- ''For the 1981 movie adaptation, see Mommie Dearest (film)
Mommie Dearest is a memoir and exposé written by Christina Crawford, the adopted daughter of actress Joan Crawford. The book was published in 1978.
The book depicts Christina's childhood and her relationship with her mother.
Among Christina Crawford's statements in the book:
- Christina contends that she was a victim of child abuse during her mother's battle with alcoholism.
- The book suggests that Crawford was more concerned about her motion picture career than the well being of her four children, and suggests she may have adopted them for publicity purposes.
- Had a long list of affairs with men — whom Christina was required to call "Uncle".
- Christina recounts several evenings where Crawford's behavior was unbalanced, and at least one encounter with her mother where Crawford attempted to strangle her. Among the incidents that Christina recounts in the book is a tirade that she alleges occurred when her mother was looking in Christina's closet. Crawford discovered some of Christina's clothes hanging on wire hangers, instead of higher-quality hangers, and allegedly launched into a tirade that has become known as the infamous "No wire hangers" moment.
Reaction to the book
The book's publication in 1978 created an enormous amount of attention. Although "tell-all" books regarding celebrities are somewhat commonplace now, Mommie Dearest
was the first book of its kind. The book received a great deal of press attention.
Some of Crawford's friends disputed Christina's book. In particular, Myrna Loy, Joan's friend since 1925, became one of her staunchest defenders in the aftermath of the book. While acknowledging that Joan Crawford was a highly ambitious woman and was an alcoholic for most of her life, critics have suggested that Christina embellished the areas of her story. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Crawford's first husband, describing the book by stating, "The Joan Crawford that I've heard about in Mommie Dearest is not the Joan Crawford I knew back then." The two younger Crawford children, Cindy and Cathy, born 1947, have stated categorically many times that they did not witness any events as described in the book.
Other stars such as Helen Hayes, June Allyson, Bette Davis, and Betty Hutton have verified some of the stories in Christina's book. Hutton had previously lived near Joan Crawford's Brentwood, California, home and has stated that she saw the children during or after various moments of abuse. She would often encourage her own children to play with Christina and Christopher to draw them away from their challenges at home. Crawford's best friend, actress Eve Arden, even sided with Christina about Crawford's abilities of being a parent, saying that Crawford suffered from bipolar disorder; a good woman in many ways but, as an alcoholic with a violent temper, simply unfit to be a mother.
In the book Understanding the Borderline Mother author Christine Ann Lawson suggests that Joan Crawford may have had a Borderline personality disorder along with an obsessive compulsion with cleanliness.
The last pages of Christina's book suggest that Christina was not about to let her mother have the "last word" by omitting her daughter from her will.
Christina Crawford has stood by her story, releasing a "Twentieth Anniversary Edition" with one hundred pages of additional material and the omission of about 50 pages of original material — of note, there were a surprising number of typographical errors in this printing. In the second edition, some individuals who were not named in the original edition were named. This second edition focused more on Christina's relationship with her mother from her high school graduation until the 1970s. It also revealed what became of her brother and several incidents involving him. The author promoted the republication of the book, which was done with a smaller publishing company, in some unconventional ways, including appearing at campy airings of the film based on the book (though she only lectured about the new edition of the book and did not stay for the screening) and appearing at readings with entertainer Lypsinka, who often appears as Joan Crawford in drag.
Mommie Dearest in popular culture
- Absolutely Fabulous makes reference to the book on an episode in season 4 entitled "Small Opening," in which Saffy has written a play about her terrible childhood and early adolescence. When she gets word of it, Edina snarls "I know what sort of play you will have written: you will make Mommie Dearest look like Winnie-the-bloody-Pooh!”
- Blue Öyster Cult wrote a song about the alleged events entitled Joan Crawford.
- MAD Magazine had spoofed a book club with different "trendy" books, such as "the trendy diet book" with "the trendy celebrity child abuse book" titled "My Father, the Fink", written by George Burns, Jr., the fictional 2-year old son of George Burns. The book claims such "horrors" as "when he ran out of cigars, he smoked my pacifier!" or "I was subject to frightening off key lullabys!" and advertised "If this book is true, it will make the cruelties suffered by Bing Crosby's son and Joan Crawford's daughter seem like bedtime stories." MAD was showing its usual ridiculous style by suggesting a two-year-old could write and publish this type of book along with a barb at the authenticity of these books and their popularity.
- In an episode of The Golden Girls, while at a bookstore, one of the characters (Sophia) announces that she's heading to the "bitter children of celebrities section."
- In the video game Destroy All Humans there is a part in the Turnipseed Farm stage where Crypto-137 can scan the mind of a woman who thinks to herself "Damn you Crawford! You are not my Mommie Dearest! Why do you not love me like the aliens do?".
- In the 2006 movie Another Gay Movie, the main character's mom, portrayed by drag queen Lypsinka, goes to his closet and sees a wire hanger. She cringes, then gains her composure. Later, Lypsinka paraphrases a famous line from Mommie Dearest "I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at the crumbs!" and starts shaking the bleach disinfectant cleanser everywhere.
- In the Chuck Palahniuk book Haunted, one short story makes reference to an unnamed celebrity beating her child with a coat hanger.
- The cartoon animated series Futurama features a parody on the "No wire hangers" scene. A robot mother whips her son with what she discovers hidden in his inner cavity: "Don't you remember what I told you? No more hanging wires!"
- In the Tyler Perry film Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea, one of the main characters, is searching through a closet with her granddaughter. She snatches the hanger out of the closet and repeats the infamous line: "A wire...HANGER!"
- In the TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode "The Witch" (season 1 episode 2) Buffy Summers says, "so mommie dearest was really... Mommie Dearest". The book is again referenced in a later episode "Inca Mummy Girl" with the play on words "Mummy Dearest".
- Victoria Beckham spoofs the wire hanger scene in her video for 'Let Your Head Go'. After removing the hanger she destroys clothes and flowers in the room with it.(2002)
- Mommie Dearest, Christina Crawford, William Morrow & Co., 1978, ISBN 0-688-03386-5, hardcover
- Mommie Dearest, Christina Crawford, Seven Springs Press, 1997, ISBN 0-9663369-0-9, expanded edition, paperback.
- The book's 20th Anniversary Edition restored approximately 100-pages previously cut from the original 1978 print. Christina Crawford bought back the book rights.