Sunday, February 26, 2006


Enjoyable romantic soap opera with tons of noir atmosphere and Joan Crawford at nearly the peak of her high melodrama period. She plays the title character, a successful commercial illustrator who lives in Greenwich Village (she's not rich, but like TV's "Friends," she certainly lives comfortably) and is the mistress of married lawyer Dana Andrews. He's happy with the situation, but she's feeling ignored due to a string of broken dates. She begins a casual relationship with Henry Fonda, a slightly naive soldier and widower just home from the war; at the end of their first date, he tells her he loves her which freaks her out a little, but with Andrews' non-commital state bothering her more and more, they fall into a more serious relationship. They are aware that they are using each other to escape their respective romantic woes, but they get married anyway and move to a cottage on Cape Cod where Fonda works as a ship builder. Andrews goes out to do a case on the West Coast and when he loses, he returns and tries to start things up with Crawford, but she rejects him. Andrews' wife (Ruth Warrick) finds out about the affair and a nasty, very public divorce ensues. The wrap-up of the triangle plays out a bit like a 30's screwball comedy, except it's not comic. Aside from an overly pat ending, this is interesting viewing.

Crawford is very good, mostly underplaying a role that could have led to real scenery chewing. Andrews is her match as a basically nice guy who seems not to want to hurt anyone, but who hurts everyone, including himself. Fonda was an interesting choice--he's not sexy at all and he's a little too passive, which makes it unlikely that Crawford would settle for him (and it's clear that whatever choice she makes, she would indeed be simply settling), but I got used to him eventually, though he remains too lightweight to play a character with several personal demons--symbolized by crazy cacophonous music played on the soundtrack while he thrashes about in his bed. There's an odd little subplot which implies that Warrick physically abuses her younger daughter (Connie Marshall); though Andrews knows about this, he feels OK about agreeing to give Warrick full custody of her in order to get Crawford off the public hook during the trial, and that just seems wrong, even allowing for the era. There isn't much of a supporting cast; a starlet named Martha Stewart plays Crawford's roommate, Peggy Ann Garner is Andrews' other daughter, and Walter Winchell has a one-line cameo in a scene set at the Stork Club. Although the movie is not film noir, it has a very shadowy, noirish look--I kept wondering if Crawford just couldn't afford to turn on a few lights now and then--which is effective. I like that Andrews calls almost everyone he talks to, including Fonda, "Honeybunch," and I like that Fonda does it right back at him in a later scene. Good melodramatic fun. [FMC]

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