Friday, November 9, 2012

It's Time to "Take" "Care"

We've had a very, very busy period here in The Underworld; an extra-heavy workload at our job (which pays the bills and must come first!) and a lot of social engagements, so it's been hard to get a post ready. One could almost say it's been crazy, so what better subject to tackle during this belated return to posting than mental illness?! We're going to examine the 1963 screamer The Caretakers.

The Caretakers was based on a 1959 novel by a middle-aged lady named Dariel Telfer who'd worked for several years as a clerk in a mental institution. She parlayed her inside glimpse of that world into a novel that, after a rather intense period of editing, was a reasonable success. Producer-director Hall Bartlett optioned the book for a movie version, but left behind quite a bit of the spicy story in the process. The book had focused on the tumultuous lives of the doctors and nurses, with a love triangle, the rape of a patient by a hospital employee and even a murder, but the movie eliminated all of these plot points and more, even shifting the focus more to one of the patients.

The story takes place at a sprawling mental hospital called Canterbury (even the name suggests the old and archaic) where the status quo is in the process of being interrupted by a newcomer with fresh ideas and strategies for dealing with the psychologically impaired.

Run by the rather impotent Herbert Marshall and his domineering chief of nurses, Joan Crawford, the establishment is soon in a minor state of chaos when dynamic doctor Robert Stack tries to implement a program called Borderline, in which patients enter into group therapy with the ultimate goal being the ability for them to sleep at home and merely attend a day hospital to help them work through their issues with a foothold in the outside world.

This simply will not do as far as Crawford is concerned. She and her stern henchwoman and fellow nurse Constance Ford believe in the old ways; the “intelligent use of force,” control, self-defense and restraint. Needless to say, despite the progressive, compassionate attitude of Stack and his followers, it's a bit more fun to witness the determined, almost Gothic approach that Team Crawford applies.

The catalyst for the battle of wills comes primarily in the form of a new patient, Polly Bergen, who kicks the film off with a hysteria-laden breakdown inside a movie theater. As she frantically rubs her temples and agonizes over every detail of everything, she somehow decides that going to see West Side Story will cure what ails her.
She's feverishly led to a seat (in the packed, and I mean PACKED, theater) and as some news reels begin to play (every one of them involving some sort of loud vehicle or device), she starts sweating and panicking. Suddenly, she darts out of her seat and, in a surreal moment, stands in front of the movie screen screaming as race cars zoom towards her!

The first time I saw this scene, many years ago, I broke into fits of laughter, it's so overheated and over-the-top dramatic. However, I must say that after a bout with significant depression in 2000, I can actually identify with the part about certain sounds amplifying in the brain and causing severe annoyance. Ever since that time, I have a sensitivity to noise pollution like barking dogs or loud trucks and positively cannot bear any type of radio advertising, nor most TV ads as well.

Anyway, Bergen has suffered a major breakdown and is eventually transported to Canterbury, where she is shackled tightly with restraints around her wrists and ankles. She lashes out violently to anyone near her. Stack sees something in her that tells him she would nevertheless be a good candidate for the Borderline program. One of his first acts of trust is giving Bergen a cigarette (and from the sound of that Winston-Salem voice of hers, it ain't the first!)
Bergen's distressed husband Robert Vaughn reveals some of her issues to Stack and Stack's fellow physician, the edible Van Williams. Fans of TV action shows may delight in seeing Stack (of The Untouchables), Williams (of Surfside 6 and The Green Hornet) and Vaughn (of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) sharing the screen together, though a couple of those shows came after this.

It seems that Bergen and Vaughn lost their only child and their marriage has never been the same since. She blames herself for the death of her little boy and has progressively slid into serious mental despair. Vaughn isn't particularly well-equipped to deal with his disturbed wife, though he tries his best.

Stack places the anxious and upset Bergen in group therapy and this is when things get quite loopy. The Borderline group is, as you might expect, loaded down with problem cases, some worse than others. Kindly, old Ellen Corby (later to be the grandma on The Waltons) seems primarily just a bit senile and not worse than most people you run into at any small town smorgasbord restaurant.

Sharon Hugueny is an emotionally fragile girl who stares catatonically at times and hears voices, that is when she isn't daydreaming and creating an emotional reality for herself that is quite far from actuality. Locking the film into the era in which it was made, she also partakes in finger-snapping, Beatnik activity from time to time.

Then there's Barbara Barrie, who hasn't spoken a word in ages and tends to act out various physical playlets that confound everyone else (such as wetting her comb and sprinkling water on the others!)

Janis Paige is a manic nymphomaniac who can't stop running her mouth antagonistically. She parades around in slinky and/or skin-tight clothes, hair all done up in a swoop that would make even Jack Lord take pause, and berates pretty much anyone in earshot. It's a full-on, roof-top level performance that isn't always easy to endure, though, again, I once knew a tramp waitress at Red Lobster who demonstrated characteristics very much like this, so I don't know that I can say it isn't realistic!

Weirdest of all is Ana St. Clair as a dreamy, gauzy, bird-lover who almost never seems to interact with the others and frequently has her back turned. I'll elaborate more on her later, but this is one of the most oddball aspects of an already strange movie.

Stack sits mostly benign as these ladies take turns speaking their mind, though its primarily Paige who sucks up all the oxygen out of the room and antagonizes the others. They mostly get to sit there and either take it or offer up some weak response. Meanwhile, Ford writes everything down in detail so that she can show her boss lady Crawford what's been happening in the newfangled program.
In one of the sillier moments of the film, a scene is taking place in Borderline, with all sorts of camera angles, close-ups, et al and then suddenly we're informed that what we've been watching has all been piped through closed-circuit television to the nurses in training! Sure... the feed from the therapy room to the classroom was photographed by Lucien Ballard, the stunning cinematographer who invented the Obie light (which could make even an actress with skin like the surface of the moon look good on screen!)

They might have preferred to wait another year or so and watch Crawford play the nut-job herself in Strait-Jacket! But that's another story...
Anyway, in this training scene we get to meet novice nurse Susan Oliver who is tentative, but intrigued by the program and willing to help any way she can. In a tried and true “go to the head of the class” move, she swiftly begins dating her teacher Williams to no one's dismay or reaction.

Then again, Stack isn't wasting his down time either. He is dating his own blonde nurse Diane McBain, who is at his side for many or most of his adventures in the hospital. Cinemagoers who accidentally left their glasses at home may have been a little confused watching dark-haired doctors Stack and Williams simultaneously date the platinum blonde nurses McBain and Oliver, especially in those moments where they seem to switch off and stand or sit with the wrong partner!
Bergen, in what truly is a rather harrowing moment in the picture, is given electro-shock therapy. She's strapped down, a bit put between her teeth, and given some heavy voltage as the various students look on (for as long as they can stand it.) This smothering, intense scene is vivid now, but must have been fairly alarming in 1963.
Bergen finally has had enough of Paige's commandeering, negative attitude in the group sessions and lets her have it, though any significant trouble is broken up by the staff. Once Crawford (who doesn't even appear until a half-hour into the movie!) gets wind of the potentially violent Bergen, she digs in her heels with Stack, with hapless Marshall caught in the middle.
In perhaps the movie's most famous scene, Crawford dons a black leotard and tights and instructs her nurses in the art of judo. She instructs the ones assigned to Borderline to take double the lessons in case they have to do physical battle with a deranged patient.
Crawford (close to sixty by this time) looks remarkably fit and even gives the more hardy Ford a little flip to the mat in demonstration! It's a short scene, but a memorably visual one with the ladies all in black against a pale, cavernous gymnasium. Crawford's line delivery here is authoritative and confident and as far as I'm concerned could be played on an endless loop in my house, I enjoy it so.

As you can see, Miss Crawford's hair is really strange in this movie, a shiny, silvery, shellacked look that is quite immobile. Many people hate it, but let me assure you that I love, love, LOVE it and consider almost every frame of her screen time in this movie a portrait worth framing!

The put-upon Vaughn makes an attempt to visit with Bergen and give her some hope of a normal life, but things don't go well and she winds up turning on him and tearing her dress apart. Bergen tears at her clothes at least one other time and Barrie also takes this same short-cut to disrobing, so the wardrobe people on the set probably had a time of it! Also, in a typically ridiculous moment, Vaughn remarks on Bergen's new hairstyle, even though it is EXACTLY the same (a towering bouffant helmet) that she's had all along.

Things seem better at a bright and fun picnic on the grounds with Stack manning a grill full of steaming hot dogs and slipping his weiners one at a time into the buns of a nearby female assistant (usually Oliver, though Mr. Williams pitches in at one point, too!) Paging Sigmund Freud! There's a band and a hilarious little “dance floor” (basically two plywood-looking strips lying in the grass for the folks to twirl around on.) Paige, naturally, wants to cut-in on Oliver's choreographed cuddle with Williams.

Bergen wanders up on a hill to sit under a tree and sketch charcoals of her deceased son until a little boy comes up (who in the hell is he and why is he there??) to ask if she wants to play baseball. His father comes to get him, makes a derogatory remark and Bergen is back off the deep end again, running frantically away as Stack chases after her with no success.

Bergen had one of the most distinctively strange methods of running (seen to great effect in the prior year's Cape Fear as well.) Her arms would be straight out, wafting from side to side, as she trotted off. Kudos to her for doing a lot of this in spike heels!

She scurries around the grounds, into a building, right past nurses and staff, shimmies here and there until finally she hides in a stairwell where she passes out. When she wakes up again, she attempts to slip back into her dorm with the other Borderline ladies, but she is in the wrong wing of the hospital... the VERY wrong wing, where all the males are kept and, of course, all the male patients are sex-starved, hirsute, wrong-side-of-the-tracks types. There's no male equivalent of Ellen Corby around there! (And apparently they can forget any picnic of their own!)
So, once again, the progress made with Bergen is jeopardized. We know that Stack and his crew have the best interests of the patients at heart, but in truth their approach is more than a little lax and so you wind up with folks being verbally abused by Paige, there is confusion for the bewildered Barrie, who winds up taking out her frustrations on one of the institution's pets, and now this rape (or as a coda after the men's ward scene with Stack urges us to believe, near-rape.)
There's also an impromptu shindig with medicinal liquor and juice (and even a little rubbing alcohol!) and, eventually, a sudden fire in the Borderline women's ward! Thus, some of Crawford and Ford's hard line tactics don't seem as senseless as the scriptwriters would like us to believe. Still, Bergen and Stack are the stars, so we know that they are going to emerge on the high end of things one way or another.
Producer-writer-director Bartlett was the man behind the camp scream Zero Hour! as well, but he was a filmmaker with a social conscience, too. His prior movie to this one was 1960's All the Young Men, which dealt with racism in the military and starred Sidney Poitier. Then again, after The Caretakers landed with a thud in theaters, his resultant picture was Bob Hope's A Global Affair in 1964. His career was spotty indeed until the surprise hit Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973) captured the imagination of much of the public. (Look closely at his lapel in the shot below from 1973 at a charity premiere event and you will see a seagull pin. Love the ladies' hair here, too.)

Not too long after this movie, Bartlett married Rhonda Fleming, but the union only lasted from 1966 to 1972. In 1978, he very briefly married the ingenue (Lupita Ferrer) of a Mexican-set movie he was working on, The Children of Sanchez, which starred Anthony Quinn, Dolores Del Rio and Katy Jurado. Then, after having retired in 1983 after the Michael Landon TV-movie Love is Forever, he died in 1993 at the age of seventy of surgery complications.

At this time, Stack was fully ensconced in his Emmy-winning role of Eliot Ness on The Untouchables (1959-1963), though that would soon be ending. He'd previously enjoyed considerable success in the movies, with an Oscar nomination for 1956's Written on the Wind (the award went to Anthony Quinn in Lust for Life.) His prior film to this one was the 1960 nail-biter The Last Voyage, about a sinking cruise ship.
The comparative failure of this movie meant that he'd be balancing his subsequent film career with more television, which he did with The Name of the Game (1968-1971) and, most famously, as host of Unsolved Mysteries (1987-2002.) Of course, his comedic turn in the smash hit Airplane! can't be forgotten. Stack passed away in 2003 at the age of eighty-four of a heart attack, though he'd been suffering from prostate cancer as well.

Bergen was in the midst of a career upswing from the aforementioned Cape Fear (1962) and would also costar in the far lighter (as well as colorful) James Garner-Doris Day comedy Move Over, Darling this same year. After 1964's Kisses for My President, however, she receded from the big screen and did mostly television (and also enjoyed some success on stage, notably in Follies where she was Tony-nominated in 2001, losing to Cady Huffman of The Producers.) She and Stack would be reunited in the craptastical 1975 TV-movie Murder on Flight 502.
Here between takes, Ford and Bergen play a game of chess. An Emmy-winner in 1958 for her performance as Helen Morgan in an episode of Playhouse 90, she was nominated three other times for The Winds of War (1983), War and Remembrance (1988) and a guest role on Desperate Housewives (2008.) The latter three awards went to Jean Simmons for The Thorn Birds, Colleen Dewhurst in Those She Left Behind and Kathryn Joosten, also of Desperate Housewives (which really wasn't fair as Joosten, with 89 appearances on the show, was hardly a “guest!”)

Bergen, who gave 110% to her part in The Caretakers; screaming, sweating, flailing and emoting all over the place, even becoming deeply emotionally affected personally by the part, was nominated for a Golden Globe award, but lost to Leslie Caron in The L-Shaped Room. Having hosted The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse in 1954 and appeared in ads for the soft drink, one would have thought that she and Crawford would be more chummy than they turned out to be. Miss Bergen is still with us today and still acting at age eighty-two.

Many of the stars of The Caretakers have been profiled here in The Underworld previously, so I won't dwell on them too much additionally, but will link to their own tributes when applicable. This film happens to contain quite a few stars who I personally favor, so this will happen several times.

McBain, who is profiled briefly here, somehow scored third-billing in The Caretakers in what is the epitome of a decorative part! She's lovely, amiable and welcome, but has practically nothing to do in the finished cut of the movie. It's almost laughable how insignificant her part is, especially compared to some of the more meaty roles her costars get to play.
I've written about Joan Crawford several times, but this post is one that focuses on this particular stage of her career and is the period of hers I am most fascinated with personally. I simply cannot get enough of the tightly-controlled, severe presence she provides here.

That's not to say that she isn't also quite nuanced, despite all the glossy shots of her in this post. She clearly intended to demonstrate her character's inner passion for her work and the pride she took in it. In a couple of scenes, she is nearly on the verge of tears with frustration.

Her initial scene has her sporting a pair of hysterical eyeglasses that almost look like a joke! It's hard to believe that she was willing to put these on and, thankfully, only does so once. Most of the time she is dressed in a crisp, white uniform, but Moss Mabry also designed a couple of smart dresses that look terrific on her. They are trim and sleeveless and, thus, lack the shoulder pads she tended to favor.
By now, Crawford was on the board of directors of Pepsi-Cola, so when Bergen enters the lobby of the movie theater at the start of the film, it is Pepsi that the concession stand offers!

Likewise, at the hospital picnic, there's a big ol' Pepsi wagon overseen by big ol' Constance Ford. (Okay, I know she wasn't “big” or “old,” but she's a big ol' something for sure and it's funny to see her surrounded by a wealth of phallic, 16 oz bottles jutting in every direction!)

Paige was principally a musical/comedy actress who'd scored a big hit on Broadway with The Pajama Game (but who lost the role in the movie adaptation to Doris Day.) She later appeared with Day in 1960's Please Don't Eat the Daisies after having made a mark in 1957's Silk Stockings. After The Caretakers, big screen movies were few and far between, but she was a very busy TV presence until the millennium. Now ninety (!), she was performing an autobiographical cabaret act as recently as 2010 or so!

Williams has been offered up multiple times in The Underworld, both here and here , in particular. I just love his clean-cut looks and genial manner. 
But you know I can never resist the opportunity to throw in a little beefcake whenever possible, so I give you this shot below of Williams going over his lines in-between takes. The memory works better when you're half-naked...  What was I saying??  Oh...Well, anyway.

Ford, an indispensable and surprisingly versatile character actress, was one of my earliest recipients of a tribute. This role certainly played to her strengths. Interestingly, her character is called Nurse Bracken, which is not dissimilar in sound (nor far off in type) to Nurse Ratched of the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which was published three years after this movie's source novel.

Hugueny was on the cusp of movie stardom, having played a significant part in 1961's Parrish and set to play the female lead in 1964's The Young Lovers opposite Peter Fonda. However, a disastrous marriage to hot shot producer Robert Evans (from 1961 – 1964) jeopardized everything. She did some TV, married a second time and had a child, but that union also ended in divorce. She married a third time and was about to begin a new phase in her acting career when fate dealt her a stunning blow. She was hit by a zooming police car and took a long time to recuperate, never acting again. In 1996, she died of cancer at only age fifty-two.

Veteran actor Marshall was near the end of his career (and, in fact, life) by this stage. He'd been playing cameos in movies like 1962's Five Weeks in a Balloon and 1963's The List of Adrian Messenger and would only make one more movie, The Third Day (1965), before dying of a heart attack in 1966 at age seventy-five.

Though he was a more frequent costar of Bette Davis', he and Crawford had worked together back in 1941 on When Ladies Meet and she made it a point to treat him with kindness during the filming of The Caretakers. Always one to shoot her close-ups early in the day, she acquiesced during her scenes with Marshall so that he could complete his own and finish his days as early as possible.

Barrie, who very often sported a “pixie” hairdo as she had here, has been working on stage and in movies and TV for well over half a century. One of her most memorable roles came in 1979's Breaking Away, for which she scored an Oscar nod (but lost to Meryl Streep for Kramer vs Kramer, a controversial win considering Streep was billed above the title!) Barrie proceeded to play that role again in the 1980 TV series Breaking Away and was Emmy-nominated (but lost in that race to Nancy Marchand in Lou Grant.) Other Emmy noms came her way for Law & Order (1991, losing to Valerie Mahaffey - WHO? - in Northern Exposure) and as a guest on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2002, losing to Alfre Woodard in The Practice.)

She gives her near wordless role in The Caretakers a stunning level of feeling and commitment and provides some of the movie's rare moments of palpable emotion. Now eighty-one, she still performs in the occasional movie or TV show.

Miss Corby toiled away in movies since the early-1930s, playing countless maids and aunts, though she did win a Golden Globe and got an Oscar nomination for playing an aunt in 1948's I Remember Mama. Claire Trevor won for Key Largo. (She had also played one of Crawford's beleaguered servants in 1950's Harriet Craig and worked with her the year after in Goodbye, My Fancy.)

In 1971, she took on the role of Grandma Walton on The Waltons and became a household name, winning three Emmys and two Golden Globes in the process. (I will break from tradition and not go through her six losses and those winners!) Despite growing health issues, she played Grandma Walton in TV-movies up til 1997, but died in 1999 at the age of eighty-seven. She was moving a heavy safe down from the third story-attic of a condo and... LOL! No, it was from natural causes.

Next is the peculiarity of Ana St. Clair. The Argentine actress, then known as Ana Maria Lynch, had been considered a real beauty in her home country and made several films there. It is reported that she emigrated from Argentina during the reign of Juan and Eva Peron and then married director Hall Bartlett, who cast her (as Ana St. Clair) in All the Young Men and The Caretakers, yet, even though it makes sense, I could find no U.S. Source to support this! Another sign that she might have been Bartlett's wife, though, is her prestige billing and the fact that she gets the same movie goddess lighting as Crawford.

Even more weird is the strange way she is presented in The Caretakers. She's often shot through the wires of a birdcage or else off to herself, which not so much as a background extra to tie her in. It's like she exists in her own world within the film! There are a few sequences when she is spotted with the others, but most often she is completely alone within her frame! And I am positive that this is not her, but a stand-in, during this moment with Barrie. Weirdest thing ever... She never worked on screen again after this and died in 1976 at only age fifty-seven.

Vaughn had been busily acting on TV and in movies since the mid-1950s. In 1960, he'd scored an Oscar nomination for 1959's The Young Philadelphians (losing to Hugh Griffith of Ben-Hur.) He lost a Golden Globe that year to Stephen Boyd of Ben-Hur (who wasn't even nominated for an Oscar in a bizarre oversight.) His work on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. gathered two more Globe nominations in 1965 and 1966, but the awards went to Gene Barry of Burke's Law and David Janssen of The Fugitive. Now eighty, he is still actively working in movies and television.

Oliver made a fair share of movies (including the hooty BUtterfield 8 with Elizabeth Taylor in 1960), but was far more often a television presence, appearing on countless series over the span of her career (including The Untouchables and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) Perhaps her most enduring contribution to pop culture was her guest role in the first Star Trek pilot, which had her playing multiple variations including a sexy, scantily-clad, green slave girl. An aviatrix in real life, she had been nominated for an Emmy with 1976's Amelia Earhart as a flight instructor, but lost to Diana Hyland in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. She was taken far too early from cancer in 1990 at only age fifty-seven.

This movie marks the debut and the swan song of actress Virginia Munshin, who played one of the Borderline patients who, despite having precious little to say or do, won billing in the opening and the end credits. The thirty year-old actress, whose first film or TV role this was, died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1962 before the film was even released! The end credits, by the way, are my favorite style, which is the kind that show each actor's face and name, in increasing level of importance from the supporting stars to the leads. I love it when movies do this!

The opening credits (and the rest of the film, naturally) are heavily punctuated by the music of Elmer Bernstein, a prolific and highly-gifted composer, though his score here is remarkably unusual. The pounding, driving theme played over the opening as well as during Bergen's run through the hospital grounds and corridors, seems far more suited to an action movie set aboard a fast-moving train. Though there are no locomotives in The Caretakers, there is still plenty of “loco” to be found! Bernstein was not recognized for this score or even for The Great Escape, one of his other movies that year, but was nominated many other times, winning only once for Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) of all things.

The film's sole Oscar nomination was for Black and White Cinematography, courtesy of the aforementioned Lucien Ballard. It's often extremely effective and gorgeous to look at, even containing several visual effects, but he lost to the excellent James Wong Howe for Hud. (One effect, I must say, that is jarringly bad involves a shot of the Borderline dormitory that pulls back to reveal a humongous cavern of beds, but the whole thing is just an obvious matte painting!)

Apart from Bergen's acting nod at the Golden Globes, the movie also scored Globe nominations for Best Director (with Elia Kazan winning for America, America) and even Best Picture-Drama (which Otto Preminger's The Cardinal won.) A couple of U.S. Senators were taken enough by the film to have it screened for the U.S. Senate in order to enlighten them on the subject of treatment for mental illness, with Stack and Crawford on hand afterwards for a reception. Just because it might come off as tame now doesn't change the fact that some of it was quite daring in its day.

The Caretakers is now a period piece and at times hilariously so, but there's also something wistfully nostalgic about the respect that the participants show one another, even when they don't agree. Stack and Crawford do NOT see eye to eye, but they are nearly always tensely polite and it's fun to watch them square off, sometimes teasingly. The cast, filled with stars (most of them from the Warner Brothers stable even though this is a United Artists picture!), is captivating to behold, if you're into that sort of thing like I am.

Not to mention (as I only have multiple times), if one is a fan of latter-day Crawford, she simply has to be seen in this, limited screen time or not.  Just look at that FACE...


NotFelixUnger said...

Great post! I love this movie. I only recently saw it myself for the first time when [I believe] TMC featured it.

Barbara Barrie is one of my favorite character actresses of all time. To this day I will watch current TV shows and movies if I know she is in them. Though I love her work with Hitchcock and Tucker's Witch and Sunsan in the City, my favorite is her turn as the grand-mother in Dead Like Me. [reminds me of my own grandma.]

Van Williams is a hottie. Always has been in my book. He should have been even bigger. [go figure]

Finally, this is my favorite line from the post, "but she is in the wrong wing of the hospital... the VERY wrong wing, where all the males are kept and, of course, all the male patients are sex-starved, hirsute, wrong-side-of-the-tracks types."

I don't think I need to explain why its my favorite! :-)

joel65913 said...

So glad you did a piece on this hooty delight! I had seen it years ago and ran across it again a few weeks ago just as it started and had to watch it all the way through.

Polly's hair is a positive volcano of teasing and hairspray. Recently read Farley Granger's bio which contained a story of his working on a play with Miss Bergen, she is apparently quite frosty and grand and not one to put the good of the team effort above her own needs. She does take large bites out of the scenery here mixed in with some more subtle work.

I agree about Joan Crawford's hair it must have taken hours of work to create unless it was a wig which would not have been unbelievable considering Crawford's mania for perfection. It's most impressive either way. She and Robert Stack share my favorite scene of the movie when they are alone in an office and he starts to say "Can I talk to you man to..." and she with a wry smile says "Man to Man" sheer heaven of both characterization and camp.

Also have to say I love Constance Ford. She's one of those people, like Thelma Ritter, Claire Trevor, Eve Arden or Sydney Greenstreet, that as soon as they pop into a movie you know there is going to be something enjoyable no matter how weak the film. Watched her for years on Another World as the super salty Ada and then ran across A Summer Place and have tried to see as much of her other work ever since.

Also have always had a soft spot for Susan Oliver, it's a shame she's not better known today but her early passing and work mostly in episodic TV makes it hard to track down her work. I always thought she had a very warm but glamorous presence.

As usual an enjoyable and detailed article! Thanks for keeping us entertained.

GlenH said...

Just watched the judo scene on Youtube! Why was Crawford never a Bond villain?!

Poseidon3 said...

LOL NotFelix! Now, don't you go checking into a mental health facility just to see what's there. I'm sure it wouldn't be the swarthy, manly ward that's on display here.

Joel, you hit on one of my own favorite moments, too! I LOVE that line and her delivery of it. It's the one time she seems to have a sense of humor.

I have read that there was a scene in which Lucretia Terry (Joan's character) suffers a breakdown and has to enter the hospital as a patient!!! She was disappointed that it was cut, but I'm certainly not. I think Lucretia is stern and unwavering, but not crazy. She had her reasons. After all, Stack's way led to the death of a pet, assault and then a near-deadly fire before everyone suddenly grinds to a halt (as does the film) to proclaim to him, "You were right!" ???

It reminds me of when they tried to make Bette Davis' character in Where Love Has Gone go nuts at the end. She fought that and won. It's almost as if early-'60s films couldn't bear to have an indomitable female character without her cracking up. Even Crawford's role in The Best of Everything (1958) initially included a drunken breakdown scene, which was also cut.

I do think this was her hair because she wore it this way (with less shiny shellack) for a while, including to the Oscars of 1963. She began coloring it red again because the grey made her feel older. I guess she felt she couldn't go the Barbara Stanwyck route.

GlenH, that would have been AWESOME!

JP said...

I think you might love "The Cobweb" and "Shock Treatment", both starring Lauren Bacall. Sadly, there are no judo lessons, but the former features conflict over draperies and the latter gives us Bacall's sadistic animal testing. Both movies are campy fun.

Ken Anderson said...

Although I'm a big fan of Crawford and it's been screened several times on TCM, I can't believe I've never seen this. You make it sound fairly irresistible! A very entertaining read that boasts many parts that made me laugh, as well as all the terrific backstory stuff you provide about the actors. A great job (as always). Thanks!

TomL said...

Interesting article, although you have some of your facts wrong. Caretakers was a substantial hit at the box office, #57 on Variety's List of Films for 1963 (although it was made months before Baby Jane which was released first) and netting receipts totalling well over $3M in 1963 alone. This is nothing compared to the mega-films with tremendous budgets for that year, but for a personal film like this it was amazingly good. Personally I have never found anything funny in the film. No one was playing this for laughs, and only people who have no sense of how people who are really emotionally disturbed make fun of it. For years this and Crawford's 1947 film Possessed were used to show students of Psychiatry what they would or could be facing because the scenes were so realistic in both films. Also, this was one of five roles Crawford secured for her friend, Ellen Corby.

Poseidon3 said...

Tom, while I try to welcome everyone who comes here, I think you may have stumbled into the wrong place. I address most everything with some level of humor here, it's just the way of the place - and me - so The Underworld may not be for you.

Apart from your assertion that The Caretakers was a "substantial hit" at $2 million domestic and at #57 overall, I don't know what other "facts" you think I have wrong. Maybe we just differ in opinion?

In between checking me out, I'd love to know what other two roles Ellen Corby worked on with Joan than the three I mention. I'm sure the webmasters of her detailed and prolific sites would like to know them, too, so they can update their own "faulty" information.