Sunday, January 8, 2012
A few months ago, I was introduced to the films of Joan Crawford through a good friend of mine. She wasn't alien to me, I knew she was a silver screen legend with a cult following. I never had the opportunity to watch her work. It took 24 years to see my first film starring the brunette titan. That film was the campy cult classic about two sisters locked together in hatred called Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? starring Joan along side a very bitchy, insanely jealous, conniving, yowling, spooky Bette Davis. I love the fact that its rumored that the two actresses hated one another in reality, that just adds more fuel to the roaring fire. Joan Crawford was a spectacle of screams spinning her wheelchair in dizzying circles of extraordinary psychological terror! She immediently won my heart and I decided to stay on the Alter of Crawford. Bette Davis looks like she's enjoying tormenting and verbally abusing Joan a bit too much for comfort. But it works majestically. Joan looked dazzling in her long nappy hair as she pulled off exquisitely hanging on for dear life as her hand is gripped to a harness above her bed! However, the real what-the-fuck moment is at the very end...when Baby Jane Hudson takes her sister Blanche to the beach for strawberry ice cream.
I hadn't even watched Mommie Dearest, even though it was slightly simmering on the back burner of my mind. The film was around and always seemed to make itself known in conversation with others. These conversations essentially revolved around child abuse criteria, but I was busy joyously obsessing with other interests and finding additional people to inspire me. She was modestly waiting for me to discover her. Joan Crawford has now become a fond quirky obsession...I see a lot of myself in her, maybe I'm just too caught up in the magic of the movies.
I love her because she plays empowered characters that always seem to beat the odds, but they always pay a severe price for the luxury that inhabit. Mildred Pierce floored me. I worked over 6 years in the food industry, and that's why that character remains close to me. The magic of film made the transition of a no-experience waitress blossom into a restaurant entrepreneur flawlessly easier said than done, but it worked. The evolution of Mildred Pierce gave the audience a psychological boost of confidence that bellowed "IT CAN BE DONE WITH HARD WORK AND DETERMINATION." For every great film heroine there is a sinister villain. The monster in Mildred Pierce was her own daughter: Flesh and Blood. Selfish, embarrassed, and greedy Vida wanted to wash her hands clean of her hardworking mother's past like a dirty little secret swept under the rug. And in the end Vida's greed lands her in the the big doll house!
Joan Crawford was quite coordinated and danced flawlessly in a syncopated rhythm in her early films as a young chorus girl. She eventually worked her way up and created a name for herself. In the end she did indeed become Hollywood Royalty. She had beauty, some great one-liners like "Any dark bar.", "Get out before I kill you.", and "Twenty years of pure hell!" and she possessed a style and charisma all of her own. Not to mention she was a driven bitch to not be reckoned with, and loved to slap men. I adored her eyes, the older Joan got I feel the more androgynous looking she became.
Sadly, after she died her name was tarnished forever with a book that went on to become a bestseller and cult classic: Mommie Dearest. The damaging "biographical" film itself only added more mystique to her legacy and made her an even more cherished icon. Not to mention it made all its viewers never look at a wire hanger the same way ever again! PEOPLE LOVE IT. They (me included) ate it all up ravenously and can't get enough of it as Faye Dunnaway portrayed Crawford as a loose, drunk, conniving, on-the-brink-of-a-mental-meltdown, child abusing mother who seemingly had it all but didn't. Who doesn't wish they could go to the Board of Directors and rant "Don't fuck with me fellas! This ain't my first time at the rodeo." or clobber their daughter because they wanna give into their frustrations with a few light slams? Mommie Dearest is one of the best horror/drama films ever made. I don't think the real Joan Crawford would mind, after all...she wanted immortality and she got it because her work has and will continue to stand the test of time.
Here's the list of Crawford films I have seen and hope to eventually own. They are worth watching and are real gems:
1. The Damned Don't Cry!
3. The Best of Everything
4. Mildred Pierce
6. Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?* (own)