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The Curator of Schlock #87 by Jeff Shuster

Mommy Dearest

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One of the problems with having older sisters is that they would occasionally get control of the cable box, and thus I was subjected to Mommie Dearest on more than one occasion. I had never even heard of Joan Crawford. I was a kid. The only black and white movies I would watch starred Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi. I’m sure for me and many of my generation, this movie serves as our first and only exposure to Joan Crawford. Which is a shame because I’m sure any Joan Crawford movie would be better than this piece of tabloid cinema trash.

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Revisiting Mommy Dearest was an interesting experiment. Two abuse scenes were seared into my brain all these years. We have the one involving the meat. I remembered the daughter refusing to eat her dinner and how the mother kept serving the same exact meal to her every night until it was rotten.

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For some reason, I remembered the meat being ham when it was, in fact, beef steak. I’ve never been a big fan of ham.

We then have the famous wire hanger scene. Joan Crawford goes into her daughter’s bedroom in the middle of night to inspect her dresses. She freaks out tearing every dress off the rack screaming, “No more wire hangers ever!” This scene always confused me because I couldn’t figure out what other kind of hangers there were. Did Joan Crawford prefer hangers carved out of ivory? Maybe the 8 year-old daughter sold them and replaced them with wire hangers so she could get some decent food.

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Faye Dunaway plays Joan Crawford. At no moment in this motion picture do I see a glamorous Hollywood star from the golden age.  Her Joan Crawford is a ghoul. There’s a scene where Crawford asks her daughter why she can’t treat her the way any stranger would. The daughter replies, “Because I am not one of your fans!” Joan Crawford then tries to choke her daughter to death. This whole movie plays out like a segment out of a Rashomon styled story. I can imagine another movie where the Crawford’s daughter is portrayed as the abuser.

Mommie Dearest has endured all of these years because it has a following by those who consider it camp comedy. I didn’t find it funny when I was a child and I certainly don’t find it funny now. There’s a creep factor that hangs over the whole production from Dunaway’s skeletal grimace to the shoddy 1980s made-for-TV productions values. I think I’ll watch Mildrid Pierce this weekend to get this movie out of my system.

Mildred Pierce

That or Rashomon.

Five Things I Learned from Mommie Dearest

  1. Scalding hot water and ice cubes will keep you forever young.
  2. There is no such thing as a clean floor.
  3. Three showerheads are better than one.
  4. 8 year-old girls go heavy on the Scotch.
  5. The 18th Annual Academy Awards were nothing to write home about. Who gives an acceptance speech on their front lawn? Honestly.

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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.

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