MOMMIE DEAREST (1981) C widescreen 129m dir: Frank Perry
w/Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid, Steve Forrest, Howard da Silva, Mara Hobel, Rutanya Alda, Harry Goz, Michael Edwards, Jocelyn Brando, Priscilla Pointer, Joe Abdullah, Gary Allen, Selma Archerd, Adrian Aron, Xander Berkeley, Matthew Campion, Carolyn Coates, Jerry Douglas, Margaret Fairchild, Phillip R. Allen, James Kirkwood Jr., Michael Hawkins, Matthew Faison, Peter Jason, Ellen Feldman, Robert Harper, Cathy Lind Hayes, Victoria James, Dawn Jeffory, Virginia Kiser, S. John Launer, Russ Marin, Nicholas Mele, Belita Moreno, Warren Munson, Alice Nunn, Norman Palmer, David Price, Jeremy Scott Reinbolt, Michael Talbot, Arthur Taxier, Joe Warren, Erica Wexler, Dick McGarvin, Brent Dunsford, Joseph Dypwick, Wendy Pitzer, David Sanderson, Ian Bruce, Peter Paul Eastman
From The Movie Guide: "'No wire hangers --- ever!' That this apparently banal phrase has now achieved something like immortality is a reflection of the unbridled extravagance of Faye Dunaway's performance in MOMMIE DEAREST --- every line, every glance, every Crawford-esque tic and mannerism is greeted by howls of gleeful recognition among camp cognoscenti. Joan Crawford (Dunaway, in a remarkable makeup job) comes off as a cartoon monster in this over-the-top biopic, which blithely mixes fact, legend, and --- especially --- elements of Crawford's unique screen persona. The film begins in 1939, when Crawford, already a huge star but unhappy and childless, decides to adopt two children. It ends with her death, when the grown-up kids are left out of her will. A neurotic, driven perfectionist, Crawford takes her frustrations out on her children --- especially the rebellious Christina (Mara Hobel as a child, Diana Scarwid as an adult) --- who are instructed to call her 'Mommie Dearest.' Largely from Christina's viewpoint, we see Crawford's succession of lovers and husbands, career ups and downs (mostly downs), fantastic egotism, and dependence on and abusiveness toward her children --- especially the infamous scene in which she punishes Christina for using wire clothes hangers instead of wooden ones. Based on the best-selling expose by the real Christina Crawford, MOMMIE DEAREST did poorly upon initial release but has since picked up a dedicated cult following. Needless to say, a number of biographical facts (Crawford actually adopted four children) are ignored by the screenplay."
From the Fulvue Drive-in website (www.fulvuedrive-in.com), this review of the film by Chuck O'Leary:
"Shortly after legendary actress Joan Crawford died on May 10, 1977, her adopted daughter Christina went to work on a tell-all book chronicling what an abusive, monstrous person her movie-star mother was in real-life. First released in October of 1978, Christina's memoir, entitled Mommie Dearest, became a huge best-seller, and plans to do a feature-film adaptation were soon underway.
"Despite being made with serious intentions, the resulting film version of Mommie Dearest was released on September 18, 1981 to mostly scathing reviews that felt the film itself and Faye Dunaway's portrayal of Joan Crawford were both so over the top that it could only be appreciated as unintentional camp. And after a week or two in theaters, Paramount Pictures changed the ad campaign (much to the chagrin of producer Frank Yablans) focusing on Faye as Joan yelling, 'No more wire hangers ... ever' to accentuate the camp.
"Contrary to the misconception that it was a total box-office flop, Mommie Dearest actually had the biggest September opening weekend up to that point, and grossed a moderate (for the time) $19 million domestically during its theatrical run. But the film would somehow go on to sweep the Razzies (then only in their second year), including dishonors for Worst Picture, Worst Actress (Dunaway tied that year with Bo Derek of Tarzan, the Ape Man), Worst Screenplay, Worst Supporting Actor (Steve Forrest) and Worst Supporting Actress (Diana Scarwid). Even more mystifying is the Razzies naming Mommie Dearest the worst picture of the '80s and the Worst Drama in their first 25 years. Needless to say, Mommie Dearest is no way no how bad enough to merit such dishonors, and proved early on that the Razzies are too often more interested in getting the publicity of ridiculing high-profile targets than going after the actual worsts of a particular year.
"That Mommie Dearest somehow 'won' Razzies over truly awful 1981 releases such as Heartbeeps and Tarzan, the Ape Man is absurd. In fact, Mommie Dearest is a picture of competence and solid old-fashioned storytelling compared to much of the mind-numbing crap coming out of Hollywood in more-recent years. And Dunaway's towering performance as Joan Crawford is really more deserving of an Oscar nomination than a Razzie. Yes, she goes over the top in some scenes, but here's a little something everyone should realize: The Joan Crawford that Dunaway is playing is an egocentric, obsessive-compulsive control freak prone to fits of intense rage, some of which border on being complete nervous breakdowns, when things don't measure up. In less clinical terms, she's a mentally-ill woman in desperate need of medication. Sure, some of her histrionics can make you chuckle, but she's not a well woman, and her rants are only funny to a point since a scared little girl is often on the receiving end of her madness.
"A couple of scenes, however, are simply too much. Especially funny are a couple of shots it's hard to believe made the final cut. I don't know how, for instance, seasoned veterans like director Frank Perry (The Swimmer, Diary of a Mad Housewife, Man on a Swing) and Yablans (Silver Streak, The Fury, The Star Chamber) didn't expect audiences to laugh when they follow the shot of Dunaway's Crawford yelling, 'No more wire hangers,' with a shot of Crawford's adopted little boy, Christopher, throwing the bed covers over his head. Or a scene where Crawford physically attacks a teen-age Christina in front of a reporter. Such moments make you wonder whether or not some of this was actually intended as grotesque black comedy. But no matter how it was intended, there's no denying that Mommie Dearest is deliciously entertaining trash.
"As John Waters (a big fan of Mommie Dearest) says during his very entertaining audio commentary on the new [DVD] edition, if they had removed or re-edited just a few scenes, the film wouldn't have opened itself up to such ridicule. Waters also discusses why Mommie Dearest has attained such a large gay following in the 25 years since its release. He says it's mainly because the film concerns a glamour queen in colorful, Old-Hollywood settings acting bitchy. He also mentions how Dunaway (herself a notorious diva) refuses to ever talk about Mommie Dearest to this day --- a shame because she really became Crawford to the point where a lot of people now think of Dunaway as Crawford whenever the real Joan Crawford is mentioned.
"The picture on the Hollywood Royalty Edition looks similar to the previous 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on the regular edition DVD of Mommie Dearest Paramount released 5 years ago. The image is clear and the colors vivid with some grain visible in just a few scenes. The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is adequate, but the dated nature of the dialogue is obvious, though the score sounds clearer. But the new edition is a considerable improvement in terms of extras. In addition to Water's feature-length audio commentary, the Hollywood Royalty Edition contains three interesting, newly produced making-of featurettes that include interviews with Diana Scarwid (who plays the grown-up Christina), Rutanya Alda (who plays Joan's loyal assistant), Yablans, Waters and a Joan Crawford female impersonator. There's also an extensive photo gallery and the original theatrical trailer.
"The underrated Perry, who passed away in 1995, and producer Yablans reteamed a year later for another trashy guilty pleasure, Monsignor (1982), starring Christopher Reeve as a Catholic priest with questionable morals who keeps climbing up the Church hierarchy. Like Mommie Dearest, Monsignor was also heavily panned in a time when real movies were still regularly getting made by real filmmakers and critical standards were much higher. Meaning, in the movie wasteland of today, both films deserve some critical reconsideration."