Starring Joan Crawford: The Films, the Fantasy, and the Modern Relevance of a Silver Screen Icon

Applause. Jun. 2024. 312p. ISBN 9781493074457. $45. BIOG
Playwright and biographer Bernstein (Mr. Confidential: The Man, His Magazine & the Movieland Massacre That Changed Hollywood Forever) illuminates actor Joan Crawford’s enduring popularity by spotlighting her long career. He provides details of her entire filmography, which began with silent films in the 1920s and lasted until the early 1970s. Where this biography shines is in Bernstein’s inclusion of quotes from Crawford’s interviews and from reviews of her films over the years; however, the present-day film roles and press he imagines for Crawford are confusing and don’t necessarily contextualize her relevance today as much as he intended. Still, where so many other books on Crawford have made her into a caricature, this volume evaluates her work on its own merits. The long shadow cast by Mommie Dearest (the scathing memoir written by Crawford’s daughter) even today, nearly 50 years after Crawford’s 1977 death and the memoir’s publication (to say nothing of the subsequent film), is perhaps inescapable, but this book provides much-needed insight and perspective on popular culture’s continuing fascination with Joan Crawford.
VERDICT An enjoyable read that stands out among the numerous books written about Crawford over the years.
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