How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

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ChrisStockslager
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How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by ChrisStockslager » Mon Feb 26, 2018 3:02 am

It seems like pretty much everyone who knew Bing Crosby and Bette Davis have disproven both books as being almost all hokum and their respective children having ulterior motives behind said unflattering books.

Has there been any proof since the book and film of Mommie Dearest that events in both were accurate / innacurate? Christina is still alive and her late brother agreed with her. One of the twins (I think) is still alive and both disagreed, along with Joan’s grandchildren. Stars of the era who knew Joan have varying views, from Doug Fairbanks Jr. to Helen Hayes.

Who was more right? Those who said agree with Mommie Dearest in saying she was an alcoholic, abusive maniac? Or those who maintained she was a strict and flawed mother, but not abusive?

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by maliejandra » Mon Feb 26, 2018 7:20 am

I haven't read Mommie Dearest, and I'm a big Joan Crawford fan, so I'm definitely biased, but I've read a lot of comments from other actors who said they were shocked at her treatment of her children. Whether she was physically abusive I can't say, but I definitely think she made lasting emotional scars on some of them. Who knows if she knew what she was doing; her childhood wasn't ideal either. But the intention isn't important. I don't have any doubt that she wasn't a great mother.

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by ChrisStockslager » Mon Feb 26, 2018 9:42 am

It makes me sad that B.D. Hyman would write such crap about her mother. After just finishing Miss D and Me yesterday (I can’t recommend this account of her assistant from 1979-1989 highly enough!), it made me wonder how much was true about Mommie Dearest. Bette was absolutely devastated by My Mother’s Keeper, and Bette and Kathryn even talk about Mommie Dearest at one point.

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by Dave Pitts » Mon Feb 26, 2018 10:01 am

It is rare to find a verdict of 'proven' when it comes to dysfunctional families. However, when it comes to...
Bing: Those sons didn't have normal lives -- I think 2 of them were suicides. Bing seems to have had a tyrannical streak to him -- the provisions in his will exerted a weird level of control over his kids and his widow.
Joan: It drives me nuts when certain authors brand Christina as a liar. There's never any more of a rebuttal than "Look at what the twins say." Well, the twins had a different, happier experience. Friends of JC did see Christopher tied into his bed at night. The crazier stuff that Christina describes wouldn't have gone on, in front of outsiders. Who knows how close to the truth Mommie Dearest gets? But that codicil in JC's will, disinheriting the first 2 adoptees -- that speaks volumes. In Joan's mind, those kids had gone to war with her. Ask yourself where the genesis of that conflict lay.
Bette: I don't doubt that Bette was domineering, but BD's book was appalling. (Her follow-up book, about her weird brand of evangelical faith, is in some ways even worse. Such a smug person.) Her main complaints seem to be that, from the 1960's onward, Bette had a drinking problem and a pathetic need to live close to BD and intrude on her life. And she has the gall to state that writing a hardcover book is the only way she has to tell her mother to shape up. There's no big reveal -- there's just BD whining about how difficult it is to live near her mother. Pretty squalid.

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by boblipton » Mon Feb 26, 2018 10:08 am

I think that regardless of the truth or falsity of any of these claims, publishing them like that is disgusting and arguably worse.

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by R Michael Pyle » Mon Feb 26, 2018 10:22 am

With an intent to be cynical, and, perhaps, truthful - this conversation reminds me of the final two words of "Some Like it Hot" (1959).

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by drednm » Mon Feb 26, 2018 10:40 am

Sorry but I don't watch Joan Crawford films to ponder on her parenting skills. Spare me all the sour grapes from those with axes to grind.
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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by Danny Burk » Mon Feb 26, 2018 12:24 pm

I'm glad that I've always disassociated personal lives from movies; I watch the latter with no care or interest in the featured stars' personal lives.

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by Marr&Colton » Mon Feb 26, 2018 4:28 pm

It was a much different world in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Back then, children were disciplined with spankings and corporal punishment. For some strange reason, most of them grew up to be fairly decent law abiding citizens. I was one who
was often paddled in school back in the early 60s...when it was considered appropriate to curb wrong behavior. But then again we didn't in our wildest dreams think of school shootings.

Thanks to the psychologists and no-rules sociologists, we have what we have today.

On that note, there have ALWAYS been dysfunctional families: CAIN killed his brother ABEL for a pretty petty reason!

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by Harlowgold » Mon Feb 26, 2018 4:46 pm

ChrisStockslager wrote:It seems like pretty much everyone who knew Bing Crosby and Bette Davis have disproven both books as being almost all hokum and their respective children having ulterior motives behind said unflattering books.

Has there been any proof since the book and film of Mommie Dearest that events in both were accurate / innacurate? Christina is still alive and her late brother agreed with her. One of the twins (I think) is still alive and both disagreed, along with Joan’s grandchildren. Stars of the era who knew Joan have varying views, from Doug Fairbanks Jr. to Helen Hayes.

Who was more right? Those who said agree with Mommie Dearest in saying she was an alcoholic, abusive maniac? Or those who maintained she was a strict and flawed mother, but not abusive?
I don't think anything about Crosby being a bad parent has been "disproven". He was apparently quite a cruel taskmaster for his first family of sons. He was apparently a better parent to his second batch of children, not unlike Joan Crawford, and they have much different memories of him. Crosby and Crawford may have mellowed with age but I suspect it was their new spouses (or in Crawford's case, new situation, being an executive's wife) that changed their parenting skills.

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by Donald Binks » Mon Feb 26, 2018 6:00 pm

I think that if we had to judge all the stars from what went on in their private lives and then made that the reason for not watching their films - we would all be watching very few films. Those people on the screen are just like the rest of us - flawed.
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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by Harlett O'Dowd » Tue Feb 27, 2018 4:38 pm

Harlowgold wrote:
I don't think anything about Crosby being a bad parent has been "disproven". He was apparently quite a cruel taskmaster for his first family of sons. He was apparently a better parent to his second batch of children, not unlike Joan Crawford, and they have much different memories of him. Crosby and Crawford may have mellowed with age but I suspect it was their new spouses (or in Crawford's case, new situation, being an executive's wife) that changed their parenting skills.
I think Crosby and Crawford's parenting skills went in tandem. Both first sets of children were raised at the height of each performer's careers. I believe each found it difficult to balance career and parenting. In Bing's case, you had the additional onus of being in a troubled marriage. Joan was largely single during Christina and Christopher's most formative years and I don't believe she let Phillip Terry have much say as her childrens' step father. When the second set of children came along, Bing and Joan were slowing down. Bing, in particular, kept his second family with him as he toured. And while he was still strict (in a Barbara Walters interview, he said threatened to throw any child out of the house if he learned they were sexually active before marriage) Bing acknowledged his earlier mistakes and believed he did a better job the second time around.

In Joan's case, you have the burden of being a single parent AND being nouveau riche. Coming from SUCH poverty and SUCH dysfunction in her childhood, Joan wanted everything for her children while being terrified they would become spoiled rich kids. (Bing did as well, but not at Joan's level.) Joan, as a single parent couldn't play good-cop/bad-cop with her children, so she played both, which added to the dysfunction.

I think the twins, coming up when Joan was a free agent and married to Al Steele, had a radically different experience than Christina and Christopher. As mentioned earlier in this thread, SOMETHING made Joan disinherit her eldest children. And a listen to the christmas 1949(?) radio interview makes it clear that Joan had ... interesting .... thoughts on child rearing.

In short, while I suspect Christina may have exaggerated some details, I suspect her book is largely true. But then, ALL of us in that era experienced corporal punishment, and her tale should be read with a knowledge that this, while a lurid case involving Hollywood royalty, was not too far removed from what most of us experienced.

And, true or not, that takes away not one iota of what Joan did in front of a camera.

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by Harold Aherne » Tue Feb 27, 2018 6:56 pm

The dynamics of the Crosby family relationships are too complex for a simple "yes, he did" / "no, he didn't" answer regarding Bing's parenting skills. His first four sons had to deal with a set of circumstances that few other people do: a very wealthy, world-famous father; an alcoholic mother who didn't live to see any of her sons' 20th birthdays; the pressures of their own show business careers; their father's remarriage and subsequent family....the simple (yet hugely complicated) fact that they were born into fame they didn't choose, and there wasn't much of a rulebook at the time. Bing's three later children were also "born famous", yet some of the factors his older sons had to deal with were tempered or absent.

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by wingate » Wed Feb 28, 2018 3:42 am

It is quite clear that both Bing and Joan were rotten parents and their children suffered from the way they were brought up.

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by wich2 » Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:37 am

Another sad thread has been woven into the Crosby tapestry lately:

Some maintain that there was actually some genetic mental illness in Dixie Lee, that was passed on to her unfortunate sons.

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by boblipton » Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:44 am

wich2 wrote:Another sad thread has been woven into the Crosby tapestry lately:

Some maintain that there was actually some genetic mental illness in Dixie Lee, that was passed on to her unfortunate sons.
Well, this sort of claim can be made on little or no evidence. Let us not libel the dead to justify others, equally dead.

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by Dave Pitts » Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:53 am

Also, we're talkin' Crawford -- one of the most lacquered, artificial divas ever. A moom' picture star. Infinitely watchable, but the opposite of a technically nuanced artist. (Go on, tell me how she breathed life into her roles.) Full disclosure: I can't do without the '31 Possessed and she's actually great in The Women -- turns out she could do sexy comedy pretty well -- but look at her by the time of Chained '34 and she's become a mannequin, with long languorous gazes into the ether. Then she got that idea that she would do her big speeches directly to the camera, with her leading man seen over her shoulder, delivering his lines to the back of her head. Now, getting a director to agree to that set-up, that's star power.

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by Frederica » Wed Feb 28, 2018 12:23 pm

wich2 wrote:Another sad thread has been woven into the Crosby tapestry lately:

Some maintain that there was actually some genetic mental illness in Dixie Lee, that was passed on to her unfortunate sons.
I'm waiting for the 2nd half of Gary Gidden's Crosby bio to come out, but as I recall he believes the main problem with Crosby's fathering is that he wasn't there--he was touring extensively while the first family was growing up and then there was that pesky war thing, more touring.

Don't know about mental illness, but Dixie was an alcoholic. Alcoholism and absence usually do not make a consistent home structure.
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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by Lamar » Wed Feb 28, 2018 12:30 pm

The American Masters PBS show on Crosby addresses the parenting issues very well. Mary Crosby mentions that they believe Bing's two youngest boys with Dixie were born with fetal alcohol syndrome.

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by George O'Brien » Wed Feb 28, 2018 1:05 pm

Frederica wrote:
wich2 wrote:Another sad thread has been woven into the Crosby tapestry lately:

Some maintain that there was actually some genetic mental illness in Dixie Lee, that was passed on to her unfortunate sons.
I'm waiting for the 2nd half of Gary Gidden's Crosby bio to come out, but as I recall he believes the main problem with Crosby's fathering is that he wasn't there--he was touring extensively while the first family was growing up and then there was that pesky war thing, more touring.

Don't know about mental illness, but Dixie was an alcoholic. Alcoholism and absence usually do not make a consistent home structure.
Yes, I thought "Pocket full of Dreams" was excellent, and have been waiting 17 years for Gary Giddens to finish his biography. That book told Bing's story only up to 1940. I think no honest book is currently possible about the remainder of Bing's life as long as the second Mrs. Crosby lives.
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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by wich2 » Wed Feb 28, 2018 2:34 pm

boblipton wrote:
wich2 wrote:Another sad thread has been woven into the Crosby tapestry lately:

Some maintain that there was actually some genetic mental illness in Dixie Lee, that was passed on to her unfortunate sons.
Well, this sort of claim can be made on little or no evidence. Let us not libel the dead to justify others, equally dead.

Bob
Well, Bob, if you're the litigious type, you'll have to aim your libel suit at the Crosby family itself.

They were heavily involved in the production of the recent excellent PBS docu about Bing, and that is where I first saw this contention.

One of the most affecting parts of the whole show, was the deep coverage of Bing's anguish over his sons' problems - including private recordings of his drafts of letters to the treatment personnel involved.

-Craig

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by Harold Aherne » Wed Feb 28, 2018 3:16 pm

The FAS speculation involved the Crosby twins (Bing and Dixie's second and third children) and seems to have been based mainly on Dennis and Phillip's cranio-facial appearance. Possible -- yet Phillip had the longest and apparently most contented life of the four older boys.

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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by s.w.a.c. » Thu Mar 01, 2018 12:07 pm

Phillip Crosby, in a 1999 Globe interview wrote:"My dad was not the monster my lying brother said he was, he was strict, but my father never beat us black and blue and my brother Gary was a vicious, no-good liar for saying so. I have nothing but fond memories of dad, going to studios with him, family vacations at our cabin in Idaho, boating and fishing with him. . . He [Gary] knew it [the book Going My Own Way] would generate a lot of publicity and that was the only way he could get his ugly, no-talent face on television and in the newspapers. He wrote it out of greed. He wanted to make money and knew that humiliating our father and blackening his name was the only way he could do it. My dad took care of us from a very early age with a trust fund. But we blew it all. To my dying day, I’ll hate Gary for dragging Dad’s name through the mud. My dad was my hero. I loved him very much. And he loved all of us too, including Gary. He was a great father."
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Re: How much has Mommie Dearest been proven / disproven?

Unread post by busby1959 » Thu Mar 01, 2018 7:30 pm

I was a very close friend of West Holden, Bill and Brenda Marshall's oldest son. They were also far from being stellar parents either. In his childhood, Christina was one of his playmates. I asked him if he believed that she was abused as she claimed she was. West's response: "Well, if she wasn't, she should have been. She was a MONSTER!"

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