Joan, perhaps due to time and budget limitations. There is no reference to Crawford's third marriage to actor Phillip Terry, her religious experiences as a Christian Scientist, or her two younger adopted daughters. CBS wished not to have a part in the film, so the scenes in which Joan fills in for Christina on The Secret Storm are intentionally vague; the soap opera is never mentioned by name, only as "the 4 o'clock show" (the time that Secret Storm aired for many years).
Premiere audiences in Hollywood howled with laughter and critics derided the overstated and melodramatic tone. The "no wire hangers ... ever!" scene led to people showing up at theaters with wire hangers, hoping to "participate" in the film, as if it were The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
While Dunaway garnered some critical acclaim for her portrayal, she also received a Razzie Award for Worst Actress. The movie as a whole received overwhelmingly negative reviews and a then-record total of five Razzies. In the years since its release, it has achieved cult status as a high camp classic. Dunaway later stated that she wished she had never appeared in it.
To Dunaway's credit, it was said that she attempted to tone down her portrayal of Crawford, but received a great deal of opposition from Christina.
Coincidentally, though Dunaway portrayed her as an abusive lunatic, Joan Crawford once said in an interview that if her life was ever to be made into a movie she wanted Faye Dunaway to play her.
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