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Not the Girl Next Door: A Personal Biography of Joan Crawford

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In this fascinating new biography of screen legend Joan Crawford, Charlotte Chandler draws on exclusive and remarkably candid interviews with Crawford herself and with others who knew her, including first husband Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Crawford's daughter Cathy. As a result, this biography is fresh and revealing, a brand-new look at one of Hollywood's most acclaimed In this fascinating new biography of screen legend Joan Crawford, Charlotte Chandler draws on exclusive and remarkably candid interviews with Crawford herself and with others who knew her, including first husband Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Crawford's daughter Cathy. As a result, this biography is fresh and revealing, a brand-new look at one of Hollywood's most acclaimed stars.Joan Crawford was born Lucille LeSueur in San Antonio, Texas, in 1908 (as she always insisted, though other sources disagreed). Her father abandoned the family, and her mother soon remarried; Lucille was now known as Billie Cassin. Young Billie loved to dance and achieved her early success in silent films playing a dancer. Her breakthrough role came in "Our Dancing Daughters." Soon married to Hollywood royalty, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (who called her "Billie"), she was a star in her own right, playing opposite John Barrymore and a stellar cast in M-G-M's "Grand Hotel." Crawford was cast opposite another young star, Clark Gable, in several films. They would sometimes play lovers on screen -- and off as well. After her marriage to Fairbanks broke up, Crawford married actor Franchot Tone. That marriage soon began to show strains, and Crawford was sometimes seen riding with Spencer Tracy, who gave her a horse she named Secret. Crawford left M-G-M for Warners, and around the time she married her third husband, Phillip Terry, she won her Oscar for best actress (one of three times she was nominated) in "Mildred Pierce." But by the 1950s the film roles dried up. Crawford and Terry had divorced, and Crawford married her fourth husband, Pepsi-Cola executive Alfred Steele. In 1962, she and longtime cinematic rival Bette Davis staged a brief comeback in the macabre but commercial What "Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" Following Steele's death, Crawford became a director of Pepsi-Cola while she continued raising her four adopted children. Although her daughter Christina would publish the scathing memoir "Mommie Dearest" after Crawford's death, Chandler offers a contrasting portrait of Crawford, drawing in part on reminiscences of younger daughter Cathy among others. "Not the Girl Next Door" is perhaps Charlotte Chandler's finest Hollywood biography yet, an intimate portrait of a great star who was beautiful, talented, glamorous, and surprisingly vulnerable.


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In this fascinating new biography of screen legend Joan Crawford, Charlotte Chandler draws on exclusive and remarkably candid interviews with Crawford herself and with others who knew her, including first husband Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Crawford's daughter Cathy. As a result, this biography is fresh and revealing, a brand-new look at one of Hollywood's most acclaimed In this fascinating new biography of screen legend Joan Crawford, Charlotte Chandler draws on exclusive and remarkably candid interviews with Crawford herself and with others who knew her, including first husband Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Crawford's daughter Cathy. As a result, this biography is fresh and revealing, a brand-new look at one of Hollywood's most acclaimed stars.Joan Crawford was born Lucille LeSueur in San Antonio, Texas, in 1908 (as she always insisted, though other sources disagreed). Her father abandoned the family, and her mother soon remarried; Lucille was now known as Billie Cassin. Young Billie loved to dance and achieved her early success in silent films playing a dancer. Her breakthrough role came in "Our Dancing Daughters." Soon married to Hollywood royalty, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (who called her "Billie"), she was a star in her own right, playing opposite John Barrymore and a stellar cast in M-G-M's "Grand Hotel." Crawford was cast opposite another young star, Clark Gable, in several films. They would sometimes play lovers on screen -- and off as well. After her marriage to Fairbanks broke up, Crawford married actor Franchot Tone. That marriage soon began to show strains, and Crawford was sometimes seen riding with Spencer Tracy, who gave her a horse she named Secret. Crawford left M-G-M for Warners, and around the time she married her third husband, Phillip Terry, she won her Oscar for best actress (one of three times she was nominated) in "Mildred Pierce." But by the 1950s the film roles dried up. Crawford and Terry had divorced, and Crawford married her fourth husband, Pepsi-Cola executive Alfred Steele. In 1962, she and longtime cinematic rival Bette Davis staged a brief comeback in the macabre but commercial What "Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" Following Steele's death, Crawford became a director of Pepsi-Cola while she continued raising her four adopted children. Although her daughter Christina would publish the scathing memoir "Mommie Dearest" after Crawford's death, Chandler offers a contrasting portrait of Crawford, drawing in part on reminiscences of younger daughter Cathy among others. "Not the Girl Next Door" is perhaps Charlotte Chandler's finest Hollywood biography yet, an intimate portrait of a great star who was beautiful, talented, glamorous, and surprisingly vulnerable.

30 review for Not the Girl Next Door: A Personal Biography of Joan Crawford

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    List of the worst mothers in history: 1)Andrea Yates 2)Joan Crawford 3)Whatever animal happens to eat their own young The irony is this book was NOT Mommy Dearest. It was supposed to be praising Joan with 80% in her own words. By page 2 she had already condemned herself. She only adopted her children as a publicity stunt, she admits to strapping them down, etc. etc. etc. She even cut them out of her will when they embarrassed her. The one daughter (she had 4 poor kids) who tried to say she was the List of the worst mothers in history: 1)Andrea Yates 2)Joan Crawford 3)Whatever animal happens to eat their own young The irony is this book was NOT Mommy Dearest. It was supposed to be praising Joan with 80% in her own words. By page 2 she had already condemned herself. She only adopted her children as a publicity stunt, she admits to strapping them down, etc. etc. etc. She even cut them out of her will when they embarrassed her. The one daughter (she had 4 poor kids) who tried to say she was the best mommy ever sounded like she never knew her and her words sounded rehearsed. This is a good author, but by the end of the book she let Joan's words speak for themselves as she should have. This was one messed up lady. She should have stuck to "acting" and left the "mothering" to some hammerhead sharks: They would have done it better.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Larry Sampson

    I was expecting a little more information. I thought it was a little light weight and was expecting more from Charlotte Chandler. I will have to look for a another biography of Joan with a little more detail. There was a lot of good information on her movies though.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karl

    A not very well-written, kinda tacky treatment of an enduring Hollywood icon: Joan Crawford. And I doubt the validity of some of the quotes offered up in the book. Unfortunately Ms. Chandler supplies no information about when or how or how many interviews she conducted with Miss Crawford or Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Crawford was famously shy about talking about her own life and later admitted privately that her autobiography (published in 1962) was somewhat fanciful. In this book, Chandler quotes A not very well-written, kinda tacky treatment of an enduring Hollywood icon: Joan Crawford. And I doubt the validity of some of the quotes offered up in the book. Unfortunately Ms. Chandler supplies no information about when or how or how many interviews she conducted with Miss Crawford or Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Crawford was famously shy about talking about her own life and later admitted privately that her autobiography (published in 1962) was somewhat fanciful. In this book, Chandler quotes Douglas Fairbanks Jr. revealing some pretty intimate detail about his marriage to Miss Crawford, but checking out his own autobiography Salad Days there is no such intimate candor. I'm suspicious. And with so many of the people quoted now deceased there has not been any hue and cry about the book's credentials. I'm happy to see that Joan Crawford's reputation and an appreciation of her work is recovering after the thirty-year drubbing she received (after her death) with the publication of her daughter's "memoir". A better place to look for the real Joan Crawford is to track down a copy of Conversations With Joan Crawford by Roy Newquist. Or, as she would undoubtedly wish, check out her work in her films. They still deliver the goods.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    I had enjoyed Charlotte Chandler's book about Bette Davis, so had high hopes for her one about Joan Crawford, but was disappointed. Both books are constructed around detailed interviews with the stars carried out many years ago, but, whereas Davis' voice comes across vividly, Crawford's doesn't. Chandler never seems to get below the surface of her life; it's mostly rather sweet and insipid, and a lot of space is wasted on detailed plot summaries of every Crawford film. The book also seems biased I had enjoyed Charlotte Chandler's book about Bette Davis, so had high hopes for her one about Joan Crawford, but was disappointed. Both books are constructed around detailed interviews with the stars carried out many years ago, but, whereas Davis' voice comes across vividly, Crawford's doesn't. Chandler never seems to get below the surface of her life; it's mostly rather sweet and insipid, and a lot of space is wasted on detailed plot summaries of every Crawford film. The book also seems biased over the whole 'Mommie, Dearest' controversy, dismissing it out of hand and claiming that Joan Crawford was a great mother because her younger daughters say so - but surely the experience of the older and younger children could have been different, and it is quite possible both have told the truth about their own memories.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gareth Russell

    This is a difficult book to judge, in that it’s very interesting but it’s not really a biography in the conventional sense. The author had the great fortune to extensively interview Joan Crawford in the 1970s and during those interviews Crawford reflected on her extraordinary life. The problem with this for “Not the Girl Next Door” lies in the fact that, for pages upon pages, the transcripts of those interviews are given to the reader and accepted at face-value. This is occasionally thrillingly This is a difficult book to judge, in that it’s very interesting but it’s not really a biography in the conventional sense. The author had the great fortune to extensively interview Joan Crawford in the 1970s and during those interviews Crawford reflected on her extraordinary life. The problem with this for “Not the Girl Next Door” lies in the fact that, for pages upon pages, the transcripts of those interviews are given to the reader and accepted at face-value. This is occasionally thrillingly interesting - such as with Crawford’s accounts of her self-discipline and her love for the movie industry. However, the refusal to set her testimony within context, much less to critique it, occasionally leads to problematic assertions - this is particularly obvious in the descriptions of Crawford’s childhood. We know from other biographies of her that Crawford endured an abusive childhood at the hands of her mother and stepfather. She, however, like many victims at that time, believed abuse was a sign of weakness and in consequence she presented a sanitised version of her youth to the public - here, for page upon page, Crawford’s glowingly affectionate assessment of her stepfather is recounted without any qualifier. Only once does the book really query its sources, in this case by dedicating itself to demolishing many of the claims made against Crawford by her eldest daughter Christina in her infamous memoir “Mommie Dearest”. The author does so thoroughly, by quoting interviews she conducted with Crawford’s staff, co-stars, and two other daughters, Cathy and Cynthia. “Not the Girl Next Door” is such an interesting account, by preserving so many of Joan Crawford’s own words for posterity, which means that those familiar with the so-called “Golden Age of Hollywood” or Crawford’s story will potentially find it a fascinating addition to their library.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bert Z

    Nothing new here really. Considering this is subtitled “a personal biography” I was expecting a book that was more devoted to Joan’s personal life, her life outside of the movies, nope. What we have here is much the same as Possessed by Donald Spoto, a good and thorough look at Joan’s film career. Charlotte Chandler writes really beautifully though and she’s obviously very passionate about her subjects. I learnt a few little tidbits that I didn’t know before, there’s certainly more about her Nothing new here really. Considering this is subtitled “a personal biography” I was expecting a book that was more devoted to Joan’s personal life, her life outside of the movies, nope. What we have here is much the same as Possessed by Donald Spoto, a good and thorough look at Joan’s film career. Charlotte Chandler writes really beautifully though and she’s obviously very passionate about her subjects. I learnt a few little tidbits that I didn’t know before, there’s certainly more about her childhood and upbringing in this, more than in any other book about Joan that I’ve ever read. I did really enjoy the story about how when Joan was married to Douglas Fairbanks Jr and one of his fans used to sit out the front of their house in the hopes of catching a glimpse of him, Joan invited her in and gave the young girl a job assisting her with her letters that she wrote to her fans, a lovely example of just how kind of a person she was. I also loved reading about Joan’s “correspondence gown” which was a particular dress she wore when she was writing letters to her fans because “they deserved it”, such a beautiful soul. Joan Crawford: Her Life in Letters is still the very best book I’ve ever read about Joan and I’ve learnt the most about her from that, this certainly pales in comparison to that but at the same time I still had fun reading it, Joan was such a fascinating woman and I will never tire of reading about her. 3.5 Stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lee Anne

    If you don't know anything about Joan Crawford, I suppose this is an okay place to start. If you do know anything about Joan Crawford, this isn't going to tell you anything new. But the important thing to know here is that Charlotte Chandler takes the existing material of others and passes it off as her own. Chapter seven of this book lifts and mildly reworks wholesale the JC chapter from Vincent Sherman's 1996 memoir, passing it off as an interview. Most of the book purports to be interviews If you don't know anything about Joan Crawford, I suppose this is an okay place to start. If you do know anything about Joan Crawford, this isn't going to tell you anything new. But the important thing to know here is that Charlotte Chandler takes the existing material of others and passes it off as her own. Chapter seven of this book lifts and mildly reworks wholesale the JC chapter from Vincent Sherman's 1996 memoir, passing it off as an interview. Most of the book purports to be interviews Chandler conducted, so everything is in quotation marks, but many of the stories are things I've seen elsewhere, and there is no attribution. My guess is Chandler may have spoken with the people quoted, so she can technically say she interviewed them, but the "quotes" she uses are from interviews and books compiled by others. Save your time for another book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Graceann

    I have found it very difficult to find a biography of this lady that isn't either hagiography or hatchet job. Not the Girl Next Door hews a little closer to the former, which is preferable, but still not terribly trustworthy. Charlotte Chandler knew (and clearly liked) Joan Crawford, and this book stems from a series of conversations the two had over the later years of Joan's life. Also included are memories from Bette Davis, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and John Springer, among a few others. There is I have found it very difficult to find a biography of this lady that isn't either hagiography or hatchet job. Not the Girl Next Door hews a little closer to the former, which is preferable, but still not terribly trustworthy. Charlotte Chandler knew (and clearly liked) Joan Crawford, and this book stems from a series of conversations the two had over the later years of Joan's life. Also included are memories from Bette Davis, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and John Springer, among a few others. There is an endnote from one of Joan's twin daughters, adopted after the first two whose story with Joan is so unclear. So, this reads more like memoir with a few anecdotes provided by others, than it does like a true biography. Joan's memories are presented without refutation or, it appears, fact-checking. It is assumed that she didn't lie about her own life. Maybe she didn't, but her memories of her own behavior were fairly rosey. Perhaps at that point in her life, it made more sense to leave out the unpleasant stuff (not getting along with Norma Shearer, for instance) and concentrate on the nicer things. I would want to do that, too, but it doesn't make for scintillating reading. Joan is fairly open (as she was in her own lifetime) about her difficulties with Christina and Christopher, the first two children she adopted, with whom relations were so strained that she didn't include them in her Will when she passed. Somewhere between the horror show that was presented in Christina's book and then the 1981 film, and Joan's avowed “I never laid a hand on my children” is the truth. Physical discipline was standard in Joan's day, so do I think Christina and Christopher may have gotten a swat on the bottom when they misbehaved? But Joan's longtime secretary (who had nothing to lose or gain by speaking her truth after Joan's passing) remembers nothing untoward, and neither do either of the twins or any of Joan's friends (people who didn't like her to begin with had plenty to say). I'm still looking for a more even-handed treatment of Joan's life. This was “okay,” but not quite the more objective view for which I was hoping. I'll continue my search.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Judy Wallace

    I read Mommie Dearest years ago and, unfortunately, took that picture of Joan Crawford as the true one. Mommie Dearest was written by a person who appeared to truly despise her. Having just finished Not the Girl Next Door by someone who adored Miss Crawford I now have another perspective. I suspect neither book is 100% or even 80% true...only true for the person who wrote each book. But, Not the Girl Next Door is a wonderful historical view of the old Hollywood studio system and the stars who I read Mommie Dearest years ago and, unfortunately, took that picture of Joan Crawford as the true one. Mommie Dearest was written by a person who appeared to truly despise her. Having just finished Not the Girl Next Door by someone who adored Miss Crawford I now have another perspective. I suspect neither book is 100% or even 80% true...only true for the person who wrote each book. But, Not the Girl Next Door is a wonderful historical view of the old Hollywood studio system and the stars who lived in it. Joan Crawford was a huge star in Hollywood for many years and she played the star better than anyone else...you go girl. As always, the pictures in the book were fun.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Trisha Jones

    Not so much a biography as summaries of the plots of all her movies.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sandi

    This is a sympathetic look at Joan Crawford, and I feel, written in part as a corrective to the notorious "Mommie Dearest" written by her daughter, Christina Crawford. However, there's no doubt that while Crawford had a demanding and hyper-perfectionist streak that probably mitigated against her being a good parent, she could also be generous and kind, especially to her fans and to her exes .An example of this is her treatment of Franchot Tone (husband number 2). Tone was involved in a fracas This is a sympathetic look at Joan Crawford, and I feel, written in part as a corrective to the notorious "Mommie Dearest" written by her daughter, Christina Crawford. However, there's no doubt that while Crawford had a demanding and hyper-perfectionist streak that probably mitigated against her being a good parent, she could also be generous and kind, especially to her fans and to her exes .An example of this is her treatment of Franchot Tone (husband number 2). Tone was involved in a fracas with actor Tom Neal over a starlet, that occurred years after the Crawford divorce. He was punched in the face so hard that he was unconscious of 18 hours and the bones of one side of his face were demolished. Plastic surgery in the 1940s was no where as developed a field as it is today, and Tone's face was not wholly restored. He also endured financial losses and suffered from lung cancer late in life that would eventually kill him. (He was a lifelong smoker.) Crawford oversaw his healthcare, providing much of it herself. When Tone asked her to oversee his cremation and the scattering of his ashes in Canada, she faithfully undertook the tasks. She also helped him financially. A few things stand out for me in view of Crawford's portrayal in (the book) "Mommie Dearest." --Crawford seemed to over idealize both marriage and motherhood and would brook no failures or imperfections. Her expectations for both were horribly unrealistic and were based on an unhappy, impoverished childhood that she could never let go. --Her marriages supposedly ended in large part over and over for the same reason: she was more successful and was paid far more than were her spouses. It seemed to bother her as much or more as it did them. Nevertheless, the happiest marriage (to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) was NOT helped when she informed her husband that she had rented an apartment, wanted no questions, and left neither address nor phone number. Apparently, she was having assignations with Clark Gable, her costar in several films at that location. --Crawford admitted to Ms. Chandler that the most important thing in her life was not her marriages but her career. Thirdly, for a woman obsessed with cleanliness, raising children--largely alone--had to be difficult. Kids are messy and have the even more challenging feature of developing their own personalities, likes and dislikes. Crawford did not seem to have either the flexibility or the sense of humor to be a successful parent or to enjoy her children. At least one episode in Mommie Dearest was reported by the late actor James MacArthur, son of actress Helen Hayes and playwright Charles MacArthur who were neighbors of the Crawford family. In an article in Parade Magazine that ran YEARS BEFORE the book was published, the original "Danno" of "Hawaii Five-O" mentioned visiting Christina who was a friend of his, and seeing her adoptive brother Christopher, tied to the bedpost because he'd run away! (I actually read the Parade article.) Crawford's description of Christopher suggest that he might be autistic although Chandler never suggests this. (The book was published in 2008. Crawford died in May 1977.) For example, he rejected being picked up and cuddled even as an infant, which is very unusual. Also, he was a chronic runaway. We're never told how he did in school or if he had friends; just that he was devoted to his big sister, Christina, and followed her lead in everything. Joan always felt that her two older children ganged up on her and sought ways to make her life unpleasant! Men went in and out of their lives as well, husbands, lovers, professional colleagues. Christopher seemed to resent either Joan's domination, or female domination, but bonded well with his stepfathers (including Philip Terry and Alfred Sloane). It must have been traumatic for him when they vanished from his life. Years later, when Christopher, by now a military veteran with a wife and child comes to visit Joan at long last, she turns his family away, telling Chandler that he once spit in her face and told her he hated her! Joan's children were always her "adopted" children, which I suspect may also have been another problem. At the end of her life, Joan asked her daughter, Cathy, if her children regarded Joan as their "real" grandmother, since Cathy was adopted! Cathy told Joan that they did, which made her very happy. Another fact that was a bit unsettling to read is Joan's commenting over and over about her children being "blond." Would she have loved them less or sent them back if she'd been offered brunette Caucasian children? Several sources claim that Cathy and her "twin" Cindy, were not twins at all, but were adopted separately from 2 different families a few months apart. Charlotte Chandler claims that they WERE twins and provides a birth date for them. Whether this is accurate or just a birth date for one of the girls is conjectural at this point. They were raised as twins all their lives. Cathy Crawford LaLonde speaks about what a wonderful mother Joan was on the last two pages of the book. Curiously, Cindy is not interviewed and her childhood memories are not recorded. The book is an easy read and it's obvious that Charlotte Chandler genuinely like and admired Crawford and there WAS much to admire. The actress was a terrific dancer, and in fact, began her career as a chorus dancer. She was disciplined to a fault, but made it on her own. She had a fantastic figure and exercised religiously. She could be wonderfully charming and spent hours answering fan mail and meeting with fans. She was a tireless, patriotic worker for the LA Stage Door Canteen, during World War II. Stories of her kindness and patience with even young fans abound. (They make you wonder even more why she seemed to have so little patience with her own children...perhaps she gave too much at the office!) The best parts of the book for me where the lengthy interviews with the charming and cultured Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., replete with a story from there wedding night that illustrates the "Mommie Dearest" side of Joan's persona (you'll have to read it for yourself!) and the reminiscences of movie director Vincent Sherman, who had an extra-marital affair with Crawford that the actress commenced quite blatantly (again, you'll have to read this for yourself!). Fairbanks in particular, is so handsome, charming, patient and forgiving, I half fell in love with him myself. SHE initiated their divorce, to which he, ever the gentleman, acquiesced. He discusses their relationship and marriage at length and it's alternately charming and quite funny, although it's obvious, even decades later, that she broke his heart.... This is a great fun read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in Crawford, early motion picture history (remember, she began in silent films!) and who's interested in trying to decipher the truth(s) of the complex, sexy, smart, talented woman who was one of the greatest stars ever to come out of Hollywood. (Caveat: The author never tells us where or when or how many interviews she held with Crawford and there is no bibliography.)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Miguel Blanco Herreros

    This is not an actually 5-star book. It's not even the best biography written by Charlotte Chandler. Sometimes it sins of excessive simplicity and passes over certain events in Joan's life too quickly, while re-creating with others without fully explaining why. Maybe lack of sources or simply personal interest, who knows. Also, the semblance that makes of Joan is relatively flat. But I'll give it 5 star anyway. Why? Because the book is, either way, thrilling. Because Joan Crawford deserved it. This is not an actually 5-star book. It's not even the best biography written by Charlotte Chandler. Sometimes it sins of excessive simplicity and passes over certain events in Joan's life too quickly, while re-creating with others without fully explaining why. Maybe lack of sources or simply personal interest, who knows. Also, the semblance that makes of Joan is relatively flat. But I'll give it 5 star anyway. Why? Because the book is, either way, thrilling. Because Joan Crawford deserved it. Because her life and her legacy deserved it. Because the Hollywood of the great studios, with all its harshness and occasional moral turpitude, was one of the most interesting periods to which it is worthwhile to look back. Joan Crawford has fascinated me since I discovered her in Mildred Pierce. I have studied it as a historian for years, only being able to come to the conclusion that, no, Joan was not perfect. Nobody is. But she was a good person. In fact, exceptionally good for the environment in which she developed his career for so many years. She had lights and shadows, but at the end of the road she was a good person who was betrayed. And without a doubt, she was a great (not sufficiently recognized) actress and even better star. "Mommie Dearest" was a stab wound made by a daughter who will have to settle accounts with her own conscience. Wanting to destroy her mother, only once she died, so that she could not defend herself, in the end she has condemned herself to live under the name of Joan Crawford, even if it is for the bad. The film, with the horrific performance of Faye Dunaway, created an icon of totally undeserved evil. It is up to the reader to decide what Joan Crawford stays with. With the Joan who flattered friends and even enemies. The Joan, who was adored by her other two daughters and grandchildren. The kind Joan, extremely professional, lover of their fans, unique and supportive. Or the Joan that only Christina and Christopher seem to have ever seen. It is your decision.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Joan Crawford: so successful in her career, obviously, but never truly happy. A cautionary tale for anyone who places more importance on career than people, family, love and a personal life. I still can't help but picture Faye Dunaway playing her in "Mommie Dearest", even after reading this and recently seeing "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" (which I recommend). I want to read more about her, in part because in this book I learned that she died of cancer, but also that she became a Christian Joan Crawford: so successful in her career, obviously, but never truly happy. A cautionary tale for anyone who places more importance on career than people, family, love and a personal life. I still can't help but picture Faye Dunaway playing her in "Mommie Dearest", even after reading this and recently seeing "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" (which I recommend). I want to read more about her, in part because in this book I learned that she died of cancer, but also that she became a Christian Scientist at some point, so now I am curious: did she refuse medical treatment?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I’m glad I chose to read this personal biography first, so I could get a good idea as to what type of work Joan Crawford did besides Mildred Pierce and so I could get an idea what type of life she had. It all makes sense as to the rumors of her family life after reading this book. The author just touched on the “mommy dearest “ and to her adoptive children. Now, I feel I can read the book that her oldest daughter wrote about Joan and know maybe the why she was like that with her children. It I’m glad I chose to read this personal biography first, so I could get a good idea as to what type of work Joan Crawford did besides Mildred Pierce and so I could get an idea what type of life she had. It all makes sense as to the rumors of her family life after reading this book. The author just touched on the “mommy dearest “ and to her adoptive children. Now, I feel I can read the book that her oldest daughter wrote about Joan and know maybe the why she was like that with her children. It will be an interesting perspective to read coming from her oldest daughter, Christina.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Hall

    I am a big lover of biographies so I've read a lot of them. I found this one particularly interesting as the author added an autobiographical flare to it by inserting a great amount of quoted conversations with Joan herself. It really brought Joan and her "voice" alive to me and dismissed many of the preconcieved notions I had gotten over the years.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    A great biography that covers the entire life & career of this great star of the Golden Age. Ms Chandler also has well researched books, with lots of quotes & details from the countless insiders she's spoken with over the years. While not portrayed as a Saint, Joan does get some much deserved "image repair" after the hatchet job her daughter Christina did in her book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Salena Moffat

    Boring. Simply boring. The book rambles, seemingly randomly, through facts about Crawford's films, going into excruciating detail about each, while somehow managing to almost avoid mentioning actual biographical details about Crawford herself.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    Not The Girl Next Door It was a great book. Anyone who reads this book will end up learning the truth about Joan Crawford. She is a very complicated person.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Great book. I thought it was touching and poignant

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rachael

    Fantastic, fun read This book was so fascinating and so fun, it was a thrill to read. I couldn't put it down. In fact, I'm glad I'm finished with it... I can finally get some sleep!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ari

    IQ "So, you see, I knew the best bond wasn't blood, but love" pg. 146 The point was made in some reviews below and I would like to concur with it, I too want to know when these interviews were conducted. It is hard to believe that Charlotte Chandler was so easily able to hunt down all these seemingly random people who worked with Joan Crawford, some who only met her once. What are her credentials? How does she get these interviews? I'm especially curious since everyone is so remarkably candid in IQ "So, you see, I knew the best bond wasn't blood, but love" pg. 146 The point was made in some reviews below and I would like to concur with it, I too want to know when these interviews were conducted. It is hard to believe that Charlotte Chandler was so easily able to hunt down all these seemingly random people who worked with Joan Crawford, some who only met her once. What are her credentials? How does she get these interviews? I'm especially curious since everyone is so remarkably candid in their interviews, especially Joan and Douglass Fairbanks Jr. In fact it was almost painful to read about Joan and Fairbanks Jr's romance because it was surprisingly romantic. Very passionate and it was clear they really really loved each other. Ugh they shoulda remarried! (Not that I even know thats an option but I believe Fairbanks Jr did say he would marry Joan again in a heartbeat). Joan broke it off. Again, it was also difficult to tell who was talking, the transitions were poorly done. At the same time I do think Joan was rather honest with Chandler because she glosses over other relationships, like her alleged affair with Clark Gable. I must say that while I have more respect for Joan Crawford, especially after reading about her putting the time and effort into learning the names of everyone on the cast and crew as well as her USO efforts, I still don't LIKE her. Granted I don't know her but the fact that she so loved publicity and felt that once her looks and stars faded she was done, it was really sad and bothered me a lot. But if Chandler didn't fabricate these interviews then I am once again impressed by how she gets classic Hollywood stars to open up. Another fav quote: "I was almost overwhelmed by self-doubt about what I had done. I couldn't lie to myself. That is the most terrible thing anyone can do. Anyway, I wouldn't know how to do it. At the time, it had seemed absolutely right, but I didn't have a crystal ball. Afterwards, there were times when it seemed absolutely wrong. It was probably neither. Probably more of a mixed bag. You can really only look back in hindsight, and even hindsight isn't twenty-twenty. To know, you would need one of me who stayed with Metro and one of me who ventured out on her own, and then we would have needed someone to decide who among the two of me had the best career." pg. 160 I've thought something similar so many times, you'll never know if you made the right choice unless you can 'follow' both of 'you', one who took one path, one who took another.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katy St. Clair

    If you have never read a Crawford biography, land-sakes, do NOT start with this one. It is a whitewashing that leaves out so much... She was a victim of incest, and that part is completely redacted and replaced with a cloying homage to her stepdad, the image that Crawford herself wanted to portray. I LOVE Joan Crawford, but I love her warts and all, and this book does her little justice by overlooking her casting couch antics, affairs, and obvious personality flaws. I can't believe this book was If you have never read a Crawford biography, land-sakes, do NOT start with this one. It is a whitewashing that leaves out so much... She was a victim of incest, and that part is completely redacted and replaced with a cloying homage to her stepdad, the image that Crawford herself wanted to portray. I LOVE Joan Crawford, but I love her warts and all, and this book does her little justice by overlooking her casting couch antics, affairs, and obvious personality flaws. I can't believe this book was published in 2008, and not 1932 (with full support from MGM!). This book is scandilously innaccurate. That said... If you do know a lot about Crawford and have read other books, I do recommend it for all the "reading between the lines" that you can do. There are some great quotes by former husbands and friends. She even, inadvertently, reaffirms a lot of what Christina Crawford said in her book Mommie Dearest. I also learned more about the day she died and the fact that she might have committed suicide... For Joan, she had no life outside of her looks and her fame. When both faded, so did she. It is really sad. I still greatly admire her... Im still waiting for someone to write the definitive Crawford biography! They all have agendas, so far...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Indra

    3/3.5.Made up mostly of revealing interviews, it can be easy to forget who is speaking, and at times the book feels a bit cobbled together as if anyone the author ever interviewed who mentioned Crawford in passing was added to flesh out the book. That said, the interviews are pretty good. The synopses of each film were a bit much for me, but could prove useful to readers who are unfamiliar with Crawford's films. The most effective interview is with Crawford herself, who comes across as positive, 3/3.5.Made up mostly of revealing interviews, it can be easy to forget who is speaking, and at times the book feels a bit cobbled together as if anyone the author ever interviewed who mentioned Crawford in passing was added to flesh out the book. That said, the interviews are pretty good. The synopses of each film were a bit much for me, but could prove useful to readers who are unfamiliar with Crawford's films. The most effective interview is with Crawford herself, who comes across as positive, gracious, and grateful. Instead of viewing her Hollywood image as a type of prison, she embraced it as her choice. This book did not make her into a saint, but certainly provided a contrast to the "Mommie Dearest" caricature. She never forgot where she came from, and I appreciated the revelations about unheralded charity work. No matter what she was "really like" as a person, I came away with admiration for her tenacity and resolve to watch or re-watch more of her films.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I really did not enjoy this book. I have been recently chismosa about old Hollywood and I realized that I didn't know much about Joan Crawford. This book seems like a book written by someone who was trying to sell an image Joan was trying to create about herself. Although I am sure a lot of her negative reputation as a mother and a difficult person with high standards may be exaggerated, this went in the complete other direction. It is complimentary to the point of being saccharine. I also found I really did not enjoy this book. I have been recently chismosa about old Hollywood and I realized that I didn't know much about Joan Crawford. This book seems like a book written by someone who was trying to sell an image Joan was trying to create about herself. Although I am sure a lot of her negative reputation as a mother and a difficult person with high standards may be exaggerated, this went in the complete other direction. It is complimentary to the point of being saccharine. I also found the plot descriptions of each of her movies to be ridiculous filler for a biography. I would not recommend it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cuykendall

    Is this a biography of Joan Crawford or Mother Theresa??? The author wrote good bios of Hitchcock and Bette Davis, so I had hopes for this one. Ugh. A puff piece filled mostly with quotes from Joan and movie synopses. She was clearly the kindest, sweetest, most generous, attractive, and intelligent woman around. According to her. The real kicker was her claim that her children were 'difficult' and 'willful' and she did everything she could to be Mother of the Year. Give me a break. A waste of Is this a biography of Joan Crawford or Mother Theresa??? The author wrote good bios of Hitchcock and Bette Davis, so I had hopes for this one. Ugh. A puff piece filled mostly with quotes from Joan and movie synopses. She was clearly the kindest, sweetest, most generous, attractive, and intelligent woman around. According to her. The real kicker was her claim that her children were 'difficult' and 'willful' and she did everything she could to be Mother of the Year. Give me a break. A waste of time if you want any unvarnished truths.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I'm a huge Crawford fan and I really liked Chandler's bio of Bette Davis I read a while back, so I was excited about this book. I was not disappointed. Chandler's multi faceted approach including so many quotes from the subject and her contemporaries provided so much insight into a surprisingly complex personality. The Crawford "movie star" voice is one I"m familiar with but the other interviewees and the author's own experience w/ the subject provided and rich and valuable context. I've got new I'm a huge Crawford fan and I really liked Chandler's bio of Bette Davis I read a while back, so I was excited about this book. I was not disappointed. Chandler's multi faceted approach including so many quotes from the subject and her contemporaries provided so much insight into a surprisingly complex personality. The Crawford "movie star" voice is one I"m familiar with but the other interviewees and the author's own experience w/ the subject provided and rich and valuable context. I've got new respect for JC!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christine Sinclair

    Personal biography means that a great deal of this book contains direct quotes from Joan Crawford which was interesting. You get an insight into what she herself thought about acting, marriage and her adopted children. The writing was somewhat choppy because the descriptions of each of her movies interrupted the flow of the rest of the text. Joan Crawford was definitely unique, and I'm glad to know more about her "larger-than-life" life.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alie

    A bit uneven in how the book is organized, but an interesting alternate view into the life of Joan Crawford. I think most people tend to believe the "Mommie Dearest" story, but this has interviews with people who knew her for most of her life, who were there in the living situation, etc., who paint a portrait of someone who was very loving and giving of her time and energy. I enjoy reading about Hollywood history, so this was an interesting read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Not the "Mommy Dearest" I was expecting. Really showed her in a light that I was not expecting, from some very reliable sources...i.e. her other children and well known and respected actors. Really surprising and I think well researched, after reading it, I think it is a shame she is so connected with "mommy dearest" and not really remembered for her amazing work.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This is a fun, very quick read. Mildred Pierce is one of my favorite movies. The "Mommie Dearest" side of Joan Crawford does not come across in this book. She seemed to suffer from insecurities based on her childhood and background, but she was also an ambitious pioneer who worked very hard for her success.

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