*****************From My Way of Life to Mommie Dearest ************************
I love silent films. And I adore silent film actresses like Clara Bow and Louise Brooks and Theda Bara. And also Joan Crawford.Most people don’t think of Crawford in connection with silent films. She’s much better known for her later films like Mildred Pierce and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?And she’s probably best known nowadays as the maternal monster from Mommie Dearest!But before those movies, there was Our Dancing Daughters–a movie that starred Joan Crawford in the role F. Scott Fitzgerald once described as “the complete embodiment of the flapper.”
Historian James Card concurs with Fitzgerald”s conclusion. In his book Seductive Cinema, he writes, “No other actress of the time could have remotely combined the sense of Amazonian, sexual aggressiveness with complete probity of character in the way that Crawford . . . was able to present.”Card goes on to tell how he was invited to dine with Crawford decades later. During a single evening, he saw her morph through multiple roles: from the solicitous hostess who welcomed him at the door, to the glamourous star who presided over the table, to the drunken harridan who raged and sobbed later in the evening about being exploited.It caused Card to wonder “how much of her own identity did
The result is accessories that nowadays would be called matchy-matchy to the point of madness. As Crawford proudly explains, “I always get an extra yard and a half extra of the fabric I’ve ordered for a new dress. Half a yard for gloves and a yard for a turban or Breton
You are watching: Joan crawford has risen from the grave
There was a long waiting list at the library where I worked, but I got my hands on it eventually and was able to meticulously note the points where the elder Crawford’s narrative supports the younger’s. On the subject of enforced daily naps for her children:“How they fought those naps! But I made them lie down—I darkened the room and that was that.”Crawford makes allusion to the infamous “sleep-safes:” the straps that kept “a baby safely in bed” and which Christina alleged were used throughout her brother Christopher’s childhood as a means of discipline.On the subject of compulsive cleaning:”I feel a great sense of accomplishment . . . when I get down on my knees and scrub my own floor. When I spend months without doing a movie or a TV show . . . I have a lot of surplus energy to use up. Scrubbing, for me, is the greatest exercise in the world. It gives me rosy cheeks and I just have a ball!”And then there’s the fraught subject of . . . clothes-hangers:”Some hangers do terrible things to the shoulder line.” Yes, indeed, Reader. Anyone who’s seen the movie version of Mommie Dearest will be chanting at this point: “NO . . . WIRE . . . HANGERS!”Mommie Dearest didn’t just inspire the movie of the same name. It also inspired the song, “Joan Crawford Has Risen from the Grave,” by the band Blue Öyster Cult. Here’s a link to the video on YouTube—a video that was considered too controversial for the nascent MTV of the era: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQBJfQhpw_UYou could argue that the song embodies a degree of truth. Crawford’s fame has certainly endured beyond the grave. Film confers a kind of immortality; in one of my favorite books, The Ghost Garden,*** a character makes this observation while watching The Wizard of Oz:It suddenly struck her that whatever had happened to the one Judy Garland who had grown up and died, the other Judy Garland, who continued to follow the Yellow Brick Road again and again, exactly as she had the day it was first filmed, was, in a way, a true ghost.In the same way, Joan Crawford is still joyously performing the Charleston in Our Dancing Daughters more than forty years after her death—and her image still captivates. We can read her books,**** too, chuckling over the egotism that advised women to emulate her style of living without her movie-star income.The resurrected Joan Crawford might not like the turn her image took after death. But I don’t doubt for a minute that she would be pleased by the attention.JOY
*See link here: https://brianowens.tv/3996.html**There’s evidence that the count might have been higher than this, but Crawford suppressed all mention of at least one early match that would nowadays be called a starter marriage.***See link here for my blog post on The Ghost Garden: https://brianowens.tv/30561.html****Yes, she wrote more than one. Of course she did! A Portrait of Joan: An Autobiography of Joan Crawford is the other, co-written by Jane Kesner Ardmore. Its chief focus is on Crawford’s film work, and sadly it doesn’t contain any of the epic photographs featuring her wearing head-to-toe print hat, gloves, dress, shoes, and purse.