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Mommie Dearest (1981)

6.6
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 8,551 users  
Reviews: 150 user | 61 critic

Mommie Dearest, best selling memoir, turned motion picture, depicts the abusive and traumatic adoptive upbringing of Christina Crawford at the hands of her mother...screen queen Joan Crawford.

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Title: Mommie Dearest (1981)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Howard Da Silva ...
Mara Hobel ...
...
Harry Goz ...
Michael Edwards ...
...
...
Joe Abdullah ...
Captain
Gary Allen ...
Jimmy
Selma Archerd ...
Connie
Adrian Aron ...
Wedding Guest
...
Christopher Crawford (adult)
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Storyline

Based on the book about Joan Crawford, one of the great Hollywood actresses of our time, written by her adopted daughter Christina Crawford. Joan decides to adopt children of her own to fill a void in her life. Yet, her problems with alcohol, men, and the pressures of show business get in the way of her personal life, turning her into a mentally abusive wreck seen through the eyes of Christina and her brother Christopher, who unwillingly bore the burden of life that was unseen behind the closed doors of "The Most Beautiful House in Brentwood." Written by Geoffrey A. Middleton <gamidd01@morehead-st.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Faye Dunaway is Joan Crawford, a star...a legend...and a mother...The illusion of perfection. See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

18 September 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Maman très chère  »

Box Office

Budget:

$5,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie's line "No wire hangers, ever!" was voted as the #72 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100). See more »

Goofs

Joan is reclining on a chaise lounge near the pool and Gregg sits down next to her. As the camera cuts between Joan's face and Gregg's face, Joan clearly changes position. Sometimes she's facing forward, sometimes she's gazing up into Gregg's face. See more »

Quotes

Joan Crawford: Hauling me over to Mayer's table like some picked-up floozie! Or one of those starlets. Out to give the big shots a nice night in town. Is that what you think of me?
Greg Savitt: How many drinks is that? When you were a kid that made you look sexy. Now it just makes you look drunk.
Joan Crawford: [hurling her drink into Greg's face] I may as well have "property of MGM" tattooed on my back side! Dammit, Perrino's is MY PLACE.
Greg Savitt: Nobody wanted my signature, so I just walked in!
Joan Crawford: You expect me to ignore my fans, they're life and ...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Archer: Mole Hunt (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Away in a Manger
(uncredited)
Written by William J. Kirkpatrick
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Mommie Deadly: An Alternate Reality In A Galaxy Far, Far Away
11 June 2007 | by (Biloxi, Mississippi) – See all my reviews

Given the film's current cult movie status one is tempted to believe the 1981 MOMMIE DEAREST was a critical debacle and a box office fiasco. That is not really the case. It is true that critics generally considered the film a failure, but many of them admired certain elements of it; it is also true that box office fell below expectations, but it was not a box office disaster in the same sense as the 1980 HEAVEN'S GATE or the 1981 INCHON.

It is also true, however, that audiences howled with laughter at the film when it debuted, and although leading lady Faye Dunaway received a number of critical accolades for her performance as Joan Crawford, she also received an equal number of devastating reviews--and it was these that caught the spotlight. It was a humiliating experience for an actress particularly noted for her perfectionism, and rumor has it that Dunaway feels the film ended her career as a major film star. Whatever the case, Dunaway quickly developed a strategic silence about the film that she has maintained for some two decades.

Seen today, it is easy to identify the core problems of the film. The most obvious is the script, which is extremely inconsistent in quality and yet perversely consistent in a style that can only be described as soap opera hot-house to the nth degree. This is particularly true of the dialogue assigned to Dunaway. Infamous lines such as "No More Wire Hangers Ever," "Tina! Bring Me The Axe," and "I'm Not Mad At You, I'm Mad At The Dirt" have become a staple of every drag queen from Maine to California.

But the ultimate disaster here is director Frank Perry. Joan Crawford was a larger-than-life personality; the role is written to reflect this; Dunaway plays the role as it was written. But it would seem Perry sought to heighten the effect: the rest of the cast is extremely, extremely restrained. This must have seemed like a good idea in theory, but it proves a terrible mistake in actual fact. No matter what Dunaway does with it, she can NEVER seem less than wildly overwrought in comparison to the rest of the cast, and the effect is very peculiar indeed.

The designs and the cinematography also clash in an incredibly bizarre way. There is absolutely no doubt that everything about the film is exactingly accurate: that is indeed the look of the period, right down to the very last detail. But the photography is extremely flat, and you are constantly aware that the sets are indeed movie sets, the costumes are movie costumes, and so on. Yes, it is all beautifully rendered, but you can't buy into it as anything real.

The Hollywood Royalty Edition DVD edition offers a good but by no means flawless print of the film and several bonuses. It is unfortunate that they are not particularly illuminating. While director John Water's commentary is enjoyable, he approaches the film only as a fan. Even so, Water does make several telling points: many of the things that Crawford does which seem so odd (bathing the face in ice, for example) are actually commonplace cosmetic necessities for movie stars; many of the things the film treats as abuse were, although carried to wild extremes in the story, typical of child-rearing practices of the 1940s and 1950s.

There are also three short documentaries featuring a number of cast members, most notably Diana Scarwid; these are actually entertaining for the fact that those who appear still seem to regard the film as "a good movie." The only really significant interview is with Lypsinka, an artist who has driven Crawford impersonations to the level of wicked satire and high art, and who offers a number of interesting personal insights into the iconography involved.

Like the film itself, the bonus package has two great failures. The first is that Faye Dunaway does not appear in interview or commentary; it would be very interesting to have her own take on the film, its failures, and its afterlife. Given her sentiment, it is an understandable non-involvement; less understandable, however, that there is not so much as a potted biography of the actress--or indeed of any member of the cast, for there are no written notes of any kind.

The second great failure of the bonus package is that it contains no factual information on either Joan or Christina Crawford. There is no indication here that those who knew both women are sharply divided over the accuracy of the portraits both here and in the book by Christina Crawford from which the film is drawn. A number of people, including actresses Betty Hutton and June Allyson, supported Christina Crawford's accounts, but an equal number, including actress Myrna Loy and Christina's younger siblings, flatly stated that Christina's accusations were largely fictitious.

When all is said and done, and in spite of performances and moments that are actually extremely good in isolation, MOMMIE DEAREST is a film that falls under the "so bad it's good" category of cult films. While I am taken aback by the bizarre nature of the movie, I personally find the amusement involved almost as dark as the movie's plot; it is not among my cult film favorites. Even so, I can understand the appeal it has for others, and I give it five stars on that basis.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer


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Recent Posts
How could anyone find this movie funny? coupleofflakes2
'Mommie Dearest' Hits home for me. tminnie
I think Christina's story checks out. And there is proof. j-s-inbrewer
Why Did everyone dislike the movie so much? Kylkoog
What's wrong with wire hangers? Normal-Bates
One of My Mother's Favourite Films -Saw Nothing Wrong With the Behaviour cgrady-2
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