Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Mommie Dearest (1981)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Mommie Dearest (1981)

In Frank Perry's camp classic biopic based on daughter Christina's scandalous memoirs of parental abuse:

  • the long title sequence with the final revelation of a full-closeup view of the face of movie-star Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) after her early morning, body-scrubbing, facial-cleansing ritual of plunging her face into ice-cubes (that were doused with rubbing alcohol), dressing, being chauffeured to MGM studios, and having her make-up applied (in extreme close-up), before a knock on her door: (Joan: "Yes?" Stage-hand: "We're ready for you, Miss Crawford")
  • the over-meticulous, critical and obsessively-clean Crawford's angry scene with her new housemaid Helga (Alice Nunn) and Carol Ann (Rutanya Alda) for not moving a large tree plant vase when polishing the tile floor of her home: ("If you can't do something right, don't do it at all...Give me the soap. You see, Carol Ann, you have to stay on top of things every single minute") - and then her statement to Helga: ("Helga, I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at the dirt!")
  • her over-the-top performances in various scenes in which she attacked her adopted daughter Christina (Mara Hobel as child); i.e., slapping her daughter for allegedly lying, and then saying: ("You love it, don't you? You love to make me hit you!"); or the scene of Joan's response when Christina repeatedly demanded to know why she was adopted: ("Because I wanted a child. Because I wanted someone to love...Maybe I did it for a little extra publicity")
  • the pool scene when Joan raced her young daughter Christina (with a headstart), won the contest, and then gloated: ("You lost again!"), and when Christina complained: ("It's not fair! You're bigger than I am. It's not fair to win twice!"), Joan retorted: ("Ah, but nobody ever said life was fair, Tina. I'm bigger and I'm faster. I will always beat you"); and then after a resistant Christina was ordered to her room when she vowed never to play with her enraged mother again, she was locked up in the pool house
  • the scene of Joan's over-reaction to young Christina, after seeing her play-acting by imitating her in a multi-part mirror in her bedroom - and hysterically chopping off Christina's blonde hair with scissors to humiliate her: ("What do you mean, playing? Going through my things? Making fun of me?...Look at yourself! Gimme that!...What have you done? What have you put on your hair? What have you done to this damn hair?...I know you look awful. You be quiet! You're always rummaging through my drawers, trying to find a way to make people look at you. Why are you always looking at yourself in the mirror? Why are you doing that? Tell me! You sit still now! This ought to teach you!...You're vain, spoiled...I'd rather you go bald to school than looking like a tramp!...You spoiled it just like I spoiled you")
  • the crazed rose-pruning scene when Joan - after being fired from MGM by Louis Mayer - demanded that her children join her to trim the roses in the garden - and her axe-wielding/evening-gowned hacking rampage in her prized rose garden: ("Eighteen years in the business! And we parted friends! Creative differences! Good, I want some help here. I want all of these branches cleared out of here now. Carol Ann and Christopher, start clearing away all these branches. Start gathering them up. Go and get the wheelbarrow and the rake. Tina! Bring me the axe!")
  • the celebrated, late-night scene of Joan (with her face smeared in cold cream) entering her daughter's closet and abusively screaming - a violent rant - when she saw a dress hanging there on a cheap wire hanger, and began clearing out the closet by tossing everything onto the floor: ("No - wire - hangers. What's wire hangers doing in this closet when I told you - NO WIRE HANGERS EVER! I work and work 'til I'm half-dead, and I hear people saying 'She's getting old.' And what do I get? A daughter who cares as much about the beautiful dresses I give her as she cares about me. What's wire hangers doing in this closet? ANSWER ME! I buy you beautiful dresses, and you treat them like they were some dish-rag. You do! $300 dollar dress on a wire hanger! We'll see how many you've got hidden in here. We'll see. Get out of that bed. All of this is coming out. Out! Out! Out. Out. Out. You've got any more? We're gonna see how many wire hangers you've got in your closet. Wire hangers! Why? Why? Christina, get out of that bed. Get out of that bed. You live in the most beautiful house in Brentwood (She picked up a hanger and began to beat Christina) and you don't care if your clothes are stretched back from wire hangers. And your room looks like a two-dollar-a-week priced room in some two-bit backstreet town in Oklahoma. Get up. Get up. Clean up this mess")
  • the bathroom cleaning scene, when Joan threw a can of powdered cleanser at Christina while they were both on their knees scrubbing the already-clean bathroom tile floor
  • the confrontational scene that led to Joan violently choking her daughter Christina who claimed she wasn't another one of her mother's fans: (Joan: "I don't ask much from you, girl. Why can't you give me the respect that I'm entitled to? Why can't you treat me in the way I would be treated by any stranger on the street?" Christina: "Because I am not one of your fans! Mommie! You never loved me! Mommie! Mommie!" Joan: "You've hated me! You never loved me! Never! You've always taken and taken. You never wanted to be my child! You've always hated everything! Everything! Everything! Get out!")
  • the scene of Joan's notorious face-down with the all-male Pepsi-Cola board in the boardroom, after her husband Alfred Steele (Harry Goz), Pepsi's CEO, died when she was "retired" from the Pepsi board of directors, and threatened to hurt the company's sales if they didn't retain her: ("You think you're very clever, don't you? Trying to sweep the poor little widow under the carpet. Well, think again. I'm on the board of directors of this lousy company...Al and I helped build Pepsi to what it is today. I intend to stay with it....You drove Al to his grave, and now you're trying to stab me in the back. Forget it! I fought worse monsters than you for years in Hollywood. I know how to win the hard way!...You don't know what hard feelings are until I come out publicly against your product. You'll see how much you sell.... Don't f--k with me, fellas! This ain't my first time at the rodeo. You forget the press I delivered to Pepsi was my power. I can use it any way I want. It's a sword, cuts both ways"); abruptly, the members of the board acquiesed: ("The board has failed to realize the extent of your interest in the company. We misjudged. We shall be pleased to have you stay on")
  • the scene of Joan Crawford dazedly and drunkenly replacing her ailing daughter (hospitalized for an ovarian tumor) in the cast of an NYC daytime TV soap opera
  • the final scene in which adult-aged Christina (Diana Scarwid as adult) listened as a lawyer read that she and her brother were deliberately disinherited - left out of her mother's will after her death in 1977: ("It is my intention to make no provision herein for my son, Christopher and my daughter Christina, for reasons which are well known to them"); when Christopher (Xander Berkeley as adult) commented: ("What reasons?...As usual, she has the last word"), Christina (with a tear on her left cheek) vengefully implied that she would have the "last word" by writing a tell-all memoir-expose: ("Does she?")

Title Sequence: Joan Crawford During Make-Up

Anger at the Housemaid: "You have to Move the Tree...I'm Mad at the Dirt"

Slapping Christina

The Pool Scene: "I Will Always Beat You"

Chopping Off Christina's Hair

The Crazed Rose-Pruning Scene

"Why can't you give me the respect that I'm entitled to?"

Choking Her Daughter

In the Pepsi-Cola Boardroom

Christina Listening to Disinheritance After Her Mother's Death


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