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The Definitive Bible of Joan,
This review is from: Just Joan: A Joan Crawford Appreciation (Paperback)
Have you been jonesing for some Joan? Then raise your jazz hands in glee for JUST JOAN, a veritable bibliography of all things Joan-sian! Just in time for the holidays (or any other present-giving time) is this truly unique addition to the library of any serious film buff, and of course, any fan of Joan Crawford.
For many years, the author, Donna Marie Nowak has run a tribute website to Joan Crawford. This book is the result, the ultimate compendium of the life and work of Joan, & the culmination of the years of in-depth research that has gone into Ms. Nowak's website. Much like the website, the first impression is of the wealth of rare, unusual and beautiful photographs of Joan's large camera-ready face (she was one of the first "lollipop" shaped stars, teeny-tiny body, out-sized head & features). Ms. Nowak's writing style is engaging and entertaining - like a conversation with an artistic, literate, chatty, informed, opinionated friend.
The life of Lucille/Billie/Joan gives anyone plenty to think about. Knowing that Joan had a well known habit of sex-first-talk-later, I had suspected she had been sexually abused as a child (this being one typical "coping" behavior of previously abused), and Ms. Nowak throws light on this element without exploiting it. Joan's own rags to riches story was often echoed in the scripts tailored for her. Ms. Nowak's observation is spot-on: that Joan's career was a precursor to modern-day singer Madonna, shape-shifting from hoofer to party girl to climbing ingénue to clothes-horse beauty to fine serious actress to character diva to horror queen. (Unlike Madonna, Joan was a triple threat; acting talent has become largely irrelevant in today's film - even actor's agents admit it is the last (& least) element they look for in a client - it is why "under-acting" is the rule today, impassivity passes for naturalness, even though it is the antithesis of reality. Joan never under-acted, she invested fully.)
Do not expect this to be a biography. This tribute (admittedly not impartial, sometimes-fawning) begins with a grouping of thoughtful essays (on Joan's life, work, and influence), and is largely comprised of a clear, organized, grouping of reviews of Joan's extensive filmography, AND - a historian's delight - reviews of the source materials that these films were based on! Then there are the risky, controversial reviews of other author's works based on the life of Joan. Nowak is a reviewer's reviewer. She doesn't pull any punches, but lays it all out on the mat in a very personal, invested manner. While Ms. Nowak is clearly an unabashed fan of the work and the woman, I laud her ability to present the full spectrum of Joan's humanity within the framework of Joan's work and interviews. Ultimately this allows the reader to make his/her own decisions.
Exacting, thought provoking, informed and fun, the essential nature of this book - as a book of reviews - makes it a great vacation book (or bed-time reading), easy to read in segments, easy to put down, and engaging enough to keep picking up. It should come with a warning: this will make you want to see all the films! This is a truly unique book, a labor of love, and a loving tribute. (As the used book is selling for more than new, it is all ready destined to be a collectable.) JUST JOAN is an essential addition to the library of any serious film fan.