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View Full Version : Hollywood Memarees: New Joan Crawford Bio Disputes 'Mommie Dearest' Reputation



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Rex
11-13-2010, 02:45 AM
Memarees, memarees, old Hollywood memarees. Gather 'round the fireplace on the flatscreen, chilluns, with Uncle Rex, whilst we read this article about a new book by Hollywood biographer Donald Spoto on Miss Crawford. He paints a different picture of Joan than the one left of her by her oldest adopted daughter, Christina. Far from being the stern, neurotically abusive mom whose career was important to her above all else, Mr. Spoto portrays Joan as a fun-loving, tolerant and open-minded woman misunderstood by her contemporaries. Obsoive:

Advocate's Interview with writer Donald Spoto (http://www.advocate.com/Arts_and_Entertainment/Film/No_More_Mommie_Dearest/)


Donald Spoto, author of best-selling biographies of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Tennessee Williams, among others, was 11 years old when he became a Crawford fan after watching her Oscar-nominated turn in Sudden Fear in 1952. “Her performance knocked me out,” he says. Spoto wrote the actress a fan letter, and to his surprise she responded personally, an anecdote he uses to open his latest book. Using newly discovered archival information and exclusive interviews, Spoto has created an illuminating, three-dimensional portrait of a complex woman in Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford (William Morrow, $25.99). Spoto speaks with The Advocate about Crawford’s relationship with gay men, her rumored bisexuality, and the truth about her daughter’s scandalous book.


The Advocate: Many other books portray Joan as a very complicated person, but in yours she also comes off as incredibly likable. How do you find new information on a woman who has been dead for over three decades?
Spoto: I spoke to people who worked with her and knew her, I went to the archives, and I had material from writing other books and talking to people from the Golden Age who are no longer with us. At the New York Public Library, I discovered receipts and letters for an extraordinary list of charitable donations she made. She refused to allow these philanthropic organizations to publicize her donations. She didn’t want to be thanked or admired. She had a good and comfortable life, and she felt she had to give something back. I believe a biographer is obliged to tell the truth even if it means saying something good about somebody.


The Advocate: Were people who knew her eager to speak with you to clear up the misperception?
Spoto: Absolutely. People were eager. They said, “Please tell the truth. This woman does not deserve the ill repute.”


The Advocate: I’ve always respected her devotion to Billy Haines [a major silent film star whose career was cut short due to his homosexuality]. How rare was it for a starlet in the ’20s to become a close friend with an openly gay man?
Spoto: It was more common than people think, but people who befriended [openly gay people] did it without talking about it publicly. Joan, however, insisted that [Haines and his partner, Jimmy Shields] come to dinner parties at her home, she introduced them as a couple, and she would not hear a word against gay people. It had to do with Joan knowing what it was like to be denigrated and despised. She would not allow anyone to be insulted or offended in her presence.


The Advocate: You describe Mommie Dearest as “the work of a somewhat hysterical imagination.” What evidence did you find that suggests the book wasn’t factual?
Spoto: I’m so glad you asked. The evidence is right there in that book. She talks about this visit from Yul Brynner in 1948 when he was in Hollywood making The King and I. She goes on and on about the affair he was having with her mother in 1948. Well, the movie of The King and I was made in 1956, and the Broadway musical hadn’t even been thought of yet. The book is full of errors like that. She remembers events at which she was not present and which were not otherwise documented. It’s a remarkable fantasy about a part of her life. Was Joan a strict mother? Yes. Was Joan a cruel mother? All the evidence says no. The primary evidence for that is her twins, one of whom died recently. The other twin is still proclaiming the truth, saying, “I don’t know who Christina was talking about, but it certainly wasn’t my mother.” In Christina's defense, many celeb bios and autobios have some errors or omissions in them. And what about several of Joan's friends who did witness her being unkind to her children? And what made Christina so batshit crazy that she would embellish these tales? Maybe some people saw her on her good days, and others did not.

I wonder if his book mentions how she got her Senor Wences eyebrows....discuss while I whip up the hot wings and root beer. :watch:

manleywoman
11-13-2010, 03:38 AM
It's also possible to be cruel to one child and sweet to another.

essence_of_soy
11-13-2010, 04:37 AM
Whaaaaaaaaat...my favourite guilty pleasure is a pack of raging false hoods?

Say it ain't so. I loved Faye in her greatest Kabuki performance ever.

Dr.Siouxs
11-13-2010, 04:52 AM
Meh, nice is boring so I prefer to believe the myth. But she's dead anyway so who cares.

NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:revenge: :mad:

Fergus
11-13-2010, 05:02 AM
I go into EVERY Board meeting psyched up like the Widow Steele @ PepsiCo HQ. ;)

Rex
11-13-2010, 05:33 AM
Dooooooooooooent fcuk wit me, fellas! This aint' my first time at the rodeo!!!

I think Spoto is just looking for a different angle, actually, to sell his book. I mean, how many times can you write about Joan being a crazy mom?

vesperholly
11-13-2010, 07:51 PM
It's also possible to be cruel to one child and sweet to another.

Agreed - I witnessed this firsthand with relatives. It was sad.

Rex
11-13-2010, 08:02 PM
It's also possible to be cruel to one child and sweet to another.


Agreed - I witnessed this firsthand with relatives. It was sad.

It seemed like Christina and Christopher bore the brunt of Joan's alleged craziness, and the two twin girls were pretty much spoiled by Joan. I've seen people play favorites with their children too; the results are devastating and they leave scars.

I think Christina might have gotten some facts wrong and she may have even embellished some of her stories, but I believe, truly, that she was abused by Joan. Spoto is trying to sell a book and is using a different angle to do so.

topaz
11-13-2010, 09:06 PM
Well, I tend to believe she wasn't "as bad" but she was bad. A few quotes about Joan from her favorite rival, Bette Davis.


[on longtime rival Joan Crawford] "I wouldn't piss on her if she was on fire."




You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good . . . Joan Crawford is dead. Good."



The best time I ever had with Joan Crawford was when I pushed her down the stairs in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Rex
11-13-2010, 09:46 PM
Well, I tend to believe she wasn't "as bad" but she was bad. A few quotes about Joan from her favorite rival, Bette Davis.

According to the article, that "feud" may have been manufactured as well.

Gwoofer
11-13-2010, 10:27 PM
Agreed - I witnessed this firsthand with relatives. It was sad.

So true! Sometimes the retort you hear is "I knew ..... and they never did that to me" or something along those lines. Irrelevant! Esp. when combined with "they never would have tried that with me i.e., you were doing something to encourage/enable it".

I don't know the truth of any of this but I do know the truth of the dynamic

manleywoman
11-13-2010, 10:52 PM
So true! Sometimes the retort you hear is "I knew ..... and they never did that to me" or something along those lines. Irrelevant! Esp. when combined with "they never would have tried that with me i.e., you were doing something to encourage/enable it".

I don't know the truth of any of this but I do know the truth of the dynamic

I knew it. Mu uncle favored his youngest child: the only boy. The two older girls were treated like dirt. At his funeral, the son was going on and on about what a great dad he was. The girls were extremely conflicted.

liv
11-13-2010, 11:30 PM
And you hear about that occasionally with sexual assault victims too. They say they were abused but other family members think they're bat shite crazy and must've imagined it all. It can happen even in the closest of families.

With Joan, who knows. I'm sure she was a very complicated person and as an actress was probably skilled at letting certain people see different sides of her if she wished to do so.

Of course this guy is going to write a book he hopes will sell, or why write it? What better way than to dispute the "Mommy Dearest" angle? Immediate interest.

Rex
11-14-2010, 12:24 AM
I knew it. Mu uncle favored his youngest child: the only boy. The two older girls were treated like dirt. At his funeral, the son was going on and on about what a great dad he was. The girls were extremely conflicted.

This. It happened to my maternal grandmother and her sisters. My grandfather treated his sons better, and pushed my great-grandmother around and disrespected and manipulated his daughters. As a result, the boys became spoiled and abusive husbands, save for my Uncle Jerry. My grandma and her sisters, all deceased now, were quite combative and competitive with each other. That craziness was passed down, too.

Crawford disinherited the two oldest ones, according to her will, "for reasons best known to them". The bulk went to the twin girls. Christina said she nor Christopher never really knew why. Maybe she's hiding something?

topaz
11-14-2010, 01:27 AM
According to the article, that "feud" may have been manufactured as well.

I don't really think so. They both were at different studios for much of their careers; Crawford @MGM and Davis @Warner Brothers except for few years They both competed for top female box office but seldom went after the same roles.

I don't think Crawford's legendary aggressive nature in all aspects of her life put off many people. Crawford was an opportunist, but not in a completely bad way. When an opportunity presented itself, Joan grabbed and didn't let go. She didn't have acting chops or credentials like Davis, she used her looks and ambition to climb to the top.

I do think Davis who was always insecure about her looks envied and was probably jealous of Crawford's confidence and beauty. People forgot Joan Crawford was a BEAUTY in her early career. Her bone structure is classic.

Joan Crawford 1930 by George Hurrell (http://www.flickr.com/photos/gatochy/2313684244/)

http://www.wildsound.ca/images/joancrawford.jpg

One of favorite phots of a young JC. Look at her fingernails? The shape!!!! (http://www.doctormacro.com/Images/Crawford,%20Joan/Annex/Annex%20-%20Crawford,%20Joan_19.jpg)

I use to have a classic hollywood site I would manage about 10 years ago. JC was a popular one the site. I have tons of books about her and classic hollywood. She dated many men in hollywood and wasn't ashamed about it. She was rumored to be engaged to Clark Gable at time. They are had a torrid affair, after Fairbanks but before he met Lombard. She had a relationship with Gary Cooper who's nickname was "stud" mostly due to his "manly attributes".

Also, next year HBO is doing an adaption of Mildred Pierce starring Kate Winslet.