Sunday, September 11, 2011


Joan Crawford is a Broadway musical star in the middle of rehearsals for a new show; she's a flinty egomaniac who thinks that only she knows what is good for her and her show. She berates a male dancer (a cameo by the director of the film, Charles Walters), insists that she knows more about music than her pianist, and generally abuses her director (Harry Morgan), her agent (Paul Guilfoyle), and her languid boy toy (Gig Young, pictured with Crawford). When the pianist quits, the blind Michael Wilding replaces him, complete with a seeing-eye dog who frequently snarls at Crawford. At first Crawford tries to get him fired for speaking his mind about her musical arrangements, but soon she begins to respect him and even feel affection for him. We learn that Wilding has had a thing for her for some time, and that he saw her perform not long before he went off to war and was blinded. Eventually, he manages to humanize her a bit, and they fall into each other's arms in the last moments of the film.

This odd campy mess reminded me of ALL ABOUT EVE set in the musical theater, except the fact that Crawford is aging is never commented on. She's in fine shape at nearly 50, but she's no singer (her songs are dubbed) and not an especially strong dancer, so the fact that she's still considered the toast of the Broadway musical is hard to swallow—it might have played better to highlight her concern for her age, which would have given her frequent bitchy outbursts more motivation. Wilding is OK, but it's difficult to see what about the milquetoast pianist would attract her on a romantic level, especially when Crawford pretty much plays every scene at a fever pitch, wiping everyone else off the screen. There is an odd scene in which Crawford throws an all-male party; it reads pretty much right on the surface as a gay gathering, even down to her gigolo friend Young. One number, "Two Faced Woman," has become a camp classic with Crawford in brownface, radioactive red lipstick, and a dark wig which she rips off to show her glowing orange hair. The almost amateurishly choreographed number must be seen to be believed. Marjorie Rambeau, who has a totally unmemorable part as Crawford's mother, was inexplicably nominated for an Oscar. I'm not sorry I watched this, but if you're not a fan of campy soap opera or Crawford, you can skip it. [DVD]

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