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    Posted: February 28 2007 at 6:56am



MOMMIE DEAREST (1981/Paramount)

WHO’S TO BLAME:                     

CAST: Faye Dunaway (Joan Crawford); Diana Scarwid (Adult Christina); Mara Hobel (Young Christina); Steve Forrest (Greg Savitt); Rutanya Alda (Carol Anne)


CREW: Directed by Frank Perry, Screenplay by Robert Getchell, Tracy Hotchner, Frank Parry and Frank Yablans, Based on the Book by Christina Crawford


RAVE REVIEWS:             

“The trashiest kind of trash…BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN transplanted to the Hollywood suburbs…”    David Sterrittt / Christian Science Monitor


“Flamboyantly gaudy kitsch from beginning to end…For lovers of the outlandish, the inept, the ineffably absurd…”     David Denby / New York Magazine


“Dunaway does not chew scenery…[she] starts neatly at the corner of the set in every scene and swallows it whole…”    VARIETY


PLOT, WHAT PLOT?  The Mother of All RAZZIE® Movies, MOMMIE DEAREST is based – incoherently – on Christina Crawford’s memoir of life with a monster of a mother. It’s also as close to laugh-a-minute incompetence as mainstream Hollywood movie making has ever gotten.

             The first big laugh comes when Dunaway’s Joan Crawford make-up is first revealed. After a five minute title sequence in which we see her hands, her shoes and the back of her head but never her face, Faye whirls toward the camera for her first full-frontal close-up…looking like Tim Curry as Doctor Frank N. Furter in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW with eyebrows courtesy of Groucho Marx. And Dunaway’s performance is every bit as over-the-top and ridiculous as her make-up. Add in shoulder pads that would do the New York Jets proud, outrageously styled wigs and dialogue that could have been written for a 1960’s Hammer horror film (“Tina! Bring me the axe!”) and you’ve got a camp classic of the first order.

             It’s almost impossible to list all of MOMMIE’s hilarious moments, but they include: Joan’s axe-wielding/evening gowned rampage in her rose garden after being fired by M-G-M; the now legendary “No wire hangers!” sequence, which ends with a priceless expletive from little Christina; and the “Mommie Goes Godzilla” scene, in which Dunaway and Scarwid engage in an off-the-scale catfight and Faye ends up atop Diana, throttling her costar as the younger actress’ legs flail every which way, repeatedly revealing her pale pink panties.

             The funniest transition in the film occurs when Joan and her two children do a live radio broadcast immediately following the “wire hangers” scene. “Miss Crawford, “ the announcer breathlessly inquires, “could you tell us what will happen after we leave this evening?” Maybe they’ll decorate their Christmas tree…with wire hangers??

             MOMMIE DEAREST is one of the all-time Great Bad Movies. Cut down to 90 minutes, it could easily play the midnight movie circuit ala ROCKY HORROR. And think of the convenience: Fans of Faye Dunaway and Tim Curry could wear the same make-up to attend both films!


DIPPY DIALOGUE:  Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) addressing a Pepsi executives’ meeting: “Don’t f**k with me, fellas! This ain’t my first time at the rodeo…”


RAZZIE® CREDENTIALS: MOMMIE was the first film ever to “sweep” our Awards, winning five tacky trophies from nine nominations, including Worst Supporting Actor (Forrest) Worst Supporting Actress (Scarwid) Worst Actress (Dunaway, tied with Bo Derek in TARAN THE APE MAN) and The Big Mama RAZZIE®, Worst Picture. In 1990, MOMMIE was named Worst Picture of the Decade for the 1980s.


CHOICE CHAPTER STOP:  Chapter 9 (“No Wire Hangers EVER!”):  The film’s most memorably out-of-control scene, featuring bed straps, wire hangers, Bon Ami and major eyeball crossing by Dunaway.




FUN FOOTNOTE: When MOMMIE bombed big-time its opening weekend, Paramount realized the only way to sell it was as a comedy. So they concocted a print ad for its second weekend headlined “The Biggest Mother of Them All,” with a cartoon wire hanger dangling from the film’s title. Producer Frank Yablans, who still believed he’d made a serious drama about child abuse, threatened to sue, and the ad was quickly withdrawn.


Ye Olde Head RAZZberry
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