(This post was previously presented on my blog Eventized. Since Joan Crawford spent the first twenty years of her career at MGM, though, I hope you won't mind if I also present it here.)
The subtitle of this book could, I think, be more accurately called "A Life of Joan Crawford", due to the divergence of opinions of the people who knew Crawford.
Since many (especially younger) people's image of Crawford is the over-the-top, borderline campy maniac portrayed in the biopic, Mommie Dearest, it's fitting that Spoto has written a well-researched biography that tips the scales on the other side. Crawford's lifelong philanthropic efforts alone would give pause to most people who think of the self-made movie queen as a monster.
In the end, Crawford was, like most of us, a conundrum of flawed contradictions, albeit one with a powerful, almost mythical sense of destiny and with a commitment to the obsessive hard work required to fulfill it.
On a similar trail of thought, it's a shame that the talented Faye Dunaway was blasted by some less than thoughtful critics for her portrayal of Joan in Mommie Dearest and that she apparently took some of those criticisms to heart. Dunaway was superlative in the role of Joan Crawford. It's a memorable, startling, classic performance. She followed the script to its logical conclusions and those who don't like the movie (if, indeed, there are any now who don't) should blame the script, not those paid to carry it out. If anything, Dunaway may have played Crawford too well for the audience's comfort. That's something Crawford herself might have appreciated.