Don’t you just hate it when an artist’s work is judged by the personal life of the artist? Doesn’t it just irk you if someone declares their dislike based upon an artist’s love life, family life or political affiliation? Well, it really bugs me, and here are three of my pet peeves:
Joan Crawford was a great star. These are not just words. From a career that started in 1925 and ended in 1970, this woman was the very definition of a Hollywood star and was loved by millions. True, her latter years were a bit hard to bear, but who doesn’t struggle with aging? Joan Crawford carried on the tradition of the glamorous, goddess-like star of the silent era, never giving in to the “just like us” image that started in the 1930s.
While Joan did look a bit scary in her later years (it was the eyebrows and the lip-liner), “Mommie Dearest” destroyed her reputation. And now you just know that you can’t discuss Joan Crawford and her 45-year career without someone mentioning wire hangers and stating that they will never watch her movies because she allegedly abused her children. Don’t fret, Joan, I am always on Team Crawford. I confess I read the sensational book when it was first published and I feel sorry for all of the tortured souls involved, but whether it is true or not, I will not be denied the great star power of Joan at the height of her powers. Her personal life does not diminish her art.
I am going to get all emotional here, because I practically worship this man as an artist. His accomplishments are legendary and his story larger than life. While his left-leaning political inclinations seem to have been forgiven and rarely held against him nowadays, there is always someone out there brought up the rumor that he was an alleged pedophile. Ack! He did like young girls and it caused him a world of trouble, but this is the man who gave us 12 perfect Mutual short films, plus The Kid, The Gold Rush, City Lights, Modern Times and the very courageous The Great Dictator. Chaplin breaks and warms my heart at the same time and as long as he wasn’t eating babies for breakfast, I really don’t care what he was doing off of the screen.
Woody Allen is a comedy god to me. While he may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there is no denying that there is a funny, brilliant mind at work. His stand-up routines of old still bowl me over, and his films rank among my favorites. Woody, like Chaplin, had lady trouble, frequently using his leading lady off-screen as his on-screen muse (chiefly Louise Lasser, Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow). And it was with Mia that all of the trouble began. Once the Woody-Soon Yi story broke, Woody was poison.
Now, admittedly, I might not want to have Woody for a son-in-law and the story is distasteful, but who cares? I love Woody for Take the Money and Run, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, Midnight in Paris, and so many more. Cries of incest (Soon-Yi was not his daughter) and pedophile fall on my deaf ears. I am so glad he has hung in there and still continues to make interesting films.
I don’t or didn’t know any of these artists personally. Maybe if I did, I would feel more qualified to judge them, but I feel only qualified to judge their works. And for me, Joan, Charlie & Woody rock.
Marsha Collock has been an avid fan – not scholar – of classic films since she saw the first flicker of black and white on the TV screen. Her muse is Norma Desmond, to whom she has dedicated her blog, A Person in the Dark, a site designed for all of the wonderful people out there in the dark who have an unabashed passion for silents, early talkies, all stars and all films. Visit her Facebook page.