This ain't your first time at the rodeo; some of you recognized our latest Mystery Guest as full frontal Faye Dunaway! The mask was made for the film adaptation of Christina Crawford's poisonous memoirs, Mommie Dearest (1981), which effectively killed off two careers: Joan Crawford's, and Dunaway's. In spite of its critical drubbing, unintentional hilarity, and general ineptitude, the film's bizarre, fascinating hold on the public's imagination ensured that Crawford's regal reputation would go into a tailspin from which it still hasn't fully recovered; and that Dunaway would spiral from Oscar-winning superstar to straight-to-video industry joke almost overnight. Thirty years later, the names of both Joan Crawford and Faye Dunaway are still inextricably connected with Mommie Dearest.
"I really hate talking about Mommie Dearest! It is like an obsession with people! Why do people need to focus so much on one film I made over 20 years ago? It was not a great time in my life and the film was not an experience I want to think about. Period!"
In all fairness, even before the biggest mother of them all came along, Dunaway's career was marked by wild inconsistency. Her one-two knockout punch of Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) was followed by the disastrous A Place for Lovers and The Arrangement (both 1969); the brilliant Chinatown (1974) and Dunaway's Oscar-winning turn in Network (1976) were bookends for such glossy, all-star pap as The Three Musketeers (1973), The Towering Inferno (1974), and Voyage of the Damned (1976). But Mommie Dearest really ensured that Hollywood was Dunaway with Faye; her next film was the costume flop The Wicked Lady (1983), and such was Dunaway's infamy at this point, it was decided to not show her face in the advertising!
One can only imagine Dunaway thumbing through the script for her next picture, Supergirl (1984), and thinking to herself, "Why not? They want camp -- I'll give 'em camp!" Perhaps looking for a silver lining in the Mommie cloud, Dunaway decided to send up her over-the-top image by purposely camping up a storm as the villainess, Selena. Unfortunately, intentional camp almost always falls flat, and Supergirl was a super-flop.
Since then, Dunaway has had the occasional minor success -- a Golden Globe nomination for her downbeat, deglamorized performance in Barfly (1987); an Emmy win for a guest appearance on Columbo (1993) -- and very public disasters of epic proportions. Dunaway's own, highly-touted sitcom, It Had to Be You, premiered in 1993, and was yanked after only four, critically-reviled episodes. The following year, Dunaway was set to make her musical theater debut in what promised to be her best role in years: Norma Desmond in the Los Angeles production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard. Dunaway was to take over the role from Glenn Close, who had triumphed as Norma on Broadway. It never happened; Lloyd Webber abruptly decided to shutter the musical after Close's final performance, rather than possibly subject Dunaway to "great embarrassment," due to what he deemed her inadequate musical chops. Ouch.
An oddly static ad campaign for Norell fragrances in 1998 introduced the beginnings of some seriously wonky plastic surgery to Dunaway's public; within a decade, her once-fabulous face had become virtually unrecognizable. Another high-profile misfire was The Starlet (2005), a short-lived reality competition show about young Hollywood hopefuls. Faye was the bitchy celebrity judge, a la Janice Dickinson; her would-be catch phrase was "Don't call us; we'll call you." Unfortunately, Dunaway's own phone wasn't exactly ringing off the hook.
Today, Dunaway continues to make small films which no one ever seems to see (Say it in Russian? The Seduction of Dr. Fugazzi?), as well as the occasional television spot. And in spite of the spectre of Mommie Dearest which continues to loom, Dunaway just can't seem to stay away from other complicated, highly-strung, iconic women: her next role is playing no less a diva than Maria Callas in the long-awaited film version of Terrence McNally's Master Class, which Dunaway successfully toured with in 1997.
The enigmatic Klee was the first to recognize the lifelike visage of Miss Dunaway; we are caught without a proper prize, but hey -- we never promised you a rose garden!
We love that you seem to get into these Mystery Guest segments; if you have any photos of potential future guests that you think might stump the panel, please send them to us. As always, thanks for playing, darlings!