The Truth Behind "Mommie Dearest "
Bonus section: The LaLonde Exposé - Exposing Casey LaLonde
“I can’t even discuss the book that Joan Crawford’s daughter wrote; it makes me ill to think of it. Joan and I were friends for fifty years and the person I knew wasn’t like that. Why don’t people consider the source? I worked with Christina and saw how that mind operates.
Of course I knew about the problems Joan was having with her two intransigent older children. They were unruly and obstinate and she was trying to make a lady and gentleman of them. But she was being criticized for it. To anyone who knew Joan, those melodramatic excesses described by Christina are incredible, yet seemingly harmless gossip that piqued people’s interests was repeated and exaggerated over the years until, as usual in Hollywood, it gained commercial credibility.
We were booked into the Blackstone Theatre in Chicago for four months and stayed nearly a year. It was a marvelous run. We didn’t have any problems in “Barefoot In The Park” until we had to change some of the company and Christina Crawford appeared.
They sent Harvey Medlinsky, Mike Nichol’s assistant, to stage-manage and to rehearse the replacements. Christina Crawford arrived with him to take over the role of my daughter. The idea of Joan’s daughter playing the role delighted me, until I discovered how recalcitrant this child was. I’ve never known anybody like her – ever. Her stubbornness was really unbelievable. She would not do a single thing that anyone told her to do. You’d go out there on the stage and you couldn’t find her. One thing an actor needs to know is exactly where people are on the stage; Christina completely disregarded her blocking, throwing the rest of us off. Harvey let her get away with it, which baffled me. He was a marvelous man, a professional, who had always been reliable. “Harvey,” I pleaded, “we’re never done it this way. We have Mike’s script.”
“Well,” he’d say, “try it another way.” I didn’t know then that they were hatching some big romance. I don’t blame Harvey. He was a victim. Eventually he married Christina – a short marriage.
I sent an SOS to Dick Benjamin, he worked with her, but couldn’t do anything with her – absolutely nothing! She was going to do it her way. The cast was really in a state of panic. In desperation, I sent for Robby Lantz, who flew to Chicago, saw the show, and called Neil Simon. Neil flew out from New York the next day. Neil came backstage after the show, “I apologize, Myrna,” he said. “It won’t do.”
They fired Christina, for which, of course, she always blamed me. I did everything to help her and make it work. I gave her every opportunity. She had three directors. But this was a young woman with an incredible attitude. I’ve never seen anything like her determination to be something that she wasn’t. She wanted to be Joan Crawford. I think that’s the basis of the book she wrote afterward and everything else. I saw what her mind created, the fantasy world she lived in.”
- Excerpt from Myrna Loy's autobiography, "Being & Becoming" (1987)
Myrna Loy with Christina Crawford during production of the play "Barefoot In The Park." - 1965