In 1978, a year after Hollywood icon Joan Crawford’s death, her adopted daughter, Christina Crawford, released the controversial tell-all book Mommie Dearest. Christina claimed in the memoir that her mother was not only an alcoholic, she was also abusive to her children.
The popular book successfully managed to tarnish the good reputation that the socially-conscious actress maintained throughout her career.
The book later inspired a 1981 movie starring Faye Dunaway, a few documentaries, and more recently a show on FX titled Feud. Christina also penned more books on the relationship with her mother, the latest one, Survivor, was released in early 2017 to mark the 40th anniversary of the original.
Despite Christina’s claims, others close to the late actress sing a very different tune. Her first husband, actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and her two youngest daughters, Cathy and Cindy, denied the allegations brought against Crawford.
The Mildred Pierce star’s grandson from Cathy, Casey Lalonde, also came to her defense recently. He explained that his grandmother, whom he called “JoJo,” was nothing like the monster that Christina wrote about. He even shared his own childhood memories to back it up.
“I’m not here to attack Christina,” Casey told Closer. “Those are her memories “” I wasn’t there. I just want to present my side. Joan was a beautiful person.”
He shared similar sentiments in another interview with Daily Mail saying, “She always entertained me and my sister at the apartment. We just visited with her just like any other grandmother.”
“She was always happy to see us, very warm and pleasant,” he added. “She [Crawford] always made us feel comfortable. She made us lunch. I remember sitting in her kitchen, eating lunch with her and then we’d play.”
Although most of Crawford’s relatives debunked Christina’s claims, she still insists that her account is the truth and continues to tell her life story. She recently opened up about her past and how she’s been working on moving forward in an interview with Early Bird Books.
When asked why Mommie Dearest still resonates with people four decades later, Christina said it’s because the book “shattered the taboo of silence that existed…It turned the fantasy world of fame and celebrity upside down and shocked a lot of people.”
She also claimed when it came to the topic of abuse “many people in the movie business knew the truth, and were too afraid of personal consequences to speak up or to stop it.”
Christina believes that her memoir opened up the conversation about child abuse and domestic violence, which were considered “shameful” topics at the time. However, Christina thinks that despite the progress, there is still ways to go, especially considering the fact that seven million American children are abused or neglected every year.
For those who are still wondering what pushed Christina to write such an expose about her mother, she recalled a story about the days that followed her mom’s funeral that puts things into perspective.
“When the language of my mother’s will was read to me I was stunned. Not because I ever believed there would be any inheritance money coming my way, because I had been earning my own living for many years, but because of the unmistakable implication that my brother and I had done something unspeakably wrong. It was a terrible injustice done to both of us,” she explained.
“So, I returned home after the funeral and decided to write a journal of my childhood, setting the record straight for my own benefit. Never in a million years did I think it would be a book, nor that it would be published. During all our years growing up, no one had been willing to help us, nor even believe us, so why would this time be different?” she added.
The best-selling author was asked about how she dealt with all the blows life has given her, including suffering a near-fatal stroke in 1981, and a divorce.
“Spiritually, I believe that depression and the horrors that go with it [life] are the symptoms that one has lost sight of the purpose of the journey,” said Christina. “And, hard as it may be to believe, the only remedy I have found, that is equally available to each of us, is the daily practice of gratitude.”
These days, Christina is grateful that her story is reaching new audiences through platforms that did not exist when she first started to write.
“It is thrilling that Mommie Dearest is now an ebook…I wanted to make sure that each new generation of readers would be able to access the original work,” she said. “Now, there is a new generation of readers who use social media and ebooks as their means of information gathering. Welcome!”
Another thing the author is thankful for is one of her upcoming projects, a two-act musical adaptation of Mommie Dearest, which is currently in its planning stages.
Christina shared some of the details with Open Road Books, “Since I began my career as an actress, my first love was the theater; it is a joy to see this work come alive. Now we are working on the next stage of development, which leads to actual production. There are various steps to climb, including finding a lead producer and funding, but we believe it will happen.”
Christina is also working on the final installment of her memoir series.
“The final book will begin with leaving my home state of California in the early 1990s, traveling briefly to Maryland and Washington DC, and then spending 20 years in beautiful rural north Idaho,” Christina explained.
She did not confirm when the book will be released, but she encourages fans to stay tuned.
Do you believe Christina is telling the truth about Joan Crawford? Let us know!