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Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star (2002)

Unrated | | Documentary | TV Movie 1 August 2002
In this documentary on the life of 'Joan Crawford', we learn why she should be remembered as the great actress she was, and not only as the "mommie dearest." caricature she has become. ... See full summary »




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Herself - Narrator
Herself - Actress
Himself - Playwright / Crawford Historian
Himself - Actor
Christina Crawford ...
Herself - Daughter / Author, 'Mommie Dearest'
Himself (archive footage)
Herself - Co-Star, 'Berserk!'
Herself - Actress
Sydney Guilaroff ...
Himself - Key MGM Hairstylist (archive footage)
Herbert Kenwith ...
Himself - Director / Friend
Herself - Actress
Himself - Actor, 'The Bride Wore Red'
Herself - Actress
Herself - Actress / Crawford Co-Star
Herself - Actress


In this documentary on the life of 'Joan Crawford', we learn why she should be remembered as the great actress she was, and not only as the "mommie dearest." caricature she has become. Friends, fellow actors, directors, and others reminisce about their association with her, and numerous film clips show off her talent from her start in silents to bad science fiction/horror movies at the end of her career. Daughter 'Christina Crawford' even explains the origin of the phrase "No more wire hangers!". Written by David Glagovsky <dglagovsky@prodigy.net>

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Release Date:

1 August 2002 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

The good, the bad and the ugly...everything you need to know about Joan Crawford...
3 August 2007 | by (U.S.A.) – See all my reviews

JOAN CRAWFORD: THE ULTIMATE MOVIE STAR is far from being a glowing tribute to the film star, as most of these comments seem to suggest. It shows just how sad, how tragic her life really was behind all the glamorous facade of Hollywood phoniness.

Like Bette Davis, her personal life was a mess. Both of them had bad relationships with their fathers resulting in a lifelong distrust of men, which killed any chance for happy marriage relationships. Joan went about choosing men to marry based on her own insecurities as a woman from a dubious background who wanted to learn from the men she married and cultivate herself with knowledge she otherwise would not have.

We learn that her marriage to DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS, JR. was an open marriage that lasted about four years; her marriage to FRANCHOT TONE was happy as long as they stayed in the Hollywood limelight and again she was educating herself because he was a worldly, sophisticated mate, but again the marriage fell apart because of infidelities in another open marriage; she had torrid romances with most of her leading men, including director VINCENT SHERMAN, always willing to talk about his affairs with the many actresses he directed.

Nor are the comments about her--not just those by Christina Crawford--on the positive side all the time. I'd say half and half. A word of praise followed by the "but she always had to be in control" kind of statement, from people who knew her, like LIZ SMITH, BETSY PALMER, CLIFF ROBERTSON, MARGARET O'BRIEN and others.

Far from being a paean to her glory as "the ultimate movie star", it's really more of a "warts and all" confessional that fans of Crawford seem to be in denial about. Her life off screen was full of venom and hateful feuds with just about every co-worker, all the while giving the viewers a few chuckles about how she slapped everyone in films because--well, "because I do that in all my films".

So you have to take the good with the bad, all the way through this documentary, which is essentially a tribute to Crawford's longevity as a name above the title film star. The only one who looks worse than Crawford is Bette Davis, whose cruelty during the aborted filming of HUSH...HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE reached new lows, even for Bette. Those two divas really hated each other.

It's definitely a monument to her longevity, but can't exactly be looked at as a glowing tribute to the actress or her thespian abilities. The kindest, most perceptive comments on the real Joan seem to come from Hollywood columnist BOB THOMAS.

Almost painful to watch are the clumsy dancing sequences showing how she made her start in early MGM films, just about the clunkiest exhibition of dancing ever performed on camera. She looks like a dancing windmill. It's a howl.

But, hey, it's the Joan Crawford we all remember from the '40s that really counts. She left a rich legacy of film noir/soap opera stuff that became legendary: MILDRED PIERCE, HUMORESQUE, POSSESSED and some of the lesser Warner films (FLAMINGO ROAD, THE DAMNED DON'T CRY) in which she came into her own.

But behind all that glory, it's really an awfully sad success story when it comes right down to it.

Trivia note: I loved the perceptive comment by BETSY PALMER who admits feeling sorry for children in any marriage involving actors/actresses. "Beware. We're a different species," she says with a mischievous grin.

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