Mommie Dearest (1981)
June 4, 2024 10:46 AM - Subscribe

[TRAILER] Renowned actress Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway), at the height of her career, adopts two orphans--Christina and Christopher--to fill the lonely gap in her personal life. However, as her professional and romantic relationships sour, Joan's already callous and abusive behavior towards Christina intensifies.

Also starring: Diana Sarwid, Mara Hobel, Steve Forrest, Howard da Silva, Xander Berkeley, Jeremy Scott Reinbolt.

Directed by Frank Perry. Screenplay by Robert Getchell, Tracy Hotchner, Frank Perry, Frank Yablans. Based on Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford. Produced by Frank Yablans for Paramount Pictures. Cinematography by Paul Lohmann. Edited by Peter E. Berger. Music by Henry Mancini.

48% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Paramount Plus. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (11 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Tnere's a new book out about the film by A. Ashely Hoff and there's a screening and Q&A at the Music Box in Chicago tonight.

That article has some great bits:
“Mommie Dearest,” which stars Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford, was meant to be a serious film shining light on the issue of child abuse. Instead, it was both critically panned and a commercial success as people flocked to theaters to laugh at its most dramatic scenes and hosted “Rocky Horror Picture Show”-esque screenings where viewers waved wire hangers in the air during one of its most infamous scenes.

“With Love, Mommie Dearest” details how once the movie’s executives saw how audiences were receiving the film, they quickly changed its marketing campaign to be “in” on the joke. Within a week of its release, Paramount dropped its dramatic movie poster portraying Dunaway-as-Joan in favor of a cartoonish wire hanger and the message, “No wire hangers … Ever!” evoking the exaggerated scene in which Joan Crawford strikes her daughter with one.

“Director Frank Perry really thought they were making some kind of statement about alcoholism and child abuse, but almost immediately it turned out that they weren’t,” said comedy writer Bruce Vilanch, who lived with Faye Dunaway’s agent at the time and wrote the forward to Hoff’s book. “They changed the ad campaign because they realized what they had gotten.”
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:49 AM on June 4 [5 favorites]

18. One must distinguish between naïve and deliberate Camp. Pure Camp is always naïve. Camp which knows itself to be Camp ('camping') is usually less satisfying.
19. The pure examples of Camp are unintentional; they are dead serious.
—Sontag, Notes On Camp
posted by 1970s Antihero at 11:20 AM on June 4 [9 favorites]

There's something about treating a fictionalized account of alleged child abuse by a real person as a camp joke that' rather poor taste, I think. I know that poor taste is an essential element of camp, but I guess this is where it fails for me.
posted by praemunire at 1:00 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]

The article gets into that a bit and the book is about that to some extent. Hoff is friends with Christina Crawford.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:21 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]

My mom adored this movie back in the day for some reason, so I watched it a lot.

My wife adores Joan Crawford (owns a bunch of her movies, multiple books, pictures, letters and once as a birthday gift I bought her a costume jewelry broach owned by Joan) and this movie as well. But naturally she has mixed reactions to it, loving the camp and yet feeling that Joan gets jobbed by the movie and that Christina was right about the abuse.

It's definitely an experience and I can't help but think it stopped Faye Dunaway's career dead in its tracks as a serious actress (well, Barfly, but...)
posted by drewbage1847 at 1:58 PM on June 4

Watched this last year for the first time. It definitely has an odd tone. I believe they were playing it very straight, but it's hard not to see that it comes across as camp. It's as if they were making this serious movie about booze and child abuse in 1971, but were utilizing film techniques, look and styles from the 1940s? So it feels somewhat like a parody of a 1940s flick. It's sad and certainly not laugh out loud funny, but at the same time it doesn't feel serious. I'm not a film expert, but that's what struck the odd tone for me.

I'd recommend it as a weird time capsule experience, but it's not a great movie.
posted by SoberHighland at 2:00 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]

Grrrr.... I meant making the film in 1981, not '71. The beginning part of this movie, especially before the children were involved, felt like it was straight from the '40s. Not taking place IN the 1940s, but like a movie made in the 1940s.
posted by SoberHighland at 2:23 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]

You want guilt-free camp? I got your guilt free camp right here.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:22 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]

The wire hangers line is the one most quoted from Mommie Dearest but my favorite moment is about Joan the rodeo queen.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:39 PM on June 4 [2 favorites]

I remember watching this as a child when my mom was watching it and having so many questions. I'm intrigued to watch this now for what it is.

I do agree that the idea of someone's reality and the campiness of this is an issue.

I've thought about a lot the intersection of documentary and fiction. Everything is messy, mostly.
posted by edencosmic at 5:44 PM on June 4

I've always thought that the director did the absolute dirty on Faye Dunaway by not pulling her up on her characterisation. It was just too much for the close eye of the camera. She probably woulda killed it on stage.
posted by h00py at 1:14 AM on June 19

« Older Sexy Beast: Season 1...   |  Movie: The Apple... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments