Thursday, March 23, 2017

Everything You Ever Need To Know About Life...

... you can learn from:

Mildred: Wally, you should be kept on a leash!
Now why can't you be friendly?
Wally: But I am being friendly!
Mildred: No, I mean it.
Friendship's much more lasting than love.
Wally: Yeah, but it isn't as entertaining.

The astonishment of Joan Crawford entered this Earthly realm on this day in the year 1906, and one hundred and eleven years later we're still under her eyebrows spell. What are we thinking of Jessica Lange's performance on Feud?

I think she's terrific - it's never an imitation so much as it is getting at a general spirit of Joan-ness, but she does that and then some. During this past week's episode I had to go grab my copy of Joan's book My Way of Life off the shelf and flip through it, so strong had her vibes permeated the house. It was like a seance... or, more accurately, an exorcism. 

I have a question for you wonderful people out there who know movies, though: I know Joan's late work fairly well, from the 40s onward, but I'd love to see more of her early work - she goes back to the Silents! (In the year 1926 she acted in a film titled The Boob and a film titled Tramp Tramp Tramp, which is probably the best double-feature I have ever heard of.)

So what's Cannot Miss from her early years? 


Dame James said...

Rain and Paid are essentials

Pierce said...

Rain was her first real starring role. She's quite good in Daisy Kenyon and in Sadie Makee. Dancing Lady is fun, and she dances with Fred Astaire. The Bride Wore Red is also quite good. And of course, there's her magnificent performance in The Women.

I think The Last of Mrs. Cheyney is a remake of the movie with Norma Shearer, who was, of course, Crawford's rival at MGM.

Anonymous said...

Rain, Grand Hotel, The Women (of course), A Woman's Face. Hell, I even enjoyed Reunion in France!

Eric Leventhal said...

Rain. astonishing

DCameron said...

Possessed (1931 version. She made 2 movies by that name. Fitting somehow). Sadie McKee - 3 leading men and the great song "All I Do Is Dream of You". Laughing Sinners - She joins the Salvation Army!

joel65913 said...

I know I’m a bit late to this, I had a hellish day yesterday, but I couldn’t let this chance to comment on Joan’s early work go by unremarked upon.

I’ve seen both The Boob (run of the mill silent junk but the chance to see Joan in this early embryonic state as a revenue agent!! is worth investing the brief hour running time) and Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (imagine my surprise when I found out the title didn’t refer to her!) and neither is anything to go out of your way to find.

What’s worth seeking out from her earliest forward (though any of her silents are fascinating to watch her evolve steadily through each one as she shed the rough Texas exterior and became more distinct with every appearance):

The Unknown-Her best silent and one of the most bizarre films out there. Lon Chaney plays the armless knife thrower in a circus who loves his assistant Nanon (that would be Joanie) who has a fear of hands and being touched but who loves the strongman but wouldn’t let him touch her. Meanwhile Chaney and his midget sidekick harbor a secret but his obsession with Nanon drives him to mind boggling extremes. Weird, moody and unsettling.

Our Dancing Daughters-The one that put her over the top just as silents were on their way out. A fine example of the fluidity that silent film had achieved just before it became obsolete and also serves as a snapshot of the life jazz mad Sheba’s and Sheiks lead just before depression swept that way of life away.

Paid-Probably the first of her sound films that doesn’t suffer from transition-itis and also a template for the thirties Crawford film. Poor shop girl/maid suffers nobly for a man, is betrayed, becomes a wised up gal, reforms and ends up in clover.

Possessed-Much like Paid but one of her best early pairings with Gable where both are near the peak of their beauty with Joan rockin’ one killer outfit after another.

Grand Hotel-A wonderful if uneven film with what is surely Crawford’s best early performance, one of the best of her career, she’s dazzling as a stenographer who isn’t above lying down to move forward until she meets a couple of men who make her realize her value.

Forsaking All Others-Joan was never the natural comedienne that Barbara Stanwyck was but this is one of her better comedic performances and she’s surrounded by comic masters, Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell, Billie Burke and in this case Clark Gable.

The Shining Hour-The ripest of melodrama with Joan as a nightclub doxie married into society (Melvyn Douglas) who has a yen for her brother in law (Robert Young) while his long suffering but incandescent wife (Margaret Sullavan) suffers in silence and her psycho bitch sister in law (Fay Bainter) schemes to destroy her in ever more extreme ways! It’s absurd, ridiculous and heavenly.

Strange Cargo-Unusual allegory of Devil’s Island escapees (including Clark Gable and Peter Lorre as a character named M’sieu Pig!) who attempt to get off the rock along with Joan as an surprisingly obvious prostitute (for a forties film) and a man who might be Jesus (an excellent Ian Hunter).

A Woman’s Face-Remake of a very good early Swedish Ingrid Bergman film with Joan as a disfigured woman with a twisted soul who redeems herself when her face is repaired. The ending is preposterous but even with that a good film with an excellent Crawford.

When Ladies Meet-Arch nonsense but anything that’s cast consists of Joan, Greer Garson, Robert Taylor, Herbert Marshall and a magnificently addled Spring Byington is worth the time.

joel65913 said...

After that it’s pretty much claptrap until Mildred Pierce. Ones to avoid unless you’re in a completest mode:

West Point & Spring Fever-this may vary depending on your tolerance for William Haines. I respect the hell out of his integrity in walking away from film rather than compromise his relationship with his husband but I find his insufferable on film and barely made it through either of these films. I only hung in there for Joan.
Montana Moon-PHEW!!!

Today We Live-A leaden paced bore with a bunch of Americans who should have known better pretending to be British. ZZZZZZZZZ

Reunion in France-Joan is a secret French Freedom Fighter (Um okay?) who falls for John Wayne!! They share zero chemistry and the movie is absurd twaddle.

The Gorgeous Hussy-Joan in hoop skirts! Oh God!

Ice Follies of 1939-Oh God! Oh! God! The title says it all. No matter what she thought this is Joan’s worst movie.