Mommie Dearest

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For the 1981 movie adaptation, see Mommie Dearest (film).
Mommie Dearest
Author Christina Crawford
Country United States
Language English
Genre Memoir
Publisher William Morrow & Co.
Publication date
October 2, 1978
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 286 pp
ISBN 0-688-03386-5
OCLC 4114625
791.43/028/0924 B
LC Class PN2287.C67C7

Mommie Dearest is a memoir and exposé written by Christina Crawford, the adopted daughter of actress Joan Crawford. The book, which depicts Christina's childhood and her relationship with her mother, was published in 1978.

Christina Crawford's claims[edit]

In the book, Christina Crawford claims that she was a victim of child abuse during her mother's battle with alcoholism and that her mother was more concerned about being an actress than the devoted mother of her children, suggesting she may have adopted them as a scam and publicity stunt to promote her acting career. She also suggests that Joan had a long list of affairs with men whom Christina was required to call "Uncle" and rarely "Daddy", and claims Joan also had many affairs with women.

Joan had been reported to routinely cause drama throughout Christina's childhood and adulthood. Christina recounts several evenings where Joan's behavior was unbalanced, and at least one encounter with her mother where Crawford attempted to strangle her. In another, Joan reportedly discovered Christina's clothes hanging in a closet on wire hangers, instead of higher-quality padded hangers, and caused significant drama on the subject. Also, when Christina refused to eat a meal not of her liking, Crawford forced her to stay at the dinner table for hours until she finally disposed of it. Her overall behavior was deemed as argumentative, aggressive, and spiteful.

Reaction to the book[edit]

The book's publication in 1978 created an enormous amount of attention. Mommie Dearest was one of the first celebrity "tell all" books.

Some of Joan Crawford's friends disputed the version of events presented in Mommie Dearest. Among them Van Johnson, Cesar Romero, Bob Hope, Barbara Stanwyck, Sydney Guilaroff, Ann Blyth, Gary Gray, and in particular Myrna Loy, Joan's friend since 1925, became staunch defenders. While acknowledging that Joan Crawford was highly ambitious and an alcoholic for much of her life, critics have suggested that Christina embellished her story. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Crawford's first husband, described the book by stating, "The Joan Crawford that I've heard about in Mommie Dearest is not the Joan Crawford I knew back then." The two younger Crawford children, Cindy and Cathy, born 1947, have stated categorically many times that they did not witness or experience any events that were described in the book. However, their brother Christopher always staunchly defended Christina's claims, and said "I never for one moment believed our mother loved any of us. It was all about publicity for her."

Liz Smith said, "I was inclined to believe Joan was misguided in her attempts to 'mold' her children—and was vain and self-absorbed like most great stars—but the stories of beatings and near-madness were over the top." [1] Crawford's secretary for nearly fifty years, Betty Barker, also stated that, while Joan was strict, Christina and Christopher were never abused.[2]

However, Joan's friends Helen Hayes,[3] James MacArthur,[4] June Allyson,[5] Rex Reed,[4] and Betty Hutton[6] have verified some of the stories in Christina's book and claimed they also witnessed some of the abuse firsthand. Hutton had previously lived near Crawford's Brentwood, California, home and has stated that she saw the children during or after various moments of abuse.[6] Hutton stated she would often encourage her own children to play with Christina and Christopher to draw them away from their challenges at home.[6] Crawford's Mildred Pierce co-star, actress Eve Arden, sided with Christina about Crawford's parenting abilities, saying that Crawford suffered from bipolar disorder; a good woman in many ways but, as an alcoholic with a violent temper, simply unfit to be a mother. In the book Understanding the Borderline Mother, author Christine Ann Lawson suggests that Joan Crawford may have had Borderline personality disorder (BPD),[7] along with an obsessive compulsion with cleanliness.


The last pages of Christina's book suggest that Christina was not about to let her mother have the "last word" by omitting her daughter from her will. Later biographers[8] have reported that Christina began writing her book before Crawford's death, and they have suggested that Joan's knowledge of its contents may have been a factor in Joan Crawford cutting her daughter from her will.[8]

Christina Crawford has stood by her story and later released a "20th Anniversary Edition" which includes one hundred pages of new material and omits about fifty pages of original material. The second edition names certain individuals not named in the original book, and focuses more on Christina's relationship with her mother from her high school graduation until the 1970s. It also reveals what became of her brother and describes several incidents involving him.

The author's promotion of the second edition, which was put out by a smaller publishing company, included some unconventional methods. This included appearing at campy presentations of the film based on the book where Christina lectured about the new edition. Christina also appeared at readings with drag entertainer Lypsinka, who has made numerous appearances as Joan Crawford during stage acts.[9]


  • Mommie Dearest, Christina Crawford, William Morrow & Co., 1978, ISBN 0-688-03386-5, hardcover
  • Mommie Dearest, Christina Crawford, Seven Springs Press, 1997, ISBN 0-9663369-0-9, expanded edition. The book's 20th Anniversary Edition restored approximately 100 pages previously cut from the original 1978 printing. Christina Crawford bought back the book rights.


  1. ^ Smith, Liz (February 6, 2008). "New book gives another view of Joan Crawford as a `Mommie'". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved January 12, 2014. 
  2. ^ Day, Elizabeth (May 25, 2008). "I'll never forgive Mommie: Joan Crawford's daughter gives first interview in 10 years". The Observer. Guardian. Retrieved January 12, 2014. 
  3. ^ Hayes, Helen; Hatch, Katherine (1990). My Life in Three Acts. Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich. ISBN 0-15-163695-8. 
  4. ^ a b Redbook v. 165, Redbook Publishing, Inc. p. 25. OCLC 1763595.
  5. ^ Allyson, June; Leighton, Frances Spatz (1983). June Allyson. New York: Berkley. pp. 77–84. ISBN 0-425-06251-1. 
  6. ^ a b c Meredy. "Joan Crawford - Movie Star - Biography". Retrieved January 12, 2014. 
  7. ^ Lawson, Christine Ann. Understanding the borderline mother: helping her children transcend the intense, unpredictable, and volatile relationship, (Jason Aronson, 2002), p. 5 (at Google Books). ISBN 0-7657-0331-9, ISBN 978-0-7657-0331-6 Accessed March 28, 2012.
  8. ^ a b Guiles, Fred Laurence. Joan Crawford: The Last Word, Carol Publishing Corporation (1995), ISBN 1-55972-269-X
  9. ^ "Lypsinka Dearest: John Epperson, as icon Lypsinka, recreates Hollywood legend, Joan Crawford, at Studio Theatre". February 8, 2007. Retrieved January 12, 2014. 

External links[edit]