Mommie Dearest (1981)

“Of all the actresses” Joan Crawford once remarked, “to me only Faye Dunaway has the talent and the class and the courage it takes to make a real star”. On another occasion Crawford stated that Dunaway was the only one she’d like to play her. As the old adage goes, be careful what you wish for.

 

For despite her best intentions, Faye Dunaway’s over-the-top portrayal of the screen legend turned what was planned to be a serious study of a strained mother-daughter relationship into a camp classic. Whether she’s hacking at her daughter’s hair, feeding her raw meat or, most infamously, beating her with a wire hanger, Dunaway’s performance is the cinematic equivalent of road-kill. You don’t want to look at it, but you just can’t help yourself.

 

In her more mellow moments, particularly opposite Diana Scarwid as the grown-up Christina, there are glimpses of the actresses’ undeniable talent. But these come too late to overcome the sight of a wild-eyed Dunaway stomping around her daughter’s bathroom or hacking into her rose garden, screaming “Bring me the axe!” By the time Mommie Dearest is laid out in her coffin, you half expect her daughter to drive a stake through her heart to make sure she’s dead.

 

As it is, Christina Crawford killed off her mother’s reputation the following year, when she wrote the book on which this film is based.

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Joan Crawford was not single at the time she adopted Christina. She was in fact married to actor Phillip Terry.

Greg Savitt is a fictional character. 

Carol Ann is a composite character based on several housekeepers Crawford had.

Joan Crawford was not fired by MGM. 

No scene recreations in this biopic, apart from Joan's substitution for her daughter's role in a daytime soap opera. The closest it gets is rehearsing a scene from Mildred Pierce with her housekeeper.

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