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~ Joan Crawford's most famous line in the film

Joan Crawford is the main antagonist of the film Mommie Dearest, a 1981 American biographical drama film about the legendary actress and her alleged abuse of her stepchildren. This fictionalized version Joan Crawford occupies slot #41 in the AFI's Top 50 Villains list.

She is portrayed by Faye Dunaway, who also portrayed Serena Waterford in The Handmaid's Tale, Selena in Supergirl, and Elena Dubrow in Dunston Checks In.


This Oscar-winning actress was Hollywood royalty when she adopted a baby girl in 1939. Crawford was nearing the end of her career, however; the plum roles were less frequent and her publicity was waning. Perhaps to boost her press coverage a little bit, she adopted a little girl whom she named Christina and became a mother after a number of miscarriages. She doted on Christina in front of the cameras; once no one was looking, however, she showed her true colors as a cruel, spiteful narcissist with a vicious temper and a penchant for criticizing and putting the girl down at every opportunity.

Joan demanded perfection from her daughter, as well as to be addressed as "Mommie Dearest". She yelled her daughter into submission, ordering her to swim laps in the pool, but Christina lost again, and Joan won again, angering her by laughing at her, while Christina scolded her by not playing with her again, causing Joan to berate her and lock her in the pool room. Also, one day later, Joan found out Christina tried to find a way to make people look at her and she looked around herself in the mirror, and Joan tried to pry the lotion off Christina's hair, but she inappropriately cut Christina's hair and gave Christina a bad haircut, causing both her daughter and herself to cry. Joan was inappropriate to Christina by yelling at her to eat bloody steak.

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The defining moment of their abusive relationship took place one late night when Joan entered Christina's bedroom, rummaged through her closet, and discovered one of her little dresses on a wire hanger. "NO WIRE HANGERS!" she screamed with rage. But while throwing out the clothes and wire hangers, Joan hated Christina. Rousing her daughter out of her bed, Joan berated the frightened Christina and even began to sabotage her and beat her with the offending hanger. Also, after believing that the perfectly clean floor was dirty, she yelled at her and sabotaged her and beat her up when there was a little spot in the bathroom, yelling at her to clean up this mess and wailed a tantrum. Soon after, Joan sent Christina to live at Chadwick School. Joan gave Christina to Mrs. Chadwick, and befriended Tony and Vera.

Christina found Joan drunk, but she and Carol Ann helped her to get in her bed. Christina made love to Tony and had sex with her but was watched by Vera, and Joan was furious towards to Christina first, and then was furious towards Mrs. Chadwick. After having heard that Mrs. Chadwick was going to revoke Christina's and Tony's privileges, Joan took Christina home with her, not allowing Mrs. Chadwick to revoke Christina's privilege. Years later, Joan first lied about Christina being expelled from school, and when Christina told the truth about her mother's lies, she got slapped twice by her Joan. Christina questioned to Joan why she adopted her, as it was means for publicity. Joan asked Christina to treat her like a stranger would treat her and Christina yelled that she was not one of her mother's fans. Joan inappropriately tried to strangle Christina to death, but Carol Ann and Barbara pried her off Christina. Sometime later, Joan sents Christina away to Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, demanding stricter discipline than other students, with Christina allowed no contact with the outside world out of spite. Looking for another target to control, Joan then set her eyes on Alfred Steele and his Pepsi co-workers, who she ruled with an iron fist after Steele's death (which she may have been responsible for), until she fled to evade arrest.

Perhaps the most insulting maneuver by her mother occurred years later when Christina, who had always been a natural actress and studied at school, got work on a soap opera in New York City. Laid up in the hospital with a sudden illness, Christina watched as her mother insisted on replacing her on the show during her sickness. The fact she was supposed to be playing a woman half her age only made it more embarrassing, for Joan and Christina.

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  • Based on the book by Christina, Mommie Dearest depicted Joan Crawford as an obsessive, controlling, drunk maniac who could never bear not being the center of attention. Even after Joan tried choking Christina to death, she came to accept her mother's actions to be driven by a self-imposed condition more than by hatred. At the end of her mother's life, she was happy all the madness was finally over. And then Christina discovered she and Christopher were left absolutely nothing in her adoptive mother's will.
  • Due to Faye Dunaway’s exaggerated performance in Mommie Dearest, she was earned for Worst Actress in Razzie.
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