No more wire hangers!
The line that became synonymous with ‘over the top’ performances everywhere. At least that’s what I was led to believe before I ever even got to watch Mommie Dearest. Friends at school told me I had to see this cheesy movie, where Faye Dunaway played an aging Joan Crawford. How she was so ridiculous in the role. That the film was so funny, a comedy that pretended to be a drama bio-pic.
“Hey James, it was voted the worst film of the decade in the Razzies! Dunaway won an award for worst actress that year! It’s so bad!”
I trusted my friends who kept egging me on to check this film out. So I went to the video store and asked my mom to rent it out for me. I believe I was around 10 or 11 when I did so. My mom thought it was strange that I wanted to watch this film.
“Why would you want to watch that film? Wouldn’t you rather watch an Stallone or Schwarzenegger film?”
I of course had those films in my hand as well. What if Mommie Dearest was so bad that I had to turn it off? I needed back up action films to supplement my weekend. After my homework was done, of course.
I put on the film and watched it on my awesome 13 inch Samsung TV. I miss that TV. 2 hours and 9 minutes later, I just sat there on the floor, jaw to the ground. What the fuck was up with my friends? Did they see a different film than I did? This was no comedy. This was more akin to a horror film. Faye Dunaway was/is amazing as Joan Crawford. Yes, she’s over the top in the performance. You know why? Because Joan Crawford was an over the top personality in reality.
The film was based on her adopted daughter’s book. And it’s a terrifying look at a little girl who was abused, mistreated and still loved her mother, despite a lot of the stuff that would chase most people away. The book was a response to Crawford, after passing away, not giving her or her adopted brother a single dime from her will. A slap to the face, perhaps, but one that Christina Crawford decided to give her side of the awful truth.
The thing is, Crawford was notoriously known as a bit unhinged, with an insane feud between her and Bette Davis for many years. It’s the main reason why I wrote this, because of the new FX series that premiered a few weeks ago, Feud, starring Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon.
But going back to the film, this was one of the times in my early childhood memories that I realized that my opinions on film would be vastly different than friends of mine most of the time. Where they saw a hilarious film, I was terrified but couldn’t keep my eyes off the screen. I think I watched the film 3 times over that weekend. When I saw the friends in school the following Monday, I just told them that I liked the film a lot.
“Wasn’t it so funny?”
I believe I gave a strange look to the kid and said, “Yeah, beating a girl with a wire hanger was the funniest thing I ever saw.”
11 year old me is very much like 36 year old me.
Also, going back and re-watching this film, it still hits me hard and Dunaway’s performance is outstanding. It’s a damn shame that she got roasted for it, so much so that she chooses not to speak about it to this day.
And I wanted to give a big Fuck You to The Razzies. Do people actually respect these people? I don’t think most of them watch the films they vote on. It’s all word of mouth and watching a trailer. Of course an Adam Sandler film will pop up on one of their ballots. Man Getting Hit In Groin By Football would too, because they would think the title was hilarious. So I kind of want to go back and see what other films they lambasted and kind of give them a middle finger from a film fan.
So check out Mommie Dearest again. If you remember it simply as a camp classic, that’s all well and good. But it’s also a horrifying look at a woman whose career was slowly disappearing before her, and in order to feel important, adopted multiple children so she could be identified as not only an actress, but a mother as well.