Did Joan Crawford’s Ghost Haunt the Set of Mommie Dearest?

“My god,” wrote Roger Ebert when Faye Dunaway lastly appeared from her dressing room on the closed set of Mommie Dearest. “She seems to be identical to Joan Crawford.” He’d been given a uncommon peek on the secretive movie’s manufacturing, and at Dunaway’s uncanny transformation by make-up artist Lee Harman—whose meticulous course of, in accordance with a Washington Post article, concerned seven-plus hours and cross-referencing Dunaway’s face with Crawford’s utilizing a Q-tip. Iconic thick eyebrows and blood-red clown lips had been drawn atop Dunaway’s contorted face muscle groups. The ultimate outcomes had been downright spooky. When Dunaway first emerged, “the set fell completely silent,” the actor wrote in her autobiography, Looking for Gatsby. “One advised me it was like seeing Joan herself come again from the lifeless.”

Joan Crawford, for the file, had died about 4 years earlier. Everybody is aware of what occurred subsequent: After the star’s will mysteriously however expressly excluded two of her 4 adopted kids, “for causes that are well-known to them,” eldest daughter Christina revealed the sensational exposé Mommie Dearest, alleging the Hollywood celebrity was a narcissistic and abusive alcoholic reasonably than the right mom she’d lengthy pretended to be. By 1981, the controversial e book was being was a movie. And with its sizable funds, lavish units, and A-list star, the celebrated ensuing biopic was thought of a surefire box-office hit and Oscar shoo-in.

Nonetheless using excessive from her latest Oscar win for Community, Dunaway noticed in Crawford a job solely she was courageous sufficient to play. “The overall sentiment within the trade was that anybody who performed Christina’s model of Crawford would pay a worth for taking up one in all Hollywood’s nice legends,” she wrote. The affinity was mutual. Years earlier, in a quote Dunaway gleefully repeated within the e book, Crawford had declared, “of all of the actresses, to me, solely Faye Dunaway has the expertise and the category and the braveness it takes to make an actual star.” Dunaway mentioned she hoped her portrayal would “even the scales,” as she advised Hollywood biographer Jane Ardmore in an article titled “I Wish to Climb Inside Her Pores and skin.”

In fact, that didn’t occur. Mommie Dearest, launched 40 years in the past this week, is now greatest remembered as a campy, over-the-top, so-bad-it’s-good all-time cult basic. However few know the way gross, bizarre, unusual, and, presumably, supernatural the set was behind closed doorways.

Dunaway was a educated Methodology actor who set out not simply to grasp however to expertise her character. She spent months researching Crawford, reaching out to Crawford’s friends and her hairdresser, even visiting her former dwelling. However the two already had a lot in widespread, from their film stardom to their reputations as “tough” to their robust want and lengthy look forward to motherhood. However there was one vital distinction: In contrast to Crawford, Dunaway was not truly a mommie earlier than she was solid within the position. It was round that point that Dunaway selected to have her son, Liam—although in 2003, her then ex-husband would claim that Liam wasn’t their organic son. (Dunaway, notoriously non-public, didn’t publicly dignify that with a response.)

By Gene Lester/Getty Pictures.

Caring for an toddler whereas following a busy filming schedule couldn’t have been simple, and maybe sleep deprivation might clarify Dunaway’s more and more erratic habits documented intimately by her costar Rutanya Alda, who performed loyal housekeeper Carol Ann. Her self-published e book The Mommie Dearest Diary dished a number of juicy rumour, like Dunaway insisting her then boyfriend be made a producer, conserving the entire set ready for six hours at a time, ordering the lighting modified, and driving the wardrobe girl to tears. Within the e book, revealed greater than 30 grudge-filled years after the movie’s launch, Alda additionally accuses Dunaway of refusing to acknowledge her on set and insisting that the digital camera be on herself throughout their scenes collectively. Alda even means that Dunaway could have tried to sabotage the publication of Alda’s e book.

Dunaway was and is allegedly challenging on movie units—however by her personal admission, Mommie Dearest was particularly tough. “Per week into manufacturing the position actually started troubling me. It’s tough to spend the day inside a personality that’s so darkish, and never simple to shed the feelings, just like the costumes and make-up, on the finish of the day,” Dunaway writes in Searching for Gatsby. Then it will get bizarre: “At night time I’d go dwelling…and really feel Crawford within the room with me, this tragic, haunted soul simply hanging round.” She describes “a cold presence, a coming-in-and-sitting-on-the-window-ledge form of factor.” Neither star, it appears, might relaxation.

That Dunaway was being haunted, actually, by Crawford started to appear in media reviews. Of her voice, the Los Angeles Instances wrote, Dunaway “seems to have borrowed it for 12 weeks from the ghost of Joan Crawford.” As if Crawford one way or the other needed it again, Individuals reported “one other mysterious occasion on film set” when Dunaway “all of a sudden misplaced her voice throughout a screaming scene”—which she later revealed to be her notorious “No wire hangers!” tirade. Different unusual occurrences, famous Individuals, included Crawford’s robes going lacking and a complete reel of movie that got here out mysteriously clean.

Strangest of all was Dunaway’s more and more uncomfortable sympathy for Crawford. “She gave the whole lot to this little woman, fantastic Christmases, fantastic events, and judging by my analysis, an excessive amount of love,” wrote Dunaway. “After which to be so rebuffed and so coolly handled by this little Scandinavian woman. It was comprehensible to me that Joan did have areas that would erupt into anger and fury.”

Maybe Dunaway was relating an excessive amount of and getting defensive. Filming had “gotten actual tense,” wrote Alda in her Mommie Dearest Diary, particularly throughout the scene the place Crawford forcefully cuts off her daughter’s hair. On the third more and more violent take, claims Alda, nine-year-old actor Mara Hobel ran off the set in tears, crying, “she stabbed me, she stabbed me.” Dunaway’s autobiography skips the scissors half and describes the scene as “like too many scenes within the film, violent and chilling, with no boundaries and no modulation.” Dunaway felt so badly, she provides, that the subsequent day she purchased the kid a gift.

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2021/09/faye-dunaway-joan-crawford-mommie-dearest-anniversary | Did Joan Crawford’s Ghost Hang-out the Set of Mommie Dearest?


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