Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr by David Bret

This new book about Joan Crawford brings fascinating new material to the much-told tale of her rise to stardom.

It is a real page-turner, even if some of Bret's allegations about the sex lives of yesteryear's creen idol are so amazing that many readers will find them difficult to believe. Crawford (1904-1977) came from a deprived background. She ruthlessly took advantage of the casting couch to advance her movie career, which initially included anonymous appearances in porn films.

Her Hollywood film career took off spectacularly in the 1930s and flourished into the 1960s.

She was always a style icon and first popularised the exaggerated square-shouldered look for women that became standard fashion during the war years.

Bret loyally defends Joan against the appalling accusations of brutality in the book Mommie Dearest, written and published after Joan's death by Christina - the eldest of Joan's four adopted children.

It cannot be denied, however, that Joan had personality and psychological problems.

She was highly temperamental, self-centred, a control freak, and became a heavy drinker as age crept up on her.

All this could not possibly have made for good mothering, especially of young, adopted children who understandably may have been inherently difficult and disturbed.

Anthony Looch