Tuesday, September 04, 2012

AUTUMN LEAVES (1956)

Joan Crawford is a middle-aged freelance typist who works out of her apartment and never married because she devoted her life to taking care of her ill father; now, she feels that romance has passed her by. One night, after attending a concert, she stops at a diner and happens to play "Autumn Leaves" on the jukebox. A handsome young man just out of the Army (Cliff Robertson) walks in and strikes up a conversation with her based on the fact that he loves the song as well. She resists him for a time because of their age difference but slowly warms up to his attentions. They to go a beach and have a "From Here to Eternity"moment, and go to the movies and enjoy a Mr. Magoo cartoon.  He gets a job in a department store and soon they have a Tijuana wedding.  They're happy for a time until she begins catching him in lies about his past, the biggest one involving a former wife (Vera Miles) that Crawford knew nothing about. It turns out that Robertson is a compulsive liar and has violent episodes, and when Crawford goes to his father (Lorne Greene) to find out more about his past, she discovers that Greene and Miles are having a fling. A doctor diagnoses Robertson as an "infantile schizophrenic"; can modern psychology and/or true love fix him before his erratic behavior splits the two apart?

This one of those 50s women's melodramas which posits that most of our kinky behavioral problems can be solved by a stay in a sanatorium, or analysis, or shock treatment, or all three. Robertson does a nice job with a tricky part, coming off like a less unhinged Anthony Perkins with a Jimmy Stewart twang at times; old pro Crawford does her usual soap opera shtick and works up some effective chemistry with Robertson, but still the very visible gulf in their ages remained a bit of a problem for me—I never figured out what he saw in her, and frankly, though Robertson is quite good looking, it wasn't clear what she saw in him besides a "last chance."  30s supporting player Ruth Donnelly is Crawford's landlady and friend.  The title song, by Nat 'King' Cole, is pleasant enough. Not really my cup of tea and predictable, but fairly painless.  [TCM]

3 comments:

dianarossproject said...

I've always like "Autumn Leaves" -- Crawford is right in the role and doesn't lay it on quite as thick as she did in other moves of this period, and Robertson gives a nice performance. And it's always fun to see Vera Miles pop up! I'm enjoying reading through your reviews here!

Steve said...

It struck me reading your review how many movies from the 1950s feature Crawford (as well as several other actresses pushing middle age - Davis, Wyman) in flings with younger men - and many of them work out OK in the end. Well, anyway...
I thought the second half of the movie was somewhat off-the-wall (including the subplot with Greene and Miles), but I don't think it's as much fun overall as some of her other later films - Queen Bee or Female on the Beach, for instance. Perhaps it might've been more fun if it'd been Crawford going off the deep end rather than Robertson.

d7dd694e-57ab-11e3-89c2-000bcdcb8a73 said...

i just saw this movie for the 1st time, i was pleasantly surprised with the story of a 52 yr old woman meeting a 33 yr old service man, it deals with age difference relationships and mental illness, They also show "shock" treatment for the patient that was diagnosed with schizophrenia, which was very disturbing to see. its a 1956 movie so i understand how those were different times however the movie itself does not specify the time period, The movie stars ms joan crawford, mr cliff robertson, Mr. lorne Green and Ms Vera Miles. give it **** out of 5