Showing posts with label joan crawford. Show all posts
Showing posts with label joan crawford. Show all posts

Monday, March 06, 2017


This post is all about...THE HOMEWRECKER!

Obviously men can be homewreckers too, but melodramatic convention requires that we see it from the female victim's point of view, which requires a female villain. 

From that point of view a sweet, June Allyson-type housewife is targeted by a ruthless wicked city woman and a morality play of epoch scale ensues. My knowledge about this sort of thing comes from movies and novels, which I'll assume are unassailable. 

Maybe that view of the predator was best articulated by H. G. Wells in the opening of his sci-fi novel, "War of the Worlds."

"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own..."

"...that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the creatures in a drop of water."


"With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter."

"No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. "

"Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us."

Wow! Wells nailed it!

I know what you're thinking. Surely all men value the rock-steady qualities possessed by a wholesome, loving woman. 

Surely, you're thinking, men have disdain for the ultra-worldly woman who wears fox furs with paws on them and who sucks on cigarette stubs all day. 

But you'd be wrong. Men are, well... easily confused.

We men are vulnerable to the obvious temptation... 

...and we're especially vulnerable to women who laugh at our jokes. It's not only fun to talk to someone who thinks you're funny, you feel you're in the presence of female greatness because she has the amazing intellect necessary to perceive your own wonderfulness when the rest of the world ignores you.

No doubt there's a wonderful honeymoon when the offending innocent wife or girlfriend is removed and the vamp moves in.

But...(Gulp!)...the day surely arrives when, out of the corner of your notice...that you're being observed with all your flaws and imperfections visible. All the books are agreed on what happens next. The first glance only lasts for a moment but you feel the chill of being regarded with what Wells called, "cool and unsympathetic" eyes. 

Yikes and Double Yikes!

Thursday, November 20, 2014


I'm not scheduled for a new post today but I just stumbled on this comic I made a while back and I couldn't resist putting it up again...right now.  Be warned: it's a little hard to follow, and there's some misspelled words (but the word "Commics" is deliberately misspelled). It's about what happens when a hard-core realist like Joan Crawford joins a group therapy session for poets. 



Tuesday, March 05, 2013


Yes, it's another post on the 40s version of "Mildred Pierce!" I admit it, I just can't get enough of that film. I'll keep watching it til I figure out why I keep watching it. 

Camus called the book's author, James M. Cain, America's greatest writer. I think I can guess why an Existentialist would say that. Cain believes that all people have both a good and a bad side, and for that reason the world is dominated by moral ambiguity and unhappiness. 

 Just for the record, I don't buy Cain's depressing philosophy but he's such a good writer that I give him the benefit of the doubt for the duration of the story.

Warning: I give away some of the less important plot elements here. 

There's a shooting at the start and Mildred is made to tell her story to the police. The novel doesn't start that way, but the device is pure genius because it justifies the narration and the flashbacks that follow. It's a nice way to compress a complicated story. 

Mildred's a simple housewife, but her excessive dedication to her snooty daughter brings her into conflict with her husband. It's tragic because they're both good people. 

She leaves her husband and takes up with an amiable weasel. He's amoral but she needs companionship. 

After she leaves her husband and ventures out into the outside world, she encounters four or five major types of people. It's like a medieval morality tale that introduces us, one by one, to the different kinds of false friends and demons that are out there. All have a good side, but all will eventually betray her. 

Mildred gets a job as a waitress and meets a woman who will become her friend. The friend is helpful when Mildred starts her own restaurant, but is also self-absorbed, and isn't proper friend material.

Unable to find a genuine friend, Mildred tries romance with a formerly rich gold-digger. He has a nice side, but..... 

Even the daughter she made so many sacrifices for treats her badly. Unable to find any good in the world she heroically tries to create the good by spoiling her kid. 

Yikes, I have lots more to say, but I'm running out of space. I'll have to continue this another time. 

Friday, August 03, 2012


Haw! I can't wait to see if the blog can handle a picture this big! I pity the people who are looking at this on a mobile phone. 

Anyway. that's Joan Crawford in a close-up from "Humoresque." Tonight I watched a TCM documentary on Crawford at John's place, and I saw a lot of pictures I'd never seen before. Seeing them provoked what I thought was a deeper understanding of Crawford's  acting style. I'll tell you what that understanding consists of, but first take a look at the pictures (below) that provoked it.  

Crawford (or her photographer) tried out a number of personas in her portraits. Any one of them represents a possible career path she might have taken. Here (above) she tries out  an innocent girl-next-door look, layered over with ambition, neurosis and intelligence.

Here (above) she's purely innocent and idealistic. I don't doubt that she could have pulled it off on screen, but I'm glad she didn't go this route. Innocent is a great look for young actors, but she wouldn't have have been able to sustain it as she got older.

Ditto the weird, hard-core sci-fi look. She's great at it, but you can only play that for so long.

She experimented with weirdness a lot. 

I think she wanted to convince the studio to make the kind of stories that favored her kind of nuanced weirdness.  Maybe she was inspired by Garbo.

All those experiments with innocence and weirdness weren't wasted, though. As her later persona evolved, she just folded these qualities into it. As time went by she developed an immensely layered screen personality. 

How would you describe this close-up expression (above) from "Humoresque?" She looks weird, innocent, mature, young, dignified, idealistic, hurt, worldly, shocked, vulnerable, steely, philosophical, kind, and potentially cruel...all at the same time! Sheeesh!

For me Crawford's best period was middle age. She'd had a lot of random nuances before that, but that's when she finally figured out how to focus them. During that period she discovered dignity. She kept the fascinating youthful nuances and allowed them to co-exist with a caricature of the kind of dignity the best people seem to acquire in mid-life. Not only that, but she bundled these qualities together in a stylized, over-the-top theatrical style. 

So that's it. That, I humbly submit, is part of the secret of Joan's midperiod acting style.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


 How 'bout some Joan Crawford slaps (above)? There's some real dooseys here.  Slaps are a useful dramatic device. The writing in a scene builds up to its slap, as does the performance. The worse thing a writer can do to an actor is to leave them rudderless in a scene that meanders all over the place. Slaps give a scene a direction, something to build to.

My favorite screen slap of all time is the one in "Mildred Pierce" where Crawford's daughter slaps Joan on the stairs. Crawford is completely disoriented and nearly falls off screen. No wonder...the slap was real. Crawford insisted on it. I wonder how many takes it took to shoot it?

Was Crawford tough in real life? I'm not sure. The stories are contradictory. In the interview above Arlene Dahl implies that Crawford deliberately threw her drink at her while at a dinner party. In the same interview Gloria DeHaven says Crawford unselfishly taught her a really useful vocal technique, and  tells us what the technique was.

My guess is that the real-life Crawford was usually pretty nice, but we can hope that there were exceptions. I like to think of her as the hostess in this scene (above), where she fires her maid for dropping a cup. Crawford's real life daughter Christine, author of "Mommy Dearest," claims she was just like the roles she played in "Queen Bee" and "Harriet Craig."

BTW, I think the person who uploaded this video meant to title it: "Joan Crawford Is Pissed in the Movie Entitled 'Harriet Craig.'" The present title implies that Crawford did something unspeakable to someone named Harriet Craig.

What a whiner Crawford's real life daughter was! Here (above) Christine gets the punishment she deserves by being a guest on a nightmarish Italian TV show that never lets her speak. Watch it to the end because the actor who dubbed Cliff Robertson's voice does an even more over the top vocal than Robinson.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Aaah, Joan Crawford (above)! I don't think she ever took a bad picture. Or maybe she did and had the bad ones burned.

John K used this photo in a blog post, and I nearly fell on the floor laughing. Even when she's getting molested by her dog (above), Crawford came off looking good.

She did great angry poses (above).

She was also good at pouty scheming (above).

She had great poise. Gee, I miss that. The last time I saw that in a film was when Michele Yeow (spelled right?) came off that way in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

Like Garbo and Dietrich she was good at looking bored (above) by the men who were always trying to paw her.

When she liked a guy, though, she throw herself into the experience, laughing at all his jokes, and hanging on his arm. A man in this position had to take a bath in kerosene to get her off. Of course the inevitable day came when she realized she'd fallen out of love and had to murder him.

I hope you're enlarging some of these pictures.

She cultivated a neurotic, confident look.

How many women could confidently wear a bosom of flowers (above)?

Crawford looked good in still photography and she had the wisdom to transfer that look to cinema. Maybe she got the idea from silent films, which seemed a little artificial and "stagey" because they took so many of their visual cues from still photography, but which had a powerful graphic impact.

Joan wasn't happy unless she was scheming.

Fortunately in real life she had the relaxation derived from sucking her children's blood....just kidding.

Sometimes her creepy pictures got a bit too creepy. The one above is genuinely scary.

As I said before, Crawford had terrific poise (above). Poise is about more than standing up straight. It has to do with style and character projection.

Even her conversational poses were stylized.

The famous legs (above). Men in the Crawford films always had to compliment them. Was that in her contract?

Crawford may be my favorite actress. You can laugh at her, but she was a great stylist.