Crazy Mama (1975): Jonathan Demme’s Debut Starring Cloris Leachman

Like other directors of his generation, Jonathan Demme began his directing career making low-budget, exploitation films with Roger Corman.

Cloris Leachman stars in this B-picture as Melba, a woman living a life of violence.

The tale spans three decades, beginning in Jerusalem, Arkansas in 1932, when law enforcers kill Melba’s father (Clint Kimbrough), turning her mother Sheba (Ann Sothern) into a widow.

Mother and daughter take off to Long Beach, California, and the time jumps to 1958, when the two are thrown out of their beauty salon for failing to pay rent. Melba now has an attractive (and pregnant) teenage daughter Cheryl (Linda Purl).

The three generations take to the road, stealing cars, robbing a motorcycle racetrack box office and a bank.

The story ends in 1959, when Melba and Cheryl are running a Miami Beach snack bar, having wasted the best years of their  lives.

The excellent supporting cast includes Stuart Whitman (The Mark), Jim Backus (Rebel Without a Cause), and Sally Kirkland (Anna).


Running time: 82 minutes

Directed by Jonathan Demme

Written by Robert Thom

DVD: May 28, 2002