Movie Details

Narrated by Anjelica Huston, this cable-TV documentary offered an up-close and personal look at the life and career of quintessential movie queen Joan Crawford. From her humble beginnings as MGM contract starlet Lucille LaSeuer, Crawford climbed to the top with a heady combination of talent, tenacity, glamour, hard work -- and obsessive, manipulative ruthlessness, both onscreen and off. Written off as "box-office poison" in the early '40s, Crawford confounded her detractors by changing studios and staging a spectacular comeback, winning the Academy Award for her performance in Warner Bros.' Mildred Pierce. She managed to hold on to her stardom well into the 1970s, plunging headlong into the horror genre with such masterworks as What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? -- not to mention such dogs as Berserk! and Trog. In private life, Crawford married several times (her union with Pepsi Cola executive Alfred Steele briefly but memorably transformed her into a high-pressure businesswoman) and enjoyed the favors of dozens of men along the way. She also "enjoyed" a reputation as a domestic tyrant, allegedly insisting upon an immaculately clean home and holding her children in the grip of horrified fascination. In addition to excerpts from Crawford's classic (and not-so-classic) films, the documentary includes interviews with such interested parties as the actress' first husband, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., her directors (George Cukor and Vincent Sherman), her costars (Anita Page and Cliff Robertson), her biographer Bob Thomas -- and, inevitably, her stepdaughter, Christina Crawford, whose warts-and-all biography Mommie Dearest yielded one of the most campily outrageous biopics in movie history. Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star debuted August 1, 2002 over the Turner Classic Movies cable service. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi