MovieChat Forums > Mommie Dearest (1981) Discussion > Did Mommie Dearest *really* ruin Faye Du...

Did Mommie Dearest *really* ruin Faye Dunaway's career?


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Many, many actresses turned down this role because they knew Joan Crawford, though dead since 1977, still had friends in high in places in 1981 Hollywood.

Faye Dunaway took the part, and is said to have regretted it ever since. She says that it ruined her career, and others seem to agree that she was, in fact, blacklisted.

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As far as I can tell, Dunaway's career was not 'ruined' because she still works to this day, and I also don't understand how she could have been considered blacklisted. I know Faye's costars and directors have said a lot about how difficult she was to work with, and that probably had a lot to do with the decline of her career. Also, "Mommie Dearest" wasn't the first campy movie she had appeared in, she was already in "The Towering Inferno", "The Champ", and "The Eyes of Laura Mars". While those movies weren't entirely terrible, they probably weren't the vehicles she'd hoped them to be. Faye needed another star-making movie like "Network", "The Thomas Crown Affair", and "Bonnie and Clyde". I think personally she thought "Mommie Dearest" was going to be it, and it wasn't. "Mommie Dearest" just happened to be the tipping point into decline for her, and her career never again reached the heights it had before. Other actors and actresses have gone through the same thing she did and rebounded, so if she thinks this one film ruined her career, I think she's being unrealistic. If it wasn't this movie, it would have been another one.

Incidentally, the fact that she went so far over the top in her performance probably didn't help her prospects for a big comeback later. She really associated herself too closely with the movie, since her partner (and later husband) Terry O'Neill took control of it as a producer. She clearly wanted that movie to be hers. What happened was probably, nobody could tell her anything, not even the director. When the movie came out and it made her look like a madwoman, I'm sure it's hard for her to admit that she had a large role in making the movie what it was.

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Also, "Mommie Dearest" wasn't the first campy movie she had appeared in, she was already in "The Towering Inferno", "The Champ", and "The Eyes of Laura Mars". While those movies weren't entirely terrible, they probably weren't the vehicles she'd hoped them to be. Faye needed another star-making movie like "Network", "The Thomas Crown Affair", and "Bonnie and Clyde".


She didn't help her career by starring in bombs like The Happening, The Extraordinary Seaman, and the good but unsuccessful Puzzle Of A Downfall Child, which came before The Towering Inferno, The Champ, and The Eyes of Laura Mars.

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http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/MommieDearest

The 1981 movie version of the book was an even bigger debacle: Faye Dunaway (who ironically had been praised by Crawford in print prior to her death and who even suggested that she should play her in the inevitable bio-film of Joan's life) was cast and Paramount mounted it as a serious bio-film. Sadly though, after numerous re-writes and an incompetent director whose previous directing experience was a handful of hammy melodramas, much of Joan Crawford's character development ended up missing, which turned her into a deranged cartoon character, and the abuse segments took on larger than life sadistic tones. By the end, even Christina Crawford (whose husband had a hand in producing the film) thought the film was too over-the-top. As such, Faye Dunaway came off as a Large Ham—her acting career never really recovered—and the film picked up a huge word-of-mouth regarding it as an unintentional comedy. This forced the studio to retool the marketing to focus on the over-the-top abuse. Sadly, it failed to save the box office take, though it secured itself as a Cult Classic.

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I know a lot of people like to say her career never recovered, but that's not really true. It's true that her successes came fewer and further between, but your original question was if Mommie Dearest ruined her career, and that's what I was commenting about. It changed her prospects but it didn't keep her from working. It can't even really be said that Faye never had any critical acclaim anymore because she did, both in "Barfly" and "Don Juan Demarco".

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The thing is that while critically the film wasn't well received. But the film made 39 million internationally at the box office with the budget was only about five million. If I was investor, I wouldn't be completely unhappy with the return.

If I was Dunaway, I would be more unhappy appearing in the Movie Supergirl. On a budget of 35 million it made 13 million at the box office. Which really would have made studio's skeptical about you're box office muscle.

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In 'Barfly' & 'Don Juan de Marco', she was a supporting player--nothing like 'Network' or 'Chinatown'.

If it kept her from getting roles of THAT stature---it severely damaged her career.

Carpe Noctem!

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' incompetent director whose previous directing experience was a handful of hammy melodramas'
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Not true. The director was well=acclaimed and directed some excellent films. Why he didn't take rein of this one is unkwnosn

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Crud script!

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I think it was The Eyes of Laura Mars that ruined her career. Mommie Dearest was just the nail in the coffin.

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It was Faye's infamous on-set behavior that ruined her career. Not EYES OF MOMMIE DEAREST.

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it shouldn't have, she wasn't exactly a spring chicken by the time she shot it. actresses start losing work when they hit 40.

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Why?

I'm like Tinkerbell, Finn! I need applause to live!

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Why?


For the most part, unfair as it is, there is an accent on youth and physical desirability in an actress' career that isn't as important in an actor's. If they make wise career decisions, male actors can go on seemingly forever, playing opposite younger and younger actresses...or often not opposite actresses at all, as most screen roles are written for men, with a token female love interest thrown into the mix.

Occasionally there's a hit movie like Steel Magnolias or The Devil Wears Prada where the cast is predominantly female, but that's unusual in the broader scheme of things.

Another thing to remember is that while Dunaway was an A-list star, she wasn't necessarily a "people's star". She was a special type, in special, intelligent films. Even her looks (cool, willowy and angular) weren't as approachably embraceable as say, a Jane Fonda or a Jessica Lange.

As the New York Times review for Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) noted, "Miss Dunaway is perfect for her role, but it's beginning to look like the only role she cares to play. Hysterical jitters, countered by fits of extreme hauteur or assertiveness, have constituted so many of her recent performances that it's hard to remember what else she can do. In any case, high-minded artistic fluttering — the kind Diane Keaton attempts in "Interiors" — comes so naturally to Miss Dunaway that Tommy Lee Jones, as a down-to-earth, soothing cop, is not just a good foil but an indispensable one."

Also, post Oscar, and when Dunaway adopted her son, she squandered a key period by accepting smaller roles that paid very well...The First Deadly Sin (1980), The Champ (1979). These weren't even hit movies. Then to make things worse, she moved to England, which even further limited the work she could accept.

Her comeback role was in Barfly (1987) and she's excellent in it, but by then the ship had sailed for her to stay on top as a major star, in Hollywood terms.

All this was combined, as noted above, with a reputation for being difficult and sometimes unprofessional to work with...as well as carting around a substance abuse problem, to boot. There were simply easier options for producers to pick from, rather than hiring Dunaway.

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'actresses start losing work when they hit 40.'
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Not on TV. Why is TV always dismissed or not considered? I don't get it. Most roles in Tv films seem to go to women. And TV films don't cast lightly, to anyone who comes along. There is very stiff competition when casting them, and most go to a certain circle of established actresses. But you never stop hearing it: "women over 40, women over 50". Men over 50 don't book as many feature films either.

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Most Hollywood actors' careers run 10-15 years. Dunaway had been a star since '67. Her career was headed downhill with or without this movie.

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My bro thinks "Mommie Dearest" ruined Faye Dunaway's career. He thinks a movie star can play a heel once in a while but not a monster.

Many actors and actresses have made big comebacks. How come Dunaway didn't?

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That is the myth yes, that Mommie Dearest somehow ruined her career, but having done research into it, I don't think so. The movie was NOT a failure, it made no loss whatsoever, in fact it was a bit of a hit so it can't be credited with ruining her box office clout. I think the problem is that she quit Hollywood. I don't know how career oriented Faye Dunaway really is, it seems she's more a consummate artist than career obsessed but after Mommie Dearest she moved to London and stayed there almost 10 years, and THAT ruined her career. Then she came back and decided to star in the most horrific films ever made, films that made her look ugly and that were ugly like the handmaid's tale, barfly, and all the other crap she does now. It's shocking. I don't blame Mommie Dearest.

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It was Faye's biggest box office hit in the '80s. How does a big moneymaker ruin one's career? Do you understand how business works? If anything ruined her career, it was "The Wicked Lady" and the multiple flops she followed that up with - all of which, coincidentally, branded her box office poison. If anything else beyond consistent failure ruined her career, it was her horrible diva antics on every set. People will put up with personalities like hers until the point where they stop making them money, and then after that point they won't anymore.









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'It was Faye's biggest box office hit in the '80s. How does a big moneymaker ruin one's career? Do you understand how business works?'
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I know what you mean, but tell that to Patty Duke who starred in the second-biggest grossing film of 1967, yet the critical pan was the issue (detracting credibility as an actress) That's how business works- do you understand?

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I know what you mean, but tell that to Patty Duke who starred in the second-biggest grossing film of 1967, yet the critical pan was the issue
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Duke starred in an ensemble and was not a lead carrying the picture like Dunaway was. Both films got critically panned yet made money, and both are now cult classics. How their careers panned out, have nothing to do with these films. They deservedly have their following for attempting to be serious and sincere, yet only ended up being polished cheesy 'B' graders. Even if that wasn't the intention, the entertainment value and notoriety is still there.

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http://www.imdb.com/board/bd0000007/thread/256401222

A hilarious film about child abuse comes across as an oxymoron until you see it and realize why. Because the film is steeped in kitsch and dialogue which could only come from someone who takes human emotion from the outrageous, you get a film which is too risible to be taken seriously and Faye Dunaway is the prime ingredient: overacts, chews every piece of scenery she can find including wire hangers, cleaning powder and a ax yet you can't take your eyes away from her, she gives a performance which is as brilliant as it is awful and you never get tired of it.

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'yet you can't take your eyes away from her, she gives a performance which is as brilliant as it is awful and you never get tired of it.'
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That is exactly the reverence for Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls, being the lead, though billed second since the story is Parkins' character point of view. I can see them excising Parkins' dreary scenes to insert more of Duke (but her career only died due to box office for her next two films) That is why VOTD looks lopsided; the top-billed is not the lead.

Faye/Patty are both burning with this raw powerful rage in these films, but it's not tempered.

Lesson learned: be careful what role you desperately campaign for, you might just get it.

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