Celeste Cooper (Joanna Kerns )

The narcissistic and evil Celeste Cooper

is the main villainess of the 1997 American Broadcasting Company television film Mother Knows Best .  Based on the real-life story of Lee Goldsmith , Celeste Cooper is a wealthy socialite who answers a personal ad from Ted Rogers (Grant Show ), who owns and runs a repair shop for luxury automobiles, for her daughter, Laurel (Christine Elise ), who works at a hospital.  Laurel and Ted meet on a blind date and pretty soon, fall in love.  The night that Ted comes over to meet Laurel’s parents, Celeste and George Cooper (David Spielberg ), he arrives with smudges all over his face because on the way there, a car in front of his had a flat tire and he stopped to fix it.  Celeste takes an instant dislike to him, but manages to hide it. As soon as Laurel and Ted leave for a dinner reservation, she vows to her husband that “Hell will freeze over before he touches my daughter.”  Later that night, Celeste pays a visit to Laurel’s residence at a time when Laurel and Ted are making love in her bedroom.  After Celeste leaves, Laurel and Ted plan an unsuccessful get-together at a high-class restaurant so that Celeste will get to know him better and this time, they invite Ted’s mother, Harriet (Jeanette O’ Connor).

Over time, Celeste tries to dig up some personal and damaging information about Ted in order to convince Laurel  that he is not the right man for her.  Despite her attempts, Laurel  refuses to leave him.  Eventually, Ted proposes to Laurel while showing her around a house that he is thinking of buying for himself and for her. Laurel  tells Ted that even though she wants to marry him, there is still her mother, Celeste,  that she has to contend with.  After Ted suggests that they live together for a while and not tell Celeste about the two of them getting married so soon, Laurel  says yes.  Laurel eventually finds out that Celeste is a fraud in that she had never went to college when earlier, while being honored as a “Woman of the Year,” Joan (Jessica Walter ), a friend, had claimed that Celeste was a graduate of Washington University, that she had won a writing award there, and that she had given up a promising career in order to be a wife and mother.  In addition to learning that Celeste was only a cashier when she had met her future husband and Laurel’s father, George, also learns that the city of St. Louis had never heard of drug prevention program that she had started after calling the city’s mayor.  When Celeste returns early from a trip, Laurel  tells her that she’s moving out and that she’s moving in with Ted.  Celeste is not particularly for that and pretty soon, Laurel and Ted decide to get married and they kiss each other in front of Celeste, who is dumbfounded.

One day after Ted dropped off some of Celeste’s belongings at her home, Celeste lied to Joan, who came over for a visit, and told her that Ted had attacked her and threatened her to give him $10,000 for the wedding if she wanted to see Laurel again.  She had also convinced Joan to not call the police.  After Joan calls Laurel to tell her what Celeste had told her and after asking Ted what had happened, Laurel goes over to Celeste’s house to give back her key and to tell her that she knows all about the eye surgery that she had done.  As Laurel  makes her way out, Celeste threatens to cut out of her will.  Laurel  tells Celeste that she was never interested in her money and continues to make her way out of the house with Celeste calling after her.  Eventually, Laurel and Ted get married and on the outside, across the street from the church, Celeste and George both sit in the car and watch the two of them kiss each other while everyone around them celebrates the happy union.  George asks Celeste, “Why did it have to turn out this way?” as to which Celeste replies, “It’s not over yet.”

A year later, Laurel and Ted throw a baby shower where George, Laurel’s father, attends.  He tells her that Celeste misses her and that she should call her up.  Celeste meets Laurel later on at a restaurant and hands her a business card of a divorce attorney with the belief that since George had told her about her wanting to see her and the fact that she cried at her own shower, that she might want to leave Ted.  Laurel  left the restaurant offended.  On the day of the birth, Celeste goes to the hospital to see Laurel, but Laurel doesn’t want to see her and Ted politely passes the word on to Celeste, who takes terrible offense to it.  Later on at her home, she catches the carpet cleaner checking out her art instead of just cleaning the carpet.  She threatens to report him and it is then that she learns that if she reports him, his parole officer will be informed of it.  Instead of reporting him, she strikes a deal with him by giving him a note stating that she knows someone who doesn’t deserve to live and that she will pay $10,000.

Later, she tries to lead him on with a false story about how Ted had killed her niece.  The carpet cleaner has his doubts but tells her that he knows someone that he had met in prison.  They come to an agreement and one night, she is called away from a meeting to meet up with the carpet cleaner and the guy he had met on the inside, who later turns out to be Dale Cutler (Sherman Augustus ) from the County Sheriff’s department.  In a car, she pays off $1,000 in advance with the promise of delivering the $9,000 when the job is finished, they talk about how they plan to make Ted's death look like a drug deal gone bad, and that when the job is done, they are to call her up and tell her that “the carpet’s been cleaned.”  About a week later, Dale and his partner go to Ted’s auto repair shop as planned but instead of shooting and killing Ted, they spare his life by shooting one of the water dispensers in his office and then order him to get inside the trunk of Dale’s car.  Dale calls up Celeste and tells her that “the carpet’s been cleaned.”  She wants proof so he tells her to call the medical examiner at the morgue, who is in on the plan of making her believe that she has indeed succeeded in killing her son-in-law.

Eventually, Laurel and Ted are told everything about what Celeste had tried to do to him, the fact that the carpet cleaner had went to the authorities beforehand, and now, all they have to do is meet up with her at the Snelgrove’s Ice Cream Store in order to get the proof that they need to arrest her and  see that it goes to trial.  Dale and Celeste meet at the parking lot of the Snelgrove’s Ice Cream Store.  Unbeknownst to Celeste, the conversation is being taped by Dale and the authorities and when Celeste finally pays him off, Dale reveals to her that he’s really a cop and has her arrested.  Ted is soon returned to his family.  Later at the courthouse, with the news covering the trial, Celeste and Laurel meet face-to-face and Celeste tells Laurel  to tell the reporters that she did it for her.  Laurel says goodbye to her mother, Celeste, and Celeste vows to the reporters that “everything will be normal again.”  During the final scene, it is stated that Celeste Cooper was sentenced to five years in prison for attempted murder and that she and Laurel never saw or had spoken to each other ever again.



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