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Daughter survives Mommie Dearest Joan Crawford

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

No wire hangers when your houseguest is Mommie Dearest’s daughter, Christina Crawford.

Hosts always think they have to “clean out their closets,” says Joan Crawford’s eldest, in South Florida to perform Surviving Mommie Dearest, a one-woman autobiographical play based on Christina’s book, movie and life afterward.

The 1981 film version of Mommie Dearest made famous the cry “No wire hangers EVER!” as Faye Dunaway’s Crawford cruelly beat a cowering young Christina.

Now 72, Christina says a closet full of wire hangers doesn’t bother her in the least. “I don’t care,” she says. “It is what it is.”

Joan Crawford (1905-77) was one of early Hollywood’s most famous stars, who in the 1930s appeared opposite such biggies as Clark Gable, Wallace Beery and the Barrymore brothers. After being labeled “box office poison” and dumped by MGM, she made a remarkable comeback at Warner Bros., winning a Best Actress Oscar for 1945’s Mildred Pierce.

Married four times, Crawford adopted four children and was obsessed with publicity and image. She frequently posed for photos with Christina — the two dressed in identical mother-daughter outfits.

Later in her career, Crawford took on supporting roles in soapy films like The Best of Everything. The one-time leading lady didn’t take well to playing older women opposite younger starlets.

“How would you imagine? She always wanted to be the only star,” Christina says. “Anything that wasn’t that for her probably wasn’t the happiest of situations. But I’m sure she liked any stardom that there was at the time. She was transitioning to being older. It happens to all of us.”

In 1962, Crawford made a splashy comeback with Warner Bros. rival Bette Davis in the horror classic, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Life off-screen with Joan was horrible, too, according to Christina, who published her memoir, Mommie Dearest, in 1978, a year after Crawford died in New York City — cutting her out of the will.

Christina won’t say much about the camp film adaptation. “The only thing I can say about that movie is that Faye Dunaway had great makeup. End of story.”

Mommie Dearest forever changed Crawford’s public image, but probably the reason she is well-remembered today.

“It’s one those ironies. Any publicity is good publicity,” Christina says. “Certainly she would have preferred not to be ignored.”

After the Mommie Dearest furor subsided, Christina wrote a follow-up, Survivor, and transitioned from being an actress to child-abuse activist.

She has lived 17 years in Idaho and hopes to bring Surviving Mommie Dearest to Off-Broadway in 2012.

“A lot of people over these many years have related to me as being a survivor, and going on to have a good life, and transforming what could have been a tragedy into a triumph,” she says.

IF YOU GO

‘Surviving Mommie Dearest’ starring Christina Crawford will be performed 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at Tennessee Williams Theatre in Key West; and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Rose & Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. Tickets $35. www.survivingmommiedearest.com

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Christina Crawford really needs to let go, she's 72 years old and milking it dry.

She's now become annoying.

She disgusts me. Her problem was that she wanted to be a Star, like her ADOPTED Mother. She didn't have what it takes though SO, she writes a nasty book, and has lived off of it for the rest of her life. She is sad.

Christina is a survivor in every sense of the word but to say that she has spent her life milking her "story" is absurd and ignores her many other achievements. She has been a long time advocate for children as well as writing other scholarly works such as DAUGHTERS OF THE INQUISITION. Those of us who know her personally admire her for her dedication to a host of issues that have nothing to do with wire hangers. She is one of the few people I have ever met that wastes not one moment of her time here on earth. Mrs. Drysdale is right. Christina can be annoying to anyone who refuses to take a stand on the issues of our day.

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