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« Nightmare Alley (1947)...and (2021)| Main| 1947: "Boy! What a Girl!" is an underseen lively gem »
Wednesday
May 27 2020

Joan Crawford in '47

byCláudio Alves


After more than a decade as one of MGM's brightest and most formidable stars, the 1940s were a turning point for Joan Crawford.While she struggled to reinvent herself during these middle years of her career, many of the actress's best movies came from this phase.She left behind a series of lackluster offerings from her original studio, finding new power when carefully choosing projects at her new home, Warner Brothers.It wasn't easy, but she triumphed, winning an Oscar for 1945'sMildred Pierceand going on to get two other Best Actress nominations.More importantly, she solidified her legacy, challenged herself as an actress, and proved to everyone she was more than a flapper or talentless glamour girl.

During this period of Crawford's filmography, 1947 was a particularly auspicious year.She broke our hearts in a romantic tragedy, impressed AMPAS with explosive neurosis, and went on to star in one of Hollywood's most interesting post-war melodramas…

WhileHumoresque, the remake of a Frank Borzage movie from 1920, premiered in 1946, it's wide release only happened in January of the next year.It was then that audiences were able to meet one of Crawford's most alluring creations.Playing second fiddle to John Garfield, she's a wealthy patron of the arts who falls in love with a prodigious violinist from humble beginnings.The plot of the movie ends in tragedy for Crawford's character, but the punitive narrative doesn't stop the star from exploring how one can bear one's soul for the camera while keeping a façade of pristine glamour.It's a beautiful performance and she's beautiful in the movie, so much so that this might represent the peak of her loveliness as a screen siren.


No matter how wonderfullyHumoresqueshowcases Joan Crawford's abilities, hers is a borderline supporting role.Her other 1947 releases would feature her front and center and build themselves around her presence.The first of those pictures was Curtis Bernhard's拥有, the first time the actress ventured into the murky waters of genre filmmaking with a tinge of horror.It also represents one of Crawford's most daring experiments when it comes to testing the plasticity of her star persona.Just look at the way she enters the film, stumbling catatonically through Los Angeles streets at dawn.Ashen faced and off the deep end, she's the zombified carcass of a romantic heroine whose turmoil wrecked her to the core.

A noirish flashback structure lets us see what brought upon the destruction of this woman.In that story, we find Joan Crawford playing up the mannered affectation that so many people nowadays point at as a signifier of hammy old-school film acting.That said, the actress' turn in拥有is far from being an accidental turn to exaggerated histrionics.Quite the contrary, her approach to the role ends up being a canny implosion of movie star acting, the brittle artifice of it all crashing down into a cesspool of nervous paranoia.By the end of this unseemly spectacle, Crawford's erratic characterization may not present a fleshed-out human being, but it offers instead a portrait of paralyzing panic as a state of being.

拥有conquered my admiration and it won Crawford a second Best Actress nomination.However, if asked what's her best movie from 1947, my answer wouldn't be that psychological horror.Instead, Otto Preminger's黛西凯尼恩earns the title, injecting a love triangle premise with the trauma of a world ravaged by war and the cynicism of an embittered society.黛西凯尼恩, the movie and the character, thus becomes a symbol for a generation of women who spent their entire adulthood fighting.First through the Great Depression, then through the war, until they reach middle-aged and are tired of all the struggle.

It's a complicated movie with no fully-likable characters, a weird experiment that exploits Joan Crawford's star power with sharp precision.黛西凯尼恩also embraces the mess that is its character's thorny relationships, creating a situation where a satisfying ending becomes something next to impossible.结论是一个impossibl快乐的乐趣e dream in the cosmos of this melodrama.Even the smiles of happiness feel vaguely hollow, devoid of the genuine mirth they might otherwise highlight.It's no wonder that the film earned dismissive reactions when it premiered, suffering even from its own makers' disinterest in the following years.Still, I'll always hold the picture dear to my heart as one of the best Joan Crawford vehicles.

如果你是一个Crawford fan, you'll be happy to know that these three movies are available online.Humoresqueis available to stream on DirecTV.You can also rent it and those two other films from Amazon, Youtube, Google Play, and others.

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Reader Comments (10)

Humoresque is officially a 1946 release.That's the year for which it competed at the Oscars.Franz Waxman's score was nominated.TFE is a big Oscar fan and prognosticator.Even though Cláudio mentions this, the premiere-wide release dichotomy is no excuse to dump the film into 1947.

May 27, 2020 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Marcos -- I know it competed in the 1946 Oscars and am not trying to say otherwise.I'm sorry if it came off like that in the piece.

From an audience standpoint though, I thought it important to mention that its wide release happened in 1947 and include it in the piece.For most American audiences at the time, Humoresque would have only been seen in 1947 and not 1946, contributing to Joan Crawford's great year on the big screen.Still, because it's officially from the previous year I tried to give more importance to the other movies, giving them two paragraphs each and Humoresque only one.

I apologize if you think I'm unjustly dumping the movie into 1947.Hopefully, that issue is less impactful than the rest of the article and its praise of Joan Crawford.As always, thank you for the feedback.

May 27, 2020 | Unregistered CommenterCláudio Alves

OK Cláudio.I see your point.I was a bit vehement.You don't have to apologize.And, as I said, you did acknowledge the fact.In the last 10 years or so I've been particularly touchy when it comes to Oscar eligibility dates.Since then, the press is making us all crazy by beginning to refer to the Oscars by the year of the ceremony, and not the year of eligibility/release.

May 28, 2020 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

For my money, Crawford never topped her work in "Humoresque".It's a lightning bolt of a performance, electric with charisma,,assurance and finesse.She was riding high on her recent career changing "Mildred Pierce" triumph and her beautiful work in "Humoresque" just pulsates with renewed confidence.Dazzling.
I enjoy "Daisy Kenyon" but I think Dana Andrews steals the show.Like Crawford he was on a roll in the late 40's, racking up a brace of fine performances, this being one of his best.

May 28, 2020 | Unregistered CommenterKen

Interestingly enough, Bette Davis, the reigning queen at Warner Brothers, passed on bothMildred PierceandHumoresque.Given their differing acting styles, one wonders what characterization Davis would have brought to each role, and would have it made a better film?

May 28, 2020 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

She indeed is incredible in Daisy Kenyon and would've made a worthy nominee in 47.As I start to look into more 40's cinema I agree it was an incredible decade for Crawford.Of course her oscar winning role is central to greatness but in films like A Woman's Face, Flamingo Road & Above Suspicion she also showed herself so good.

May 28, 2020 | Unregistered CommenterEoin

Maybe I did not see anything, but we REALLY need to discuss that maverlous little masterpiece that is Pixar's "Out" and how groundbreaking it is, that Disney+ has released it.Also, I am really interested in possible backlash...9 minutes of perfection.

May 28, 2020 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

Joan is sublime in POSSESSED - and if not for Roz, would be my Best Actress pick that year!

May 28, 2020 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Carden

The post-War years until around 1950/1951 were good to Crawford and a number of established leading ladies like Gene Tierney, Olivia de Havilland, Rosalind Russell, and Loretta Young.Having played a lot of the same type of characters in films that created their stardom, they finally got a chance to break free from those roles and go deeper into different roles that showed the breadth of their talents.

A lot of Crawford's characters and films in her MGM years were interchangeable - shop girl aims for more in life, torn between the good but poorer guy and the richer but undeserving guy.There were some great roles for her in the period like Grand Hotel, The Women, and A Woman's Face, but many others were forgettable.

But as this article highlights, more interesting and memorable work came to her during this period.Flamingo Road is another favourite of mine from 1949.Not a great film by any means, but a lot of fun to watch.Watching Joan Crawford take on Sydney Greenstreet guarantees a good time on some level!

May 28, 2020 | Unregistered CommenterGTA James

Crawford is fantastic in "Humoresque".She has great chemistry with Garfield.They make a very sexy couple.

May 28, 2020 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

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