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Glamour school galsThe Golden Girls of MGMby Jane Ellen WayneRobson Books 1795 pp414Its a bravura opening Awoken by a punishingly early alarm call the unseen star tears herself from her bed ties her hair back and moves to the exquisite bathroom for her ritual preparation Fiercely hot water then shocking handfuls of ice cubes to tighten the skin as slowly steadfastly she readies herself for the drive to the MGM lot where she is filming The Ice Follies of 1939The suspense is stretched almost to snapping point but finally when shes finished in the studio make-up chair the camera reveals what we have been itching to see the face Its Joan Crawford or rather its Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in the ghoulish bio-pic Mommie DearestThe rest of the picture is watchable only for fans of grandstanding camp but that sequence absolutely anatomises the slog of stardom And if anyone encapsulated that bloody-minded determination it was Crawford who as late as 1965 told interviewer John Kobal that she personally answered between 10000 and 12000 fan letters a month Mind you she also revealed to him that she studied opera for seven years a claim so magnificently unlikely as to be almost endearingCrawfords voice was hardly her greatest asset She grabbed attention as a wild flapper in the silent Our Dancing Daughters MGM 1928 She was under contract at MGM and studio boss Louis B Mayer never a man to be needlessly generous doubled her salaryMary Pickfords favourite director Marshall Neilan once listed the six essentials of female stardom as beauty personality charm temperament style and the ability to wear clothes - not you notice acting talent - and while Crawford lucked out on charm she hit paydirt on the restGuts and sex got Crawford noticed but it was MGM that harnessed and groomed her Adrian the studios leading costume designer clocked her Johnny Weissmuller-like shoulders and instead of playing them down padded them making her
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