Mommie Dearest: Was Joan Crawford really a whacko?

I haven’t seen the movie or read the book in quite some time, so forgive me if I get any details wrong. :slight_smile:

For some reason, I was thinking today about Christina Crawford and her portrayal of her mother in Mommie Dearest (both the book and the movie, which I recall sticking fairly close to the book). I know that at the end of the movie, there was a comment made about Joan Crawford having the last word (via her will, with which she basically disinherited her two adopted children) and Christina (the actress) delivering a smirking line to the effect of “We’ll just see about that.”

I recall this book/movie being lambasted due to its extremely mean-spirited nature, since it’s basically just a posthumous trashing of her mother by Christina. My question is whether any of the litany of horrible things that Christina accused her mother of in the book/movie were ever corroborated by other people in Joan Crawford’s life, such as her ex-husbands, co-workers, domestic help, etc? Was this more just a stab in the back by a daughter who was bitter about her relationship with her mother and her subsequent disinheritance, or is there truth in the portrayal of Joan Crawford as a whacko?

Any insights?

[Eve rolls up her sleeves and gets right down to work]

OK. Joan was NOT the world’s best mother—she freely admitted herself she was too strict and over-disciplined. BUT, both Christina and Christopher were emotionally disturbed, and it’s doubtful anyone could have handled them (Myrna Loy said in her memoirs she’d have beaten Christina to death within a week). The two younger girls, Cindy and Cathy, had no problem with Joan and maintained a good relationship with her.

The story behind “Mommie Dearest:” Joan cut Christina out of the will. She wanted revenge and needed money, so she wrote an average “star’s daughter memoir,” which was too dull to publish. The publisher also had a manuscript called “The Hype,” about a mad movie-star mother. The author and Christina signed off on it, the two books were combined, and came out as “Mommie Dearest.” Cindy and Cathy have repeatedly said, “we were there—none of this happened,” but no one wants to hear that. Christina has gone off the deep end of late, and now says that Joan murdered her fourth husband!

Now with cable and video, at least people are able to see Joan’s films and see what a terrific actress she could be, with a good script and a good director. A friend of mine is working on a bio of her, which I hope will be out in the next couple of years (gotta e-mail her and see how it’s going). Joannie wasn’t perfect, but there are a lot of things that did NOT get publicized: she regularly gave money and clothes to up-and-coming youngsters, and she donated a wing to a hospital in L.A., where people in show business who had no insurance would be treated free of charge at her expense. She also took in her second husband, Franchot Tone, when he was dying, some 30 years after they’d split.

Now. Any questions about how Lupe Velez really died?

Ah, Eve…I was hoping you’d respond, I knew I could count on you. :slight_smile:

To point out just how biased the book/movie were, I didn’t even know that there were two other children. I don’t think that they were ever referenced in the movie, and I don’t recall them from the book (although as I said, it’s been years and my recollection is hazy).

I figured that it was mostly overblown hype based on the not-so-subtle nastiness of the last moment of the movie. It positively shrieked “REVENGE!!”

I’d be interested in reading an honest bio of Joan Crawford…keep us posted on when your friend’s book might be out.

Is Lupe Velez the second husband that Christina accuses Joan of murdering?

No, Lupe Velez was an actress who allegedly tried to kill herself, but changed her mind, and accidently drowned in the toilet…

“No, Lupe Velez was an actress who allegedly tried to kill herself, but changed her mind, and accidently drowned in the toilet…”

—[Eve sits back with a damp cloth on her forehead at that Urban Legend, and waits for Ukulele Ike to make a wisecrack]

Well I said allegedly, indicating that I realize its an UL.

Originally posted by pepperlandgirl:

Originally posted by Eve:

I would like to join you, if I may. Particularly since I recall the thrashing you gave me when I alluded to that same UL.

Flick Lives!

I have a book about movie stars (Stars! by Daphne Davis) that claims that Crawford got very eccentric towards the end, and once lost a housekeeper when she insisted that the tree outside her kitchen window be washed and waxed.

I read Bob Thomas’s book ** Joan Crawford **, and he does corrobate some of what Christine writes about. He quotes Bette Davis as saying “Joan Crawford was a lot of things to a lot of people. I just wish she hadn’t tried to be a mother.”

Since Joan got the children when they were only a few weeks old, you have to wonder what happened to turn them “insane.”
Children aren’t born crazy.

[sub]…sits patiently by, waiting for someone to tell her what really happened to Lupe Velez…[/sub]

“Children aren’t born crazy.”

—I beg to differ; some are. And I would hardly take Bette Davis’ word on anything involving Joan Crawford!

In Christina’s case, though, she had the classic “I want to be Mommy” syndrome so many stars’ daughters developed (Bette Davis’, Anna Held’s, Marlene Dietrich’s, Loretta Young’s). They want to be big stars, but they lack the talent, the looks, the drive. So they get their revenge by writing vituperative books.

That having been said, though, Joan admitted herself that she’d had a drinking problme in the 1940s and '50s and that she was not the best of mothers. It’s just that Christina took that and ran with it, wildly makinmg up stories as she went, most of which WERE disputed by Joan’s other children, friends and even some fair-minded enemies

Oh, OK, Jadis.

Poor Lupe. She was Catholic, she was pregnant, she was unmarried. So she took an overdose of barbituates and died. The end.

Except . . . Kenneth Anger, when he was writing his largely fictional piece of crap “Hollywood Babylon” in the early '60s, decided that wasn’t funny enough. So he had her accidentally drowning in her toilet while throwing up the pills. A lot of people still believe that, even though it’s physically impossible to drown in a toilet unless you have someone holding you by the ankles, dunking ypu.

Ukulele Ike admits he might have been the one to dunk Lupe . . .

[Everyone politely changes the subject and pours tea while Eve twitches in the corner]

What if the toilet was overflowing?

Poor Lupe…not only had she had too many margaritas and eaten too many jalapeno burritos and swallowed too many Seconals, but she had plumbing problems as well.

It definitely was NOT her day.
– Ukulele “Anger is My Friend!” Ike

Ike, did you ever market that brand of Lupe Velez-shaped toilet plungers?

[Gay John from The SImpsons]And over there’s the plumbing supply store where Lupe Velez bought the toilet she drowned in![/gay John from the Simpsons]

OK, yes, the “drowned in the toilet” is a UL, but was she in fact found in the bathroom?

So, uh, Eve, is that story about Joan Crawford and the [sub]stag movies[/sub] really true?!

Otto—All the press stories at the time it happened had her found in bed. Only after the Kenneth Anger book came out did the “found in bathroom” stories get started.

Sidle—I dunno. I’ve seen the photos, and it doesn’t look like Joan. An interviewer asked her straight-out in the early 1970s, and she laughed and said, “I wouldn’t have been that stupid.” She had an MGM contract when she arrived in Los Angeles in 1925, so there wouldn’t have been a financial need to do stag films.

True schmu…

“Mommie Dearest” - the film - is the Webster’s definition of perfect camp classic B movie.

They don’t get any better than that!

I’m assuming this happened before the book was written. So why did Joan Crawford cut her daughter out of her will?

in re Lupe Velez - I heard the “drowning in the toilet” version on Frazier. So there! (This thread needs some excitement.)