Showbiz biographer Chandler (Ingrid: Ingrid Bergman, A Personal Biography, 2007, etc.) cobbles together another formless, pointless life story of a major film icon.
Though based largely on personal interviews, as the author repeatedly reminds us, this uncritical depiction of Joan Crawford (1908–77) could easily have come from the publicity department at MGM or Warner Bros. Most of Crawford’s quoted observations are self-serving. “I was never a conniving person,” she reflects, an observation sure to raise a skeptical eyebrow or two. Scattered among the star’s tributes to herself are recollections that a more probing writer would have fashioned into a compelling story, including the cruel moment when Crawford’s brother told her she was only his half-sister and a bitter childhood spent working at her mother’s side in a laundry after her father deserted them. Chandler never delves much into Crawford’s climb to stardom, attributing the actress’s success to determination and hard work. Readers will have to look elsewhere for insights into what was iconic, memorable or singular about Crawford’s performances in Mildred Pierce, Grand Hotel and The Women; Chandler offers nothing beyond plot summaries wedged into the narrative. Interviewees Douglas Fairbanks Jr., George Cukor and Joseph L. Mankiewicz fall in line with the adulatory point of view, which Chandler rounds out by handing the book’s conclusion over to Crawford’s daughter Cathy. She insists that the actress was not the monster limned in Mommie Dearest by eldest child Christina.
A less-than-penetrating portrait of the star with the broad shoulders.