Thursday, May 01, 2003

QUEEN BEE (1955)

A Joan Crawford camp fest, and perhaps the inspiration for Faye Dunaway's performance as Crawford in MOMMIE DEAREST. With big shoulders, flowing gowns, and eyebrows that could cut glass, Crawford plays a restless, scheming, man-hungry Southern belle gone to seed; she feels her power over friends and relatives slipping away and she is desperate to hang onto as much as she can. The plot feels like underdone Tennessee Williams or dumbed-down Faulkner. We see the bizarre, dysfunctional family situation through the eyes of a young cousin (Lucy Marlow) who has come for an indefinite stay at the Crawford family mansion. Barry Sullivan is Crawford's constantly drunk husband and Betsy Palmer is Sullivan's sister, who is planning to marry John Ireland, who it turns out was once a lover of Crawford's. Marlow falls for Sullivan (I have no idea what she sees in him), and in order for them to have a happy ending, artificially melodramatic tragedy has to strike everyone else. It's a 50's movie, so it's overblown and stiffly acted and drably shot, but some of Crawford's scenes are campily fun, even when some of the plot twists make no sense (including the fate of Palmer's character). For me, Ireland was the only sympathetic character; the fact that Marlow winds up happy at the end didn't make *me* happy. Fay Wray has a small role as an older woman who has suffered at Crawford's hands in the past. She has a couple of scenes and vanishes, perhaps aware that she couldn't compete with Crawford and her wardrobe. High in camp value, but not as fun as I'd hoped.

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