Was Joan Crawford, “Mommie Dearest”?

Joan Crawford was THE American actress. I believe all classic movie fans have a favorite, Joan movie. Joan’s beauty, talent as an actress, dancing, and over-all celebrity will be forever overshadowed by the tell-all, novel her daughter wrote & published, months after her mother’s death: “Mommie Dearest”. Joan was at the height of celebrity and just coming out of her second marriage (to actor, Franchot Tone), when she adopted baby, Christina. Following her 3rd divorce (from Phillip Terry), Joan had adopted 3 more children: a boy (Christopher) and twin girls (Cathy & Cynthia). Joan talked about the adoptions, happily: “I’ve always loved children and wanted children, I would like to have had eight.”! So, what happened to make a doting mother and loving daughter, become mortal (& immortal) enemies? It seems that Joan was indeed a doting mother. Even Christina says, “wherever mummy went, I went”. Even when filming, Joan made sure she was there for the family dinner, to read poetry, and tuck her children in, nightly. Christina was her 1st child, the special one…the one that gave her solace during her break-up. When Christina hit puberty, things began to change as any mother/daughter,relationship does. Christina was testing the waters of life and Joan was hanging on to her adolescence. The fights began over clothing…Joan still was buying Christina “little-girl” dresses, when Christina wanted to be more, womanly. Chris was also getting into a bit of trouble at school. She was sent by Joan, to Chadwick, a boarding school to improve Christina’s discipline. Her daughter thought of it as a jail sentence. Joan stopped giving out free allowances and made her children do handiwork jobs, Christina saw this as her mother being a tight-wad. Now, I can’t just paint Joan in a gracious light. An example of Joan’s parenting: “we were racing in a 65-foot, swimming pool & I let her win eight times,on the ninth time I struck out just a little bit and I won. She took a look at me and climbed out of the pool. She stood there and said, ‘I’ll never play with you as long as I live, never.’ I said, ‘Christina, look, my body is longer than yours. I could have won all the time. I’m bigger than you are. I’m faster than you are. I can win all the time. Now let’s get back in the pool and play.’ I picked her up and threw her into the pool and made her swim.” Wow, huh? That was Joan’s idea of a life-lesson. Christina would sneak out of the house, she dated boys when she wasn’t allowed, and disobeyed her mother, frequently, but if what Christina claims is true, there is no excuse for Joan. Christina claimed physical abuse, only AFTER her mother’s death. During Joan’s waning years, she and her daughter were at war on tv programs, giving scathing details, about each other. Each event told completely differently, by each woman. The final straw was when instead of “working for her celebrity” as a receptionist, college graduate, agent then actress like her mother wanted (and as her mother did), Christina jumped right into the competition for stardom. Although she never wanted to use her name as influence, she refused to change it…she hated her mom, but said: “Crawford is the only name I’ve ever had”. Christina wasn’t a bad actress, but picked bad roles, such as her first, on Broadway. Joan claimed Christina was using her, to gain fame (plus, Joan at this time, had no work coming her way) it seems she was jealous of her daughter beginning to succeed and there’s no doubt Joan was a life-long, diva ..but, here comes the biggie, the one thing that made Christina cut ties completely, with her mom. 24-year old, Christina won the role on the soap opera, “Secret Storm”. Christina was pretty popular on the program, but when she had to take sick leave, 60-year old, Joan took her place …without Christina’s knowledge. Ratings for the program went up 40%, during Joan’s appearance in 4 episodes. Christina was let go from the program, the next year and she blamed her mother. They never spoke again. Joan died in 1977, when the will was read, Christina was disinherited along with her brother. After this, Christina published “Mommie Dearest”, which was a best-seller and turned into a Hollywood movie. Christina made her own millions, but she made it using her mother’s name. The abuse was never documented, so all we are left to do is, wonder. Did Christina just hate her mother and want recognition? Or was Joan the abusive, hag Christina claims? You decide!

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