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Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford

3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  289 ratings  ·  51 reviews
Joan Crawford was one of the most incandescent film stars of all time, yet she was also one of the most misunderstood. In this brilliantlyresearched, thoughtful, and intimate biography, bestselling author Donald Spoto goes beyond the popular caricature—the abusive, unstable mother portrayed in her adopted daughter Christina Crawford’s memoir, Mommie Dearest—to give us a th ...more
ebook, 368 pages
Published November 9th 2010 by HarperCollins e-books (first published November 2nd 2010)
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Lee Anne
I don't know why, but I always mistakenly think of Donald Spoto as a hack. I mean, he's no William Manchester or Robert Caro, but for the business of celebrity memoirs, he's actually not bad. This well-researched biography of Joan Crawford even taught me a few things (no small feat considering this is the 15th Joan bio I've read). Spoto goes a long, detailed way, as most Crawford biographers of the past thirty years have attempted, to correct the exaggerations and outright lies put forth by Chri ...more
Prima Seadiva
This was a gift from a friend who is also a fan of Joan Crawford and her movies.

Admittedly the author is a huge fan, but it's a nice offset to the extremes of the Mommie Dearest movie which is the only view of Joan a lot of people have.
She had one tough upbringing and one could see how this impacted her ambition and her vulnerabilities. Things I did know about her-she was both involved with and then remained long time friend of Clark Gable, her life long best friend was a gay man, Billy Haines,
This is just an extended filmography, really. There is no real "new" personal information and definitely very thin source material, relying quite heavily on Crawford's own autobiographies, which might not be quite the most objective source. Spoto also does let you know right up front that he adores Joan Crawford and loathes the infamous book her adopted daughter wrote, although the interpretations he makes of Crawford's behavior actually seem to be pretty weak, thus reinforcing the image most ha ...more
David Cerda
Spoto gives Joan a fair shake revealing her at her most vulnerable and sincere in her earlier years. He doesn't shy away from her alcohol abuse and issues with her children but as one might suspect there are two sides to every story and he is able to disprove many of the Mommie Dearest stories including a strong case against the wire hanger episode. This is why I was a bit confused that he used some of Christina's recollections as facts and questioned others. How do you choose? He also dismisses ...more
Another excellent bio from Donald Spoto. He has become about my favorite writer when it comes to the silver screen bio. One of the things I love about this book is the way he blows away the lies from "Mommie Dearest", a book that will definitely send the author to hell (and I don't even believe in hell!) by actually using dates and information from intimates of Ms. Crawford--he covers her career, her romances, and her introspective self--and spends more time on the end of her life than any book ...more
Spoto is such an open Crawford apologist that it was pretty hard to finish this book. He completely glosses over Crawford's alleged lesbianism and pornographic past, takes her side against Christina and Christopher Crawford with only hearsay (from HER friends) to back him up, and spends too much time summarizing some of her worst movies. I guess without those 3 aspects it might have been an awfully easy book to write. There are not enough photos to accompany the text and some of the photos are d ...more
The book was very detailed about her career and home life. I think she was a lonely person who was a great movie star. She was definitely a career woman. I wasn't surprised to learn that the whole "no wire hangers" episode is extremely false and written by a bitter, spoiled daughter.

I have read better movie star biographies though. It seemed that the author was so intent on getting the facts right, that the style is missing something. At times I was incredibly bored but managed to slog through
Michael Neno
The subtitle of this book could be more accurately called "A Life of Joan Crawford", due to the divergence of opinions of the people who knew Crawford.

Since many (especially younger) people's image of Crawford is the over-the-top, borderline campy maniac portrayed in the biopic, Mommie Dearest, it's fitting that Spoto has written a well-researched biography that tips the scales on the other side. Crawford's lifelong philanthropic efforts alone would give pause to most people who think of the sel
will start this review off by stating that I am a huge Joan Crawford fan; she is without a doubt my favorite classic movie actress. Because of my devotion to her and her films I can easily find something positive with even the most banal Crawford offering but, happily, in this case no such searching was necessary.

Since the publication of daughter Christina's alleged memoir Mommie Dearest in 1978, it has been a thankless job of sorts to support Crawford and acknowledge not only her contribution
Another VERY sympathetic portrait of Crawford. A quick, mostly enjoyable, read. The writing (and/or editing) seems careless at times. One example: Here's a quote from Crawford on page 28, "I have made a careful study of every single still picture ever shot of me. I wanted these stills to teach me what not to do on the screen. I scrutinized the grin on my face, my hair-do, my posture, my makeup, the size of my feet." That's an interesting quote. But not so interesting that it should pop up again ...more
A true portrait of Joan Crawford that is not influenced by the unsubstantiated claims made by her oldest adopted daughter, Christina Crawford in the infamous memoir "Mommie Dearest" (written after she learned she had been disinherited from her mother's will). Donald Spoto did his homework in order to give us a biography of one of the most talented and prolific actresses of the golden era of Hollywood. I picked this book up expecting to get a dose of crazy with a shot of wire hangers but finished ...more
Alison C
As the subtitle suggests, Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford, by Donald Spoto, is a biography of that American movie star, whose heyday was in the 1930s and 1940s, but who continued working up into the 1970s. Many people might remember her adopted daughter's memoir (and the subsequent television film), Mommie Dearest: this book goes some way to setting the record straight in terms of Crawford's reputation. However, the troubled relationship between mother and daughter is only part of the woman ...more
This is a wonderful read, one of the best biographies ever written about Joan Crawford. A real page-turner! Deena, please try to read this. You'll love it, too!
A very reveling portrait of one of Hollywood's originals. Like many early Hollywood stars, Joan rose from a depressing childhood to Hollywood Royalty. The author does much to debunk the "Mommie Dearest" stories as pure fiction. Particularly enjoyed the stories of Mildred Pierce and Baby Jane. Perhaps because of her poor background, Joan never stopped working to improve herself and her craft. It is sad too in that she was a very lonely person always looking for the perfect love. And in doing so , ...more
Growing up as a child of the 80's the movie of Mommie Dearest was well known, especially the infamous "No more wire hangers" scene. My own mother has the book of the same title written by Miss Crawford's adopted daughter, Christina Crawford. I never read the book, and after reading this, I refuse to. When I finished reading Possessed I realized that Miss Crawford has been unfairly judged and misunderstood. I hate to admit that I am one of those that have judged her too quickly. Possessed was wri ...more
C.S. Burrough
Jun 21, 2014 C.S. Burrough rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Donald Spoto is one of my favourite Hollywood biographers. I've read five Crawford biographies and find it impossible to rate one higher than the others. Inescapably, many details are rehashed across all of them. This one I liked slightly more than than the others I've read. If I were recommending which ones to include in your coverage (there are so many), this would be near the top of my list.

Joan became such a contentious biographical topic in the aftermath of Mommie Dearest that her apologist
I became curious about Joan Crawford when I saw the movie Mommie Dearest. I had heard some of the hype about her being this horrible adoptive parent and only thought she had the two children, Christina and Christopher. Being an adoptive parent myself, I am always interestedin the dynamics of adoptive families. After reading this book and dooing further research/investigation, I believe Christina's account may be somewhat over the top BUT something DID indeed impact her and Christopher. The son c ...more
Alex Gregory

There are few celebrities that have inspired as much literature and debate as Joan Crawford.

The star of dozens of films from the 1920's through the late 60's, Crawford has attracted her fair share of supporters and detractors over the years. Most famously, her adopted daughter Christina published a tell-all novel in 1978 titled Mommie Dearest. The book (and its so-bad-its-good film adaptation starring Faye Dunaway) characterized Crawford as a haughty, alcoholic woman who beat her children and ha
All I knew of Joan Crawford is what I had seen in her movies and in "Mommie Dearest" before I read this biography of her. I never knew how sad her story was and that some of the characters she had played, like Mildred Pierce, allowed her to be more true to herself than many others. Spoto does an incredible job of telling Joan Crawford's story from her birth, to discovery, Hollywood, her marriages and romances, all the way to her death. She was truly a woman of her time - a survivor, who in turn ...more
Christine Gibb
Aug 02, 2012 Christine Gibb rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who want to read Joan's filmography
I was really interested in this book because I'm fascinated by Joan Crawford. Unfortunately, rather than giving us a glimpse into little-known facts about her life, this book was little more than a filmography. If I really wanted to know the details of every film Joan has ever done, I would just look it up online.

It becomes apparent early on that Spoto is a huge Joan apologist as he takes every effort to slam Mommie Dearest. Not that I necessarily believe that Mommie Dearest is an accurate portr
Writing is at times hamfisted but not bad. Many actor/actress bios are poorly written. I read Spoto's Hickcock book about 20 years ago (???) but I have no recollections of the writing itself.

I always wondered what made Crawford seem so demented (just saw Johnny Guitar for the fourth time and it never fails to be a car wreck of a film) and now I have a better idea of what a weird life she had. Her entire childhood was spent in servitude, essentially working as a maid, and when she made it in Hol
Jade Dermody
Continuing on my latest stint in reading bios of Hollywood greats my next adventure was with the wonderful Joan Crawford. Again knowing little about her work other then 'What happened to baby Jane' and 'Mildred Piece' and oh course the odd 'Mommie dearest' I found I wanted to know more. In this book Spoto tries to show a real picture of the woman who become Joan Crawford. He shows he difficult childhood and her obsession with work, but it feels as if he has to show these features of the woman to ...more
This book felt more like a recitation of Joan Crawford's various film roles rather than a biography. It did have some interesting tidbits, but I grew tired of reading summaries of her film roles.
Tracy Morton
At times I found this biography tedious to read. There were pages devoted to summarizing the plots of her many movies which wasn't of much interest. It is very obvious that the biographer was a fan and wanted to paint the best picture possible of Joan Crawford. Unflattering information was glossed over and positive information was expanded upon beyond the point of interest. It was an ok book with some interesting information. It was far to focused on listing the movies that Joan Crawford starred ...more
I really enjoy movies from the Golden Age. Since I was about 12, I've read everything I could find on the classic days of film. I was totally scarred by Christina Crawford's Mommie Dearest, when I read it at the age of 13. Since then, I've read many other books on Joan Crawford and discovered that Christina was most likely just a disturbed person, angry that she didn't have a perfect life. Mr. Spoto writes a very balanced book. He does not just gush over an admired actress. He is clearly able to ...more
Cheryl Cameron
A good, fair review of the film star.
Brent Nelson
Interesting Bio of JC. Shows a very different side that what most of us know from Mommie Dearest
Not much more than observations cobbled together into a book. If you don't want to actually watch Crawford's movies, then at least you have a play-by-play of every single plot line. I was anticipating something far juicier. It's sold as a counterpoint to "Mommie Dearest", but it's most definitely not. Couldn't even finish it. Bleh.

One star for the details about Crawford's early life, which I found interesting. But I probably could have looked that up on the web.
If you are looking for dirt on Joan Crawford, you won't find it here! It has obviously been written by someone who loves and admires her greatly, and I think as long as you keep that in mind, you can really enjoy the book. Personally, I would have preferred a more 'warts and all' account, but I respect the authors decision in celebrating Crawford and her career. However, I am left wanting to learn more about the life of Joan Crawford.
A taxing description of Joan Crawford's life. Spoto spends way too much time defending Crawford's antics, and the descriptions of each movie that she was in could test any reader's patience; but you do learn a great deal about Crawford's accomplishments in Hollywood and the many facets of her personality. I would even go so far as to say she was an unsung actress. Maybe Spoto is a more effective writer than I thought...
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A prolific and respected biographer and theologian, Donald Spoto is the author of twenty published books, among them bestselling biographies of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Alfred Hitchcock, Tennessee Williams, and Ingrid Bergman. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages. Donald Spoto earned his Ph.D. in theology at Fordham University. After years as a theology professor, he t ...more
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