‘Dearest mom’ turns 40: Joan Crawford, child abuse and transvestite icon

“I think the film took my career in a direction where people would inevitably get the wrong impression of me.” The phrase of Faye Dunaway upon ‘Dearest mom’, exhibited on one of the few occasions in which the actress has wanted to talk about her, says it all. The protagonist of ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ she was never too proud of the ‘impersonation’ of Joan Crawford what did he do in the movie Frank Perry, that these days turns 40. The film adapted the book from Christina, adopted daughter of the Crawford who confessed, after her mother died in 1977, the alleged mistreatment to which the legendary star had subjected her (and her brother). An ordeal that leaves any other story about famous abusers that has marked the actress’s image forever.

The hardships begin already in the first pages, when la archienemiga de Bette Davis adopts two children. According to the story, Crawford forced his children to scrub the floors in the middle of the night or woke them up shouting ‘I don’t want any more wire hangers!’ when they had left their tiny coats on them. At least, that’s the version of Christina, who also recalled her mother’s youthful eagerness or how she suffered the unspeakable when she was unceremoniously fired from what had been her home, the Metro Goldwyn Mayer. The consequences of that dismissal are, in fact, one of the most gruesome moments in the film version of the novel. In a scene bordering on the grotesque, Dunaway-Crawford drowns her grief by cutting rose bushes, scratched, furious and maddened, in the garden of her mansion.

Joan Crawford and her daughter Christina. (Notorious Editions)

Other moments of the icon ‘camp’ are those in which Crawford calls the press to have the children open the Christmas presents in front of the photojournalists. Some journalist remembered that this was “the least spontaneous thing” that he had seen in his life. It is no secret that the qualifier of maniac came to him that neither painted the star, who demanded to shoot his close-ups with a light chosen by herself and was demanding to the point of paroxysm with the directors. With some, in fact, she went to bed, proving (and proving herself to overcome her innumerable complexes behind her giant ego) that no one could beat her.

The spirit of Joan Crawford

Based on Crawford’s real anecdote, ‘Dearest Mom’ was a light project (especially for Paramount) that ended up shrouded in shadows. The shooting was so exhausting that the result is reflected on the screen, in the big boyish air of the film. Joan Crawford’s irate spirit seemed to have settled on Faye Dunaway herself, bringing the whole team on their heads. One of the most affected was the costume designer, the legendary Irene Sharaff. The daily demands on shoulder pads and dresses almost wipe out your health.

Another actress in the film had no mercy when it came to describing Faye Dunaway’s attitude. “Joan had her way as a lady. Faye was despised because she was so rude to people. I wish I had learned from JoanRutanya Alda said.

Faye Dunaway, in ‘Dearest Mom’. (CP)

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is no secret how disappointed Dunaway ended up with the final result of the film. She thought she was going to play Crawford as if he were Lady Macbeth, delving into a deranged and traumatized personality. He soon realized that this was more of a ‘camp’ show than a lesson from the Actor’s Studio. Every day, the makeup artists spent four hours to emulate the look of the protagonist of ‘What happened to Baby Jane?’With her imposing eyebrows and full, defiant lips, she is the pasture of imitations and a must-see for many cross-dressing shows. That ‘makeup’ contributed, even more, to enhance the film as an involuntary comedy. The study, aware of what it had in hand, endorsed the ‘kitsch’ character in advertising to avoid disaster. “Meet the greatest MOTHER of all!” Read the slogan. The premiere did nothing more than confirm that ‘Dear Mom’ was a parodic product, closer to the grotesque of ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ than at the dramatic voltage of ‘Mildred Pierce’.

After winning a Razzie for his performance, Dunaway has spent decades not wanting to talk about the film, as if it were a bad dream from which he did not quite wake up. The one who, unexpectedly, did not like the ‘Dearest Mom’ phenomenon either was Bette Davis herself, whose iconic feud with Joan Crawford has even led to a series, ‘Feud’. Davis never even got to see the tape and has already spoken badly about the book. The play, according to her, was unfair and ruthless to Crawford. “I wouldn’t read garbage like that, and I think it was a terrible, terrible thing for a daughter to do that. An abomination! Doing something like that with someone who saved you from the orphanage, from foster homes, from who knows what. If she didn’t like the person who chose to be her mother, she was older and could choose her own life, ”she declared.

Joan Crawford, in a photo from her time at MGM. (Vanitatis photomontage)

Forty years after its premiere, the film that portrayed Crawford mother is a classic against the tide, a film claimed by lovers of the different as John Waters. Programs like ‘Rupaul’ have not tired of claiming the benefits of the tape in their shows and the LGTBI collective mentions it on many occasions. There are critics who, in fact, value it as a kitschy delicacy. Others don’t know if awareness of child abuse has made the film less funny today than it was in 1981. The prestigious Rogert Ebert said in his day that she did not understand that “no one in their right mind” wanted to see her.

‘Queridísima mama’ is also the baroque parody of a myth, the deformed mirror on the cruelty of fame and motherhood seen as a showcase of popularity. James Boiley, critic of ‘Flavorwire’, was perhaps the most successful in defining the sensations it produces: “The character becomes so grotesque that his actions are not configured in a dramatic arc or even in a legible profile. They just pile up, like cars in a traffic accident, and all we can do is gape. ”

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