Monday, March 23, 2009

Miss Understood

Miss Crawford ponders whom she shall kill before breakfast.

It's impossible to separate Joan Crawford from The Mommie Myth, although a "reclamation project" (to cop a phrase from Charles Busch) has slowly been building over the years. To distill Crawford's legacy and essence down to a one-note wire hanger joke is not only unfair, but virtually erases a huge, vital chunk of film history. Whatever her character flaws may or may not have been, Joan Crawford was a superstar of the first rank from the 1920's through the 1970's -- arguably, the greatest of them all (with apologies to Miss Desmond).

It's also worth remembering that, although the iconic image of a hardened, shoulder-padded Crawford is forever frozen in time and memory, she was actually brilliant at constantly reinventing herself, never -- revisionist history to the contrary -- allowing herself to become an anachronism. One doesn't remain a superstar for five decades by staying in a rut, kiddies. The flapper of the 1920's, the clotheshorse of the 1930's, the proto-feminist of the 1940's, the lusty older woman of the 1950's, the Grande Dame of the 1960's and 1970's -- these were all clearly defined epochs in the Crawford canon, each one distinct and different. She was not a one-note performer.

Here at SSUWAT, we are unabashed in our admiration for JC. For all of her legendary temperament, her overly-exacting standards, her mania for perfection, Miss Crawford, it must be said, never expected any more from her colleagues, co-workers, employees or children than she expected of herself. The fact that mere mortals could rarely, if ever, work or conduct their lives with the 200 percent commitment and discipline which Joan Crawford demonstrated throughout her entire career probably never even crossed her mind.

So, we think, a little love and a lot of respect is due. She came from nothing -- for all her Grand Lady pretentions and affectation, Miss Crawford made no bones about her own squalid childhood -- and although she clearly benefitted from the pampering services of Metro in the halcyon days of the Studio System, JOAN CRAWFORD, Star, was almost entirely the result of her own iron will, ambition, talent, and ferocious drive to escape her past. La Crawford's greatest creation, her towering performance, was being Joan Crawford, and she lived and loved it 24 hours a day. For that, we offer our thanks and gratitude. Bless you, Joan! Wherever you are, we want you to know: We Understand.

March 23, 1906 - May 10, 1977


  1. I couldn't agree more with everything you said! Great! (By the way, TCM is running a chunk of her films today, mostly the later ones, which are always fun!)

  2. Wonderfully said, TJB! I'm a tireless volunteer in that "reclamation project."