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Faye Dunaway Finally Breaks Her Silence on Mommie Dearest

Faye Dunaway Finally Breaks Her Silence on Mommie Dearest

mommie dearest

"I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at the dirt!"

When it comes to cinematic camp classics, Mommie Dearest is Citizen Fucking Kane. You know a movie is so terrifically bad that it's been publicly disowned by its star as the film that essentially ruined her career.

Faye Dunaway has had a Joan Crawford-shaped chip on her shoulder for over 35 years and in the latest issue of People she finally opens up about her most notorious role.

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Dunaway believed Mommie Dearest to be a "window into a tortured soul," but laments that it was "made into camp."

"I think it turned my career in a direction where people would irretrievably have the wrong impression of me--and that's an awful hard thing to beat," Dunaway said. "I should have known better, but sometimes you're vulnerable and you don't realize what you're getting into."

Inarguably, Faye Dunaway is a fantastic actress. Just watch her slowly unravel in Chinatown, the toughness and vulnerability she's able to convey in one slight expression as the world willingly hangs from her cheekbones.

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Crawford, before her death in 1977, called Dunaway the only actress of her generation who had "what it takes" to be a true star. And if anyone knew what it took to be a true star, it was Joan Crawford.

Crawford famously came from nothing to become the biggest female star of the early-to-mid-1930s, becoming a definitive beauty of the period. Her resilience and talent carried her through three more decades (when an actress is typically well past her sell-by date) nabbing her a Best Actress Oscar for Mildred Pierce, 20 years after she had made her film debut.

aretha franklin george michael

Mommie Dearest finds Dunaway as pre-Mildred Pierce Crawford, when she was struggling to revive her career after it had taken a downward turn after some badly received movies. In that respect, Mommie Dearest is laden with irony.

However, if you look at Mommie Dearest as what it is--not a biographical film about one of the most captivating and complicated female stars of the 20th century, but as a gothic horror film in the mode of Crawford's own Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, where the vultures of celebrity have picked clean the bones of a creature it created--you can truly appreciate the film and Dunaway's performance.

She's epic, she's gargantuan, she's a monster. She's Charles Foster Kane.

aretha franklin

Fame is as American as apple pie, and if Citizen Kane is the quintessential tale of American success turned excess, Mommie Dearest is its sister film--only without the technical skill and that made Kane such a watershed cinematic moment.

Crawford was as much victim as beneficiary of her success, pigeonholed first as a sexpot and then as a steely matron--two ends of a narrow spectrum on which women were depicted on film. Mommie Dearest takes this latter image of Crawford to extremes even her most avant-garde later films like Daisy Kenyon or Johnny Guitar never approached.

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And Dunaway goes to the most extreme extremes in her characterization of the legendary actress.

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In truth, Dunaway's performance in Mommie Dearest is, if anything, too good--so much so that Joan Crawford, Faye Dunaway and Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford are forever conflated in the public imagination. Much to the detriment of all figures involved.

However, Faye Dunaway ought to cut herself and Mommie Dearest a little slack. It's a decent movie and she's incredible in it. The 35 years since Mommie Dearest's debut have birthed a new appreciation for it, as well for Crawford and for Dunaway--sure they're all flawed in their own ways, but honestly, wouldn't the world be a much better place without wire hangers?

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[h/t] Huff Po

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