ORLANDO – Looking back on her life, Christina Crawford said she no longer wastes time hating those who hurt her along the way.
“Hate is a useless pursuit,” she told an audience at the Footlight Theatre. “What you have to do is go on.”
But she will admit to having little or no admiration for “Mommie Dearest,” the 1981 movie starring Faye Dunaway that was adapted from her autobiographical book of the same name, about her life as the adopted daughter of Hollywood screen legend Joan Crawford.
“I have no interest in that other film,” she said.
And for those who think the book exaggerated her childhood, Crawford was right to the point.
“If you’re still harboring that delusion,” she said, “get a life!”
On Thursday, author, actress, cable television host, and advocate for abused children Christina Crawford was the guest of honor at the Parliament House resort in downtown Orlando, for a special event: the world premiere inside the resort’s Footlight Theatre of her new documentary, “Surving Mommie Dearest – Tears to Triumph,” which looks back at her life as the child of a Hollywood star and her own career, and the adversities she fought along the way.
Now 74 and living in Idaho, Crawford said she’s learned a lot about personal survivorship.
“I developed it myself,” she said. “It takes a lot of courage. You have to be willing to go outside your comfort zone.”
Having the new documentary premiere in Orlando made it a great night for the Parliament House, said the resort’s owner, Don Granatstein.
“This is wonderful,” he said. “The fact that they came here first is an honor. It’s very nice she wanted to do it here.”
Crawford arrived at the resort in time for a VIP reception – and just as a torrential downpour made her entrance a bit of a soggy one.
“I’m soaked,” Crawford laughed as she was led into the VIP reception area by Michael Wanzie, the resort’s artistic director.
As she brushed the rain off her dress, Crawford made a number of jokes about the weather, saying “As long as there’s no electricity, we’re fine,” and, “I have a hairdryer in the back.”
She posed for photos with the guests, while Wanzie added, “I’ll get the champagne flowing.”
Crawford said she was thrilled to be bringing her documentary to the resort.
“We’ve very excited to have everyone see the film,” she said. “We just saw it for the first time this morning.”
The Parliament House was the ideal place to show the new documentary, said the resort’s bartender, Nick Gray. As he pointed out, Christina Crawford and her book “Mommie Dearest,” Joan Crawford and even the 1981 movie all have a gay following.
“I grew up watching ‘Mommie Dearest,’ ” Gray said. “Those of us who are gay, it’s interesting to meet the real person and hear directly from her what she went through.”
When the crowd gathered inside the Footlight Theatre, Crawford introduced the 90-minute film as an autobiography that she had written.
“I’m really happy to be here,” she said. “I am so pleased to be able to share the opening of this film for you,” while Wanzie noted, “This is the world premiere of this movie, folks.”
The documentary was broken into two parts, with an intermission in-between. The first section chronicled Crawford’s often harrowing childhood as the adopted daughter of the star of “Mildred Pierce,” who she said developed a drinking problem, was manic-depressive and paranoid, and often very physically abusive.
The first part ends with the release of Christina Crawford’s book “Mommie Dearest” in 1978, a year after her mother’s death, and contains plenty of old footage, including home movies.
The second part looks at Christina Crawford’s devastating stroke following the release of her second book, her subsequent recovery and move to rural Idaho, and her advocacy on behalf of other child abuse victims.
Christina Crawford also narrates the film.
After the showing, she got back on stage to answer questions from the audience – and there were plenty.
“Are there any moments in my childhood that were happy? Few and far between,” she said. “Our house was a house of continuous horrors.”
Her best memories, she added, were spent with her adopted brother Christopher, who died of cancer in 2006.
“It was the times with my brother that were the happiest,” she said. “We were very, very close, even though we were not biologically related.”
Crawford acknowledged that even after her mother’s death in 1977, her life wasn’t an easy one.
“I had a drinking problem for a while,” she said. “I’ve been to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). I didn’t like AA, but nobody likes AA. The worst thing I had to overcome from my past was depression.”
Still, Crawford said she has gone from victim to survivor, and urged other child abuse victims to reach out to others for help.
She also was ready to answer questions about Hollywood itself, including a question about whether her mother truly hated Bette Davis, her co-star in the 1964 hit “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?”
Christina Crawford laughed and said, “More than you’ll ever know.”
Asked what’s ahead for the documentary, Crawford said, “We just completed it yesterday. Jerry Rosenberg, my wonderful producer and friend, will make that decision in the next few weeks.”
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