In a nutshell, ''Mommie Dearest'' (1978) was a memoir written by Christina Crawford, depicting her physical and mental abuse at the hands of her adoptive mother, famed actress Creator/JoanCrawford. It had spawned the equally famous [[TheFilmOfTheBook Film of the Book]], with Faye Dunaway in the role of Joan Crawford.

To put it more bluntly and in more detail, the book pretty much destroyed the reputation of Joan Crawford in the eyes of the public, as far as the book's revelations about her systematic abuse of her children, Christina in particular. The book's vivid recounting of Joan's psychotic behavior and abuse of her children polarized Hollywood into camps of those who confirmed Christina's story (or acknowledge that the signs of the abuse were there and that no one said anything about it) and those who proclaimed that the novel was a revenge plot, designed by Christina to ruin her mother's name after finding out that she was being cut out of her mother's will and as a means to gain fame, as her own attempt to launch an acting career had fallen short.

The book can be seen as one of the first (and arguably most successful) of the genre of nasty tell-all biographies of stars, mostly from UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfHollywood, told by their children. The kids of Creator/MarleneDietrich, Creator/JudyGarland, Creator/HenryFonda, Loretta Young, Music/BingCrosby, Creator/BetteDavis, and Creator/PeterSellers all tried to replicate its success with varying results (the Bette Davis book flopped and was debunked, for example, but the books that Marlene Dietrich's and Bing Crosby's respective broods wrote did quite well).

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 a director (Frank Perry) who had a penchant for 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 LargeHam--her acting career never really recovered--and the film picked up a huge word-of-mouth regarding it as [[SoBadItsGood an unintentional comedy]]. This forced the studio to {{retool}} the marketing to focus on the over-the-top abuse. The film was a success at the box office, grossing $39 million worldwide on a $5 million budget, and it also secured itself as a CultClassic.

Faye Dunaway is now supposedly writing a tell-all memoir of the disastrous making of the film (which would make it a book of the film of the book!). Rutanya Alda, who played Carol Ann, published her own diary of the shoot in 2016.
!!''Mommie Dearest'' provides examples of:

* AdaptedOut: No mention of Christina and Christopher's other siblings in the film version.
* AbusiveParents: Three guesses, no prizes.
* AccentUponTheWrongSyllable: One of the issues with the "wire hanger" scene in the film is that Dunaway emphasizes every syllable in "wire hangers" when she says it (and she says it a ''lot''), which just adds to its {{Narm}} factor.
* ArtisticLicenseHistory:
** The film shows Joan's role on the soap opera ''The Secret Storm'' being taped live. In reality, because of how drunk she was on set, they often had to rely on editing to make it watchable.
*** The film portrays Christina getting cast as some sort of a romantic ingenue who dreams of having a beautiful wedding. In reality, Christina's character (who was incidentally named "Joan") on the actual soap was a bitchy and spiteful antagonist.
** Joan also had four husbands, though she was on her third by the time she became a mother. The movie combines them all into one character Greg.
* AxCrazy: Joan is portrayed as this.
* BerserkButton:
** Wire hangers strangely sets Joan Crawford off in the movie adaptation. A few explanations could exist:
*** The root of her hatred for wire hangers is most likely the fact that Joan Crawford grew up dirt poor, and wire coat hangers were a reminder of the past and her struggles being poor.
*** Joan also had to do menial work in her youth at the dry cleaner's behind her house, making the hangers an especially physical reminder of her rough past.
*** Wire hangers can also leave permanent dents and even ''rust'' in delicate fabrics, which is what expensive clothes are often made of. Her anger could have derived from the fact that she was angry her daughter was 'ruining' the clothes she spent a lot of money on. Indeed, during her tirade Joan mentions that the dress in question cost $300.
** In the movie at least, any hint of defiance or mischief on Christina's part is a cue for Joan to fly into a blind rage. Her reaction to Christina's telling her, "I am not one of your fans!" is to nearly choke her to death.
* BigBad: [[ArchnemesisMom Joan Crawford]], she was even ranked #41 Villain on AFIS100Years100HeroesAndVillains.
* BitchInSheepsClothing: Joan and possibly Christina.
* BlandNameProduct: A unique example regarding Joan's acting career. Since Paramount owned the rights to very few of her films[[note]]In fact, Paramount had been the ''only'' studio Joan had never made a movie for[[/note]], most of Joan's work is left intentionally vague.
* {{Camp}}: The film is often cited as a prime example.
* ChewingTheScenery: Faye Dunaway mowing down the sets, props and co-stars in every scene she's in. To quote ''Variety'''s famous review: "Dunaway does not chew scenery. Dunaway starts neatly at each corner of the set in every scene and swallows it whole, costars and all."
* CompositeCharacter: In the movie, Greg is a combination of the various husbands and lovers Joan Crawford had, while the housekeeper and Carol Ann are meant to represent several employees in Joan's house.
* CuteAndPsycho: Joan Crawford, if ''Mommie Dearest'' is to be believed.
* {{Determinator}}: Joan Crawford comes off as one in the film, however, thanks to all the shit ''she'' has to put up with as a WhiteDwarfStarlet.
* EvilMatriarch: Joan Crawford, as depicted in both the book and the movie.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: The final lines of the movie, after Christina and her brother find out that their mother had disinherited them, suggest that Christina would truly have "the last word".
* HairOfGoldHeartOfGold: Christina, especially in her younger years before the slew of abuse.
* HamToHamCombat: Christina vs. Joan before the latter attempts to strangle the former.
* HateSink: Everything about the book and TheMovieOfTheBook are all dedicated to make Joan Crawford despicable as possible. The movie brought this to UpToEleven though, making it HateSink: The Movie.
* HormoneAddledTeenager: Gets Christina in trouble in the film, when she gets caught making out with a male classmate by the boy's girlfriend, who tattles on them. Joan's response is to yank Christina out of school, and then insist (despite the fact that the headmistress was willing to let it blow over) that Christina was "expelled."
* HowWeGotHere: An almost metaphysical example; the film ends with Christina's decision to write a tell-all book about her mother, which in turn gets adapted into the very same movie the audience is watching.
* {{Hypocrite}}: In the film at least. Joan is portrayed as being stingy lending money to Christina when she grows up, telling her "not a cent" when Christina needs help with the rent. At around the same time, Joan married Alfred Steele, the CEO of Pepsi, and is forcing him into debt to finance her larger-than-life Hollywood lifestyle.
** Earlier in the film, Christina lends a sympathetic ear when her mother pours out her sorrow regarding her financial situation - she had to fire the maid, she can't pay Christina's tuition so Christina will have to go on a work scholarship - only to learn that Joan still has money to spend on booze and countless pairs of shoes.
* LargeHam: And how. TruthInTelevision too, as the real Crawford was said to be one in Real Life. Also, Faye Dunaway as Crawford in the film version (and Diana Scarwid as teenage/adult Christina in certain scenes).
* LawOfDisproportionateResponse: Joan Crawford flies into a [[BerserkButton hysterical rage]], because she discovers some wire hangers in her closet, which lead to the infamous yell: "No... wire hangers... ever!" Even more disturbing: this anecdote was taken directly from her daughter's autobiography about the famous actress!
* LeftHanging: In the movie Crawford's son Christopher is frequently seen strapped to his bed, but the movie going audience never gets any explanation why he is subjected to this treatment, thus causing a lot of confusion. Only those who've read the book would know [[spoiler:Joan Crawford strapped Christopher down to his bed to prevent him from masturbating.]]
* MiseryLit: Arguably one of the best and most influential examples.
* MuseAbuse: It inspired the Music/BlueOysterCult song ''Joan Crawford'', whose video is a farrago of images from the film.
* NeverSpeakIllOfTheDead: Subverted, as Christina claims she was cut off from Joan's will "for reasons best known to her."
* NiceCharacterMeanActor: The book claims that Joan was one of these.
* OffToBoardingSchool: As it happened to Christina Crawford.
* PantyShot: A somewhat jarring one from Christina, when Joan [[spoiler:attacks and chokes her.]]
* PleaseDontLeaveMe: Played absolutely straight in the movie, as a drunken Joan begs her lover Greg not to leave her after a particularly nasty argument. It fails.
* PrecisionFStrike: [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSGXe-x-E9g "DON'T FUCK WITH ME, FELLAS! This ain't my first time at the rodeo."]]
* ThePrimaDonna: Joan is portrayed as this. Joan, on the other hand, would suggest that this describes ''Christina'' more accurately.
--> '''Joan:''' She negotiates everything like a goddamned Hollywood agent!
* PunctuatedForEmphasis:
** "Oh Joan, stop 'acting'." "IIIIII'MM! NOOT! ACTINNNNNNNGGGG!!!"
* RealityIsUnrealistic: Many assume Dunaway's performance is campy and over the top, when drunk abusive people have acted that way in reality. Not to mention how over the top the real life Joan Crawford was. In fact Barry Norman's book ''The Hollywood Greats'' claims that the real Joan often spoke as if she were reading lines from a script.
* {{Retraux}}: The film very consciously adopts an old fashioned aesthetic with its cinematography, set design, costumes and static shots. It often looks like something that could have been made in TheFifties, which makes more modern touches like Joan's PrecisionFStrike very jarring.
* ScrewTheRulesIHaveMoney: In the movie at least. Joan is turned down by adoption agencies for being a single woman with a career, so she enlists lawyers to "bend the law" to allow her to adopt.
* SignatureLine: "No wire hangers, ever!"
* TitleDrop: Christina addresses her mom this way with the movie or book title of the same name.
* TraumaticHaircut: Joan in the movie forcibly cuts Christina's hair (while screaming at her) after catching her preening in Joan's mirror. "You spoiled it, just like I spoiled you."