Monday, April 18, 2011

Joan Sings Torch

Torch Song (1953) marked Joan Crawford's return to MGM after her years at Warner Brothers.  However, she returned for a VERY strange film indeed.  She is Jenny Stewart, a temperamental stage star who has alienated EVERYONE in the cast of her latest show, and has no social life to speak of. Into her life comes pianist Tye Graham (Michael Wilding), who was blinded in the war.  He attempts to humanize Jenny, whom he loves because "he knows what she looks like". Torch Song seems most biographical in nature.  From Jenny's dislike of any woman she sees as competition to her passionate love affair with her fans, the plot seems to be borrowing from Crawford's own life.  Did she know how close it would look to her public? One wonders...

Let's just get past the black-face number right away.  It is just stunningly WEIRD.  WHY they found it necessary to perform the song Two-Faced Woman with Crawford done up as a mulatto with bejeweled eyebrows is incomprehensible. In the 21st Century, one rather sits there going "Huh??" And then there is the singing.  A documentary on the DVD showed Crawford testing the music in her own voice.  Never really a strong singer, age (and smoking) had destroyed with little musicality her voice had in her youth. Thus, the producers were forced to substitute a "ghost" singer for her.  Want a glimpse?

On the plus side, is her relationship with her sister and mother. What at first seems like an avaricious family living off their successful relative turns into something much more complex.  There is real love and pride of the mother for her star daughter.  And the sister, coveting Jenny's coat, beams when Jenny relents and presents it to her: "Thank you, Jenny! I'll even wear it to bed". she says as she leaves.  Sure, they are not perfect; but there is a love there, that we understand Jenny has ignored in her climb to the top.

Be prepared if you decide to watch this movie - it is NOT politically correct, but Crawford holds her own here. And damn, has she got good legs!!

Next week, we go back to an earlier Crawford movie.

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