Finally!!! I just finished watching (thanks to a very special friend) the entire half-hour of Joan Crawford's home movies circa 1939-1942 . These are apparently culled from apprx 4 hours of footage (one wonders if some of the remainder was damaged or deemed repetitive-not that I'd care, I want to see it all!)
Joanie's Got a Gun...
A lot of this is almost painful to watch, it's so personal. These reels of footage were never intended for public viewing; indeed they lay forgotten for over 60 years until her grandson Casey discovered them.
When these films were made, Joanie was one of the biggest stars in the world (it was during these years that Crawford made some of her greatest films: The Women, Strange Cargo, Susan and God, A Woman's Face), but she was still recovering from a sad divorce from her second husband Franchot Tone.
and had met a successful businessman named Charles McCabe, who (along with Clark Gable) became one of the great loves of her life.
(Again, it's important to remember that these films weren't intended for public consumption, they were recorded for Joan Crawford's personal enjoyment, for a chance to look back and reminisce about happy times, and in fact, tina darling didn't even know of their existence until decades after Mommie Dearest was published).
(Holy smokes! That's Margaret Sullavan in the middle, with Joan Crawford on the right. The lady on the left looks familiar but I can't place her)
In 1938, Joan Crawford and Margaret Sullavan appeared together in The Shining Hour, a melodrama of marital discord that pleased neither critics nor audiences, which sort of mystifies me. Although the plot is somewhat generic (poor girl Joan marries into rich family and everyone looks down on her, except for her compassionate sister-in-law Margaret, whose husband gets the wandering eye for Joan, leading to tragedy) the acting is intelligent and until all the fireworks take over the plot towards the end we get to enjoy adult, literate (albeit talky) characters.
(Sullavan, looking very Doris Day'ish here)
On page 144 of my copy of Conversations With Joan Crawford, JC mentions Haywire, which was published shortly before her death in 1977:
"Brooke Hayward, Maggie Sullavan's daughter, has written a book called Haywire, and from what I hear-well, I've got the book, the publisher sent it to me, but I can't bear to read it. I know the problems Maggie and Lee had, especially Maggie. She was a truly great actress and a fine woman, but she was so unstable she could barely cope with her career and she certainly couldn't cope with her children. I know their kids got the dirty end of the stick, but that was Hollywood."
More views from the home movies:
Last night, I was checking out some insightful reviews of 2011's republication of Haywire and surprise, surprise, quite a few referenced Mommie Dearest:
"Although "Haywire" is a Hollywood childhood memoir, unlike later books by the children of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and Bing Crosby it isn't a self pitying exercise in revenge, laced with vitriol with an eye to make a buck. Rather Ms. Hayward eloquently with equal measures of love and sorrow recounts a cautionary tale of the calamitous effects of emotional carelessness and flawed communication on a family that should have on the surface lived happily ever."
Regarding tina though, I recently read something on http://orsons.tumblr.com/post/28298201334/more-to-understand-the-situation-i-think-a (via http://get-on-the-carousel.tumblr.com/ ) that I found well-written and to the point. It's too lengthy to quote but I did want to give a shout out to the author.
I don't completely agree with all of it (I believe tina darling sincerely loved her mother until the other children started arriving, at which point christina's lethal sibling rivalry kicked into full gear. And it had to be tough to be the center of her mother's world and then have to share attention with squalling, needy infants--newer squalling, needy infants (and this is an issue that can--and has since the dawn of time-- caused rifts even among biological siblings) but still. To portray herself as total victim (when more likely her biological parents--yes, the ones who discarded her--are responsible for her shitty attitude and need for affirmation/attention/pity)... Blech. I despise her.
Enough of that, though. Because really, this is all about Joan. So, I'm going to end with a quote from Haywire, along with some more screen grabs from the home movies...