Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


POSSESSED: THE LIFE OF JOAN CRAWFORD by Donald Spoto. William Morrow; 2010.

I co-authored a book with Lawrence J. Quirk on Crawford called The Essential Biography in 2002. The purpose of that book was to re-evaluate Crawford's career and talent and to refute most of the assertions made by Christina Crawford in her tome Mommie Dearest. Now Donald Spoto has come out with a similar book, begging the question: Is there anything left to say about Crawford? Based on Possessed -- which is by no means a bad book -- I would have to say that, no, there isn't a lot left to say about Crawford. However, Spoto does a more than adequate job of covering the usual bases -- Crawford's early life, her rise to stardom, her major movie roles etc. The raison d'etre for this book seems to be for Spoto to offer his own, generally intelligent opinions of Crawford's movies, although I can't quite agree with his assessments of the ludicrous Strange Cargo and can't understand how, Spoto, a Hitchcock admirer, can have anything good to say about the awful Hitch imitation Above Suspicion. Spoto does offer more evidence of the fictitiousness of Mommie Dearest, and he should be given credit for writing a book that doesn't tap into all the negative things written and said about Crawford since that book's publication.

While we're on the subject it seems incredible to me that anyone still gives credence to Christina's claims. Spoto shows that she herself refutes much of what she said with her own words. Her two younger sisters, who were in the same house, always claimed everything in Mommie Dearest was "fake and fictional." And why anyone should take Christina seriously after she claimed on the Larry King show without any solid evidence that her mother murdered 4th husband Alfred Steele for his money (it's well-known he left her nothing but debts) is beyond me. How far does the woman have to go before any halfway intelligent person completely questions her motives and credibility?

Verdict: Perfectly okay if you've never read anything about Crawford before. **1/2.

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