Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Joan Crawford and "Possessed"

You have to be self-reliant and strong to survive in this town. Otherwise you will be destroyed.
Joan Crawford

Take a look at this picture.  Is this the Joan Crawford that you remember?  I sure don't.  During our second class at Stanford, Mr. LaSalle showed us another film from the Pre-Code era called "Possessed" starring Joan Crawford, Clark Gable and Wallace Ford.  Joan Crawford plays a small town factory girl named Marian who is longing for excitement.  She leaves the small town and her long time admirer, Al Manning, played by Wallace Ford, and heads to New York.  There she becomes the mistress of Mark Whitney, a wealthy divorced attorney played by Clark Gable.  Mark is unwilling to marry again so Marian posses as the divorced Mrs. Moreland to cover up their relationship.  Mark eventually decides that he loves her enough to marry her but when he decides to run for Governor, Marian overhears his colleagues discussing how any scandal would ruin his chance of winning.  When Mark finally comes to Marian to ask her to marry him, she pretends that she doesn't love him, that she's never loved him, and what a chump he is for ever thinking that she did.  Watching Joan play this woman who is giving up the love of her life to save his career is heartbreaking and tender at the same time.  Her face when Mark turns his back to her during their argument gives up her anguish and despair to the audience with a simple look.  She then disappears from his life.  But, when Mark is on the verge of being elected and his opponent tries to start a scandal by distributing flyer's that say "Who is Mrs. Moreland?" she comes to a rally and stands up and tells everyone who Mrs. Moreland is.  To save his career, again.  The speech she gives and Mark's reply are beautifully written and beautifully acted.  

This movie completely changed my thoughts about Joan Crawford.  As a young woman, she was a vulnerable actress who drew you in with her intensity.  I was completely enthralled by her.  Compare that to the older actress I remember who was bitter, hard and scary to watch.  She was still a powerful actress but the tenderness and vulnerability were gone.  Now I need to read more about her life to see what happened.  

*Here's something I noticed as I was looking for pictures of Joan:

Minus the cigarette - remind you of anyone?  

Madonna stole her look!


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