Q&A With A. Ashley Hoff

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Q&A With A. Ashley Hoff 

Publicist Julia Borcherts was kind enough to connect me with author A. Ashley Hoff. Ashley Hoff is the author of Match Game 101: A Backstage History of Match Game & the upcoming novel With Love Mommie Dearest: The Making of an Unintentional Camp Classic coming out on May 7th

Q: Would you like to tell the readers a little bit about With Love Mommie Dearest & what fascinated you about writing about this topic?

A: My book is a sympathetic look at how this movie with everything going for it–a star like Faye Dunaway, top-notch production design, studio backing–came to be seen, not as an award-worthy piece of critically acclaimed cinema, but as a critically panned fiasco. Faye Dunaway often gets the sole blame, although I explain the ways that’s not an altogether fair indictment.  I also hope With Love, Mommie Dearest can be read by aspiring filmmakers, teaching them how to and how NOT to make a movie.   What fascinated me about this story? It’s a classic Hollywood tale that plays like a Greek myth: how de Medici-worthy rivalries, greed and plain old-fashioned hubris took a potentially ground-breaking subject and adapted it on screen into one of the most notorious camp-classics in modern American cinema.


Q: You’ve conducted so many interviews with people while writing this book. What was the interviewing process like & how long did it take you to write this book? 

A: The process probably took about three years from start to publication. I was lucky because I was able to track down so many production staff and crew members who worked on Mommie Dearest, many now retired, as well as the actors and actresses. I was told some great stories, which I shared in the book.  


Q: What was it like having Bruce Vlianch write the foreword to the book?

A: Bruce is wonderful, a brilliant and funny guy who obviously ‘gets’ the camp factor, as well as the seriousness. But just as important for my book, his close friend Joan Hyler was Faye Dunaway’s then-agent who negotiated the Mommie Dearest deal. So, he had personal stories and insight into the filming, and had even visited the set the day they shot the “Barbara, please!” fight scene between Diana Scarwid and Faye. 


Q: What lessons do you want readers to learn after reading With Love Mommie Dearest? 

A: On a basic, philosophical level, writing this book made me reevaluate my ideas of success and failure. Mommie Dearest was critically panned yet was never a commercial failure. Even today, while award-winning movies made the same year have been forgotten, Mommie Dearest lives on. We should all be so lucky to ‘fail’ so spectacularly.  


Q: What is the topic of your next book? 

A: My previous book was Match Game 101: A Backstage History of Match Game, a chronicle about the classic ‘70s TV game show, still airing in reruns.  Aside from chronicling the many versions of the show, from the ‘60s to the recent Alec Baldwin-hosted, as well as hit UK and Australian versions of the show, I discussed the way game shows like Match Game helped pave the way for civil rights, gay rights and women’s rights by introducing hot-button topics couched in the form of seemingly harmless, humorous questions and answers and introducing them into middle-American living rooms. It was a subversive way of starting conversations about controversial but relevant topics. And now I’ve written about Mommie Dearest. I’ve already begun working on a new book on another cult-classic film, so I guess I am here to explain the unexplored depth in what at first glance seems to be a shallow, easily dismissed subject. Wish me luck! 


A. Ashley Hoff is the author of With Love, Mommie Dearest (May 7, 2024; Chicago Review Press), Match Game 101: A Backstage History of Match Game and My Huckleberry Friend: Holly Golightly and the Untold History of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He previously worked for talent agencies in Chicago and Los Angeles and has written articles on Hollywood for The Advocate and Films in Review. He has been interviewed on numerous pop culture subjects on The Nick Digilio Show on WGN Radio, The Frank DeCaro Show on Sirius XM, Feast of Fun on iTunes, in magazines such as Closer Weekly, and on various local talk shows and podcasts.


Synopsis for WITH LOVE, MOMMIE DEAREST (May 7, 2024; Chicago Review Press)


When she died in 1977, Joan Crawford was remembered as an icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age—until publication the following year of her daughter’s memoir, Mommie Dearest. Christina Crawford’s book was an immediate bestseller, addressing the infrequently discussed topic of child abuse.

When Paramount Pictures released the film, starring Faye Dunaway as Crawford, it was critically panned, and remains one of the most legendary critical bombs in film history. The lavish, big-screen adaptation drew unexpected laughter in the scenes depicting life in the Crawford household. 


Rarely have such good intentions been met with such ridicule.

Despite this, the movie was a commercial success and remains, four decades later, immensely popular.
 With Love, Mommie Dearest details the writing and selling of Christina’s book and the aftermath of its publication, as well as the filming of the motion picture, whose backstage drama almost surpassed what was viewed onscreen in the film.

Based on new interviews with people connected to the book and the film, Hollywood historian A. Ashley Hoff explores the phenomenon, the camp, and the very real social issues addressed by the book and film.