Monday, October 7, 2013

Dear Joan

Anne Bancroft in The Turning Point (20th Century Fox, 1977)
"Producer Irwin Yablans is planning a film based on Mommie Dearest, the title of Christina Crawford's controversial recounting of life with her adoptive mother. Word is that the search is already on for the actress to play Joan Crawford, and that Anne Bancroft is the producer's first choice." -- Robin Sloan Adam's column, August 30, 1978


Joan Crawford by John Engstead, 1963
"As far as Mommie Dearest is concerned, Anne plans to start production this summer. She considers the Joan part a real challenge despite the feelings of some in show business that Christina Crawford's book about her mother was the height of poor taste." -- Robin Adams Sloan's column, January 25, 1979



"Anne Bancroft's perception of the Joan Crawford role in the film version of the best-seller Mommie Dearest would make it a better film. That's the word from insiders. Anne is convinced that the dynamics of Miss Crawford's personality are far more dramatic and compelling than a chronicling of assorted child abuses. Thus the film would present Miss Crawford in a more favorable light..." -- Robin Adams Sloan's column, February 25, 1980

Joan Crawford in Harriet Craig (Columbia, 1950)
"Anne Bancroft is not giving second thoughts to [Mommie Dearest] because she is out of it. Disagreement was reached with producer Frank Yablans and director Frank Perry, who weren't calling Anne 'dearest' when they finally had enough of her demands for script and production changes..." -- Robin Adams Sloan's column, December 16, 1980

Anne Bancroft in 7 Women (MGM, 1966)
"The big screen translation of Christina Crawford's tale of childhood horror gets under way January 19, after countless script revisions and with Faye Dunaway replacing Anne Bancroft in the lead...Director Frank Perry explains the way the story line has finally evolved, what we'll see is 'a very sympathetic view of Joan...it would hardly be respectful to be less than respectful of her memory.'" -- Noreen Marcus' column, January 14, 1981


"The movie industry is still buzzing about the replacement of Anne Bancroft by Faye Dunaway to play the Joan Crawford role in Mommie Dearest. While Miss Bancroft may have been difficult and demanding, many Hollywood insiders still feel she was by far the better choice...Dunaway is considered by some as too bland and non defined a personality..." -- Robin Adams Sloan's column, January 22, 1981

Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest (Paramount, 1981)

15 comments:

  1. In hindsight, Miss Dunaway's performance was hardly "too bland and non defined a personality", nor indeed was the film "a very sympathetic view of Joan"... Jx

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    1. The biggest problem with MD as a film is the static direction and a screenplay which is just a series of disjointed vignettes rather than linear storytelling. If you try to disassociate yourself from some of the more grotesque set pieces (the wire hangers scene, the living room throttling) you can see Faye fighting against a hopeless script and a hapless director to make Joan somewhat more nuanced than a freakish monster. Faye gave interviews to that effect at the time, saying that she finished the filming LIKING Joan; and that she purposely didn't meet with Christina because Faye didn't feel that Tina would be able to give her unbiased perspective in how to approach her characterization. And, tellingly, Tina hated the film and felt it was too sympathetic to her mother.

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  2. Dunaway all the way....you can't even call it a performance, it was challenging . It's one of those acting events that stand alone

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    1. There are seeds of an excellent portrayal here; the direction and screenplay doomed it from the start.

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    2. They went camp indeed ...but the better direction and screenplay, the more scary it would have been ....which seems what one wants in a film ...however people would have streamed out to the street if Annie played it. too real ....camp was a shield

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  3. Wow! Bancroft as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. What a different movie that would have been.

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    1. Now imagine this: Bancroft was the first choice to star, and Franco Zeffirelli was the first choice to direct! He very much wanted to do it, expressly stating that his vision was to use other source material in addition to Christina's book for the screenplay, because he felt the book did a disservice to Crawford and was not balanced enough. But Bancroft and Zeffirelli couldn't coordinate their schedules.

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  4. I have read on more that one occasion that Faye Dunaway's career was seriously damaged by doing this movie, and it never fully-recovered. Any thoughts on this?

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    1. Here's what I wrote about the aftermath of MD: http://stirredstraightup.blogspot.com/2011/01/biggest-mother-of-them-all.html?m=1

      I think a lot of industry folks used MD as a convenient excuse to write Dunaway off -- in spite of her success, she had a reputation for being extremely difficult, pissing off everyone from Bette Davis to Roman Polanski. Bill Holden supposedly slammed her against a wall and threatened her with bodily harm if she continued to hold up the filming of Towering Inferno with her lateness.

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    2. I think a lot of industry folks used MD as a convenient excuse to write Dunaway off -- I concur...she was getting a tad too old to be a pain on the set with impunity .

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    3. I say that because women in Hollywood "age" four times faster than male actors
      All long as you are the hot, new thang, you can pull the Maryilan Monroe being late bit ...after awhile ...nah

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  5. Have always said "Great performance...Lousy movie". The first 7 minutes of the film are brilliant and the film never sustains that level of care. Certainly not the fault of the actress. Agree with TJB, Faye's temper prior to MD was well known. For her to piss off Bill Holden...she must have been beyond difficult. It's a pity...I would have thought that at this point of her career, she'd have been as respected as Stanwyck was.

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    1. Faye's a fine actress, if she controls herself, but she's done the damage to her career herself in many ways. I agree that she gives an undervalued performance in MD but as far as her rep goes compared to Barbara, Miss Stanwyck was an uber-professional of legendary discipline who it was nigh impossible to find a bad word said or written about, Faye just the opposite, not even getting into what she's done to her looks!

      As far as Anne Bancroft goes, she had a reputation for being passionate and opinionated about her work but not so difficult that she departed projects willy-nilly. She probably smelled an unfixable stinker with a director and producer whom she would remain at loggerheads throughout production and found something better to do.

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  6. TJB just have to say I love this series! When you started it you asked for suggestions if any came to mind, how about the tumult over Forever Amber, both leading lady and director wise.

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    1. joel65913, do you have any tidbits you can share with me via e-mail regarding Forever Amber? I'd love to hear them!

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