Monday, January 31, 2011

Joan Enters the Asylum

After her wonderful role in Humoresque, Crawford got an equally interesting part in Warner Brother's Possessed.  Crawford plays private nurse Louise Howell, who has fallen passionately in love with David Sutton (Van Heflin).  David, as we grow to learn, is a total bounder - a "love 'em and leave 'em" cad who enjoys the chase, and is immediately bored once he wins his prey.  Bored now with Louise, he has informed her of his disinterest in commitment.  She however, has become obsessed with David, and is badly damaged by his rejection; damage that will eventually spiral her downwards into madness.

The opening scene of this picture is fascinating.  We see Crawford wandering alone down what is obviously Los Angeles city streets. First is the shock of actually seeing the city of Los Angeles (and not the WB back lot) in a picture.  Second is the surprise of seeing Crawford without a drop of makeup on her face! Actually, the beauty of her face is even more evident plain as it is.  She was a stunning woman, without the overdrawn lips and arched eyebrows!  And here, is that very scene:

The film begins after Louise has suffered a severe mental breakdown.  Her story is told in flashback, as her psychiatrist (Stanley Ridges) attempts to ferret out the reason for her illness.  
We found the character of David Sutton to be totally reprehensible.   It is hard to discuss, as I'm loathe to give away the ending of the picture for anyone who has not seen it (and we heartily suggest that you see it. You will not be disappointed), but David is not content with destroying Louise, he has another victim in his sights, and Louise is perhaps the only one who understands what he is about to do.  Van Heflin does an excellent job of making David loathsome, yet, we can still understand why women would be attracted to this snake-in-the-grass.  Raymond Massey's Dean Graham is also an interesting portrayal.  Graham, too, has been battered by life, but has an inate strength that will serve those around him well.

Most of the film is told from Louise's point-of-view. We are, after all, hearing her story as told to her doctor.  However, the POV work is fascinating, as we actually SEE her mind breaking down.  We see her hallucinations; as  a result, we are often not sure what is real and what is not.  Which makes for an even more interesting and intense story.  Crawford is wonderful in showing us the confusion in Louise; she makes us care about this woman and appreciate her pain.

Next time, more from Crawford's Warner Brother's years.

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