(GIF via Paramount Pictures)
Rutanya Alda's Mommie Dearest Diary gets a thorough airing by Slate, which writes exhaustively of the events leading up to the filming of Mommie Dearest, a movie about a supremely talented, nutty control freak that starred a supremely talented, nutty control freak.
Alda’s diary of the making of Mommie Dearest is valuable as an eyewitness account of that movie, but even if you don’t care about Mommie Dearest at all, it’s worth reading as a portrait of what it was like to be in spitting distance from fame in 1981 but to not be able to quite get there and to still have to worry about credit card bills and dressing to impress casting agents. Alda was put up by the production at the Chateau Marmont, where she shared a suite with her cat and Richard Bright, her actor husband. In between call times on the movie, which were often postponed or changed at the last minute due to delays caused by Dunaway’s preparation process, Alda walked her cat around the chateau’s pool on a leash and worried about the whereabouts and well-being of her husband, who was battling an addiction to heroin and cocaine—and spending Alda’s paychecks as fast as she could bring them home.
The piece goes on to talk about the tantalizing thought that Dunaway became Crawford during the filming:
By the end of the shoot, people on set were whispering that Dunaway had lost herself in playing Joan Crawford, that she thought she was Joan Crawford. Maybe that was true—it actually aligns with Dunaway’s own version of events—but as Alda noted, the difference was that for much of her career, until vodka and bitterness overwhelmed her, Joan was savvy enough to get exactly what she wanted on a set and have the crew walk away feeling lucky to have met and worked with her. Most members of the cast and crew of Mommie Dearest walked away vowing “never again.” At least, everyone thought, the movie will have been worth it.