Christina Crawford (born June 11, 1939) is an American writer and actress, best known as the author of Mommie Dearest, an autobiographical account of child abuse by her adoptive mother, actress Joan Crawford. She had roles in various television and film projects, such as Joan Borman Kane in the soap opera The Secret Storm and Monica George in the Elvis Presley film Wild in the Country.
June 11, 1939|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Parent(s)||Joan Crawford (adoptive mother)|
|Relatives||Hal LeSueur (adoptive uncle)|
Early life and educationEdit
She was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1939 to unmarried teens. According to her personal interview with Larry King, her father was married to another woman and supposedly in the Navy; her mother was unmarried. Crawford was adopted from a baby broker in Nevada because Joan was formally denied an adoption by social services for being an unfit candidate in California in 1940. Crawford maintains that Joan did not have a positive relationship with either her own mother or with her brother, which contributed to social services' conclusion as well as her multiple divorces. Crawford was one of five children adopted by Joan. Her siblings are Christopher, adopted in 1943, and twin girls, Catherine (Cathy) and Cynthia (Cindy), adopted in 1947. Another boy, also named Christopher, was adopted in 1942 but reclaimed by his birth mother.
Crawford has stated that her childhood was affected by her adoptive mother's alcoholism. At 10, Crawford was sent to Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, California, which many other celebrity children attended. However, her mother sent her from Chadwick to graduate from Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La Cañada (now the city of La Cañada Flintridge), California, and curtailed Crawford's outside contact until her graduation. After graduating from Flintridge, she moved from California to Pittsburgh to attend Carnegie Mellon School of Drama and then to New York City, where she studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse in Manhattan. After seven years, she gained a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA. After fourteen years as an actress, Crawford returned to college, graduating magna cum laude from UCLA and received her master's degree from the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Then, she worked in corporate communications at the Los Angeles headquarters of Getty Oil Company.
Crawford met Harvey Medlinsky, a director and Broadway stage manager, while she was appearing in the Chicago national company of Barefoot in the Park. They were married briefly. She met her second husband, commercial producer David Koontz, while she was working on a car commercial. She has no children.
Crawford appeared in summer stock theatre, including a production of Splendor in the Grass. She also acted in a number of Off-Broadway productions, including In Color on Sundays (1958). She also appeared in At Chrismastime (1959) and Dark of the Moon (1959) at the Fred Miller Theater in Milwaukee, and The Moon Is Blue (1960).
In 1960, Crawford accepted a role in the film Force of Impulse, which was released in 1961. Also in 1961, Crawford appeared in a small role in Wild in the Country, a film starring Elvis Presley. That year, she made a guest appearance on Dean Miller's NBC celebrity interview program Here's Hollywood, promoting the films. In 1962, she appeared in the play The Complaisant Lover. She played five character parts in Ben Hecht's controversial play Winkelberg. The same year, she appeared on the CBS courtroom drama The Verdict is Yours. In October 1965, she appeared in Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park, with Myrna Loy, a friend of her mother. She also had a role in Faces, a 1968 film directed by John Cassavetes and starring John Marley and Gena Rowlands.
Crawford played Joan Borman Kane on the soap opera The Secret Storm in New York from 1968 until 1969. While Crawford was in the hospital recovering from an emergency operation in October 1968, Joan, then over 60 years old, asked for the role of the 24-year-old character. She did so without mentioning it to her daughter, and under the guise of "holding the role" for Crawford so that the part would not be recast during her absence, she appeared in four episodes. Viewers increased 40% during this replacement time, and Crawford, already feeling betrayed, also felt embarrassed by her mother's seemingly intoxicated performance. Eventually let go from the series, Crawford believed her mother's interference had contributed to her departure. The producers, however, claimed that the character and her storyline had simply run its course.
After Joan Crawford died in 1977, Crawford and her brother, Christopher, discovered that their mother had disinherited them from her $2 million estate, her will citing "reasons which are well-known to them." In November 1977, Crawford and her brother sued to invalidate their mother's will, which she signed on October 18, 1976. Cathy LaLonde, another Crawford daughter, and her husband, Jerome, the complaint charged, "took deliberate advantage of decedent's seclusion and weakened and distorted mental and physical condition to insinuate themselves" into Joan's favor. A court settlement was reached on July 13, 1979, awarding Crawford and Christopher $55,000 from their mother's estate.
In 1978, Crawford's book Mommie Dearest was released. It accused her mother of being a cruel, violent, neglectful, and manipulative narcissistic parent who adopted her children only to raise money and publicity instead of out of a desire to be a responsible, humane mother after she had been labeled "box office poison". It also raised public discourse about child abuse, which was only then beginning to be widely acknowledged as a problem. In 1981, a movie adaptation of the book was released, starring Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford and Diana Scarwid as Crawford. The film, while critically panned, grossed more than $39 million worldwide from a $5 million budget and garnered five Golden Raspberry Awards. The film is now regarded as an unintentional comedy and a cult classic; however, Crawford was not amused by the film's performance and protested the film as devastating rather than campy. Crawford has published five subsequent books, including Survivor. For seven years, she served as a member of Los Angeles' Inter-Agency Council on Abuse and Neglect Associates, where campaigned for the reform of laws regarding child abuse and child trafficking.
After a near-fatal stroke in 1981, she spent five years in rehabilitation before moving to the Northwest. She ran a bed and breakfast called Seven Springs Farms in Tensed, Idaho, between 1994 and 1999. She formed Seven Springs Press in 1998 to publish the 20th-anniversary edition of Mommie Dearest in paperback from the original manuscript and included material omitted from the first printing about the years after her graduation from high school.
In 2000, Crawford began working as Entertainment Manager at the Coeur d'Alene Casino in Idaho, where she worked until 2007. She then wrote and produced an award-winning regional TV series, Northwest Entertainment. On November 22, 2009, she was appointed county commissioner in Benewah County, Idaho, by Governor Butch Otter, but she lost her bid for election in November 2010. In 2011, Crawford founded the non-profit Benewah Human Rights Coalition and served as the organization's first president. In 2013, she made a documentary, Surviving Mommie Dearest.
On November 21, 2017, the e-book editions of Mommie Dearest, Survivor, and Daughters of the Inquisition were published through Open Road Integrated Media. She is also currently working with composer David Nehls on a stage musical adaptation of Mommie Dearest, to be produced in regional theater and on Broadway. Crawford is currently writing the third book in her memoir trilogy, following Mommie Dearest and Survivor.
- Mommie Dearest (1978) ISBN 0-9663369-0-9
- Black Widow: A Novel (1981) ISBN 0-425-05625-2
- Survivor (1988) ISBN 0-515-10299-7
- No Safe Place: The Legacy of Family Violence (1994) ISBN 0-88268-184-2
- Daughters Of The Inquisition: Medieval Madness: Origin and Aftermath (2003) ISBN 0-9663369-1-7
- Mommie Dearest: Special Edition (2017) ebook ISBN 978-1-5040-4908-5
- Survivor (2017) ebook ISBN 978-1-5040-4907-8
- Daughters of the Inquisition: Medieval Madness: Origin and Aftermath (2017) ebook ISBN 978-1-5040-4905-4
- "Her Own Private Idaho". People Weekly. August 8, 1994.
- Chandler, Charlotte. "Daughter Dearest". Retrieved September 11, 2016.
- Kilgallen, Dorothy (1958-06-23). "Dorothy Kilgallen's Voice of Broadway". Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City (UT). p. 15.
- Parsons, Louella (1959-11-06). "Louella Parsons in Hollywood". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Milwaukee (WI). pp. 2, section 2.
- "On Summer Stages in the County". Biddeford Journal. Biddeford (ME). 1960-07-21. p. 3.
- "Reisbergs' Daughter Signed for Film Role". Kittanning Simpson Leader-Times. Kittanning (PA). 1960-03-02. p. 1.
- Independent Press-Telegram. Pasadena (CA). 1961-04-09. p. 10. Missing or empty
- Penton, Edgar (1962-04-22). "Cover Story: The Verdict is Yours". Appleton Post-Crescent. Appleton (WI). p. 2.
- Windeler, Robert (October 23, 1968). "Joan Crawford Takes Daughter's Soap Opera Role". Retrieved September 11, 2016 – via NYTimes.com.
- "Joan Crawford's Last Will and Testament".
- Los Angeles Times, November 19, 1977
- "THE CONCLUDING CHAPTER OF CRAWFORD".
- "Otter names 'Mommie Dearest' author to Benewah County Commission". December 10, 2009. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
- "Benewah Voters Boot Crawford". November 4, 2010. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
- "Benewah coalition promotes tolerance". May 4, 2011. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
- Desk, BWW News. "Out of the Box Theatrics Presents Reading of MOMMIE DEAREST". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 2017-09-15.
- Desk, BWW News. "'Mommie Dearest' Author Christina Crawford Opens Up About Her Past and How She's Moving Forward". HuffingtonPost.com. Retrieved 2017-12-08.