THE UNKNOWN
1927, Warner Bros., 63 min, USA, Dir: Tod Browning

Armless circus performer Lon Chaney falls for stunning, scantily clad bareback rider Joan Crawford (who, conveniently, is pathologically terrified of men's hands) in this typically haunting Tod Browning melodrama. Burt Lancaster once praised Chaney's performance in this film as the most emotionally compelling work ever committed to celluloid.


MOMMIE DEAREST
1981, Paramount, 129 min, USA, Dir: Frank Perry

“Don’t fuck with me, fellas. This ain’t my first time at the rodeo!” Faye Dunaway scorches as Joan Crawford in this blistering exposé of the icon’s troubled and abusive relationship with her adopted daughter, Christina Crawford (who penned the memoir on which the film is based). As told from the perspective of grown-up Christina (Diana Scarwid) remembering her traumatic upbringing, “Mommie” Joan crumples under the pressures of alcohol, men and show business, and turns into an emotionally manipulative domestic monster. Though a critical disaster on its initial release, earning an abundance of Razzie Award wins and nominations, the film has since become a cult touchstone, thanks to a ferocious performance by Dunaway and no-holds-barred direction by Frank Perry (THE SWIMMER, PLAY IT AS IT LAYS). With Mara Hobel as young Christina, Steve Forrest as Joan’s Hollywood lawyer boyfriend, hopelessly loyal to MGM, and Howard Da Silva as the screaming studio titan himself, Louis B. Mayer.


GIANT
1956, Warner Bros., 201 min, USA, Dir: George Stevens

Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean (in his last role) star in this sprawling account of the rise of a Texas oil family. Stevens moves back and forth between epic social commentary and intimate family melodrama with ease, and Boris Levin’s stunning art direction is a wonder to behold on the big screen. Stevens won the Academy Award for Best Director.


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