On February 12th I make my debut to DVD! The Joan Crawford DVD Box Set Volume II comes out on February 12th and I am on two small documentaries featured on two of the DVDs in the box set. I am honored that I was part of this production but let me give a little background about how it all started.
Most everyone that knows me knows that I have a passion for the late actress, Joan Crawford. Researching her has been an amazing adventure and I started a Website honoring her in 2004 (legendaryjoancrawford.com). It was a small tacky Website with not a lot of content, but I decided to keep adding to the site and researched and learned more on Crawford as time went on. By 2007, my site had evolved into a very classy, informative site and currently it’s one of the best sites on Crawford.
I was approached in mid-2007 by a filmmaker, Peter Fitzgerald, to supply some photos for the upcoming second DVD box set on Crawford. He had found my Website and was impressed by all the amazing photos and the design. Luckily, I own a good majority of the photos on my site - in order to use photographs for film or print, you have to be able to scan in the original photo. After talking with Peter, we both expressed a passion for Crawford and I was invited to be interviewed for the documentaries he was filming. I was honored and excited that I was going to become a part of Crawford history, forever on a mini documentary and DVD that will be around long after I am gone. I am so grateful that I was chosen for this project:-)
When I arrived to the studio in LA I looked around at the vast studio and was really amazed by all the lighting and the huge set, I always get a kick out of seeing what goes on behind the scenes. As I entered the studio, I saw a short blond woman dressed appropriately for her age. She was smiling from ear to ear with a Cheshire cat sort of grin. As I approached the woman I felt my body turn hot and my hands get sweaty, it was the infamous Christina Crawford. I was introduced to Christina, she looked much younger than her 68 years of age, I was polite and cordial to her, I wanted to ask her so many questions and confront her on “Mommie Dearest” but I am not some crazy person that is going to fly off the handle. She held her hand out to me as if she wanted me to kiss her hand, I smiled, took her hand and shook it. She was with her friend, the daughter of one of the famous Andrew sisters. I just stared at this woman and thought this is the adopted daughter of Joan Crawford and although she made the distasteful and mostly untruthful “Mommie Dearest,” she still held knowledge, true first hand knowledge about Joan Crawford and I wanted to hear the “truth” come out of her.
Christina was being interviewed and I was invited to watch her give an interview. I sat behind the camera and watched her prepare herself for the camera. She took several sips of water and then the camera started rolling. In my amazement, Christina was very sympathetic and compassionate for the majority of the interview. I had never seen this side of her portrayed in any of her interviews before on TV. No mention of "Mommie Dearest," no rambling on about wire hangers, no Joan bashing. She talked about a wide variety of topics form her favorite Joan movies, the first Joan movie she ever saw (which was "Humoresque") and the troubles Joan went through later in life. She also told some “real” stories about Joan that were sympathetic and sweet. She talked about how loving she was and how beautiful and talented she was in her early days. There were a few jabs here and there towards Joan and of course those are the pieces that used for the small parts that Christina appeared on. Christina's interview was cut down drastically for the featurettes on the box set (Christina was also interviewed for the release of Daisy Kenyon, but she was completely cut out of that documentary). She was probably the most real and truthful she has ever been and I was thankful that she was shedding this kind of light on Joan, but in essence it's too little too late. It will be interesting to see what was used on the DVDs and what was cut out.
Since, Christina is going to be featured in the upcoming Joan Crawford box set, I am at least grateful that she has moved on in some ways, SOME ways. She still touched on a few topics that were not pleasant. I am still not a fan of Christina and I still don’t like the woman for “ exaggerating” her memories of Joan Crawford. It was still fascinating to actually hear someone talk about Joan that actually knew her, saw her, touched her and loved her. It was quite amazing for me. I talked with a few other old friends of Joan that were there as well and learned so much about Joan, I got a true sense of Joan and what she was like first hand. These stories, history, memories are something that I have in my head, will write down and share with the current fans and future fans. Many of the people that Joan knew personally are dead. Everyone, besides Christina and the film crew were over 80 years old that personally knew Crawford. Who knows, some day I could be that 80 year old talking about Joan Crawford to a young fan trying to learn more about the famous actress.
Being a huge Joan Crawford fan, probably one of he biggest, it's pretty amazing to have met Christina. Even though I'm not fond of her, she is a part of Joan Crawford history and that is what I am doing with the Website and my book. I am researching, I am a historian on Joan Crawford and to really research and get a feeling for Joan Crawford or any other person in history that you have to research the good AND the bad it was pretty powerful to hear Christina's interview.
After Christina's interview, she said her goodbyes and changed out of her matronly outfit into sweatpants and a t-shirt. It was interesting to see her in this light, she is 68 years old and she looked good for her age - I will give her that much. She also seemed to have a bit more of a sense of humor once she was away from the camera. But one thing that didn't go way was the diva-like nature. She had her demands about the flight and the car that was picking her up. I am sure she thinks she IS "Joan Crawford" in a way. Scroll down to bottom of page to read some facts and myths about Mommie Dearest.
All in all my entire interview went well, I had fun with it and enjoyed the experience. I had never done an interview on camera and I thought I did a great job. I was filmed for three of the featurettes but only made the cut on two of them: Crawford and Gable which is on the DVD for the movie "Strange Cargo"(1940) this is the last of eight films Joan made with the legendary Clark Gable. Then I am on Tough Baby: Torch Song from the film "Torch Song" (1953) which is a very campy Technicolor film. I was also credited on all three of the features for use of my photographs.
The experience was wonderful and I will be featured in another Joan Crawford DVD, which is coming out next month! Don't forget to pick up your copy of the Joan Crawford Box Set Volume II; you will be surprised at how great the five films are!
Above: Click on the above article where Christina clearly states that the whole wire hanger scene in the movie Mommie Dearest never happened. Christina says, "A lot of the things in the movie were fictionalized." - Unreal.
Here are some clarifications to certain scenes from the movie Mommie Dearest:
Here are some clarifications to certain scenes from the movie Mommie Dearest:
- In the film Christopher was strapped into his bed at night. Christina describes this harness as a "torture device." TRUTH: There was a very good reason Christopher was strapped into bed - he had a terrible sleep walking problem and he actually almost fell down a flight of stairs because of his sleepwalking. Joan went to a doctor about this problem and the doctor gave Joan the bed harness. This is why Christopher was strapped into the bed. Joan had a hard time sleeping because she was so worried Christopher was going to get up during the night, sleepwalking, and harm himself. It was all good intentions from Joan - I am sure Christina saw this and was horrified her "little brother" was being strapped into the bed. Christina was like 4 or 5 years old and I am sure seeing that for her was a bit odd and traumatic, as it would be to any child BUT Christina should really have investigated the reasoning to this and not turn the bed straps into what she calls a "torture device" - It was not a torture device in any way.
- Night raids. In the film, Mommie Dearest, one of the most famous scenes is when Faye Dunaway is in her kabuki style makeup raiding the closest, checking on the children and shouting No More Wire Hangers! THE TRUTH: Joan did have her nighttime rituals where she would put lotions, creams and other beauty products to help her stay young. What woman today doesn’t have her beauty rituals in today's society with the vain culture we have? I am sure we ALL look scary with the beauty products we use on our skin in the privacy of our own home. The "night raids" That Christina describes were Joan checking in on the children and the household. Joan was a neat freak and she paid several servants damn good money to keep the house in order, Joan wanted to make sure the job was getting done. Joan also grew up extremely poor and worked in a laundry, later she cleaned bathrooms and dorms as a way to pay for her way through schooling. Joan's childhood in the laundry was haunted by wire hangers and having to hang countless clothes on these wire hangers. Wire hangers brought Joan back to the place she never wanted to return to, they were a reminder of her past that she was trying to forget. She requested that no wire hangers ever be in her house at anytime. Christina claims she was smacked with a wire hanger. She may have but I dare you to ask any child that grew up in the 40s, 50s 60s and even 70s who didn’t have parents that had slapped them with a stick, a belt, a brush when they got out of line. Hell, even nuns were known for beating children with wooden rulers in school to keep children in line. I am not condoning hitting children but this WAS the way of the world back then, when kids were out of line they got a good slap whether it be with a hand, belt or wire hanger. The story doesn’t add up though - Christina on several occasions has poked fun at her "abuse" by a wire hanger and has even said that the wire hanger scene in the film was overly exaggerated.
- Joan was an alcoholic. THE TRUTH: Joan Crawford had an alcohl problem and she wasnt the first or the last celebrity to have a drinking problem. We sometimes forget that Joan was human. Joan's alcohol problem started in the mid 1940s and worsened as time went on. Joan's drinking probelm was probably at it's worst after her 4th husband, Alfred Steele, died in 1959.
- Leaving Metro. THE TRUTH: Joan was at Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios from 1925 until 1943 (almost 20 years). She spent all of her adult life at the studio making some of the most successful pictures for that studio. Joan fought many men to get parts she wanted; sometimes she won, mostly she lost out to the meaty roles she vied for to other MGM stars like Norma Shearer and Greer Garson. Joan knew her days were numbered at MGM once 1941 came to a close. Joan had already started "shopping around" to see what her options were. In 1942, documents show that Joan was already in talks with rival studio, Warner Brothers, about signing a contract with them. By 1943, Joan already had a plan in place to leave Metro and discussed this with studio head, Louis B. Mayer; they both agreed it was the right thing. Joan in no way wanted to stay at Metro with the scripts they were giving her, she tried to get the plum roles in the early 40s but she was not getting the respect she was entitled to and most of the great parts were going to new comer Greer Garson. MGM also didn't want to keep Joan if they were losing money on her. It was a mutual decision but I am sure Joan was sad and scared about the whole experience. She was at MGM for 18 years and she was leaving her comfort zone, testing new waters and I am sure we can all relate to the fear that brings people. Remember, Joan was human. It turned out leaving Metro was a wise decision and in 1946, Joan won the Best Actress Oscar for her first picture for Warner's, Mildred Pierce.
- Joan knew about the book. THE TRUTH: Joan sure did know about the book Christina was writing and Christina used that as a tool to throw in Joan's face and torment her with the thought that Christina was writing a book about her. Christina also made it clear that it was not a flattering book and that Christopher was also contributing to it. So, why should Joan leave either one of them anything in her will with knowing this?? They didn’t deserve a dime in Joan’s eyes if they were going to try to take her down after her death and Joan's intuitions were correct. Christina and Christopher did just that. The sad thing is, Joan died after the release of Mommie Dearest, and Christina was a coward in releasing the book after Joan's deaths. Joan was not here to defend herself. Another sign that the book and movie were riddled with little white lies. How would you feel if you had a child or someone close to you taunting you and telling you they were writing a book about you and you knew you’d never get to see what was said. You weren’t able to defend or justify your actions. Not cool.