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Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford Hardcover – November 2, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1ST edition (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061856002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061856006
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #836,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Spoto, author of several best-selling biographies of film and theater stars, sets his sights on Joan Crawford for this, his latest effort. Based on exclusive interviews and archival information, he pieces together Crawford’s (then Lucille LeSeuer) early life with her poverty-stricken family, her days as trophy-winning Charleston dancer and fast life as a flapper during World War I, her discovery by MGM, and her life as a movie star. He also details her four marriages, her troubled family life, her several love affairs, achievements as a movie star, and time as a business executive on the board of directors of Pepsi-Cola. Obviously a great fan of the notorious Crawford, the author tries to dispute the stories of child abuse and mental instability that besmirched the reputation of the actress; however, his arguments in the end are not all that persuasive. An illuminating look at a bygone era, and a fairly entertaining read, that movie fans will enjoy. --Kathleen Hughes --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Joan Crawford was one of the most incandescent film stars of all time, yet she was also one of the most misunderstood. In this brilliantly researched, thoughtful, and intimate biography, bestselling author Donald Spoto goes beyond the popular caricature—the abusive, unstable mother of her adopted daughter Christina Crawfords memoir, Mommie Dearest—to give us a three-dimensional portrait of a very human woman, her dazzling career, and her extraordinarily dramatic life and times. Illuminating and entertaining, Possessed is the definitive biography of this remarkable woman and true legend of film.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Not a particular Joan Crawford fan but do like bios.
elsie42
I went to Wiki for more info on a number of the movies he talks about and in every case, the info in the book was almost word for word what was on Wikipedia.
Mary Ann Woodrow
I'm really having a hard time getting through this one though.
Marilyn Morrow

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Damon Devine on November 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I totally agree with "riverscircus" perfect review. The lady definitely knows her Crawford!

I agree that the photographic elements of this book are absolutely appalling, including the book's cover (I know exactly what website it was snagged from). The photos inside are of ghastly quality, pixilated and blurry. But more important than this, is that most aspects of Crawford's life and career are merely glossed over in a paragraph or two. There simply isn't "enough" in this book. As others have stated, very little is new information in this book, and what IS new, is almost totally irrelevant.

I was wildly excited about this book before it arrived (due to the author's good reputation and because I thought it would bring new insight into the woman known as Joan Crawford), only to discover it was half as long as his book on Marilyn Monroe, who lived half as long as Crawford!

The book reads like thrown-together-facts taken from, at times, dubious sources, and tossed out to the book stores.
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53 of 62 people found the following review helpful By riverscircus on November 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
My favorite Joan bio remains Alexander Walker's "The Ultimate Star" - to me, the pinnacle and perfect synthesis of unique photos, original research, and psychological insight into his subject. Aside from Walker, Joan Crawford biographies seem to fall roughly into 3 categories:

(1)Utterly Junky ("Crawford's Men," "Hollywood Martyr");
(2)Interesting Curios with Revealing New Biographical/Career Information ("Jazz Baby," "Raging Star," "The Last Years," "Bette & Joan"); and
(3)Respectable Tomes that Defend Joan and Primarily Gather Info from Already-Published Sources (Thomas's "A Biography," "The Last Word," "The Essential Biography").

Donald Spoto's "Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford" falls into the latter category. I.e., Spoto, a respected author of 25 bios, is diligent in his research of information already available about Crawford, but he offers little new insight into either her character or career. For instance, while advance publicity was given to Spoto's access to Crawford's papers at the NYC Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, the only evidence I could find of such access was a list near the end of the book of what charities Joan had contributed to. Nice to know, but...? That listing was all the Lincoln Center archives had to offer?

Some of the "new" (i.e., not yet in print) information about Joan available in "Possessed" comes courtesy of the "newfangled" Internet. Kudos to Spoto for making use of the various Joan Crawford websites out there. Full disclosure: I'm the creator/editor of joancrawfordbest.com.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on December 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a chronology of Crawford's life and films, this is a good book.

It does not capture her personality-the earnest writing style just takes the stuffing out of her personality.

As a refutation of the "Mommie Dearest" claims it's also VERY weak. Given the sledgehammer Joan's reputation took, it's going to take a detailed and point-by-point examination of Christina's claims to lay them to rest, and this doesn't do that.

I'm not sorry I purchased it; I am sorry it's not better. And it could have been much better with a more direct, forceful approach.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mary Ann Woodrow on January 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Spoto must have used Wikipedia almost exclusively for his research for this book. I went to Wiki for more info on a number of the movies he talks about and in every case, the info in the book was almost word for word what was on Wikipedia. By the time I was half way through the book, I threw it away. A total waste of time, and very little real information about the woman he was supposed to be writing about. Did he interview anyone for this book? Did he go back to any original sources from the era? I think the whole book came straight from a single source.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert Marshall on February 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Donald Spoto's "Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford," may have a slightly different slant, suggesting she was 'possessed' by demons throughout her life is far from accurate, and adds little, if any, new insights into the life of the legendary star. Too many holes in the story prevent it from being an a very thorough biography. Most of the details have been covered (better) in earlier works, and this is just another "here's my take" on her life. A real dissapointment from Mr. Spoto.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Hallauthor on January 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As a huge fan of classic cinema, any new bio of the screen's greatest stars is something eagerly anticipated. Mix in author Donald Spoto and his reputation, and that anticipation multiplies. Sadly, POSSESSED disappoints on multiple levels. Given that the author gained access to Miss Crawford's papers, one would have hoped to have been privvy to new insights into the star's life and too unfortunately caricatured behaviors. Spoto sheds literally zero new light on Crawford. There are only snippets of new information, while most of the book ignores or whitewashes events that are clearly documented ( his portrayal of Joan's actions after the filming of Baby Jane, her comments, Davis's on the record comments, as well as the facts surrounding the shoot of "Hush...Hush..." are inexcusably sparse to the point of being totally revisionist )in Spoto's needless attempts to rationalize the star's more controversial behaviors. I say needless, because his over-sanitization of his subject only obscures what I believe he initially set out to do; put the spotlight back onto Crawford's long underrated acting skills.

I am one who absolutely believes that Crawford was a magnificant actress who was unfairly branded as more a fashion-plate-personality-"star" than actress, and who's legacy was drowned by Mommie Dearest. What Spoto misses in the book is that his overly-apologetic slant does not in and of itself raise the case for Crawford's talent.

This was a sadly missed opportunity for Spoto to state his case. Instead, he simply created an overt hagiography that will add nothing to the case for re-understanding Crawford as an artist. Lawrence Quirk's "Joan Crawford, The Essential Biography" comes much closer to hitting the mark.
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