Since approximately 2006, it has been rumored that Joan Crawford and Van Johnson filmed a cameo for the film "Rosemary's Baby." However, there is no evidence that any such cameo was ever filmed, or intended to be filmed. On this page, the source of the rumor and the validity of that source will be examined.
In her 2015 memoir, "The Mommie Dearest Diary: Carol Ann Tells All," Alda stated:
"William castle, one of the producers, had cast Joan in her later career in some of his horror films, and they remained friends. Castle had asked Joan and actor-dancer Van Johnson to do a cameo appearance in a scene shot at the intimate Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village, where “The Fantasticks,” an exceptionally long-running off-Broadway musical, was then being performed.
Joan arrived wearing a leopard print dress and matching floppy cap that she made elegant, and shortly thereafter came right up to me. “Hello, I’m Joan Crawford,” she graciously said, extending an ungloved hand. “So pleased to meet you.”
Startled, I stammered, “Thank you, Miss Crawford,” before processing that because Mia was late and Roman had been shooting me from the back getting out of the cab in Mia’s white coat, Joan thought I was Mia Farrow.
Later that evening, Roman was walking back and forth on the set, attending to every little detail, when he overheard Van making Pinocchio jokes to his friend, cinematographer William Fraker, in reference to Roman’s prominent nose. “Get off my set,” Roman bellowed, and had Van and Joan thrown out, even though Joan had nothing to do with Van’s remarks.
As she left, Joan turned and said to Roman, “You should learn to be a gentleman, like Mr. William Castle.”
Several online articles, which are written by unreliable, sensationalist, journalists repeated Rutanya Alda's story. Among them were Michael Musto of "The Village Voice" and Perez Hilton. Alda also recited the story to author James Munn for his 2018 book "This Is No Dream: Making Rosemary's Baby." These sources further cemented Alda's claim into the minds of the public.
On January 9th, 2012, prior to the publication of Alda's memoir, Michael Musto wrote in his column:
"Rutanya Alda — best known as Carol Ann in Mommie Dearest — just told me a remarkable story. Rutanya was Mia Farrow‘s stand-in for the 1968 suspense classic Rosemary’s Baby. When Mia was late to shoot a bit where she and a girlfriend go to see the Off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks, director Roman Polanski decided to start shooting with Rutanya standing in. Part of the scene had screen icons Joan Crawford and Van Johnson (as themselves) being spotted by Rosemary in the lobby for some reason. But that paled compared with the off-screen shenanigans.
Remembers Rutanya: “Joan came over to me and said, ‘Hello! I’m Joan Crawford!’ “She thought I was Mia Farrow!” Or maybe she just knew she’d just spotted the future Carol Ann. Another wacky mishap happened when Van Johnson first spotted Polanski, particularly his striking schnoz.
“Who’s that, Pinocchio?” quipped Johnson, completely clueless. This sent the excitable Polanski into a tizzy of horror. “Get off my set, everybody!” he shrieked, clearing all the stars and non-stars away. Joan obliged, but not before grandly intoning, “You should learn to have the manners of a William Castle.”
(Castle was the movie’s producer and had already directed Joan in enjoyable B flicks like Strait-Jacket and I Saw What You Did.)
When Mia finally showed up, Polanski decided the whole scene was not worth doing."
On September 29th, 2015, Rutanya Alda was interviewed by Garrett Miller, and Miller uploaded the interview to YouTube. Within this interview, Alda repeats the story of Joan on the set of "Rosemary's Baby," but contradicts her earlier versions. In this retelling of the story, Alda claims that Joan's cameo was written in the film's script, and even recalls the alleged dialogue. Alda further states that Mia Farrow filmed the scene (contradicting the Musto column cited above) and Alda does not cite the information about Joan and Van Johnson being "kicked off" the film's set by Polanski.
In the September 2015 interview, Alda stated:
"In the script, Mia’s character goes to see the play, and in the lobby is Joan Crawford and Van Johnson, and she says to her friend…“Oh look, there’s Joan Crawford and Van Johnson.” And they kind of giggle and everything, and they’re standing in the lobby being very movie star-ish.”
For clarification, the film's script does not cite any cameo by Joan Crawford or Van Johnson. The script does cite the scene of Rosemary going to the play "The Fantasticks" (scenes 41 - 42 in the script), however, Joan Crawford nor Van Johnson is cited within these scenes. These scene excerpts can be read here.
In 2002, Lawrence Quirk published "Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography." Within Quirk's biography was a photo of Joan on the set of "Rosemary's Baby" alongside Mia Farrow, Van Johnson, Roman Polanski and William Castle. This was the first instance of modern day Joan Crawford fans, and the general public, learning that Joan had visited the film's set. It stirred discussion among fans, including the possibility that Joan may have filmed a scene for the film.
However, it was not until actress Rutanya Alda made the claim that Joan did (or was going to) film a cameo for the film that this rumor became "fact."
In 2006, a special "Hollywood Royalty" DVD edition of the 1981 film "Mommie Dearest" was released. The DVD's extras featured three short documentaries about the film's making. In the short documentary entitled "The Revival of Joan," actress Rutanya Alda (who played the fictional character "Carol Ann" in the film) stated she met Joan on the set of "Rosemary's Baby." According to Alda, she was hired for the film as a body double and stand in for actress Mia Farrow. Alda also stated that Joan and Van Johnson filmed, or were going to film (Alda's story variates) a cameo for the film. Alda also made this claim during interviews to columnists.
In 2015, Rutanya Alda published a memoir entitled "The Mommie Dearest Diary: Carol Ann Tells All" regarding her experiences on the set of "Mommie Dearest." Within this book, Alda also recounts her story of having met Joan on the set of "Rosemary's Baby."
In all known recitations of her story, Rutanya Alda claimed that Joan and Van Johnson were on the "Rosemary's Baby" set to film a cameo. Therefore, the allegation that Joan filmed, or was going to film, a scene for "Rosemary's Baby" has been perpetrated on the internet and published in recent books. However, there are massive contradictions to Alda's claims. The contradictions are not only limited to the documented facts surrounding Joan's visit to the set, but also by Alda's ever-changing version of the story.
In the 2006 DVD interview with Rutanya Alda, she stated:
“There was a scene we filmed at the Sullivan Theater where “The Fantasticks” are showing. It’s cut out of the movie. But in the movie Joan Crawford and Van Johnson were playing themselves in the lobby of the theater.”
In 2010, in my curiosity for further details regarding Rutanya Alda's claims, this webmaster wrote a letter to Alda. In the letter, I explained that I was a Joan Crawford researcher and asked Alda if she could please elaborate further regarding details of this meeting with Joan, and her claim that Joan and Van Johnson filmed a scene for "Rosemary's Baby." I never received any response from Alda, nor was my letter returned as undelivered.
On March 1st, 2022, an interview with Rutanya Alda by "Mommie Dearest" film fan Robert Bellissimo was uploaded to the YouTube channel "Robert Bellissimo At The Movies." Within the interview, Alda repeats the story that she had met Joan on the set of "Rosemary's Baby," and that Joan and Van Johnson were there to film a cameo for the film, stating:
“In the script, Mia and her girlfriend go to see “The Fantasticks,” and they’re in the lobby and there is Joan Crawford and Van Johnson, and they have an exchange. Like Mia’s character’s a fan, a big fan, and they have a little short hello “nice to meet you...”you’re my favorite actress,” or whatever the scenes were. But Mia was late.”
Rutanya Alda's Contradictions:
This webmaster watched Alda's March 1st, 2022 interview and commented upon it on the YouTube video on March 2nd, 2022. My comment was:
"I am happy to hear Alda speak nicely of her meeting with Joan Crawford. However, I think she is misremembering key aspects of the "Rosemary Baby's scene. Of course, this took place in August 1967, and no one can expect a person to remember things exactly correct after 55 years. However, here are the documented facts:
1) Joan KNEW Mia Farrow. There are letters between the two well before Farrow filmed "Rosemary's Baby."
Joan KNEW Frank Sinatra, and knew Mia Farrow was his wife. Joan was extremely good at remembering faces and names, and never would have misplaced Alda with Farrow.
2) There is no record of any scene filmed featuring Joan and Van Johnson for "Rosemary's Baby." I have also confirmed this with Terry Castle - William Castle's daughter, who maintains all of her father's production documentation.
The first documented time Alda told this story about Joan filming a scene for "Rosemary's Baby" was in an interview for a DVD extra for "Mommie Dearest" in 2006. By that time, the entire rumor that Joan filmed a scene in "Rosemary's Baby" was across the internet due to a photo emerging showing Joan on the set, and I think this has altered Alda's memory. Joan and Van Johnson merely visited the set as guests of William Castle (the film's producer), they did not film any scenes.
It is true that the original script has a scene of Rosemary attending the play "The Fantasticks," but Joan and Van Johnson are not featured in the script, and did not film any scenes.
Additionally, Alda describes Joan's outfit as it appears in that black and white photo. I know the outfit Joan wore to the set, and it was not an animal print. It was a white dress with a close all-over pattern consisting of bright pink, emerald green and blue sequins. However, in the small black and white photos online of Joan on the set, it's easy to THINK it is an animal print. The fact that it wasn't anything close to an animal print further demonstrates Alda's flawed memory regarding that meeting, and how the rumor, based on the set photos, is recreating what she actually witnessed.
In 2010, I wrote a letter to Alda letting her know that I had researched this claim, and I asked her if she could elaborate upon these details, and I never received a response."
Rutanya Alda obviously took personal offense to my comment regarding her claims surrounding the alleged "Rosemary's Baby" scene, and on March 2nd, 2022, she replied with the following comment:
"dear concluding chapter -- its really interesting when someone who was not on the set deems him or herself the authority on what happened. there is nothing wrong with my memory, its very clear and its a snarky underhanded comment on my age. I never said the scene with joan and van johnson was filmed . it was not. because van was kicked off the set by roman polanski based on what he said about roman to bill fraker and was overheard by Mr. Polanski, and consequently joan followed Van and her final remark to roman was priceless. so it was NOT filmed. i have no idea if joan knew mia or not. if she did then it was more than gracious of her to come over to me and say hello. because i always stood behind bill fraker, the brilliant DP, i was privileged to hear what happened. it was a dramatic evening and it is clear as a bell in my mind. Bill Fraker said that Roman never wanted Van or Joan this scene but was doing it as a favor to Mr. Castle Mr William Castle came to the set shortly after and had a private conversation with Mr. Polanski. that i did not hear. This is in my book the mommie dearest diary."
Alda goes on to repeatedly state to me in additional comments, "you were not there."
Rutanya Alda's Contradiction #1:
"The Fantasticks" Scene Was Filmed
In Alda's first response to my comment, she claimed "I never said the scene with Joan and Van Johnson was film. It was not."
Perhaps Alda has misspoken in her various interviews on this topic. Or, perhaps her terminology in 2006 of "it's cut out of the movie" (which suggests that the scene was eliminated in post production editing) isn't what she meant. However, Alda says in the March 1st, 2022 YouTube interview: "Then...Mia was there, Mia put on the coat, and then they went in and they did the scene." Alda stated something similar in the 2016 interview with Garrett Miller.
However, in the 2012 Michael Musto column, she is cited as telling Musto "When Mia finally showed up, Polanski decided the whole scene was not worth doing." So, this is a contradiction by Alda as to if any scene with Mia was actually filmed that evening or not.
While this contradiction may not seem significant, it is. This is because Rutanya Alda is the only person who ever claimed that Joan Crawford was going to (or did) film a scene for "Rosemary's Baby." However, her various re-tellings of the events that evening are not consistent.
Rutanya Alda's Contraction #2:
Mia Farrow's Arrival To The Film Set
In addition to Alda's contradiction if any scene was actually filmed that evening, she also states Roman Polanski got angry at Van Johnson, and by extension Joan, and threw them off the set prior to Mia Farrow's arrival. However, photos from the set (which was on location at 181 Sullivan Street, Manhattan, New York), depict Joan and Van Johnson with Mia Farrow. Therefore, Joan and Van Johnson were still on the set well after Farrow had arrived, and after Farrow was put into wardrobe (aka "changed coats" with Rutanya Alda, according to Alda) for filming the scene. In addition, the photos depict Joan, Van Johnson and Roman Polanski smiling and in good spirits after, according to Alda, Polanski had gotten angry and threw Joan and Van Johnson off the set, with Joan chastising Polanski about his manners. Photos of Joan on the film's set can be viewed here.
An excerpt from Rutanya Alda's 2006 interview
An excerpt from Rutanya Alda's March 1st, 2022 interview
A September 1968 Detroit Free Press article:
A close-up photo of Joan on the set of "Rosemary's Baby" wearing the same ensemble as she was wearing, and is described,
in the September 1968 Detroit Free Press article shown above:
Rutanya Alda Contradiction #3:
Rutanya Alda also drastically misremembers Joan's outfit. In her book and interviews, she has stated that Joan wore an "animal," "tiger" or "leopard" print dress. One may surmise that was what Joan wore when looking at the small online photos of Joan on the set of "Rosemary's Baby." However, that is not true. In actuality, Joan wore a white dress that was covered in pink, green and blue dots. That is vastly different from any type of animal print.
Color photos of Joan in this ensemble have not surfaced as of the date of this debunking page, however, I do have a September 1968 article from Detroit, Michigan. Within the article, there is a photo of Joan wearing this same ensemble, with the writer documenting the ensemble's colors:
"Her white suit had a close all-over pattern of shocking pink, emerald green and electric blue dots. Her turban and gloves were the matching fabric."
Rutanya Alda Contradictions #4: Joan Thought Rutanya Alda was Mia Farrow
In addition to Rutanya Alda's claim that Joan and Van Johnson filmed, or were going to film, a cameo for "Rosemary's Baby," she has also repeatedly stated that she thinks Joan mistook her for Mia Farrow. While that may be Alda's assumption, it is obvious by the facts that Joan knew Alda was not Mia Farrow.
According to Mia Farrow, Joan was friends with Farrow's mother, Maureen O'Sullivan. Therefore, Joan had known Farrow for many years prior to 1967.
In November 1977, Mia Farrow stated the following regarding Joan in an unpublished interview:
"I had several interactions with Joan Crawford. The first was at Fox, when she was making "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte," and I was in "Peyton Place."
I received the most elaborate letters from her, saying how she had known my mother, how proud she was of me, and so forth. Then, suddenly, in my dressing room appeared a large container filled with Pepsi-Cola. Then came the Christmas letter, always with a special message. I remember a party at her apartment in New York. A famous designer was there. Valentina, I think."
In addition to Joan having had previous interactions with Mia Farrow, and knowing her mother, Joan knew Frank Sinatra. Farrow's then-husband.
Farrow had married Sinatra thirteen months prior, in July 1966. Their marriage was controversial at the time and received much press coverage. Naturally, Joan would have been aware that Farrow was Sinatra's wife for these reasons, and would have seen recent photos of Farrow, and knew what she looked like.
Aside from it being well-documented that Joan was a consummate follower of current entertainment industry news, Joan also had a fantastic memory. On many occasions, those who knew Joan remarked at how well she could remember faces and names, even of people whom Joan did not know well.
All of these facts strongly suggest that Alda's belief that Joan mistook her for Mia Farrow is incorrect. Of course, Alda would not have been aware of Joan's prior association with Farrow to know that was not the case, however, this repeated belief by Alda is a demonstration of Alda's wrong perception of events that evening.
A screenshot of a May 23rd, 2019 post on Mia Farrow's Instagram account regarding Joan on the set of "Rosemary's Baby":
Mia Farrow repeated the antidote of her mother and Joan knowing one another in the above May 23rd, 2019 Instagram post.
I would like to make note that Farrow is mistaken in her post. She states this photo was taken on the street in front of the Dakota. However, that is not true.
Rutanya Alda, while contradicting her own recollections, is correct that this event took place at the Sullivan Street Playhouse on Sullivan Street in Manhattan.
This is confirmed by the photos of Joan and Van Johnson on the set. In the background of at least one of the set photos an exterior doorway awning is visible in the background baring the street number "177." The Sullivan Street Playhouse was located at 181 Sullivan Street. The Dakota's address is 1 West 72nd Street.
This webmaster has checked, and can verify, there are no addresses within the entire block of the Dakota with three digits. All surrounding addresses are one or two digits. This error by Farrow is obviously a guess on her behalf when she saw this photo, or she is misremembering. Similarly, it seems Rutonya Alda is misremembering details regrading that evening. Such misrememberings are understandable for anyone regarding events that occurred decades prior.
Along with Rutanya Alda's contradicting statements regarding that evening, there are several pieces of circumstantial evidence to suggest no such film cameo was ever planned with Joan and Van Johnson.
1) No other cast or crew member has ever publicly stated that Joan and Van Johnson were going to film a cameo for this film.
2) No known film production documentation makes note of any planned cameo by Joan or Van Johnson in "Rosemary's Baby." Both Joan and Van Johnson were Screen Actors Guild members. It was not legally possible for either actor to have filmed, or visited a film set with the intention to film, a scene without a contract and a salary for their participation on the film.
3) According to Terry Castle, William Castle's daughter, she has no knowledge of this planned scene with Joan and Van Johnson. This webmaster interviewed Terry Castle in her Los Angeles home in March 2018. Among my conversations with Castle was this claim by Rutanya Alda. Castle, who is a holder of her father's film production documents and is a scholar of her father's films and their backstories, has never seen any document pertaining to Joan being in "Rosemary's Baby."
Nor does Castle recall ever being told by her father, or anyone connected to the film, about Joan and Van Johnson's planned cameo appearance.
4) According to Terry Castle her father never would have allowed Joan to be "thrown off" one of his film sets. When I discussed this situation with Castle, she told this Webmaster that her father loved and respected Joan very much. Therefore, Castle does not believe her father would have allowed Joan to be disrespected or removed from the set of "Rosemary's Baby." Particularly if he was present, and the set photos prove William Castle was present on the set that evening.
5) As a 23-year researcher of Joan Crawford, one element shown in the photos of her on the set of "Rosemary's Baby" stands out to me as a confirmation that Joan did not (and was not) going to film a scene that evening for this film. That element is Joan's outfit. Joan was very particular about her wardrobe in any nationally-released interviews, television appearances and film appearances. The photos on the film set depict Joan wearing one of her day/traveling outfits with a turban.
I, personally, do not see Joan wearing a turban for an appearance in this much-anticipated, internationally-released, film. Even if her appearance was a cameo.
Based on Joan's standards, I believe she would have had her hair professionally styled for any planned appearance in the film. When I first heard Rutonya Alda's claim that Joan filmed, or was going to film a cameo, this was the element that immediately caught my attention, and what made me instantly doubt the validity of her claim. This is because I have repeatedly learned how important appearance elements such as wardrobe was to Joan, and particularly during the late 60s.
My assertion is supported by interviews of Joan, whereby she states her thoughts on headwear and its appropriate usage. Two examples are provided below.
I find the idea of Joan appearing in the classic film "Rosemary's Baby" very fascinating. I, personally, would have loved for this to have occurred. However, aside from Rutanya Alda, no other cast or crew member from "Rosemary's Baby" has ever made the public claim that Joan and Van Johnson filmed, or were going to film, a cameo for this film. This fact, along with the above contradictions by Alda regarding that evening, and the lack of any documental evidence that such a scene was filmed (or was going to be filmed) is sufficient enough to hold Alda's claims under heavy scrutiny.
I would like to state this debunking page regarding Joan on the set of "Rosemary's Baby" may appear to be an attack on Rutanya Alda as a person and/or her integrity, however, it is not. The focus of this debunking page is the validity of Alda's statements regarding this one event, which I believe Alda is, innocently, misremembering. I do not believe Alda has any malicious intent with her story of Joan on the set of "Rosemary's Baby." However, I do believe she is misremembering certain events, or she was mistaken at the time, with the wrong perception that Joan was on the set to film a scene. Similar to how Alda had the wrong perception that Joan thought she was Mia Farrow, and Alda's mistaking what Joan was actually wearing that evening. Therefore, until any such witness or document surfaces to support Alda's claims, I do not believe Joan filmed this cameo, nor was she ever going to film this cameo. It appears that Joan and Van Johnson simply visited the set as William Castle's guests, and they did not come to the set with the plan to actually appear in the film.
Rutanya Alda is welcome to contact this webmaster at the below email address if she would like to discuss her claim, or respond to this debunking page of her claim. In good faith, I would be happy to provide her response here on the page if Alda wishes.
An October 1969 interview excerpt of Joan discussing wardrobe, and that she feels hats/headwear are for daytime:
A January 1970 interview excerpt of Joan explaining why she was forced to wear a turban for this national television appearance:
A photo of Van Johnson, Mia Farrow, Joan, Roman Polanski and William Castle on the set of "Rosemary's Baby."
Based on the timeline of events according to Rutanya Alda's claim, this photo of the group smiling would have been taken after Polanski had gotten mad at Van Johnson and kicked him and Joan off the film's set:
An excerpt from Rutanya Alda's September 29th, 2015 interview with Garrett Miller
Excerpts from the "Rosemary's Baby" script which exhibit the scenes in question (scenes 41- 42) of "Rosemary" going to the see "The Fantasticks."
For complete reference, the scene immediately preceding this scene, and the scene immediately following it, are exhibited here as well:
(L to R) Van Johnson, William Castle, Mia Farrow, Joan Crawford and Roman Polanski on the set of "Rosemary's Baby" (August 1967)
A press mention by Manhattan, New York columnist Earl Wilson citing Joan and Van Johnson's recent visit to the "Rosemary's Baby" film set, and citing Joan and Johnson as only guests on the set, not actors in the production. (September 6th, 1967)
An odd post Rutanya Alda made on her public Facebook account on March 22nd, 2016 (and later re-shared on March 22nd, 2022).
In this post, Alda posts a photo of Mia Farrow with Alda's face Photoshopped over Farrow's face with a caption explaining she had been Farrow's stand in for "Rosemary's Baby." When Alda re-shared this post in 2022, she added the caption, "When I was young." Which suggests Alda is claiming this is an actual photo of her that was taken around the time of the filming of "Rosemary's Baby."