Joan Crawford

The film critic Alexander Walker was lucky enough to meet and interview Joan Crawford 30 years ago when she came to London to promote what was to be her final film in a career that began in the 1920s as a chorus girl and contained one of the greatest comebacks in Hollywood history.

The 1970 film ­ a low-rent apeman shocker called "Trog" - was her nadir. No matter! She may have been in her 60s and past her commercial prime, and she may have been in town to peddle trash, but, as Alex recalls, she was every inch the star. (Indeed, her publicists in London were reminded of the fact in a memo from her people:"She is a star even when asleep"!)

It's boring to keep saying that they don't make 'em like Joan Crawford anymore (she died a reclusive Christian Scientist in 1977) - but her iconic, troubled career was endemic of the old studio system, where stars were owned but also protected. When Crawford left MGM in 1943, she had been with the studio for 18 years. Pushing 40, she was all but written-off, but her comeback at Warner Brothers was spectacular: "Mildred Pierce" (1945, directed by "Casablanca" 's Michael Curtiz) - her first time playing a mother and her only Oscar.

London's National Film Theatre are reviving "Mildred Pierce" from 20th April, but if you're not in town, BBC1 are showing "Mommie Dearest", the terrifying 1981 Crawford biopic (starring Faye Dunaway) on 10th April, and Alex Walker will be in to profile her on Back Row - and to tell us what she was really like.

Also this week, a look at modern Method acting and a location report from "A Hard Day's Night".

Andrew Collins presents Back Row on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday 7th April at 5.30pm. You can listen to Back Row then, or Radio 4 at any time, using your computer.