Joan Crawford was a legendary Hollywood actress that considered Hollywood royalty at the point of her death in 1977. However, her daughter’s release of a shocking memoir a year later took the world by storm and made many question the truth about Joan. That memoir titled Mommie Dearest, and written by Joan’s eldest adopted daughter, Christina. Several decades later, Christina rereleased the book with even more information. Doubling down on her story in the wake of the many detractors that have come out of the woodwork since the book’s initial release years before. Join Facts Verse as Joan Crawford’s daughter reveals the disturbing truth.
When Mommie Dearest was first released in 1978, it took the world by storm. Joan Crawford had died only a year prior. And the world still considered the late acting legend to be the highest degree of Hollywood royalty. The book was a memoir by Christina Crawford, Joan’s eldest adopted daughter of four. In it, Christina detailed shocking stories of abuse at the hands of her adopted mother, painting her as a masochistic alcoholic that mistreated her greatly.
The abuse that Christina says she suffered at the hands of her mother was more than just mental and emotional. When Christina turned 13, the abuse became physical. Christina recalls the first time her adopted mother physically confronted her. Saying that was the moment that she realized Joan truly didn’t love her. As she claims, Joan grabbed her by throat and then punched her in the face before slamming her head on the floor.
Mommie Dearest’s revelations about abusive side of Joan came as a surprise to the public because it was something that the late actress had successfully managed to keep behind closed doors. No one ever saw the abusive side of Joan. With most believing that Joan’s four adopted children were the luckiest children in the world. In the eyes of the public, the benevolent and wealthy Joan had saved four orphans that would have otherwise left to a life of far less privilege. However, the childhood that Christina has described is certainly not one anyone would envy.
Joan was one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood during her time. Reaching the height of her fame over the course of the 1940s. Her five-decade-long career saw her star alongside such actors as Clark Gable in Possessed and Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. Joan also had a lifelong feud with Bette Davis, which recently immortalized in the FX television series Feud from creator Ryan Murphy. Joan’s greatest acting achievement was arguably her Academy Award win for portraying the titular character in the beloved 1945 film noir Mildred Pierce.
With her fame and fortune, Joan acquired a lush and expansive house in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood. However, she had no one to share it with. Instead of having biological children, Joan decided to adopt. Given that single mothers not allowed to adopt children in California at the time. Joan had to adopt a child through an agency in Las Vegas, Nevada. She adopted her first child, Christina, in 1940. Of course, Christina is the child that grew up to write Mommie Dearest a year after Joan’s death. Joan adopted three more children over the ensuing decade. In 1942, she adopted a son named Christopher. In 1947, she adopted two twins by the names of Cindy and Cathy.
As established, most of the public assumed that these children were living a life of luxury in the large and luxurious home of their wealthy and famous mother. However, the release of Mommie Dearest a year after Joan’s death created a much different portrait of the late actress.
According to Christina, she couldn’t take the fact that most members of the public viewed her mother as some kind of saint when she had inflicted so many traumas on the young girl during her childhood. It was because of this that Christina made the decision to write and publish Mommie Dearest. Although the book certainly damaged the reputation of Joan Crawford, it also came with some minor controversies of it’s own. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
When Christina Crawford released Mommie Dearest, it became a major hit. Staying on the New York Times Best Seller list for a total of 42 weeks. Audiences ate the scandalous material up. And many were quick to side with Christina when it came to her recollections of being raised by her adoptive mother. The success of the memoir resulted in a film adaptation in 1981, starring Faye Dunaway in the role of Joan. The film was also a success, and remains a cult classic to this day thanks to Faye’s performance.
Despite the success of Mommie Dearest on both the page and the screen. Christina’s story was not without it’s detractors and skeptics. Among these were some former colleagues of Joan’s, as well as Joan’s youngest adopted children. Twins Cindy and Cathy have always expressed that their childhoods were absolutely nothing like the one Christina portrayed in her memoir. With them saying that their adopted mother was nothing but loving and caring.
Christina has responded to the detraction of her youngest adopted siblings. Saying that they would have had no way of knowing about any of the abuses Christina suffered given the fact that they’re not being raised during the same time period. The twins hadn’t even been born yet during many of the abuses that Christina claims she suffered. And it’s understandable that the experience the twins went on to have would have differed greatly from the experience of Christina given their varying temperaments and ages.
Although twins Cindy and Cathy have called much of Mommie Dearest into question, Christina’s closer sibling, Christopher, has corroborated his elder sister’s story completely. Given that Christopher and Christina raised much closer together. His corroboration should mean more to readers than the denial of the twins. However, the testimonies of Cindy and Cathy have still called much of Mommie Dearest into question.
Cindy and Cathy aren’t the only ones that have taken issue with the content of Mommie Dearest over the years. Joan’s first husband, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., has said that the woman described in Christina’s memoir seems nothing like the wife that he remembers. And actress Myrna Loy has expressed similar sentiments. However, the testimony of these two figures means very little in comparison to the testimony of Joan’s two eldest adopted children.
Christina didn’t immediately respond to the public detractions of Mommie Dearest, but did so eventually. In addition to doubling down on her sordid childhood tales, she also threw in 100 more pages to the book that had been trimmed out initially by publishers. She included some pictures, as well. The rerelease was once again a major success.
The release of Mommie Dearest wasn’t the only controversy that tainted Joan’s legacy. Joan was notoriously promiscuous, and died under mysterious circumstances. Joan was married four times over the course of her life. With none of the marriages lasting much longer than a few years. In addition to these marriages, the actress had more flings and affairs than most would care to document.
Joan’s first husband was the aforementioned Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who was a fellow actor. She then went on to have an affair with an even more popular actor, Clark Gable. Despite their romance, Joan and Clark never married. Joan’s second husband was Franchot Tone, another actor. Joan and Franchot married for less than four years.
Joan had many, many affairs, but some were more notable than others. She hooked up with Spencer Tracy and Jackie Cooper before marrying third husband Phillip Terry, the man that Joan adopted Christopher with. Joan and Phillip had a dream of starting a family together. But their marriage didn’t last long enough to see that dream through. Joan’s fourth and final husband was businessman Alfred Steele, and they married in 1955. Although the two never divorced, Alfred died of a heart attack four years after the ceremony.
One of many famous actors that Joan Crawford had an affair with was Kirk Douglas, who detailed their night together in his memoir. According to Kirk, making love to Joan was a cold and clinical experience. And not at all something he remembered fondly. It seems as if Joan was intent on keeping everyone who came into her life at a distance. Both in regards to her many suitors and her adopted children.
By all accounts, Joan died incredibly lonely. She retired from acting around the age of 50, feeling insecure about her looks and the diminished amount of offers that she was getting from major studios. She then spent the majority of her remaining days in self-imposed isolation. Eating microwavable dinners alone in her luxurious yet antiquated Manhattan apartment. Joan tried plastic surgery in order to try and win back the public’s approval, but wasn’t happy with the results. This event likely made the aging actress withdraw into herself even more. As well, she may have felt some amount of guilt for the way she treated Christina.
Joan bought a Shih Tzu in order to keep her company. On May 6, 1977, Joan gave the dog away, claiming that she was too weak to care for the creature any longer. Several days later, Joan was found dead. The cause of death said to be a heart attack. And authorities believed that the death was a result of natural causes. However, many have since come to the conclusion that the death was a suicide.
In addition to the coincidence that Joan had made provisions to have her dog cared for only days before her death. Joan’s close friend and neighbor has also claimed that Joan came to her in a fit of suicidal despair during the same span of time. All of those closest to Joan say that the actress was suicidal. And had the means to kill herself given the vast amounts of pharmaceuticals at her disposal.
A proper autopsy was never performed on Joan due to the fact that the coroner was unaware that there was any suspicion of suicide. Because of this, we will never know if Joan truly died of natural causes or not. However, Christina firmly believes it was a suicide.
Over 40 decades after the initial release of Mommie Dearest, readers still debate the veracity of Christina’s story. However, most agree that Joan was most likely an alcoholic, and that at least some of the abuses described in the book actually occurred. Comment down below to share whether your think Mommie Dearest is accurate or not. Or if it’s revelations changed your opinion on Joan Crawford. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!