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    AMERICAN REVIEWS OF JOAN CRAWFORD BIO

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    Bosie

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    AMERICAN REVIEWS OF JOAN CRAWFORD BIO

    Post  Bosie on Wed Mar 28, 2012 4:21 pm

    Hollywood Babble-On WASHINGTON POST

    By Carolyn See,

    Friday, January 5, 2007
    JOAN CRAWFORD
    Hollywood Martyr
    By David Bret

    Carroll & Graf. 299 pp. $25.95

    Some years ago, in a very fancy Los Angeles seaside restaurant, I ordered the signature lobster and avocado salad. About halfway through lunch, an enormous fly struggled out from the damp jungle of arugula and frisee. I let out an unladylike "Eeek," and a waiter came over. "He just flew in, right?" "No," I answered hotly. "Look where he's been!" It was true, the fly was drenched, half-drowned in Thousand Island. Only later did I think of it from the fly's point of view, lost in gooey crags of avocado, gluey from unidentified pink stuff. Think of me now as that fly, staggering out from one of the ickiest film biographies I've ever read.

    It's not that film biographies, as a genre, lack dignity or even gravitas. Consider Richard Schickel's superb "Elia Kazan" or A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax's equally thoughtful and meticulous "Bogart." Films, God knows, are the key to America's strange, monstrously peculiar id: Celebrities now, and even more then, were at some cosmic level assigned the task of mirroring the public's fantasies. If those fantasies were bizarre beyond belief, well, it wasn't the mirror's fault.

    But suppose you gorged on old movie magazines and ghostwritten gobbledygook and pieces of weird gossip you overheard and then decided to rewrite what has been written and rewritten again for 80 years or so, and you picked as your subject Joan Crawford, "gay icon par excellence"? You'd produce something like David Bret's new biography.

    When she was young, he writes, "it was widely known that she had crabs due to her hatred of bathing." But at the beginning of her career she had a fortuitous meeting with a woman named Katherine Emerine, who was "quite possibly" Crawford's "first lesbian fling." This would have shown Crawford's "predilection for the casting couch." Then her youth went by in "a blur of steamy sex, booze, torrid dancing, drugs and laughter." Also, there were some "porno-flicks," table dancing and two botched abortions. All this before her first MGM contract.

    Then she struck up a friendship with Paul Bern, whose "grossly under-developed genitals" have already received more than their due in Irving Schulman's salacious biography of Jean Harlow more than 40 years ago. Then Joan acted with Tim McCoy, of whom she was said to demurely remark: He had "the fastest draw, sure, and the weapon's got staying power and sure as hell don't fire blanks!" But, according to Bret, Joan didn't always talk like that. Sometimes she talked like this: "Happiness to me means peace of mind, which of course is a mental state. And I know that unless I acquire it pretty soon I'll have a severe and protracted nervous breakdown. And yet, on the other hand, if I should find a certain peace of mind, it would mean that I had come to a point in my life where I no longer cared to develop."

    But most of the time, the author opines, when she wasn't thinking these lofty thoughts, Joan behaved "like a sex-starved bird of prey."

    Hollywood was not as it seemed -- sexually. That's the author's main theme here. (The "Hollywood Martyr" business of the subtitle is purely an afterthought.) Couples lived in "lavender" or "twilight-tandem" marriages. Many men, even (or especially) he-men such as George Raft, were "Gillette blades," i.e. they cut both ways. George Brent was gay (though we certainly don't need to know this for purposes of the narrative), and Joan once showed up at a British war relief event accompanied by five gay escorts. Clark Gable "was, of course, the archetypal repressed bisexual, the hallmarks of which were clearly evident in his early years."

    Although I have carefully supplied the citations for every one of these quotations to the editors of this newspaper, David Bret is not bound by any such bourgeois convention. Quotations abound in his book, but there are no footnotes, and the index indicates only on what page people are mentioned. I think it's fair to say that "Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr" is made up of cryptic, if breezy, assertions, like: "Aspects of Joan Crawford's extraordinary, complex psyche were incorporated into many of her films . . . but such was the naivety of America during the Depression, few made the connection. The same may be said for Crawford, gay icon par excellence. Few people realised, at the time these events were unfolding, of [sic] her fondness for gay and bisexual men -- on account of their fear of being exposed by the media. Three of her husbands slotted into this category, as did many of her lovers, including Clark Gable." This is cheesiness "par excellence," as the author himself might say, and apparently little more than speculation.

    What Bret entirely forgets in this jabber he calls a biography is that each and every one of these people was (and sometimes still is) a sentient human being. When Gable fathered Loretta Young's baby out of wedlock and Young "adopted" her own baby -- yes, that story is true -- the baby grew up and had to deal with the lifetime of lies that had been told her. George Raft was human whether he was a "Gillette blade" or not. George Brent was human. Crawford's four adopted children -- all human. They deserve some dignity and thought. But thinking is not where it's at for this writer.

    So we have interminable film synopses and the list of Joan's husbands (Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Franchot Tone, Philip Terry and Alfred Steele, the Pepsi-Cola magnate). Steele is said to have beaten her: In Paris, she wore "sunglasses to conceal her black eyes -- a clear indication, according to her masochistic views on romance, that Alfred truly loved her." And where's the quote or source to back up Joan's masochistic views on romance?

    Bret also vilifies Christina Crawford, who wrote "Mommie Dearest." He vociferously defends the mommy in question: "Joan is known to have spanked her children or locked them in the closet for answering back -- a common practice of the day." What day was that, I wonder?

    Goo. This book is goo. Ultimately, it's an enormous insult to gays, assuming, as it does, that mindless cattiness and restroom innuendo are the accepted small talk of homosexuals everywhere. I felt I needed a long hot shower after I finished this book. Probably the way the fly did, when he struggled out of that pink lobster and avocado jungle, long ago.
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    Bosie

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    Re: AMERICAN REVIEWS OF JOAN CRAWFORD BIO

    Post  Bosie on Wed Mar 28, 2012 4:46 pm

    More.

    Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr, by David Bret
    Reviewed by Stephanie Jones (April 2006)
    of 5

    There's not much new or interesting in Martyr. It consists for the most part of rehashed quotes from other Joan sources and is heavily padded with the author's own (interminable) retelling of film plots. (Even the cover is a rehash---with the photo used already for Walker's Ultimate Star.) And no, there's no proof herein that Joan worked as a prostitute or appeared in a porno (much less did so at the urging of her mother!), as claimed on the dust jacket; and, after reading, I'm still wondering which 3 of Joan's husbands were supposed to have been gay (as the dust jacket also proclaims)! Bret mentions Franchot being serviced by a man or two---OK, chalk one up to "bi" but other than that, nothing. (Also, if I have to read of one more actor described as "ethereal-looking" by Bret, I'll shriek. I stopped counting at "4," but the list ludicrously went on...)

    On the plus-side, the book does have several photos that I'd never seen before. But unless you, like me, are collecting every single Joan book just to have them, you really don't need this one. I'd rank it down there at the bottom of Joan bios, along with "Crawford's Men."


    Tulip
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    Re: AMERICAN REVIEWS OF JOAN CRAWFORD BIO

    Post  Tulip on Thu Mar 29, 2012 6:51 am

    Whilst absolutely spot on, I'd suggest the above quoted ladies take steps to protect themselves from the inevitable stalking and harassment for Mr Brett (author, failed).
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    Bosie

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    Re: AMERICAN REVIEWS OF JOAN CRAWFORD BIO

    Post  Bosie on Thu Mar 29, 2012 7:44 am

    Tulip wrote:Whilst absolutely spot on, I'd suggest the above quoted ladies take steps to protect themselves from the inevitable stalking and harassment for Mr Brett (author, failed).
    Hi Tulip, don't worry, these ladies wrote these reviews quite a time ago and I would reckon he's already had a go at them. Also, besides being a naff author he is also just p!ss and wind, his threats are meaningless.

    Davy Boy

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    Re: AMERICAN REVIEWS OF JOAN CRAWFORD BIO

    Post  Davy Boy on Thu Mar 29, 2012 5:02 pm

    David Bret did indeed attack those who posted reviews relating to his books on Amazon.com, and did so by posting the usual rubbish, and then proceeded attacking them in his blogs. Thankfully Amazon.com took action and will not allow David Bret to post anything on the pages in which his books are advertised. lol! Sometimes there is a way of stopping him ranting and raving like an utter buffoon, just wish more would follow!

    Tulip
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    Re: AMERICAN REVIEWS OF JOAN CRAWFORD BIO

    Post  Tulip on Thu Mar 29, 2012 7:39 pm

    Evening Bosie and Davy.

    Amazon seem to have plenty of common sense at times, Brown, Brett.

    Not wishing to divert the conversation here, but it's a trait both share, a childish foot stamping reaction to anything that isn't 100% hero worship.

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    Bosie

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    Re: AMERICAN REVIEWS OF JOAN CRAWFORD BIO

    Post  Bosie on Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:00 pm

    Evening, Tulip. Common sense sometimes, but those times are few and far between. What I don't understand is this need to be better than everyone else. After all, we arrive in this world the same way as every one else and we depart in the same way, if not the same manner. I like to succeed, we all do, but not at the expense of others. And I cannot for the life of me see what anyone gains by vilifying others just because their book got a better review. So, write another one and maybe the reviews will be better next time. Simple, n'est-ce pas?
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    Bosie

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    Re: AMERICAN REVIEWS OF JOAN CRAWFORD BIO

    Post  Bosie on Sun Apr 01, 2012 8:11 pm

    Another one from Amazon USA.

    Review Written by
    markus king "markus" (Winston-Salem, NC United States)

    Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr
    by David Bret

    This is Truly Hilarious..., February 7, 2012

    If you click on David Bret's Amazon profile, he mentions me! I'm flattered!

    "...1-star reviews which are so poisonous (the July 2011 one for "Valentino", by Markus King being a prime example)that they defy belief."

    Mind you, if you saw what Mr Bret has done on various fansites (he's extremely fond of using a disgusting vulgarity that begins with the letter "C" to disparage women), you'd question his definition of the word "poisonous".

    But I digress. Smile

    The "hilarious" thing i mention in my title is actually what happened to me at the library. I saw a copy of Mr. Bret's Joan Crawford tome, HOLLYWOOD MARTYR, on the shelf. After my stomach-turning ordeal with the Valentino book/debacle, I hesitated. I walked by this book about 3 times before grabbing it off the shelf.

    To my surprise and delight, the book has been written in with notes and subtexts. HEAVILY. Someone actually fact-checked the ENTIRE book and made notes! Under this premise, I was excited to check the book out and check out the contrast of fact v. fiction.

    I do wonder, if Mr. Bret is so shocked and appalled by all of these 1-star reviews for his books, why doesnt he do some fact-checking. WHERE is his editor???

    I can accept him stating Jeff Chandler was "Mr Joan Crawford" and enjoyed getting dressed up in drag. I've never thought Esther Williams to be the most reliable of sources, but hell, at least she corroborates the cross-dressing.

    Mr. Bret, what we of the 1-Star reviews CANNOT accept are outrageously sloppy, easy-to-discredit falsehoods.

    You blatantly state that Norma Shearer never remarried. Can you please address this? (does the name Martin Arrouge mean anything?)

    You state that Billie Burke played the "Blue Fairy" in The Wizard of Oz. Care to address? (confusing our children's stories, are we? That's a character from Pinocchio).

    You state that Helen Lawson in Valley of the Dolls was based on Crawford. Care to address?
    (quote from Jacqueline Susann: "If I had known Joan Crawford when I was writing Valley of the Dolls, Helen Lawson would have been a monster")

    Those are just a few issues of MANY. You state these 1-star reviews "defy belief", yet you do not address the reason you're getting them!!!

    I must say, though...I actually DID enjoy reading the book, as a fanciful, partial re-imagining of Joan's life. In this book she is bedding anyone and everyone, and those who she isnt bedding are gay (although that doesn't stop her from trying to nail Rock Hudson, an anecdote repeated from Shaun Considine's THE DIVINE FEUD). Of course, since I had a book that had pencil marks pointing out inaccuracies on nearly every other page, it took quite the suspension of disbelief to get through this.

    When all is said and done, I didn't pay a penny for this...so no hard feelings, Mr. Bret. ;-)

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