What performer chose a role so disastrous that it fatally wounded his or her career? Check out this week's Ask the Critic question, then post your own

By Owen Gleiberman
Updated March 23, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
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What performer chose a role that wounded their career?

What performer chose a role so disastrous that it fatally wounded his or her career? — Isaac

In 1981, Faye Dunaway made the fearless choice to play Joan Crawford, the Hollywood Medusa of Christina Crawford’s trendsetting tell-all, Mommie Dearest. The movie was so reviled it became the Showgirls of its day, and the critics all but went medieval on Dunaway. They skewered her fire-breathing, rose-bush-hacking, ”No wire hangers!” performance as a ghastly spectacle of overwrought camp, a perception that lingers to this day. The film effectively snuffed Dunaway’s respectability; she never got another great role. Yet her performance is one of the most sadly misjudged in all of movie history. Watch it again, and you’ll see that it’s a scary and inspired piece of high-wire acting — a portrait of movie-star narcissism gone mad. The tragedy is that Dunaway was so much better than the movie. She conjures a vision of Joan, whereas the film’s sketchy tabloid psychology too often makes her grand opera of queenly rage sound slightly out of tune.

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