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Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography Hardcover – 30 Sep 2002

2.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky (30 Sept. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813122546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813122540
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,582,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"A serious study." -- Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Just when you though you'd heard the last work on Joan Crawford, here comes another bio aimed straight at you, the gale male Crawford fan." -- "Adelante Magazine"

"Expert.... The woman who emerges from these pages was tough, demanding, self-obsessed, horny, generous, and loyal." -- "Bay Area Reporter"

"This bio covers her entire career -- a career that could only have been possible because of Joan's magnitude to listen and improve herself as she climbed higher and higher on the Hollywood ladder." -- "Buzz Magazine"

"Quirk complies the biographical links, recounting in an objective manner Crawford's progress from studio call girl, her multiple marriages and extensive list of lovers." -- "Charleston (SC) Post & Courier"

"Tells the whole saga, from difficult childhood to wanton chorus girl and starlet days (lots of juicy tidbits included) -- blind ambition, Mommy dearest -- it's all here, together with a complete filmography." -- "Copley News Service"

"A tough-minded but fair and immensely readable analysis of this legendary lady's colorful life and, especially, career. Lawrence J. Quirk knew Crawford and, with colleague William Schoell, writes with understanding but clear eyes. The result: the smartest, most absorbingly detailed and valuable work yet on a woman who was far more than a Mommie Dearest -- one of the great stars of the 20th century." -- "Doug McClelland"

"An expert overview of the temperamental diva's career." -- "Film Review"

"A thoroughgoing, evenhanded review of Crawford's life and work, which in tone is neither academic nor gossipy but rather confessional, as if they are eager to set the record straight." -- "Library Journal"

"This work makes a strenuous effort to clear Crawford's name of the child abuse cloud that has hung over her image since the publication of Christina Crawford's Mommie Dearest and the fabulously out-of-control movie that book spawned." -- "Liz Smith"

"A serious study." -- "Richmond Times-Dispatch"

"An entertaining read... especially in the scene where a persevering Quirk tries to convince the legend that gay men have a special thing about her -- which she won't believe on any account." -- "Sight & Sound"

"Joan Crawford was a sexual dynamo who used her bedroom prowess to seduce Hollywood's biggest starts -- both male and female." -- "The Globe"

"This most welcome book goes a long way toward restoring the reputation of the most glamorous star to emerge from the Hollywood dream factory." -- "The State (Columbia, SC)"

"Unique in its scrupulous analysis of Crawford's entire body of work. Schoell and Quirk move beyond the myths and misconceptions to look at her film work, which in many respects was Crawford's life." -- "Pink Pages"

About the Author

Lawrence J. Quirk is the author of many books on film, including Bob Hope: The Road Well-Traveled. William Schoell is the author of several entertainment-related books, including Martini Man: The Life of Dean Martin.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a detailed account of Miss Crawford's film work but it is written by a friend of some 30 years and therefore I feel it does not tackle the subject matter, and some of Joan's reported behaviour, subjectively. There is hardly anything on Joan's early life or life outside of her film work, merely a few sentences here and there to inform the reader that she got married, didn't like so and so, and so forth.
There is not insight in my view, into what made her the person she was, and this book really reads as a filmography, with the odd snippet here and there of what was happening in her private life.
Also, there are no personal photographs in the book which I find a bit of an omission since this book was supposed to have been written by a friend. Instead, all the photos are still images taken from her films or studio shots that are already in the public domain.
A bit of a whitewash in all, and not very revealing. I don't feel any nearer to knowing who the real Joan Crawford was behind the 'star' persona that she carefully created.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.8 out of 5 stars 64 reviews
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not that essential 17 Jan. 2003
By Phillip O. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you have read any of the earlier books on Joan Crawford's life and career and hope to find new information in this book, don't bother. Aside from snippets about her stepfather and Christina Crawford, everything is old hat. Indeed, this book tends to focus more on her movies, giving a lenghty snyopsis of each one and analyzing her acting as well as her co-stars, and while there is nothing wrong with this, it has been done before! Aside from the movie analysis', the authors always follow with a paragraph or two on who Joan went to bed with during the making of the film (which, unless he was gay, married or ugly, was just about all of them). I was hoping for a biography that delved more into Crawford's private life - what made this woman tick? - what kind of beliefs did she have? - what did she do when she was not working on the set? - what did she eat for dinner at night?. This pedestrian bio only scratches the surface - by page 10, Crawford has already made her first movie - very little info about how she reached this stage in her life is given. The authors apparently only talked to a handful of people for this book and most of the information apparently comes from the author's own interviews with her in the 50s and 60s. And it is very annoying when the author (or co-author) writes about himself as if he were someone else! So, sadly, a definitive biography of Crawford has yet to be published.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Yes and No 16 Mar. 2003
By Jennifer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
While I enjoyed this book's thorough discussions of Crawford's films, I found much to be annoyed by. The authors portray Crawford as nearly a saint--and while I know she was capable of great kindness, I don't believe her motives were ALWAYS pure, and the one-sidedness of this book makes it difficult to swallow. EVERY SINGLE TIME the authors bring up a dispute or spat or negative information from a Crawford rival, they dismiss that person as jealous or washed up or a has-been. Similarly, they dismiss her "jealous" daughter's claims of child abuse as some kind of good old-fashioned "discipline." I don't claim to know whether Mommie Dearest contains a shred of truth or not, but this book does nothing to prove it as inaccurate as they claim. The main source of information here is Lawrence Quirk's own conversations with Joan in her elder years, and let's face it, anybody who's ever read Joan's "My Way of Life" knows that truth-telling is not her forte.
A more balanced biography is Fred Lawrence Guiles's The Last Word (1995). Guiles, at least, is not afraid to discuss unpleasant incidents in Crawford's life from several different viewpoints, and he refrains from opinionizing whenever the truth is unclear.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Danger, Joan Crawford fans, danger! 23 April 2003
By Miss Mazeppa - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading this "essential" biography and am so disappointed. To me, one of the authors seems to feel a saintliness toward Joan while the other goes from liking her films to trying to like her films. As I read this book, I felt like Quirk and Schoell were trying to convince me about aspects of Crawford's personality and events in her life and believe about them as they do. The job of a biographer is to write an objective narrative of someone's life. It is enjoyable reading but unfulfilling given the subject. One annoyance is encountering the phrase "chewing up the scenery" way too often. Then, there's the bombshell finale chapter in which Christina is put in the pan and roasted. The writing is almost like Faye as Joan - out of control!
I have been a Crawford fan all my life and am fascinated watching her in films, looking at her photographs and reading about her. If only someone in modern times would...could write an accurate objective biography that delves more into the woman, what she was about, what made her tick and NOT try to make her a saint or crucify her. Joan Crawford truly was one of the most fascinating personalities of the Twentieth Century. She deserves that much.
So, I guess we'll have to stick with JOAN CRAWFORD, A BIOGRAPHY by Bob Thomas or JOAN CRAWFORD: THE LAST WORD by Fred Guiles in the meantime. These two biographies are really good, and I highly recommend them.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Essential? Hardly! 3 Feb. 2003
By Jennifer M. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The main problem with this book can be summed up by quoting its own dust jacket:
"Schoell and Quirk [the authors] move beyond the myths and misconceptions about Crawford by looking extensively at her film work, which in many respects---as Crawford herself admitted---was her life."
And that's it right there: as admirable an actress as Crawford may have been (and I am a fan of many her performances), her roles in films cannot provide much of a basis for a biography about her actual life. The line between fantasy and reality is, in this case, not only blurred, but erased almost completely.
I understand that Quirk was a fan and professed confidant of Crawford's (that fact is hard to miss, it's mentioned so many times) and his intentions seem to be to try his best to defend her honor and reveal his version of the truth about her. In doing so, however, Quirk makes several missteps, the most notable among them being his complete and utter of savaging of Christina Crawford because of her allegations of abuse against her mother. He says terrible things; for example, he expresses his opinion that Christina's near fatal stroke in 1981 was "Joan getting revenge beyond the grave." For someone who thinks Christina was wrong to say bad things about her mother, Quirk in turn says even worse things about Christina. In trying to dispute the charges she made in "Mommie Dearest," he protests way, way too much, and stoops even lower than the level he accuses her of sinking to.
Even other friends of Crawford's are criticized for not living up to his exacting standards. For example, in 1984 about 125 friends and family of Crawford took out a tribute ad in the "Daily Variety" to show their support in the wake of the "Mommie" book and movie. I thought it was a nice gesture, myself, but Quirk says that it was "put together for the wrong reasons by the wrong people." What really seems to be wrong is the fact that he wasn't included, and now he's pouting.
When I got to the "Notes" section at the end of the book, I thought, "okay, now we'll see where he got all this information." I was disappointed to discover that the majority of his sources are "Joan Crawford to Lawrence Quirk." Interviewing the subject of a biography is of course helpful when it's possible to do, but any writer worth his salt knows that it can't be your only, or even your primary, source. People have an impression of themselves they want to perpetuate; this needs to be balanced by opinions and information from others as well. In that regard, this book falls far short.
32 of 41 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An awfully late, lame attempt to discredit "Mommie Dearest" 10 Dec. 2002
By Robert J. Ramos - Published on
Format: Hardcover
What is the actual point of this book? To attempt to dismiss the once-controversial allegations made in Christina Crawford's memoir, "Mommie Dearest", nearly a quarter of a century ago? Get over it! Dozens of film stars, directors, and other personnel have gone on record to say that despite Joan Crawford's professionalism and considerable talent, which enabled her to rise above even the most inept film material--she had serious problems, including alcoholism, sexual dysfunctions, and YES--she was an abusive parent! Even Christina Crawford never disputed her Mother's appeal as a screen star, her professional demeanor, and her endless gratitude and respect for her audiences. Therefore, why bother to refute the personal story told by Crawford's daughter? Much of what is described in "Mommie Dearest" transpired between two people, Joan Crawford, and her daughter. Great parent? No, it would seem, from most accounts. Great star? Undeniably. And a great star deserves a much more balanced, clear-minded, thoughtful biography. The truly "essential" Crawford biography has not yet been written.
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