Sunday, June 25, 2006

Screen Queen-Some of what I'm watching this Month

Mommie Dearest (Hollywood Royalty Edition) (1981)
Starring: Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid
Director: Frank Perry

In 1977 Joan Crawford, Hollywood Royalty, died, less than a year later her daughter Christina wrote the most scathing attack on a Hollywood star ever published. Mommie Dearest, whether that book is either accurate or fair is another matter, personally I think Christina was such a loathsome child she could have driven Mother Theresa to child abuse but I digress, it was of course, a publishing sensation and a movie inevitably followed and what a movie.

Mommie Dearest is the campest cult film ever made and for good reason. I’m sure its director and star (Faye Dunaway) thought they were producing a serious and dramatic film but instead they delivered a movie so over the top that it’s hysterical. Where did it go so wrong, or if you are a lover of camp so right?

Well like most camp movies it takes itself very seriously indeed and that’s what makes it so funny but its Faye Dunaway who really turns the whole thing into a camp-fest of the first degree. Lumbered with a script that is a drama queen’s dream she attacks the lines with a relish bordering on the salacious and delivers a performance that doesn’t just chew the scenery it chews it, swallows it and then spits it out again.

Whilst the rest of the cast play it in a somewhat understated fashion, Faye’s performance comes at the audience like a juggernaut with failed brakes lurching from one set piece of high octane hysteria to another. Who can forget her delivery of such lines as “No wire hangers eveeeeer!” and “Tina bring me the Axe!” Lines that have now entered the Gay lexicon and launched a thousand drag acts. No other major star has ever delivered such an over the top performance in fact, after this film those other great over the top creations, Margo Channing (Bette Davis in All About Eve), Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard) and Baby Jane are not only forced to surrender their Grand Guingol crowns but seem positively suburban by comparison.

Add to this some fantastic sets and costumes by legendary MGM designer Irene Scharaff who came out of retirement to dress Faye (as she had done the real Crawford) and you have a production that perfectly frames Faye’s melodramatic performance in which she frighteningly channels Crawford at her melodramatic best.

The irony is that Christina Crawford attempted with her book and the subsequent film to destroy her mother’s reputation…she failed. Joan has now, as a direct result, of the film gathered a new generation of fans who after viewing the film went out to seek the real Joan in her many films and fell in love with her. She lives on not as just a forgotten old star but as a saint Joan Patron Saint of camp and whilst it may not be the way Crawford chose to be remembered she is definitely remembered.

As for Dunaway, Mommie Dearest almost destroyed her career, no one could take her seriously after “Mommie” and if mentioned in her presence you are likely to exact a reaction worthy of the wire hanger scene. Dunaway needs to have more of a sense of humour about it (not her strong point!) t and laugh along with us, it may not be Shakespeare but it has a huge following and will guarantee her screen immortality.

This new DVD release which includes interviews with many of the cast and a very funny commentary by huge “Mommie” fan Jon Walters doesn’t really give the film “the respect it deserves” it would have been nice to see the deleted scenes and maybe a documentary on the real Crawford included but its still a great package and if you’ve never seen it shame on you buy it at once! If you have, take a couple of hours to enjoy it all over again. You’ll never look at wire hangers the same way again!

***** Stars

Mommie Dearest The Music Video!

Mommie Dearest (Hollywood Royalty Edition) Buy It at Amazon
Mommie Dearest Camp Classic

More Rank & Bile


Mildred Pearce said...

Lol I Love the video!

Sally said...

Fantastic film faye is awesome.

ming the merciless said...

Who made the video?

Anonymous said...

Tina bring me the axe! So I can chop up this awful film!

Anonymous said...

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