Hollywood Birthday: Joan Crawford


I was initially torn as to whether today’s blog should try to address the whole Mommie Dearest thing, or to ignore those lies in favor of focusing on Joan Crawford’s film career. I’m indecisive, so I’ve ended up doing both. This will be long.

Some facts about Joan Crawford need to be set forth in stone, because they tend to get lost in all the nonsense of her Mommie Dearest reputation. Facts: In the 1930′s Joan Crawford was one of MGM’s all-time box office draws. She ranked right up there with Clark Gable. She starred with the likes of Gable, Barrymores, and Garbo and held her own. Hell, she had sex with Clark Gable! She was legendary photographer George Hurrell’s favorite face. The woman was a diva when the word still meant something, and deserves to be remembered in her rightful place alongside the truly inimitable great of the Golden Age. It appalls me that, instead, a Hollywood legend of Joan’s status has been reduced these days to a punchline of a bad joke.


In her heyday, she was the favorite actress of women everywhere. They empathised with first her flapper characters, then her world-weary shop girl portrayals. They tried to copy her looks and style, especially her famous bow-tie shaped lips. They rooted for her. She was the perfect embodiment of her times; a fighter, coming from poverty, the dramatic sculptural lines of her face even echoed the Art Deco style that was ever-present in the 30′s. Was she a great actress? No. She tended toward melodrama. But that really wasn’t important, because she had that something that causes some people to rise above and attain Iconhood.

Ok, let’s talk about Mommie Dearest. I’m frankly amazed that anyone believes that stuff really happened. I blame the movie, for etching it into pop culture so deeply. More people should read Mommie Dearest, the book, instead. Reading the book, you come to appreciate just what a selfish, evil, lying little bint Christina Crawford is. You know what kind of “abuse” she whines about in the book? Having to write thank you notes. Having to keep things clean. Being expected to eat meals. Having to give up some of her (many hundreds) of Christmas gifts to charity. Spare me! And then there’s the glaring fact that two younger siblings have no memory of any abuse, and have nothing but good things to say about Joan! The two kids who complained about abuse were the two who were cut out of Joan’s will. Hmmm. And we’re supposed to believe what they say?

I’m not saying Joan was a saint. She’s well known to have been a control freak and a vodka-swilling hardnosed bitch. But that’s what makes her so cool! But now everyone thinks she was an insane child-abuser…why? Because she liked to keep her house clean? That’s just offensive.

What you should watch:
The 30′s stuff with Gable. “The Women”, “Grand Hotel”, “Mildred Pierce”, to name a few. Turner Classic Movies is running a JC marathon today, so get to it!

One Response to “Hollywood Birthday: Joan Crawford”

  1. Little Shiva Says:

    I pulled a quote from your Joan Crawford page to run in a little underground rag I make in Charlotte NC. I credited your weblog and would like your mailing address so I can send you a copy. The quote I took was about how it’s offensive that she’s called a child abuser just because she wanted to keep her house clean. Love the crack chronicles, by the way.

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