Carol Ann Speaks Her Peace - Gay City News | Gay City News

Carol Ann Speaks Her Peace

Rutanya Alda, who played Carol Ann in “Mommie Dearest,” appears in “The Portrait” through January 26. | DAVID NOH

Rutanya Alda, who played Carol Ann in “Mommie Dearest,” appears in “The Portrait” through January 26. | DAVID NOH

BY DAVID NOH | Christina Crawford disdains it, Faye Dunaway won’t talk about it, Diana Scarwid and Mara Hobel aren’t saying anything, so what a blessing it was to encounter the delightfully outspoken Rutanya Alda, who is truly our link to the Holy Grail of gay cult movies, “Mommie Dearest.” Alda, who played Joan Crawford’s lifelong slave, Carol Ann, lives in New York and is appearing in Sarah Levine Simon’s play “The Portrait” at Theater 54 (244 W. 54th, 12th fl., through Jan. 26;

“I’m the maid to an Upper Park Avenue woman in this farce, set in the 1980s,” she told me. “It’s just delightful, a comedy of bad manners, and definitely a satire on the theme of appearing better than you are and putting down people. Everybody wants to be top dog, which you see around the wealthy.”

Rutanya Alda on “Mommie Dearest” and more; singing/ dancing cinema the way it should be seen

Alda came from Latvia as a child after World War II, a refugee who had been living with her mother and grandmother in a displaced person camp in Germany before being accepted by America.

“My father was sent to the gulag for 16 years and we didn’t know he was alive until we were reunited in my 20s, which I am writing about in the one-woman show I’m preparing.”

Character actor Richard Bright was Alda’s husband of 30 years when he was killed on Columbus Avenue, hit by an Academy bus in 2006.

“It was terrible –– you just have to go through the agony and horror of it,” she said. “And we haven’t yet received any compensation. They wear you out with lawsuits. They don’t value human life, what they put us through in terms of reliving it and interrogation was just disgusting. My husband was in his 60s and they said, ‘Well, he was older,’ so his life is valued less. And they said, ‘We think he died right away, so he had no pain or suffering and we only pay on that, not on death.’ We’re not dropping the suit, but they are stretching it beyond, probably hoping I die [laughs].”

Alda, who went to work when she was 12, wanted to be an actress from the time she saw Cecil B. DeMille’s film “North West Mounted Police.” She came to New York, where she studied with all the great acting gurus of the time, including Barbara Loden (then married to Elia Kazan), with whom she became best friends. Her early screen credits include some of my favorite films: “Next Stop, Greenwich Village” –– as a party guest with John Belushi in a scene that was largely cut –– Brian DePalma’s horror masterpiece “The Fury,” and Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye,” as Elliott Gould’s sexy, yoga-practicing hippie neighbor (“Mr. Marlowe, you want a brownie?”).

But, of course, it was  “Mommie” that I wanted to hear all about, the film that, with endless revivals, simply refuses to die. For many gay men like me, certain snatches of its dialogue run on an endless loop in our minds, absurdly yet uncannily applicable to so many real life situations.

“Isn’t it wonderful… for me?” Alda said, laughing. “I think it is a wonderful film, too, in many ways. But isn’t it sad that Faye can’t appreciate it? It’s totally different from anything she’s ever done and I love her in it. It’s terrible that she can’t say, ‘Thank you, yes, I did a great job,’ and accept it.”

The movie is the colossal elephant in the room for anyone meeting Dunaway, but, said Alda, “You’ll hear all about it from my side. I have a book coming out, based on the diary I kept during its making. I’d never kept one before or since, but it was because my personal life was in chaos at the time, as was our set, because Faye was so difficult. It was my way of keeping a balance in my life and I felt better after journaling it.

“I put it away and didn’t think about it until last summer when I was invited for a screening at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. Eighteen hundred seats sold out and I brought the diary to read little portions of it because I thought people might be interested. Well, it was phenomenal! I’ve never experienced this kind of love: people were so loving and excited. I thought, ‘Wow, I should really publish this!

“You can put this on record: Faye made life very difficult. [Costume designer] Irene Sharaff, who had come out of retirement to do it, said, ‘That woman is on cocaine!’ She walked off the film midway and said, ‘I’m going back to New York and not returning, because of Faye. I have never walked off a movie in my entire career… You can enter Faye Dunaway’s dressing room, but first throw a raw steak in there to distract her.’ I never saw any drug use, but I saw the erratic behavior and mood swings, which happen for a reason.

“My first day on the set with her, she did the upstage routine where she made sure that my face was not on camera, an old theater trick. I couldn’t believe it –– she’s the star! I couldn’t complain to our director Frank Perry, a sweet man who’d lost control of his set, so I decided to help her upstage me. I upstaged myself all day long, and then she kind of relaxed. So, after that she was a little more gentle with me, but I also learned to get out of the way and hide a lot [laughs]. I’m sure if I stayed around long enough I’d be under fire, too. She has that tremendous insecurity where everyone’s competition when you’re the star.”

I had to hear about the scene where she savagely attacked Diana Scarwid, playing daughter Christina: “Very intense. They used stunt doubles for that, but then Faye would come in and scream over Diana’s body, and I did get knocked down by her when she really hit me in the chest. She was all over the map, and Jocelyn Brando, who played the journalist, was really scared because she’d been in a horrible auto accident and had a plate in her arm.

“When she saw me go down after Faye hit me, she said, ‘I can’t afford to be injured, just spent six months in the hospital.’ Initially, Frank wanted both me and Jocelyn to pull her off Diana, but she saw Faye was out of control and said, ‘No way.’ We did maybe 10 takes and Frank had to deal with it because Faye wasn’t goanna change what she was doing. I got knocked down maybe twice –– she hit me hard in the chest.”

Then there was the slapping scene: “She didn’t pull it, either [laughs]. But it was only once that she really slapped me out of the five takes we did. Frank said, ‘Wait a minute. If you do that all the time, the mark you leave on her cheek isn’t going to match.’ That was the only reason [laughs]! Otherwise, I would have been slapped more!

“Diana Scarwid was very unhappy. Faye didn’t like her at all, and vice-versa. I kept telling Diana, ‘Just use what you’re really feeling about Faye,’ and it worked because that was probably what was happening with Christina. Diana’s a wonderful actress and a lovely, sweet woman.

“Wasn’t Mara Hobel wonderful [as little Christina]? When I first met her, I thought she was 40 years old because she was questioning me, like ‘Who’s your agent? How many films have you done? How long are you goanna be on the film, how many days do you have?’ Ohmigod, who is this person talking like an agent? But she was really delightful, very spunky.

“The filmmakers really captured that 1940s era, you felt you were really in that time and place so I was really happy most of the time. But I did hide a lot because if you didn’t, Faye would pick on you. Beyond difficult, but crazy like a fox. She needs to be the star and if anybody else gets attention, they’re in trouble. And it’s difficult for women, who have been stars, to age. At the time, Faye said she would never have a facelift and of course she’s had more than one, her face is so stretched, with those lips. I have a hard time looking at her now because it’s so distorted to me. If she’d just let herself go, she would have been a beautiful older woman and could have played parts like June Squibb in ‘Nebraska.’”

Alda’s performance has always struck me as exquisitely understated and so accurate. It puts me in mind of so many gay men I know who are eager eternal doormats for certain demanding female stars.

“They cut the opening scene of how Carol Ann met Joan,” Alda recalled. “She rolls down her car window and says, ‘Carol Ann, it’s you again!’ I had a book full of autographs and said, ‘I would wait just as long as I could to see you again, and would do just anything for you.’

“She says, ‘‘Get in the car. I think I have a job for you.’ Carol Ann loves her unconditionally and when I got the part, I read as much about Joan as I could. She had a challenging childhood I could relate to, working since I was 12 and, like her, I had only one dress to wear to school and was humiliated by the other girls.

“Her mother was not terribly fond of her and mine was a really cruel woman. But I think Joan, more than Christina, was the real survivor who crawled out of the gutter to have a 50-year career. She may not have been the greatest mother, but those kids were all dressed nicely –– and, anyway, she gave Christina a whole career talking about her.

“Somewhere along the way, you have to say, well, my mother must have had a horrible childhood, too, and forgive them. You break the cycle. My son had a good life and never got beat or hit with a belt like I did. He’s adorable, but sometimes he says, ‘Oh, Mom, this and that,’ and I tell him, ‘Well, you know what? When you grow up you can write a book about me.’

“After this play, I am doing a part in a movie called ‘Ovum,’ and in April I am doing ‘Old Dogs and New Tricks,’ the gay web series which is in its third year. The producers, Leon Acord and Lawrence Wright, just got married and are very sweet. Bruce Hart and I are playing this evil couple, and Leon has added some funny ‘Mommie Dearest’ references.”

Before we parted, I couldn’t resist asking Alda to play my favorite Carol Ann moment in the film when a sick Christina watches Joan drunkenly stumble through that TV soap opera and hilariously mutters, “Turn it off.” The other diners at Manatus may have been a little startled, but Alda said, “I love when people know my lines better than I do!”

Hattie McDaniels and Paul Robeson in “Showboat.” | MUSUEM OF THE MOVING IMAGE

Hattie McDaniels and Paul Robeson in “Showboat.” | MUSUEM OF THE MOVING IMAGE

Movie musical lovers are in for a magnificent treat with the Museum of the Moving Image’s “See It Big!,” a month-long screening of singing/ dancing classics shown the way they really should be seen (36-01 35th Ave. at 37th St., Astoria, through Feb. 28; The series is awash with memorable moments: the unforgettable aerial opening of “The Sound of Music”; Myrna Loy’s delicious nymphomaniac in “Love Me Tonight” (“Can you go for a doctor?” “Send him right in!”); the soulfully stirring “On Broadway” number from “All That Jazz,” which captures the modern chaotic audition process like no other; Hattie McDaniels’ and Paul Robeson’s “Ah Still Suits Me” duet in “Show Boat,” which, until the 1950s, at least, was maybe the most joyous expression of black sexuality on the screen; Isabel Jeans’ priceless, high comedy courtesan lessons for Leslie Caron in “Gigi”; Ginger Rogers singing “We’re in the Money” in pig Latin in “Gold Diggers of 1933”; Michael Jackson’s explosively floppy dancing as the Scarecrow in “The Wiz” and that film’s uber-1970s fashion parade set at the World Trade Center, filling in for Oz; Diahnne Abbott’s unspeakably luscious rendition of “Honeysuckle Rose” in “New York, New York.”

But the two I am most looking forward to are “Pennies from Heaven,” Herbert Ross’ remarkable, audacious tribute to the 1930s as envisioned by Edward Hopper, in which the performances of Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Jessica Harper, and Christopher Walken were all truly lit by the spark of genius, and “A Star is Born,” especially if it is the same Locarno Film Festival print that recently screened at Lincoln Center’s George Cukor retrospective. I only saw the preview footage of the infamous Oscar scene (at, but the uncannily creamy quality of the imagery positively leapt off the screen in a whole new way.

Contact David Noh at, follow him on Twitter @in_the_noh, and check out his  blog at

34 Responses to Carol Ann Speaks Her Peace


  2. Pingback: Faye Dunaway Was A Nightmare During Making Of “Mommie Dearest,” Remembers Costar | Macedonian Gay

  3. Pingback: Faye Dunaway Was A Nightmare During Making Of “Mommie Dearest,” Remembers Costar

  4. @RaunchHox January 29, 2014 at 5:26 am

    I've yet to hear anything positive from ANYONE involved in working with Faye Dunaway. She really does seem to be an absolute nightmare.

  5. Guest December 21, 2014 at 10:01 am

    It was unprofessional to speak against Faye Dunaway. She had a method to her madness and created a diamond that inspired and motivated others to get into the entertainment industry such as myself. I would never speak against my colleagues even if I had a bad opinion of the them. It's just not professional.

    • Shawn Guillemette March 29, 2017 at 10:38 pm

      There is no excuse to being a nasty human being. True sociopath. She made movies. It's not as if she were saving lives on a daily basis. As a society, our priorities are definitely out of whack.

  6. Jackie March 19, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    What ever became of Carol Ann?

  7. Rudi August 31, 2015 at 1:52 am

    To David Noh,

    Your "favorite Carol Ann moment" in "Mommie Dearest" did not happen! The scene in which Christina says "turn if off" (referring to the TV which is showing her mother) occurred in a hospital room. Christina was speaking to a nurse. Carol Ann does not appear in the scene.

    • Pete December 31, 2015 at 7:13 am

      I noticed that too !

  8. fazal January 30, 2017 at 2:14 am

    Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and (without rules, schedules, etc.) – that floods/overloads a business on a day-to-day basis. But it's not the amount of data that's important. Big data is changing the way people within organizations work together. It is creating a culture in which business and IT leaders must join forces to (understand/make real/achieve) value from all data. big data, and data science are hot areas in the industry, and professionals who have these skills are in high demand. Some reports put annual salaries for data scientists at above the $200,000 mark. Career site Glass Door rated data scientist as the top job for work-life balance, which is not anything that's easy to come by these days.Big Data course is designed to prepare you for a job assignment in the Big Data world.

  9. fazal February 8, 2017 at 7:26 am

    Big Data Organizations use their data to support and influence decisions and build data-intensive products and services, such as recommendation, prediction, and diagnostic systems. The collection of skills required by organizations to support these functions has been grouped under the term ‘data science’. In big data training in bay area you will learn who is best suited to attend the full training, what prior knowledge you should have, and how the skills will help you (do/complete) business-critical analyses using Big Data in Hadoop.

  10. fazal February 10, 2017 at 1:09 am

    Big Data Organizations use their data to support and influence decisions and build data-intensive products and services, such as recommendation, prediction, and diagnostic systems. The collection of skills required by organizations to support these functions has been grouped under the term ‘data science’. In big data training in bay area you will learn who is best suited to attend the full training, what prior knowledge you should have, and how the skills will help you (do/complete) business-critical analyses using Big Data in Hadoop.

  11. fazal March 17, 2017 at 3:37 am

    Big Data Training is Designed for the people who wants to learn Big Data in a format that meets your convenience, availability and flexibility needs, these courses will lead you on the path to becoming a certified Big Data professional. People are looking for Big Data Training in bay area , BigData trunk will provide bigdata training with experienced faculty in union city. Big Data is a very common and powerful (raised, flat supporting surface) for working with data, but it can be a little hard to get a grip exactly on what it is and what it does. It's a collection of software computer programs that are used to work with big data. Big Data Training offers full-length courses on a range of Big Data technologies for developers, data analysts and administrators.

  12. Just Right April 26, 2017 at 1:16 am

    I really loved this article! It gave me some new insights I never really thought about before.

  13. jennifergennie June 19, 2017 at 4:53 am

    Couches are large and cumbersome. To thoroughly clean them properly you need to pull away the chair cushions as well as vacuum each and every inch as well as brush aside any crumbs along with other bits which have fallen at the rear of and collected within the corners and across the company abu dhabi

  14. Jeans for women July 4, 2017 at 1:41 am

    Just like with women's jeans, finding Associate in Nursing investment piece among the various kinds of women's skirts needs knowing what reasonably cut flatters your body best. whereas Associate in Nursing a-line skirt that ends a trifle below the knee is unchanged, you would possibly like a unique reasonably skirt looking on your personal vogue and your body's form. Pencil skirts square measure nice investments for sandglass figures, whereas a low-waist skirt makes an honest selection for immature figures that require the additional curve.

  15. bugscontrol July 10, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Recently, I seemed to be cleaning his or her house as i found some sort of one-inch section of charcoal used into one among my settee cushions! It got their start in a sheet of wood of which popped by my fireplace towards homes real estate

  16. bugscontrol July 10, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Small business has it is crests in addition to troughs. By natural means, there is an element of stress operating. When you can't do very well, stress can certainly accumulate and provide down a step forward.I business solutions

  17. bugscontrol July 10, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Some people are from search for physical fitness and health, but the definition of really the necessities for physical fitness and health and tips on how to achieve well being and overall well-being?sikkim health

  18. bugscontrol July 10, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Options about who will entertain are structured on who is it being entertained. Which causes the area select some sort of band, handle group, new music theme, or entertainer on your event,river town entertainment

  19. bugscontrol July 10, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Once you have beautiful tresses, you should have a more pleased day, since you will feel unengaged to leave property at any time, knowing you could have good hair therefore good appears to be. Learning completely new design styles on your hair will definitely help years old.short hairstyles fashion

  20. bugscontrol July 10, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Some sort of tutor can grant special attention to all most of these special in addition to important desires and within a process work to make certain this pupil is getting the expected help. To be a student, also you can set your individual objectives in addition to goals seeing that this helps your by mouth capacity as a way to recite from the classes.home joy

  21. bugscontrol July 10, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Taking that approach that the employment of technology from the church is usually somehow inappropriate, ineffective or maybe unprecedented is usually a misconception. God's persons have generally used technology to help promote the kingdom. Perhaps this confusion can be purchased in the meaning of technological suit software

  22. maidservices July 25, 2017 at 9:22 am

    Pests not merely create nuisance nevertheless they can furthermore cause severe health conditions. There are usually many bug control treatments you can purchase. But have you any idea that too much usage could be dangerous for the sitting dubai

  23. maidservices November 2, 2017 at 4:39 am

    a large number of housecleaning offerings will cover areas like launching any dishwasher, putting away all the sparkling bowls and additionally wiping off your kitchen court surfaces. In general, any grounds might swept and additionally mopped as an element of a basic service plan.maids in dubai

  24. dubaiclean January 3, 2018 at 7:37 am

    Well written article appreciate it but if anyone of you needs a help in finding a good and reliable cleaning and maid services feel free to visit us and contact us 24/7

  25. Samsung January 26, 2018 at 1:22 am

    Agree with work

  26. night mare February 6, 2018 at 8:18 am

    The own child of a mother is the best her. She sees in her baby 's sleep eternal peace of nature, calmness of trees in her breath and moonlight on her face glucose monitoring system.

  27. Low Vision Aid April 12, 2018 at 7:32 am

    This is a great post. Thanks for the tangible and attainable help for Low Vision Aid. All your hard work is much appreciated.

  28. Navegador Opera May 25, 2018 at 1:37 pm


  29. Apps like gltools June 2, 2018 at 5:57 am

    Great post admin.

  30. Apps like gltools June 2, 2018 at 5:58 am

    Nice one.

  31. maid service June 9, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    Hi, I use to just ask myself Thanks for this useful advices

    For anyone that needs house cleaning services We have a new company in Edmonton

  32. olsenpeter June 17, 2018 at 1:22 am

    This is really a nice post


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

three − = one