Thursday, January 7, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Mommie Dearest Diary

The Mommie Dearest Diary: Carol Ann Tells All   by Rutanya Alda

For worshipers of the enduring camp classic Mommie Dearest (and that’s pretty much all of us, am I right?), actress Rutanya Alda has, for the last couple of years, been something of a battle-scarred, in-the-trenches, cult-film missionary doing the Lord’s work. The Lord in this case being the Great God of Inadvertent Camp. Ms. Alda’s sacred trust: to preserve the legacy and answer the gay community’s clarion call (and make no mistake, the LGBT community is solely responsible for Mommie Dearest not disappearing into oblivion) of “What were they thinking?”

As cult film fans and connoisseurs of delectable camp already know, Rutanya Alda plays Joan Crawford’s devoted, long-suffering, rapidly-aging secretary, Carol Ann, in Mommie Dearest. A now-iconic role in the iconically misguided 1981 biopic which contributed significantly (some might say exclusively) to derailing the A-list career of Oscar-winner Faye Dunaway.
Rutanya Alda as Carol Ann in Mommie Dearest
Alda’s own nearly 50-year career in films encompasses everything from being Mia Farrow’s stand-in in Rosemary’s Baby (and the voice of Dr. Hill’s answering service in that memorably tense phone booth scene); doubling for Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly! (and playing the townsperson dressed in Judy Garland's tassled frock from Meet Me in St. Louis); to co-starring opposite Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro in Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter. But unlike Dunaway and almost everyone else associated with Mommie Dearest, Alda is actually happy and proud to have been a part of a film once regarded as one of Hollywood’s biggest embarrassments, now a bonafide camp cult classic. She even accepts (with considerable grace and good humor) the fact that in spite of having more than 50 films to her credit, to a great many individuals she is, and always will be, Carol Ann.
Alda’s current status as the unofficial spokesperson for all things Mommie Dearest began in 2013 when she was the guest of honor at a special Mother’s Day screening at San Francisco’s Castro Theater. There she regaled the SRO audience with hilarious “Lived to tell the tale!” anecdotes about the making of Mommie Dearest: a major serious-minded major motion picture upon which many hopes and investments were pinned, held hostage and kept under siege by the demands and off-the-rails ego of its star.

Conceived as a serious dramatic adaptation of Christina Crawford's 1978 bombshell of a tell-all memoir (Dunaway was certain she'd get an Oscar nomination), Mommie Dearest somehow became a quotable high camp comedy by the time it hit the theaters. Every highly-anticipated film that flops engenders a certain level of curiosity (Mommie Dearest was a critical flop, but made lots of money for Paramount...but for all the wrong reason), but the swift and total reversal of Mommie Dearest's fortunes created a great deal of curiosity among fans as to how so many things could go wrong so extravagantly. Alas, nobody was talking. Considerable blame was placed on the screenplay, but the lion's share of the shame spotlight fell on Faye Dunaway and her fiercely committed, brazenly unsubtle performance.

With Dunaway and the rest of the film's cast and crew reluctant to even acknowledge their participation on the project, details about what went into the making of one of the screen's most delectable disasters has largely been nil.
That is until Carol Ann finally broke her silence.
Carol Ann appeared to be on an accelerated aging program. The book explains why

Culled from the personal diary Alda kept throughout the entire ordeal…I mean, filming of Mommie Dearest, these deliciously dishy stories, related with chummy, “Can we talk?” candor,  were the first behind-the-scenes accounts ever to emerge from beneath the cone of silence that seemed to envelope Mommie Dearest after its critically disastrous release. Needless to say, the audience lapped up every gossipy detail.
 As Ms. Alda began making the reading of excerpts from her diary a regular part of her personal appearances celebrating Mommie Dearest, the outpour of interest from fans convinced her to publish them in book form.
Rutanya Alda’s The Mommie Dearest Diary: Carol Ann Tells All was published September 18, 2015 (just a few days shy of the 34th anniversary of the film's Los Angeles release date of September 25, 1981).
Although I was chomping at the bit to read Alda’s memoir hot off the presses, I nevertheless bided my time and had my prayers answered when I received the book for Christmas. By December 26th  I’d finished it. Not because the book is so brief (it’s a slim 166 pages) but because it’s that much fun to read. To use a cliché I’m sure that’s been overworked in every review of The Mommie Dearest Diary to date, but I really couldn’t put it down.
The Deer Hunter
Rutanya Alda played Angela, the pregnant bride in Michael Ciimino's 1978 film.
Here she's seen with (l. to r.) Christopher Walken, John Savage, and Meryl Streep
Being a smart woman who knows her audience, Rutanya Alda uses the first third of the book to supply us with only the briefest of personal and professional bio material before getting down to the good stuff. (Biggest personal epiphany: Rutanya Alda is NOT, as I'd always assumed, related to Alan!) Happily, this section proves surprisingly crammed with “good stuff” as well, for once the Latvian-born immigrant embarks on a career as an actress, we’re treated to stories about Alda’s early encounters with the likes of Brian De Palma, Joan Crawford, Robert Altman, Barbra Streisand, and even pre-Mommie Dearest Faye Dunaway. The cumulative effect is the desire for Ms. Alda to later write a more comprehensive autobiography, the span of her career and the many great directors and actors she’s worked with (and slept with) providing a ‘70s enthusiast like me with a vivid glimpse into the New Hollywood as it morphed into blockbutserland
Mommie Dearest opened in September, but by mid-October Paramount realized audiences weren't taking their drama seriously. The studio attempted to capitalize on the film's growing status as a camp cult film by posting this newspaper ad.
The ad was removed after the late producer, Frank Yablans, filed a $10 million lawsuit (a move he later claimed to regret given the unstoppability of the cult and the longevity - and profits - said cult ultimately granted his film).

The actual Mommie Dearest diary begins with Alda’s audition for director Frank Perry (Diary of a Mad Housewife, Last Summer) in December of 1980, and ends on the last day of filming, April of 1981. In between, movie fans are given a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the hurry-up-and-wait world of filmmaking, and Mommie Dearest fans at last get to find out if there was anything going on behind the scenes which could possibly explain - or excuse - wound up on the screen.

What we discover is Dunaway's dedication to her work was complete, if myopic. Her understandable but nevertheless all-encompassing self-concern not exactly jibing with the image Hollywood likes to promote of itself (on award shows) as a collaborative community of artists.

For her part, Alda, dealing with a rocky marriage and her husband's drug addiction, struggles to be a team-player on the set. She keeps quiet as the size of her part is systematically whittled down by a star who envisions the film more as a one-woman show, all while under constant pressure (and repeated warnings) to keep making herself plainer and plainer so as not to distract or draw attention away from Dunaway.

Since the diary was never intended for publication and used primarily as a meditative tool while the author sought to navigate both her troubled marriage and the difficult shoot, there’s a take-no-prisoners directness to Alda’s writing that makes The Mommie Dearest Diary something of a quidnunc’s wet dream. Nobody is spared (including Alda herself), and she leaves it to the reader to decide whether a bit of gossip to big or too small…she just reveals everything (which is exactly what one seeks in a tell all, but so seldom ever gets). In addition, she's also very fair-handed. Dunaway is revealed to be quite gracious and accommodating - when she wants to be.

It's a wonderful read for fans of moviemaking in general (the minutia of per diems, soundtstage etiquette and glimpses of LA in the '80s are a treat [Filmex!]), but a truly marvelous companion piece for fans of Mommie Dearest. In fact, the biggest compliment I can bestow upon The Mommie Dearest Diary is that it reads just like the kind of commentary I wish accompanied the DVD. Should yet another special edition DVD be released, perhaps with a few of the many sequences shot and later excised for time, I hope they enlist Rutanya Alda for the commentary.
Dunaway got future-husband, photographer Terry O'Neill, a producer's credit

I don't want to spoil anyone's fun by revealing anything more about the book, so here's a glimpse of some of the things you'll find out, some of the questions that will be answered, and a few tips on what to keep a lookout for:
I'll Be There For You - Except When It's Time To Feed You Lines For Your Closeup
What is the "Clear Away Club" and Who Were its Members?

The Hospital Scene: Who's Line is it, Anyway?
Did Carol Ann Skip The Wedding?
Who Designed This Dress? Dont' Axe!
Crawford gives hardworking Carol Ann an Opportunity to Put Her Feet Up
Dunaway and O'Neill Play "I 've Got A Secret"
(S)he Who Gets Slapped...three times, yet
Tonight's Episode: "Shear Dedication" or "Hacking at Hobel"
If you pick up The Mommie Dearest Diary: Carol Ann Tells All expecting the kind of dirt to make your hair stand on end, you're likely to be disappointed ( you won't discover anything you don't likely already suspect about La Dunaway, but it's fascinating having it confirmed!).
But if you're like me, a Mommie Dearest fan who has always marveled at the phenomenon of serious-minded films (like Valley of the Dolls, The Oscar) going so grievously astray they transmogrify into something nobody involved could have ever foreseen; then The Mommie Dearest Diary provides some eye-opening insight into the world of high-stakes Hollywood filmmaking.
A world where everybody starts out wanting to do something important, only to wind up compromising, placating egos, cutting corners, and ultimately counting the days waiting for the whole thing to be over.

The Mommie Dearest Diary: Carol Ann Tells All 
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Read  my essay on Mommie Dearest HERE

See Rutanya Alda read her Mommie Dearest Diary at The Castro Theater in S.F. HERE

Read more about Mommie Dearest Diary at Angelman's Place 

"Now imagine you're delivering your 'don't fuck with me fellahs' line straight to the last row of the balcony...."
Faye Dunaway plays nice and lets Frank Perry have his turn directing Mommie Dearest

Copyright © Ken Anderson


  1. Mommie Dearest, another fine Christmas film!

    I saw it in the days after its opening at the Loews State Theater in Times Square. There was a long, long, line to get in, the film's odd reputation had not yet been built. Immediately ahead of me in line were two silver-haired gentlemen of a persuasion similar to mine. Everyone in line was chatting about Joan and Christina, about Joan's career and Christina's book. This was only four years after Crawford's death and she had so recently been a regular presence in New York City. (A particular used book store on Christopher Street had access to a large number of Joan's hats and bags and matching gloves and shoes which trickled out for sale for several years.) I was wise to keep my yap shut and my ears open, as in 1981, the recollections were still fresh. And often interesting!

    Sadly, I got no colorful recollections that evening, but as the two silver-haired bought their tickets, I heard one loudly balk to the ticket seller, "What? How much? Seven Dollars? Joan Crawford HERSELF never cost seven dollars!"

    Then they both laughed out loud at the absurdity of paying much more for the copy than for the original, shelled out their bucks and moved into the theater. I have always wondered what they thought of Mommie Dearest. Probably not much. But they are my favorite recollection of the film. It had not yet achieved a consensus on Camp Greatness and was still just this weird, inexplicable, unimportant film that was only about excess. It doesn't tell Joan's story, and it doesn't really tell Christina's, either. It offers no insight, from either perspective, about the lives of either woman. It's only plot. Gory, sensational and, ultimately pointless, plot.

    I look forward to reading this book. Thanks for making me aware of it.

    1. Hi George
      Indeed! This actually IS a terrific film to watch over the holidays. And seeing little Christina at the receiving of that can of Bon Ami Cleanser is often all I need to lose the bad taste left in my mouth from one of those Lifetime or Hallmark channel holiday hugfests.

      What a terrific story about seeing MD for the first time! There's so much nostalgia in your memory of standing in line, the cost of tickets, and of course, the public attitude about Crawford that existed before the movie and book came out and flipped the script.
      By the time it opened in Los Angeles, word had already begun to spread, so when I saw it on opening day, many in the audience were already primed to have a good time at its expense - comedy wise.
      It happened so fast!
      I loved the film since and have seen it more times than I can count, so this book is a dream. Paramount should release a special edition boxed blu-ray of Mommie Dearest and include this book. It's like a study guide!

  2. thank you ken. love it xoxoxo rutanya

    1. Hello, Rutanya!
      OK, I think maybe I'm being pranked (my partner is a big "Law & Order" fan and Rutanya Alda was on an episode last night), but just in case Carol Ann actually paid this blog a visit:
      Thank YOU for this marvelously candid book and for being the only "Mommie Dearest" participant willing to have fun with the whole thing.
      Loved you in the film (the look you give Joan and Greg after the "I can handle to socks" bit), and if Hollywood gave out Purple Hearts along with Oscars, you'd deserve one. I hope every "Mommie Dearest" fan makes your book required reading.
      A big thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  3. Ken, OMG - did Ms. Alda really just visit you?? WOW!! As you know, I too loved her new book, and it made me watch the film all over again, much of it through Rutanya ( and Carol Ann's) eyes. Poor Rutanya, having to do her close ups solo, and emote to a Polaroid picture of Faye Dunaway in the coffin during the funeral home scene, only to have it cut anyway!

    I love how you picked up on the atrocious makeup job on Carol Ann, too...Now we know why...the backstage drama with the crew and designers was almost butcher than in front of the camera...

    I love that you have given us a link to Rutanya reading her diaries at the Castro I wish I could have been there!!

    And finally, thanks for the nice are awesome, and I love that we were both ,over to post on the new book and Mommie on the same day. The law of attraction in action!
    - Chris

    1. ...and please forgive the typos...last time I will attempt to type a cogent thought on my iPad!! :-)

    2. Hi Chris
      So uncanny about the dual posting!
      Like you, I watched the film again after reading the book - and yes, seeing it through Rutanya Alda's prism.
      The best thing is that the book only enhances the experience. Plus it adds this meta level: A tell-all book is made into a tell-all movie which spawned a tell-all book again!
      The first book has Jon Crawford abusing her daughter, this time out you have a Joan Crawford impersonator abusing...well, everyone!
      I so enjoyed Alda's book. It made me wish someone had kept a diary during the making of "Myra Breckinridge" or "Valley of the Dolls"!
      Thanks, Chris! And no problem with the typos, happens to me all the time!

  4. I've posted before about how I saw MOMMIE DEAREST at the Mann's Chinese in Hollywood right after it opened and, as we left, my roommate and I were talking about the likelihood of Dunaway receiving an Oscar nomination! It seems incredible 34 years on to think that we really didn't "see" the over-the-top campiness of the production, but we were young and took the movie very seriously. I don't think we were alone in that, but within a week the advertising changed and suddenly everyone (except Miss Dunaway, apparently) was in on the joke. We probably wouldn't have a time-lag like this today!

    Now, again I hate to be THAT person, but in your essay you say that Alda's diary runs from December 81 until April 81. I assume that should be December 80. Even so, today that seems like an incredibly short production schedule: Four months! Wow--even tv episodes take longer nowadays.

    1. No problem, Deb
      Sometimes being THAT person proves to be very helpful! Yes, it should read December 1980 to April of ‘81. And that is indeed a fast production schedule.
      Apparently things started out all measured and calm with "Mommie Dearest" having a year of pre-production, and casting being afforded the luxury of putting the actors though costly and time-consuming makeup and costume tests.
      But the difficulty in securing a workable script (William Goldman and Christina Crawford herself taking stabs at it), and having to hustle to replace both its star (Anne Bancroft bailed) and director (Franco Zeffirelli) at the 11th hour, left “Mommie Dearest” with a rushed, 12-week shooting schedule. A fact not helped by the threat of an impending actors’ strike.

      As detailed in the very enjoyable and enlightening book, all this contributed to a lot of speeding through things, corner-cutting and the excision of many scenes. It also made the studio somewhat more vulnerable to Dunaway’s demands than it might otherwise have been, for they said yes to almost everything to keep her from walking off the film or causing more delays.

      This explains, at least in part, why so much of the film has the feeling of nobody helming the ship; it was sort of a Dunaway Runaway production.

      As for your initially coming away from the film with a sense of it being an Oscar-worthy performance by Faye, I recall at least one glowing review of Dunaway in (I think) the Herald Examiner, in which the reviewer praised the film for being a dark and harrowing look at child abuse, and citing Dunaway's performance as stronger than her work in "Network".
      The phenomenon of this movie is what you note: the public perception of it flipped within a week of its release.
      I think only "Showgirls" went from serious drama to camp comedy as quickly.

    2. When this came out, I was living in St. Petersburg and the local chain (AMC?) was having a "predict the oscars" promotion. They printed the contest forms ahead of the nomination announcement and included Dunaway for Best Actress.

    3. That's wonderful! Thanks for sharing that!
      I don't think people who weren't around in 1981 really appreciate how Dunaway was regarded as quite a different type of actress before "Mommie dearest" and after.
      Almost like a living embodiment of that "Oscar Curse" people speak of, but Dunaway's career was definitely on the A-track. Trouble started after she was given (or chose) too many roles in succession that called upon her lack of subtley. Eva Peron, Joan Crawford, then the over-the-top Selena in Supergirl...I guess that was enough. She was branded as a serious scenery chewer.

  5. Hi Ken--I had my copy of The Mommie Dearest Diary on pre-order! But I was a nice brother, I let my sister read it first!

    Rutanya Alda's voice really comes through in this book: good-hearted, fun, and even-handed.

    I consider Faye Dunaway a great actress and star, but for me, the gold standard (or in this case, the diamond standard) is always Elizabeth Taylor. ET was brought up through the studio system, so maybe that's why she was great to her crew and co-stars. No feuds, clearing sets, terrifying directors, etc. Late to the set is the one criticism I've read about, but John Huston and others have said she always worked fast, with no fuss once she got there. I thought about this a lot while reading Alda's take on working with Dunaway. Especially when poor Irene Sharaff, the great costumer, got dragged out of retirement to tangle with Dunaway. Sharaff, who worked with Liz on her most notorious film, Cleopatra, and ended up becoming her friend. Not so with Lady Faye!

    Great read and thanks for writing this up, Ken!


    1. Hi Rick
      My, you ARE a nice brother!
      You make an interesting point comparing studio system stars with "difficult" reputations (like Liz Taylor and Judy Garland) with the kind of looking out for #1 behavior of Dunaway.
      Both Taylor and Garland seemed mostly plagued with tardiness and health/drug issues. Dunaway sounds like that genus of star (Streisand and Raquel Welch come to mind) who- not having a studio to look after their interests - channels all their energy into protecting themselves. Protecting oneself to the point of calling all the shots, never really collaborating with anyone, and disregarding anyone's concerns but one's own.

      I'm sure she felt she was doing all she needed to do to protect her craft, but from the book it sounds like she acted in a vacuum. I've always found it such a curious phenomenon that the more certain an actor knows what's "right" for the point of directing directors, camera people, and the entire crew; the worse their performances become. Too self-aware and insular, maybe.

      Like you, I think Alda's voice comes through. Between the lines you get a sense of an actress with a healthy ego herself, having to grapple with always being the last served, and being dressed-down to boot.
      Forced to always dress in a way never to draw attention from Dunaway, it was almost poignant the way Alda recorded in her diary every single time someone made reference to her being pretty.
      It must have felt like rain on a desert.
      Nice to hear you enjoyed the book as well. Thanks, Rick!

  6. Replies
    1. Ha! I was hoping someone would! I learned that word many years ago when it was the vanity licence plate of a friend of mine. I've loved it ever since, but I think this is the first time I've ever been able to use it.

  7. Thanks for getting the word out there; I was not aware of the publication of this book, which is now #1 on my wish list. Your idea about a new commentary track by (or at least including) Alda is first-rate, although I relish some of John Waters's comments on the existing "Hollywood Royalty" edition (especially during the funeral parlor sequence). Cheers!

    1. Glad to alert you to this book! I think John Waters is hilarious on the DVD commentary. It really does need an outsiders/fan perspective like his, but I would love to add an insider's perspective to go with it.
      Thanks very much for commenting and hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!

  8. I must get ahold of this book, Ken! I love this film. It is notorious and fascinating but is it really a bad film like many people want to portray it as? It wasn't a flop so people can't call it a disaster, even if it did have a devastating effect on Faye Dunaway's career.

    She gave a very strong performance. Is it really a bad performance? It's not like she didn't bother to learn the lines or mumble them. She gave her all. How many actresses today could show such rage and ambition? It's good that there are a few scenes when she is allowed to be vulnerable, but not many. What everyone remembers are the fight scenes. It must have been awful having people laugh at her performance.

    The glamourous Hollywood setting, the make up and the 40s clothing help bring this film to a level of operatic excess. Would it have been camp if the story had been anywhere else?

    1. Hi Wille
      Can I say how much I always appreciate how you ask me "expert" questions where I get to pontificate about my subjective feelings like they're objective facts? You don't know hwat a rare treat that is.

      Anyhow, as per "Mommie Dearest" really being as bad as its reputation, that truly is a matter of taste, I'm afraid. It all kinda depends by which criterion you judge it.
      Many absolutely horrendous films are major boxoffice hits, so a film can still be a disaster and widely liked (The Avengers). There are classifications of films called flops and turkey; the former being money losers (Mommie Dearest doesn't qualify), the latter artistic or critical disasters (many people would put Mommie Dearest in that category).
      I think what blurs the issue is the question of whether or not YOU like it, for nether flops nor turkeys are immune from being enjoyable. In fact, they tend to be more enjoyable than many hits.

      For me it comes down to: if i enjoy a movie, that movie is good TO ME...that doesn't mean it's a GOOD MOVIE. Similarly, I am able to accept that many a so-called GOOD MOVIE (one that's well-acted, well-made, with a strong, coherent narrative) can be a turkey I can barely sit through.
      i don't consider "Mommie Dearest" to be a good movie by a lot of standards, but it is an excellent movie by my own and what I find enjoyable in a film.

      As for Dunaway's performance, I think the same applies. No one would fault her for hard work, but many consider it unsubtle, one-note, and not very rooted in real human behavior. Me, I think she does a great job, but she is really making some odd choices in some scenes. According to the book, there are many quiet scenes that didn't make it to the finished film. Perhaps these would have shown a broader range.
      When I look at it, she reminds me of late-career Shelley Winters a big. You get a sense that Dunaway was so sure of herself at this point she didn't take direction. She seems to be coming from a place very private not very connected with the tone of the rest of the film. I love it, but it's a drag queen performance with moments of brilliance.

      And you have a point about the trappings of Hollywood, etc. Child abuse is very difficult to portray on the screen. I don't think anyone calculated the effect it would have on an audience to see a woman looking as extreme as Joan Crawford yelling at a rather hard-looking little blonde toughie. It seemed more absurd than sympathetic. i literally burst into tears every time I see the scene where Dunaway yells at Christopher and Christina in the back yard. The scarier Joan is supposed to be, the more I like her (like the wicked witch in a fairy tale)...a killer for a domestic melodrama.

      I think you'll find the book illuminating. There's almost the sense that the production got away from the director at some point, and nobody was running the ship. It actually mades me like the movie more!

    2. Hi Ken. Thank you for pointing out the difference between a flop and a turkey. I love both type of films. I've used those terms before not really thinking that there is a difference between the two.

      Now it's clear to me that Dunaway didn't seem to take or get direction from the director and that he lost control of the film. Interesting what you write about her performance not being in touch with the intentions of the film. She made some strange choices what with the kabuki cold cream and how she crosses her eyes at one point in the scene. Was it you who pointed it out that that's a part of kabuki theatre?

      I still love Faye's performance though. I like how Joan in the film finally gives up the fight about the raw meat! She didn't have to win every time. Faye really looked like the witch from Snow White when Christina asks her about the missing dolls!

    3. Ha! Every time I see that "doll" sequence I too think Faye looks like the evil queen.
      I enjoy her performance here immensely, and I honestly don't know what a "good" performance (given the script) would like. In a weird way she has nothing to be ashamed about with her work here. I think it's kind of like hitting for the fence and falling short. She gave it her all but probably could have benefited from some outside input.

  9. I must pop back in to ask if anyone can think of any other actress (or actor) whose career declined so precipitously after a single role than Faye Dunaway. I mean, there's Elizabeth Berkley after SHOWGIRLS, but she had nowhere near Faye's career (or, frankly, talent). And I can see someone like Mel Gibson, rightly, losing his Hollywood clout and prestige because of his off-screen behavior; but I can't think of another actor/ actress whose career hit the wall quite the was Faye's did after MOMMY DEAREST. She absolutely never recovered.

    1. Excellent question! I tried to think of others and the only thing I came up even remotely close to is Karen Black, who, after an A-List early career, seemed to de offered only B horror movies after 1976 (with the exception of Come back to the 5 & Dime). But other actresses (say, Raquel Welch) seem to have burned bridges by building a reputation of being difficult and not being a big enough box office draw to justify the trouble. I'll be interested to see if anyone can come up with anyone else. No WONDER Dunaway is pissed!

  10. There is every possibility that Miss Dunaway's career troubles analogize more closely to the (also) famously difficult Betty Hutton's career troubles. Dunaway demanded, and received, "Mommie Dearest" producing credit for her husband. After the success of "The Greatest Show on Earth," Betty Hutton demanded directing work be found for her husband (who was not yet a film director.) Hutton didn't get what she wanted and broke her Paramount contract. And very little film work ever came her way again.

    It is possible, even in Hollywood, to be so great a pain in the ass that no one wants to work with you. I have always felt that "Mommie Dearest" was not the downfall of her Dunaway's career, but the excuse everyone needed to bolt and run.

    Miss Dunaway is, perhaps, very lucky not to end up on her hands and knees scrubbing floors in a Connecticut rectory.

  11. Love it! I really hadn't heard all that about Betty Hutton, but I think the one-two punch that did Dunaway in was that - as you note - 1) she developed an industry reputation for being a monster. 2) the public (who often doesn't care about such things) really stopped being able to take her seriously. And that's the scary part, because it's something that no one can type casting.
    Something happened where Dunaway's non-specific persona as an actress immediately galvanized in Mommie Dearest (given a hefty assist by near-identical performances as Evita and Selena the villain in "Supergirl") and she was just typed.
    Nothing she did seemed to help.
    I wonder if this has happened to any male actors?

    1. I wish it would happen to Mark Wahlberg soon, haha!

      Ken, is "Evita" with Faye any good? Does it have any of Mommie Dearests rage, over the top madness and glossiness? Is it a lost treasure?

    2. Ha! I agree, and it should happen to Adam Sandler and that guy who keeps making Mall Cop movies.
      I really liked the Eva Peron movie a lot. She actually does a fine job. But I saw it for the first time only recently, and by the time she becomes "Evita" all I can see is her warming up for Joan Crawford.

  12. Coming soon for your collection.

    1. You've got Spidey senses -- I got this (and a Crawford box set) as a Christmas present.

    2. Many thanks for making me aware of this addictive,juicy read through your review, it makes you feel like a cold cream slathered fly on the walls of this film shoot.

      What seems to have become of Faysie's own equivalent version of events though? Maybe the publishers shelved the idea after reading Carol-Ann's story and realising that this account seems all too believable.

      Kindest regards, your blog is always a pleasure to read.

    3. Hi Nick
      Sounds like you enjoyed the book as much as I did! Rarely is one afforded such a day by day accounting of the film shoot of a "troubled" movie. There are literally dozens of books about the making of "Gone With the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz," but guys like me always want to know what went wrong on films like "Casino Royale" or "On a Clear Day You Can Se Forever." This glimpse into the making of "Mommie Dearest" was just what the doctor ordered. And indeed, if we have to wait as long for Faye's book as we have for her film version of "Master Class," I guess I shouldn't make extra space on my bookshelf any time soon.
      Thank you very much for reading and commenting, and I'm very flattered you enjoy my blog. Hope to hear from you again!

    4. I wouldn't have liked to be in Ms Dunaways company when she must have received her own copy of Ms Alda's tome and began to leaf through it to see how fondly her old colleague had regarded her. I bet she must have turned her own living room into a clear away club!