It was imperative that Old Hollywood actress Joan Crawford maintained her public image as a perfect doting mother. But revelations from her adopted daughter Christine, among others, have strong refuted that claim. According to her oldest child, Joan had some extremely controversial parenting rules that ruined what young Christine had as a childhood.
Joan was a single mother for most of her life, and from the sounds of it, she governed her kids with an iron fist. But there was one child that she treated much harsher than the rest of her adopted brood, and only after her mother’s death did she reveal the full extent of what Joan Crawford was like as a mother. Take a look at the alternative methods that the highest-earning old Hollywood starlet exposed her kids to.
In Her Second Marriage, Joan Discovered That She Wasn’t Able To Have Children
First thing’s first, we need to understand what led Joan down the adoption route. Joan had been married to actor Franchot Tone from 1935 and it was her second marriage. They had a passionate relationship that seemed equally beneficial – the couple starred in several productions opposite one another and Franchot very much credits Joan with showing him the ropes of Hollywood.
However, Joan was keen to become a mother and despite her desire to get pregnant, she found she wasn’t able to. After two failed pregnancies, an emotionally drained Joan walked in on her husband having an affair with a younger starlet. They divorced in 1939, and Joan started to look into adoption as a single parent.
Joan Travelled to Las Vegas After Being Denied Adoption by the State of California
Soon after Joan’s divorce in 1939, Joan adopted a 10-day-old baby girl. Despite her formal application, the state of California didn’t approve of Joan for single-parent adoption, in part, due to the fact that Joan had was already twice-divorced. Still, Joan took matters into her own hands and decided to pursue adoption through another state.
Joan found herself in Las Vegas looking for a baby to bring home, and as we know, she succeeded. The 10-day-old baby girl’s biological mother was an unmarried teenager, who had become pregnant by a married Navy officer. After some initial name confusion, Joan settled on calling her daughter Christina.
In Her Third Marriage, Joan Adopted Two Baby Boys but Only One of Them Stayed in Her Care
A year and a half after adopting Christina, Joan found herself dating actor Phillip Terry, and they married only a few short months later. Joan was keen to grow her young family, and the couple ended up adopting another child, and this time a boy. But Joan wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen next.
Soon after adopting the baby boy, his biological mother came into the picture and demanded that he be returned to her. The biological mother was reinstated as the boy’s guardian, while Joan and Phillip were left devastated. They ended up adopting another baby boy to replace the one they had just lost, and named him after his new dad, Phillip.
After Another Divorce, Joan Adopted Twins Through a Sketchy Adoption Agency
It wasn’t until 1947 that Joan went looking for more children. She had divorced Phillip Terry in 1946 and was embarking on the adoption process as a single parent once more. Tennessee Children’s Home Society offered Joan a set of twin baby girls, who she quickly adopted and called Cindy and Cathy.
These days, the Tennessee adoption agency is understood to have been employing illegal practices in order to provide children for the childless Hollywood elite. It’s hard to know for sure whether or not Joan knew of their sketchy practices, but either way, she ended up with the big family that she’d always dreamed of.
Joan Would Spank Her Kids With Whatever Objects Were Lying Around the House
Joan was a strict disciplinarian, as described by Christina in her memoir published in 1978. They may look like two peas in a pod in this photo, but according to Christina, her mother was no stranger to spanking her kids when they misbehaved. From the sounds of it, Joan would use any inanimate object around her to carry out the punishment.
Christina remembers that Joan would sometimes use wooden clothes hangers, yardsticks, or even a hairbrush to spank her children, on one occasion even breaking the handle of a brush. It certainly is a controversial parenting technique that doesn’t fly in today’s world.
Joan Would Accuse Her Daughter of Making a Pass at Her Husband
From the way that Christina talks about her famous mother, it sounds as though Joan had some serious jealousy issues. She even projected her insecurities onto her eldest daughter by accusing her of trying to seduce her third husband, Alfred Steele. Joan definitely seems as though she struggled to see her first adopted child favorably.
Joan was also said to have been exceedingly jealous of fellow Silver Screen starlet Bette Davis, for who she is known to have had a life-long rivalry. The jealousy and rivalry were related to the men that Joan was dating, as Bette Davis once admitted in a memoir. Sadly, Joan let it come between her and her daughter Christina, too.
Joan Was Known to Lock Her Children up in the Storage Closet When They Misbehaved
Joan had a lot of unorthodox parenting methods, but one that would sit uncomfortably with most people was her propensity to lock her children up in a small room as a punishment. Specifically, Joan would lock her kids up in the storage closet of their luxurious mansion in Beverly Hills.
Christina remembers it vividly and even recalls her mother’s secretary having to get involved on one occasion. She claimed that Joan’s secretary intervened and stopped the Old Hollywood star from going through with the punishment, but that was only on one occasion. Few would have believed that the highest-paid actress at the time was acting so unglamorous behind closed doors.
Joan Shredded Four-year-Old Christina’s Favorite Yellow Dress With a Pair of Scissors as Punishment
When Christina was four, she had to take daily naps. On one occasion, she was trying to drift off into sleep and inadvertently peeled off some wallpaper: “As I daydreamed, I ran my finger over a seam in the wallpaper, tracing the design. Before I realized it, several little pieces of the wallpaper had fallen away.” Despite Christina’s best attempts to stick the pieces back on with spit, it didn’t work. When Joan found out, she was infuriated.
As punishment, she grabbed Christina’s favorite yellow frock and cut into it with scissors. “She knew it was my favorite,” Christina wrote in her memoir, before describing how the dress hung in tatters. Then, four-year-old Christina was made to wear her ragged dress for an entire week: “As the days went by it got dirtier and dirtier until it was nothing but a filthy rag. The material had unraveled and there wasn’t much to cover me except my underwear.”
Joan Wanted Her Kids to Only Refer to Her as ”Mommy Dearest”
It’s not uncommon for kids to call their parents affectionate names. But it’s pretty unheard of that a parent would force their child to refer to them in an endearing manner, regardless of what they felt. That was the case for young Christina however, who was commanded by Joan to call her mom “Mommy Dearest.”
This rule was so enforced, that Christina remembers the pet name making her want to “vomit.” According to Christie, it was absolutely mandatory that Joan should be referred to that way. Just saying “Mommy” wasn’t enough; if Christina failed to call her properly, Joan would allegedly respond with a stern “Mommy What?”
Joan Forced Christine To Miss Out on a Party and Sit for the Entire Duration Alone
Joan was stricter with Christine than with her other children, and one particular occasion sticks out in Christine’s memory in which she knows she received harsher treatment. Christina had broken one of Mommie Dearest’s rules, and as a punishment, wasn’t allowed to attend a friend’s birthday party that she had been excited about.
Instead, Christine was forced to sit quietly for the entire duration of the party, with the present she had intended on taking next to her. Fellow actress and friend to Joan, June Allyson, confirmed this “time-out” in her own autobiography, in which she claims to remember thinking that Joan was especially strict with Christine.
Joan Would Tie the Kids up to the Bed or Shower and Leave Them There All Night
Fellow Old Hollywood actress Helen Hayes used to bring her son, James MacArthur, over to the Crawford’s for playdates. And on one occasion, James remembered finding Christopher tied up to a bed. It may have seemed bizarre to James at the time, but from the sounds of it, that’s just how things went down at the Crawford’s.
Allegedly, Christopher was tied to the bed in a “sleep safe” device… whatever that means. Christina was also subjected to being tied up in the shower during the night as punishment for naughty behavior, allegedly. After James told his famous mom about the unconventional practices happening over at the Crawford’s, Helen Hayes refused to let him back there for playdates.
Joan Would Subject the Children to “Night Raids” in Which She Would Make Them Clean up Any Mess From Earlier
Joan had another strange parenting technique that would come about every once in a while. We can’t say for sure what she thought she was teaching her kids, but presumably, she had it all figured out. Any of the Crawford children were liable to be woken up in the middle of the night for what Christina named “night raids.”
Christina recalled one occasion when she was hoisted out of bed in the middle of the night by Mommie Dearest – Christina was just eight years old. Apparently, these night raids would mean that whoever was woken up had to start cleaning up messes the children had supposedly left in the house, even if it meant staying up for most of the night.
Joan Paraded Her Various Boyfriends and Girlfriends in Front of the Kids
Joan had four husbands throughout her life, but several many more affairs both when she was in a committed relationship and when she wasn’t. According to Christina, she didn’t try to hide her romantic dalliances from any of her children, frequently inviting her lvoers’ into the family home and introducing them to the kids.
According to Christina, she was always told to call Joan’s various partners her “uncles,” and even had her adopted daughter mix them alcoholic drinks before guiding them upstairs. While the children were instructed to call these various men “uncles,” on occasion Mommie Dearest was known to bring female partners home as well.
Joan Would Give the Kids a Bunch of Christmas Presents When Photographers Visited, Only To Give Them Away to Others Instead
Joan wasn’t one for spoiling her children, but she might have been a little too stringent when it came to the season of giving. In Christina’s memoir, she mentioned how Christmas was a double-edged sword for her and her siblings. They were given a bunch of real presents to unwrap for a magazine photoshoot, but when the photographers had left, Mommie Dearest would rewrap thw=em and save them for the kids to give away at their friend’s birthday parties.
Whenever Christmas rolled around, Joan liked to take pictures of all the children opening their presents. But apparently, each child was only allowed to keep one present, and the rest would either be saved for re-gifting or donated to charity. Then the kids would write their thank you cards for each item received, before having their spelling and grammar inspected by Joan.
Joan Had a Thing for Matching Mommy-daughter Dresses, but Only When the Cameras Were Rolling
It wasn’t just the Christmas photoshoots that Joan would use to indulge in her fantasy of being a wonderful mother. One of her favorite things to do with Christina, especially when she was still just a child, was arrange for matching mommy-daughter outfits. But this wasn’t so much for Christina to enjoy.
Joan’s eldest daughter talked about how these special matching outfits were only worn in front of photographers for the public to see. It certainly seems as though Joan had a polished image to uphold, and as far as Christina’s concerned, that was Joan’s sole reason for making the extra effort.
Joan Betrayed Christina’s Trust by Calling the Authorities on Her
Joan totally obliterated any sense of trust between her and Christina on the day that she called the authorities on her. In her memoir, Christina recalled an occasion in which Joan had called a juvenile officer to the home to pay a visit to the child. He left her with a strongly worded warning.
The officer told Christina that “He’d have no choice but to take me to juvenile hall and book me as an incorrigible,” should Joan see fit to call them anymore about her problematic daughter. It was a revelation that Joan had called the authorities on her at all, let alone more than once. Unsurprisingly, Christina remembers her reaction: “I was horrified and terrified. I felt as if there was no hope for me, that I was all alone.”
Joan Kept Renaming the Children for Questionable Motives
Joan had a tendency to change the children’s names. When she first adopted Christina, she had originally named her Joan… before changing her mind sometime later. We can only wonder what Joan was thinking. But Christina wasn’t the only one who suffered a bizarre name change. After Joan had adopted Christina she actually adopted a different son, who was later reclaimed by his birth mother and taken out of Joan’s custody.
That first son had been named Christopher, and when he was given back to his birth mother, Joan adopted another boy and named him after her then-husband Phillip. But when Joan and Phillip divorced, she renamed the boy Christopher, after the son she had taken from her! Talk about the identity issues her son must have struggled with.
Joan Hated Wire Clothes Hangers and Banned Her Children From Using Them
Joan appears to have had a bizarre hatred of wire hangers, for reasons unknown. What we do know is that she didn’t allow the children to use them, and Christina recalls a particular instance in which Mommie Dearest lost her temper over the laundry item. Joan certainly had some quirky house rules.
Allegedly, when Christina was eight years old, Joan found wire clothes hangers hanging in her closet. As you might imagine, Joan was furious. She allegedly dragged Christina out of bed in the middle of the night and spanked her with one of the wire hangers she had found.
Joan Refused Christina Food for an Extended Period of Time After She Complained About Dinner Once
Here’s an especially controversial parenting technique. At some point during Christina’s childhood, she refused to eat the food put on the dinner table. Christina felt as though the steak that she had been served was undercooked, as she could still see some blood on it. There are a few ways a parent can act, but Joan always chose the most controversial methods.
Because Christina refused to eat her steak, she alleges in her memoir that she was denied any food for over a day. Christina didn’t specify for how long she was made to go without food, but she did explain how this parenting method was all part of Joan’s controlling nature.
Joan’s Bad Relationship With Christina Led to Her Believing That She Wasn’t Loved at the Age of 13
No child should ever feel unloved, but sadly that’s exactly how Christina felt by the time she was a teenager. She claims to have been 13 years old when she stopped believing that Joan loved her, and it was due to the physical abuse that she would suffer at the hands of her mother. Christina recalled being grabbed, slammed, and rough handled when Mommie Dearest was in one of her moods.
Christina wrote in Mommie Dearest, “You never forget that,” adding, “It was up close and personal. She came this far from my face, and you could see it in her eyes, you can see if someone is trying to kill you.” Many people who knew Joan personally laid doubts over Christina’s abusive claims, but Christina is adamant that Joan was a totally different person from the version they all saw.
Joan Sent Christina off To Boarding School and Ignored Her During Her Lowest Point
When Christina was 15 years old and living at a boarding school, her mental health was suffering terribly. Christina alleges that Joan’s treatment towards her throughout her childhood had left her in a spiral of negative thoughts. Sadly, Christina tried to overdose on pills during her stay at boarding school but luckily survived the incident.
According to Christina, Joan failed to contact her eldest daughter after the life-threatening incident. She wrote about how the situation was never addressed by her mom, and we can only imagine how much more harmful that must have been to Christine’s already waning mental health.
Christina Suggests That Joan May Have Been Responsible for the Death of Her Fourth Husband
Christina certainly doesn’t write about her famous mother in a flattering light. But at one point in her 1978 exposé, she kind of suggests that Joan may have had something to do with the death of her fourth husband, the soft drink magnate, Alfred Steele. It’s left up to the reader to decide if the circumstances seem suspicious or not.
She never explicitly calls her mother responsible for her fourth husband’s death, but she highlights the fact that Alfred had been in good health when he was found lying at the bottom of the grand stairwell in their home, after supposedly falling down the flight of stairs. They had been married for only three years at that point, and no autopsy was made. Christine wrote “I didn’t believe it was an accident,” adding, “I know what Mommie was capable of in a state of rage.”
Joan Wasn’t Above Grabbing Her Teenage Daughter by the Throat During a Fit of Rage
Christina claims to have been a teenager when Joan put her hands around her neck in a violent rage. It was apparently one of the last physical fights that the pair would ever have to endure, but it was an especially bad one. “That was the last time we had any physical violence, because I knew that if it happened again, I would do everything in my power to protect myself,” Christina recalled later in life.
Christina’s explained the incident in detail: “She grabbed for my throat like a mad dog… like a wild beast… with a look in her eyes that will never be erased from my memory. I lost my footing and fell into the floor… Her eyes were the eyes of a killer animal, glistening with excitement.”
Joan Replaced Christina in a Soap Opera Despite Being Over 35 Years Older Than the Character She Was Meant To Portray
Later in life wasn’t much better for Joan and Christina’s troubled mother and daughter relationship. Christine went on to become an actress and starred in the CBS soap opera The Secret Storm as the character Joan Borman Kane. But Christina was forced to take medical leave and depart, albeit temporarily, from the show in 1968.
Christine was 29 years old at the time, and the character she portrayed was 24. But in a bizarre turn of events, Joan replaced Christina’s character on the show… Joan was over 60 years old at the time, so the age gap was enormous. It is said that the pair lost contact after Joan took Christina’s place on The Secret Storm.
Joan Would Tell Her Son To Hold His Hand Over the Fireplace as a Punishment for Playing With a Box of Matches
Christopher had his fair share of harsh punishments. As an adult, he once recalled playing with a box of matches at the age of seven, and a furious Joan forced him to hold his hand in the fireplace as a punishment. “I had blisters all over my hand,” Christopher asserted, adding “[and] that day I ran away for the first time.”
Christopher ended up running away from home, and from Joan, again when he was 10 years old. But it wasn’t just for show – he ended up spending days at the Santa Monica Pier, sleeping under the amusement park, and getting involved in petty crime in order to eat.
Joan Claimed That Christopher Seemed To Enjoy Bad Attention and Was a Problematic Trouble-maker
Christopher believed that Joan had been unjustly cruel to him. But Joan claimed that the problems actually came from her adopted son. In a biography titled Not the Girl Next Door, Joan revealed her perspective through interviews, explaining how Christopher “seemed to enjoy bad attention.”
Joan claimed that Christopher “knew just how to do it. He seemed to enjoy only bad attention and didn’t try for any other. That seemed to be the only kind of attention he knew how to apply himself to. His goal seemed to be to punish me by being a bad boy. He was very good at achieving this goal, if no other.” Christopher’s rebellious nature was apparent, as Joan sent him off the military school after high school kicked him out.
The Real Reason Why Christopher Took To Running Away From Home at the Age of Seven
There was a very good reason why Christopher was acting out during his childhood. He was considered “introverted” even when he was just a toddler, but when he discovered that he had been adopted, everything changed for him. He started rebelling, both at home and at school.
Christopher also took to locking himself up in a room in order to avoid making contact with Joan, at times. It seems as though he was a sensitive child that needed guidance and understanding during this tumultuous period of his life, but Joan’s response to his behavior was to punish him further.
Joan Made Christopher Sleep in a Canvas Harness Until He Was 12 Years Old
Later in his life, Christopher spoke out about being tied up in bed during his childhood. Apparently, this method wasn’t reserved for when Christopher had misbehaved, or as a punishment for the kids. Christopher revealed that he had been forced to sleep in a canvas harness until the age of 12.
Christina remembers that Joan wanted to stop him from getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and therefore resorted to this method. It certainly sounds like an extreme measure to put in place, for something that most people wouldn’t even call bad or problematic behavior.
Christopher Gave an Interview in 1978 Where He Would Only Refer to Joan by Her Initials
Christopher backed up all of Christina’s claims. He was 35 years old in 1978 when he gave an interview to the Los Angeles Times, which was a rare occasion. He had lived a tough life up until that point, having suffered from scarring following an explosion while fighting in Vietnam. After that, he worked as a lineman for Long Island Electric and received welfare checks.
During his interview, Christopher would only refer to his adopted mother by her initials. “She was not a mother,” he told the Los Angeles Times, adding, “She was not a family. I honestly to this day do not believe that she ever cared for me.” He also admitted that when a Joan Crawford movie would come on television in their household, they would quickly change the channel.
Joan Didn’t Allow Christopher’s Daughter To Call Her Grandmother
The last time Christopher visited Joan, he was 19 years old. He had brought along his wife and newborn baby to meet her, but they received a sour reception. “J.C. was staying at the Fontainebleau. My daughter was six weeks old and I thought J.C. would like to see her granddaughter,” he told the Los Angeles Times. Despite all those years living under Joan’s roof, he didn’t expect such a frosty attitude.
He recalled how “She held Janet for about 10 seconds, I think,” before Christopher attempted some conversation. “I said, ‘Janet, that’s your grandmother; she’s a very famous lady.’ J.C. said, ‘I’m nobody’s grandmother. I’m Aunt Joan.’ Then she handed her back to me and said, ‘She doesn’t look anything like you!'”
Joan Refused To Help Her Grandaughter When Her Life Was on the Line as She Wasn’t Biologically Related to Her
There was one last interaction between Christopher and Joan that ended what little they had left of a relationship, for good. In a moment of desperation, Christopher called Joan for help regarding his baby daughter, Chrystal: “I called J.C. and said, ‘I need your help. Your granddaughter needs blood and she needs it now. She might die.'”
Sadly, he wasn’t met with any support. He revealed Joan’s savage response: “J.C. said, ‘She’s not my granddaughter. You were adopted.’ I lost my temper and slammed down the phone so hard I broke the receiver. That was it between J.C. and me.” It was the last time the two ever spoke to one another again.
Christina Credits Her Relationship With Christopher as Having Saved Her From Her Hellish Childhood
Christina acknowledges her relationship with her brother Christopher as crucial to helping her get through her difficult childhood under Joan’s governance. She claims that she wouldn’t have survived her mother’s neurotic behavior and toxic approach to parenting if she didn’t have her adopted brother by her side.
Later in life and after the memoir had been published, Christina wrote the script for a musical that explored similar themes to her exposé. However, this time around, she focused more on her relationship with Christopher and “how the siblings grow up through the abuse to survive in the real world, with very little going for them except their own love of each other and the will to live.”
Joan Left Christina and Christopher Out of Her Will, Writing an Elusive Explanation as to Why
Joan appeared to disinherit two of her adopted children in later life. It probably won’t surprise you to know that it was Christina and Christopher who were essentially disowned, something which because very clear upon the Old Hollywood actress’s death. In her will, she explained how nothing should be left to her two eldest children “for reasons which are well known to them.”
Christina remembers her shock at reading that line: “I was speechless and stunned… it was the humiliating innuendo that was left to be interpreted publicly… How could one woman carry so much hatred with her for so many years?” Christina added, “The private conjecture was that she died of cancer. So maybe all that insanity and venom finally did eat her alive.”
While Christina and Christopher Didn’t Get a Dime, Their Other Two Siblings Benefited From the Will
In Joan’s will, she stated that she would leave her twins Cathy and Cynthia a trust fund of $77,500, while $35,000 would be given to her long-term secretary Betty Barker. Aside from that, there were smaller amounts left aside for other people and charities. Nonetheless, her will stated that “It is my intention to make no provision herein for my son Christopher or my daughter Christina.”
But both Christina and Christopher took Joan’s estate to court upon her death in 1977. They claimed that Joan was such a heavy drinker, that she didn’t have clarity of mind when she wrote it the year before. They also claimed that their sister Cathy and her husband influenced Joan to shut them out. The court sided with them and gave Christina and Christopher a sum of $27,500 each.
Joan Admits That She Left Her Oldest Kids Out of Her Will Because It Was a Question of Respect
On one occasion, Joan may have inadvertently revealed the main reason why she didn’t include Christina and Christopher in her will. She once stated to her friend John Springer, “You know the troubles I’ve had with my two older children. I can’t understand why it turned out so badly. I tried to give them everything.”
According to John’s account, Joan continued: “I loved them and tried to keep them near me, even when they didn’t return my love. Well, I couldn’t make them love me, but they could have shown some respect. I couldn’t insist on love, but I could insist on respect.” As well come to see, Christina didn’t believe it was a question of respect.
Christina Tried To Reconcile With Joan Towards the End of Her Life, and Thought She Had Succeeded
A few years before Joan passed away, Christina reached out to her in her final years in order to reconcile. Christina thought they genuinely had until hearing about the will. “I thought it was,” Christina said, “But it turned out not to have been. No, towards the end, she didn’t have any work. She was an alcoholic. She was ill… And as soon as I left New York to go back to California to work, I completely lost context.”
Christina clarified that she lost, “Not contact, but context with [Joan], because I wasn’t physically present. Then she died.” Christina was working in corporate communications at the time that she discovered she had been left out of the will. Furious, she began to write her memoir, but it would be met with a lot of backlash.
No One Believed Christina’s Account of Her Childhood and Everyone Came to Joan’s Defense
Upon the release of Christina’s memoir, a lot of people came forward defending Joan’s character. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joan’s first husband, claimed that Christina’s accusations were false, and the twins Cathy and Cindy accused Christina of flat-out lying. Most recently, Cathy’s son Casey Lalonde strengthened his mom’s claims, telling Closer Magazine in 2016: “Those are her [Christina’s] memories… I wasn’t there. I just want to present my side. Joan was a beautiful person.”
In 2019, Casey told The Guardian that Cathy still recalls “a very loving household. She [Joan] was a very affectionate, supportive, doting mother, a wonderful person. I have always been very careful not to call Christina a liar but clearly, she had a completely different experience from my mother and my Aunt Cindy.” He also spoke about his own early memories with grandma “Jojo,” to further prove his point.
One of Christina’s Sisters Took Her to Court Over Claims That She Wasn’t Really a Twin
Cathy was furious about the allegations made about Joan, going so far as to bring her sister to court in 1998 on the ground of defamation. In her memoir, Christina claimed that Cathy and Cindy weren’t actually twins, but had been lied to by Joan for the purposes of publicity.
According to Christina, Joan had simply found two baby girls who looked alike. Cathy stated that Christina had only asserted such a claim for “crass commercial purposes,” and ended up winning the case, not without pocketing $5,000 in damages. Today, Cathy is survived by her two children, Carla and Casey, who also inherited the “C” initial in their names.
Christina Wrote Her Memoir Because She Was Shocked at the Language Used in Joan’s Will
Christina clarified why she chose to reveal her mother’s true nature: “When the language of my mother’s will was read to me I was stunned. Not because I ever believed there would be any inheritance money coming my way because I had been earning my own living for many years, but because of the unmistakable implication that my brother and I had done something unspeakably wrong. It was a terrible injustice done to both of us.”
Christina continued: “So, I returned home after the funeral and decided to write a journal of my childhood, setting the record straight for my own benefit. Never in a million years did I think it would be a book, nor that it would be published. During all our years growing up, no one had been willing to help us, nor even believe us, so why would this time be different?” As far as Christina was concerned, people had been turning a blind eye for years.
Christina’s Book Inspired a Movie Starring Faye Dunaway, but Faye Would Come To Regret Her Involvement
Christina published her exposé in 1978, and by 1981 Mommie Dearest the movie was released. It starred Faye Dunaway as a psychotic and compulsive mother with a need to control everyone. In one of the most iconic scenes, Joan is seen freaking out when she finds Christina’s (played by Mara Hobel) wire hangers. The line, “No wire hangers! No wire hangers ever!” has become an audience favorite.
But, despite Faye’s “legendary performance as a wire-wielding monster” as a critic on Rotten Tomatoes put it, the actress famously declined to ever talk about her performance in interviews. In 2016, Faye admitted, “At night, I would go home to the house we had rented in Beverly Hills, and felt Crawford in the room with me, this tragic, haunted soul just hanging around…It was as if she couldn’t rest.”
People Who Worked With Faye Dunaway Claimed That She Was Mentally Unstable
But we should be careful about siding with Faye Dunaway. According to Rutanya Alda, a supporting actress who starred opposite Faye in Mommie Dearest, Faye was more than a bit unhinged herself. “My first day on the set, she slapped me,” Rutanya asserted. She played the part of Joan’s assistant, and she continued: “instead of doing a stage slap, she slapped me on the cheek, hard and for real.”
The Post also reported that Faye would “verbally abuse” crew members on another project and created “hostile” and “dangerous” work environments. Some of her alleged difficult on-set behavior includes not allowing crew members to wear white as she found it distracting, using a trashcan as a toilet, and disliking toilet flushes…
Joan Actually Knew About the Memoir Before It Was Released and Claimed That Christina Was Just Using Her Name for Money
There’s actually evidence that Joan knew about Christina’s memoir before her death in 1977. Mommie Dearest was published the following year, but Charlotte Chandler’s biography called Not The Girl Next Door makes it seem as though Joan was fully aware of the imminent exposé. She told the book’s author, “I think she’s using my name strictly to make money. I think this book will be full of lies and twisted truths.”
Joan continued: “I don’t think my adopted daughter is writing this book just to hurt me. If her purpose were to hurt me, she has already accomplished it without going to the trouble of writing a book.” Joan also revealed that it wasn’t Christina who told her about the book: “If Christina had good things to say about the person who adored her, tried to be a good mother to her, she would have told me about the book. I would have helped if I could, if she wanted my help.”
Cindy and Cathy Said That Christina Was Living in a Different Reality from Them
Christina’s adopted twin sisters accused Christina of living in her own world after the tell-all memoir was published. Cindy and Cathy stated: “We lived in the same house as Christina, but we didn’t live in the same home, because she had her own reality.” It’s hard to tell from photos if that was truly the case.
Cathy clarified, “Cindy and I had a different reality — the opposite,” adding “I don’t know where she got her ideas. Our Mommie was the best mother anyone ever had.” As far as the twins were concerned, Christina wasn’t actually treated differently by their mother, she simply was different.
A Rare Article About Motherhood, Written by Joan, Was Unearthed in Which She Calls Herself an Experienced “Adopted Mother”
Joan had actually written an article about motherhood in 1948, the year after she adopted the twins, titled I’m An Adopted Mother. It gives us rare insight into exactly what Joan was thinking about kids and family at the time: “I DO not believe there is such a thing as an illegitimate child. But I do believe there are many illegitimate parents,” Joan boldly began the written piece. “Simply because you have given physical birth to a baby you are not necessarily a “real” mother.”
Joan continued, establishing herself as an experienced mother: “Neither does the fact that you have adopted a baby mean that you are, perforce, a “foster” mother. It is the other way around, I think. On the basis of eight years’ experience, I declare that children adopt you. I am an adopted mother. My four are Christina – eight, Christopher – four, and Cynthia and Cathy, who are babies.”
Joan Initially Wanted To Adopt 10 Children and Said That the Only Thing Holding Her Back Was Logistical Issues
In the same 1948 article, Joan revealed that “Before my life is through I hope there are six more [children] at our house.” We can only imagine what might have happened had Joan actually taken in more than double the number of adopted children she already had. But, Joan did offer an explanation as to why it wasn’t an option at that moment in her life.
Joan already had four growing children to house, and they took up all the available space. “The other six must
wait a bit until we can add wings to the house, or something,” she wrote. Joan added, “So I am now experiencing that familiar maternal pinch. Children are a costly investment, but an investment that pays the highest returns in the world.” Obviously, Joan wasn’t aware of just how bad things would get between her and Christina in later years.
Joan Revealed That She Pushed Christina and Christopher Out of the Nursery for the Twins, and Made Them Alternate Between a Spare Room and a Porch
According to Joan, there just simply wasn’t any room at home to expand her family. In explaining why that is, Joan admitted that her eldest kids didn’t have a permanent or private bedroom for themselves, while the younger two did. “Kids demand room for growing,” Joan started.
“Cynthia and Cathy pushed Christina and Christopher out of the nursery,” Joan continued. In order to make space for the twins, Joan had to force Christina and Christopher out of their space. “They alternate now, these older two, between my only spare bedroom, and sharing my sleeping porch.” It sounds as though Joan wasn’t treating all her kids as equals.
Joan Hated Being Asked the Question, “Did You Take Your Children To Fill Up Your Life?”, but Apparently It Followed Her Around
Joan revealed that there had been one question that, even then, she kept running into. But she had always despised getting asked it: “Did you take your children to fill up your life?” Luckily, she had a ready-made response for whenever it came up. “There is the answer to those people who ask me… At first, that question used to make me angry.”
Joa continued: “But my children have given me patience and tolerance. With the right things, that is. They have given me an increased hatred of the wrong things, too. I did not need my children to fill my life. I had a rich, full life before I knew about Christina some eight and a half years ago.” It’s hard to say, but it’s possible that Joan had some underlying resentment towards Christina for having changed her lifestyle when she came into the picture.
Joan Gets Into Some Weird Territory by Obsessing Over Christina and Christopher’s Blonde Hair and Blue Eyes
In Joan’s 1948 article, she gushed about young Christina and her gorgeous fair looks. But her words also read as though she fetishized her kids’ blonde hair. “I didn’t know, then, of course, that she was going to be a girl, and as blue-eyed and yellow-curly-haired as an angel,” Joan wrote about the day she adopted Christina. “I saw her almost immediately after her birth and I fell in love at that instant. She was a long, slender baby and she is going to be a long, slender woman.”
From the sounds of it, Christopher’s blonde-ness was also a source of awe and pride for Joan, who wrote, “Several months before Christopher was born I knew about him, but I say in all humility that I felt he was a direct gift from God when he turned out to be a boy and to have blue eyes and blonde hair. Except for coloring, he isn’t a bit like Christina.”
Joan Did Attend Christina’s Wedding to Her First Husband, but It Was One of the Last Times the Mother and Daughter Were Pictured Together
According to Joan in the 1948 article, Christina was “I think a sensitive, intelligent one…” It’s hard to say whether Joan still felt that way about her adopted daughter when she attended Christina’s wedding to her first husband in 1966. Christina had a whirlwind romance with director, producer, and Broadway stage manager Harvey Medlinsky, pictured below.
The two had met while Christina was appearing in a play for the Chicago National Company, called Barefoot in the Park. But it wasn’t a relationship that would stand the test of time. The couple was only married for two years before they called it quits and finalized their divorce in 1968.
Christina Was Married to a Commercial Producer at the Time of Joan’s Death, but They Ended Up Divorcing
Joan had described young Christina as a stand-out student, and altogether painted the picture of a little girl who had it all. “She’s head of her class in school and captain of her “Brownie” team she wrote in the 1948 article about motherhood. “At least I know she is that kind of a little girl today,” Joan wrote, perhaps implying that she can’t vouch for who Christina was before she adopted her despite her being only a few hours old…
After dating David Koontz, pictured above, for a year, the two decided to get married in what would be Christina’s second marriage. David was a commercial producer who she had met while working on a car commercial. Sadly, after a decade of marriage, the couple ended up divorcing.