Friday, January 6, 2017

"Female" Problems

Hello and welcome to 1955, when Miss Joan Crawford was knee-deep in a series of roles in which she chewed people up and spit them out. 1953 had given us the hooty Torch Song, in which she was a tough as nails Broadway star tamed by a blind pianist and 1954's Johnny Guitar had her in western drag as a shady saloon owner tangling with ferocious Mercedes McCambridge.

By 1955 she had reached the pinnacle of fury with Queen Bee, in which she ran herd over her entire family, with deadly results! That same year came Female on the Beach, today's featured movie, in which she portrayed a hard-edged, sarcastic widow who finds herself involved with a beefy beach bum, a union which might cost her her life.
Female on the Beach came about while Crawford was dating Universal Studios producer Albert Zugsmith and he allowed her to practically have her way with the place. She was granted costar approval, given the lot's most spacious dressing room and selected a director (Joseph Pevney) who would offer little resistance to whatever notions she might have regarding the production.
For the leading man, Crawford perused the Universal stable and came up with studly Jeff Chandler. The tan, prematurely-gray actor had been known for roles in action and adventure flicks as well as portrayals of Indians. His performance as Cochise in Broken Arrow (1950) had earned him an Oscar nomination (which went to George Sanders in All About Eve) and he'd played the part two additional times afterwards. Cleft-chinned, silver-haired Chandler later became the inspiration for heroic Race Bannon on the cartoon Jonny Quest!
The production was based on an unproduced play called The Besieged Heart, by writer Robert Hill. The homosexual scribe lent Crawford plenty of zesty dialogue to spout when he adapted his play into a motion picture script. Oddly enough, while Crawford and Zugsmith were practically over with by the time of the shooting's conclusion, writer Hill and producer Zugsmith collaborated eight more times on such cinematic gems as The Girl in the Kremlin (1957) with Zsa Zsa Gabor, The Female Animal (1958) with Hedy Lamarr and The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960) with Mamie Van Doren, among others!
Female begins with a distraught lady (played by Judith Evelyn) fretting, fussing and grasping over her hunky, younger lover Chandler. When it seems he isn't responding the way she wants, she drunkenly and frenetically begins to come unglued, finally winding up careening through the railing of her balcony and onto the sand below (hence, “female on the beach!”)

Cut to realty agent Jan Sterling taking Miss Crawford on a tour of the home. It seems that Crawford's late husband was the owner of the place and had been leasing it to Evelyn, but now Crawford has chosen to sell it. However, in the meantime, she decides to live there herself and enjoy some of the sunshine and serenity of the ocean-side locale.
She can't help but wonder just what was going on in the home, though, when she spies a man's pipe and sportcoat on the premises. A somewhat jittery Sterling seems to be trying to cover up what looks like evidence of a love nest, while the knowing (she was once a “specialty dancer” before marrying up!) Crawford makes it pretty clear that she knows the score.

Crawford spies the broken railing where Evelyn performed her jack-knife with a twist and then sees some gentlemen below observing the scene. Sterling lies and says that they are there doing government work, afraid to let Crawford know about the goings on the night before.

Crawford asks the realtor to have the boat moved, which is docked at her place, and also the pipe and sportcoat taken back to their owner (along with anything else that might be onhand like an extra toothbrush, etc...!) Sterling assures her that there won't be anything else to which Crawford snarkily replies that she has a nasty imagination and would like to be alone with it.

She's not alone for long because now police detective Charles Drake is out on her deck, overseeing the damage and taking a bird's eye view of the accident. Crawford is startled to find out that her tenant didn't move out, but took the fast way out of the property!
The following morning, Crawford is rudely, loudly awakened by the sound of a boat engine gunning (at the ungodly hour of 9:50am!) Highly disgruntled, she grabs her robe and heads out onto the deck to see what's going on.
She finds Chandler out on the offending boat, trying to get it in running order enough to move it at her request. She hollers at him to knock it off while she's trying to sleep. (Does anyone really believe that the real Joan Crawford of this era ever slept until 10:00am?!)
Her morning gets a lot worse very soon when she finally emerges from bed and heads out to her kitchen to find Chandler already IN it, fixing up a plate of freshly-caught fish! He's entirely at home in her beach house, seemingly regardless of who lives in it. In fact, he has his own key.
He asks her how she likes her toast and tells her he's the only one who can operate the coffee percolator because it's missing one leg. When he asks her how she likes her coffee, she hilariously responds, "Alone!" She then asks for the key back, which he is reluctant to surrender.

Just then, the police come and want to know where the dead woman's belongings are. Chandler says he has everything at his place next door, before finally giving back the key to Crawford's house.
Chandler's next door home is actually owned by his "aunt and uncle" Cecil Kellaway and Natalie Schafer, two grifters who enjoy pilfering money through card games with marked cards and by exploiting the physical charms of their tenant Chandler. They have a great view of the beach house next door and make certain that the house has a great view of Chandler in return!
Their dialogue is rife with double meaning. Schafer has trouble with her chair and Kellaway tells her "it's better in the sand" as Chandler is sprawled before them. Then when Chandler tries to express his desire to re-instigate his failed fishing enterprise, Schafer informs him that "dead fish is bad for business" as they're stationed next to the spot where Evelyn died!
These two con artists are always decked out to the nines, with so much going on in their clothing, decor and accessories. Did you notice yet that Schafer even has a small dog in her basket, who is witness to all the shenanigans on the beach?! Schafer tells the hunk he should offer Crawford his friendship, "all of it."
Chandler, increasingly weary of being rented out for this couple's financial gain, heads out into the water (with a rather peculiar looking run, I must admit) and slithers his way onto Crawford's dock, where she's on her belly enjoying a book of poetry.
He accuses her of getting too much sun and attempts to slather some lotion onto her legs, which she immediately resists. Then he grabs her book and reads a passage about standing naked under the sun, asking if that's what she'd like to do. After informing him that he's "about as friendly as a suction pump!" she heads back to her house for some alone time.
However, AGAIN, there is someone in her house! This time it's Sterling again, informing her client that a bid has come in on the property. Crawford insists that a binder (good faith down-payment check) be retrieved before she moves forward with the deal. She then asks Sterling for her key back, too, hopefully ending the parade of interlopers.

Sterling, who heretofore has sported only a series of whirly-whip, ice-blonde up-dos, lets her hair down and hooks up with Chandler for a conver-sation and boat ride. It seems they had a very brief romantic interlude and she's not sure she's ready to give him up to anyone new - like Crawford - when she'd already had to stand by and watch him court Evelyn.

Crawford is always decked out, loaded for bear, every evening, yet has nothing going on at all. Out of boredom and curiosity, she heads down to her dock where Chandler is still messing around with his broken-down boat.
Once aboard, they begin to chat about his earlier life as a fisherman and also his associations with Kellaway and Schafer as well as Evelyn.
As he's slumped back, fiddling with his (fuel) pump, he very frankly concedes that he's been little more than a gigolo for the older couple.
She attempts to get disgusted again, but her attraction to him is nonetheless palpable. They zero in for a kiss, but he warns her that she'll "get grease" on her if she continues. She does continue, for a while anyway.
Now back up on her deck she is AGAIN startled by another unan- nounced visitor. It's detective Drake again, still invest- igating poor Evelyn's demise and giving Crawford the heebie-jeebies that it might not have been accidental.
Crawford is invited to play cards next door, but first she has to warm her fanny (in one of several get-ups designed to show off the still-fabulous legs) by the fire. When she goes to stoke it, she comes upon a hidden compartment where, for whatever reason, Evelyn chose to stash her diary!
The diary recounts all the things that went on with Chandler, Kellaway and Schafer; her joy, seduction, love, money-lending, money-losing, etc... with each page sounding not only horrifying to Crawford, but pretty damned familiar, too! Crawford emotes around a bit before deciding to burn the tome in the fireplace.
Chandler shows up to bring Crawford over for dinner, but now she's in rare form, upset by the diary. When Kellaway and Schafer arrives, she gives them the treatment. She accuses them of using marked cards (her dead husband was a Las Vegas gambler, after all.)

Then she says that she'd like to ask them to stay for a drink, but she's afraid they might accept! The perturbed couple can't believe what they are hearing and leave in a pique.
Next, she tosses a martini in Chandler's face and let's him have it, exclaiming "I wouldn't have you if you were hung from diamonds upside down!" He then chases her out the sliding doors, down the steps and into the sand where she falls to the ground, he rips her dress and suddenly they're in a passionate clinch!
Now Chandler's actually beginning to fall for Crawford, but doesn't want to proceed with the plans that his "mentors" have in mind for her. Their own expensive lifestyle has brought them to the brink and they want him to come through for them.
Crawford is beside herself because, after what was obviously a night of unbridled ecstasy, Chandler has refused to call her for three days afterwards! Again, dressed to the hilt in a voluminous confection for no apparent reason, she's wandering the beach until being once more startled by the omnipresent Drake.
She proceeds to get shit-faced drunk and has a hilarious sequence in which she weaves around the house, barely able to stand or put two words together. (Words cannot describe my hatred for this lingerie look on her, which she favored so heavily in the 1950s...)
Then Sterling drops by to give her the check from the prospective buyer, but the phone rings. It's Chandler, offering to see her again -- in 20 minutes! She tells Sterling to give the check back. She's staying. And now she's on cloud nine over Chandler's call.
They head out on his still-ramshackle boat where he skin-dives for lobster. As Crawford can't swim, she stays on deck while he splashes around. He collects a bucketful of lobster, which disappoints me because I was dying to write that Chandler gave Crawford "crabs!" LOL
They have a real heart-to-heart, with Chandler (this time fondling a knife!) confessing some of his hard- scrabble background to a sympathetic Crawford.
Then it's her turn to confess how she wed an older man in order to gain stability and financial security. Their mutual love now cemented and their sinful backgrounds confessed, Chandler lets his opportunistic overseers know that he's going to marry Crawford and shut them out of it all.
A blissful Crawford meets up with Chandler and gifts him with a new fuel pump for his boat. They begin to plan their wedding, which is to be followed by a private sea cruise on the newly-fixed boat.
The day of the wedding, Crawford is once more awakened by a racket of some sort. She (in a very blatant and odd bit of camerawork) shows off her nightie ensemble, featuring her crotch and legs and heads out onto the deck where Chandler is at last fixing the broken down railing. She peeps around the doorway while Chandler gives her the once over, this time fondling a hammer near his pelvis!! 

After their wedding, Kellaway and Schafer stop by to bid them farewell, taking a moment to show off their latest piece of meaty bait, Ed Fury!
Things are far from peaceful, though. Crawford (in a truly ugly outfit of black sweater and dark, oversized, denim dungarees) is packing the boat for the honeymoon trip when she sees that something is amiss. There's also a horrible storm coming and everyone knows that she can't swim!
There's a struggle with Chandler and she finally winds up in the water, clinging to a pylon for dear life. WHO is trying to do her in? The deceptive Chandler, the ever-present Drake, the lovelorn Sterling, the con-people Kellaway and Schafer or some other malicious presence??

Director Joseph Pevney (seen here flanked by his stars) began as an actor before turning to directing in 1950, when he proceeded to helm many films over the decade. While none of his films were terribly "important," he did give us Tammy and the Bachelor and Man of a Thousand Faces (both 1957) as well as The Crowded Sky (1960.) In the '60s, he turned to television, directing many series episodes including some key ones from Star Trek. He worked up until 1985, passing away in 2008 at the ripe ol' age of ninety-six!

I've already described the sort of screen persona Crawford was perpetuating during this time. Her looks were quite severe with huge eyelashes, the usual smear of lipstick and an often stiff hairstyle which was particularly hideous from the back. (See below in color!) Nevertheless, she's continuously granted glorious close-ups that reveal the still-potent magic in those luminous eyes.
In the wake of Female, Crawford would veer for a time towards more sympathetic screen charac- terizations like the love-struck spinster charmed by a younger man in Autumn Leaves (1956) and the adoptive mother of an afflicted girl in The Story of Esther Costello (1957.)
Her career was also slowed, deliberately, because at the end of shooting Female, she accepted a date with the man who would become her last husband, Pepsi-Cola executive Al Steele, and she became heavily involved in that enterprise with him. After his death, she came back to the screen in smaller roles for a time, such as in The Best of Everything (1959) and The Caretakers (1963) before regaining top billing in a variety of thrillers.
Chandler is one of Hollywood's tragic cases in that his popular career and relatively brief life was cut short by a domino effect of an accident, injections, complicated operations and an infection. He was struck down at only age forty-two in 1961. He left behind two daughters and a recently-divorced wife who sued for malpractice (and won.)
The 6'4" hunk was forever striving to get out from under solely beefcake roles and wanted to expand his acting range, but was dead before he got very far with that. His final film was the WWII film Merrill's Marauders (1962.) An active, fit man, he was forever being called upon to strip down (which also, because of the era, meant shaving his chest every time.)
Very blonde, very thin Sterling was a busy, busy actress during the 1950s after having made a mark on stage. Her role in 1954's The High and the Mighty netted her an Oscar nomination, but the award went to Eva Marie Saint for On the Waterfront. The loss crushed her, making it easy to dredge up emotion in subsequent roles. She acted longer than you might think, up until 1988 (her last movie being First Monday in October, 1981) and passed away in 2004 at age eighty-two from a series of strokes.
Kellaway, born in South Africa, but toiling in films in both Australia and the U.S., was a multipurpose actor who stayed very active in character parts. Interestingly, he worked with Bette Davis in The Letter (1940) and with Crawford here and would have been reunited with them both in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) had Crawford not exited the production. He was Oscar-nominated on two occasions, for The Luck of the Irish (1948), losing to Walter Huston for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), losing to George Kennedy for Cool Hand Luke. His long career came to a close in 1972 and he passed away the following year of arteriosclerosis at the age of seventy-nine.
Schafer was active from the late-'30s/early-'40s on as a character actress, usually one of money and/or haughtiness. She'd tangled with Crawford in 1942's Reunion in France as a snooty couturier customer. Of course, her most identifiable role came in 1964 when she joined the cast of Gilligan's Island as Lovey Howell, a show that has never been out of rerun in syndication. She reprised the role in two subsequent animated shows and three telefilms.
Schafer told of Crawford and Chandler engaging in a steamy affair during the making of this movie as well as an anecdote in which she had to respectfully decline a dinner invitation to Crawford's house only to come to work the following day and find her dressing room trailer moved to the outer perimeter of the soundstage, nearly to the parking lot!
Drake was a familiar face in supporting roles in so many films from the 1940s to the 1960s and beyond. The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), Winchester '73 (1950), Harvey (1950), All That Heaven Allows (1955), Back Street (1961) and Valley of the Dolls (1967) are only a few of the films which featured him. Never married (hmmm...), he passed away in 1994 at age seventy-six of undisclosed causes.
Evelyn, principally a stage actress, worked steadily both on TV and in movies of the 1950s. In 1954, she portrayed Miss Lonely- hearts in Alfred Hitchcock's classic Rear Window, a good rehearsal for her role here. Other films include The Egyptian (1954) and Giant (1956.) She retired altogether in 1962, passing away of cancer in 1967 at only age fifty-four.
Finally, as I noted earlier, Crawford personally selected Chandler for this film and in this publicity still, she is gifting him with a basket crammed full of items to help him stay fit and trim. There's a scale, some body-building magazines and, if you look carefully (the only way I ever look at anything, to be truthful!), you can see a vitamin tonic/"appetite appeasement" product called Tafon and a box of diet-helping candy called Ayds. I daren't say that Joan Crawford gave Jeff Chandler Ayds, but she did! Till next time, pets.


Gingerguy said...

I am speechless (but not for long!) and must start by saying that the photos from this are camp heaven, each and every one. I had three crushes in my childhood, G.I. Joe, Mr Clean, and Race Bannon, so you floored me with his real life inspiration. I always thought the female of the title was Joan, and I recognized that unfortunate actress as Miss Lonely hearts from Rear Window right away. This is a hilariously tawdry tale and it makes much more sense reading it then watching it, which I just did about a year ago. Her outfits mostly do not say "beach house" to me, but I guess Miss Crawford always had to look like a movie star. Agreed on that puffed sleeve number, it's like she borrowed it from Rhoda in "The Bad Seed". The creepy couple next door is such a loony twist, and I must say that their new "bait" Ed Fury is smokin' hot. Funny thing is, I remember ayds diet candy. They had it in the supermarket (chubby children pay attention), I think it only went off the market in the early 80's when the name became toxic. I loved this whole post, what a way to start 2017!

joel65913 said...

Wonderful overview of this loony mess. This was one of the first Crawford films I saw when I was a wee one since it ran frequently on the UHF channels all the time. It took some doing to connect the earlier Crawford when I became aware of her with this mannish iteration, despite the frou-frou outfits this is the height of her butchness thanks to that hair-do…or should I say hair-don’t and drag queen makeup! It is quite the wallow since not only do you get ball-breaker Joan and hunkilicious Jeff but Lovey Howell as a procuress!

Until recently I had seen very few of Jeff Chandler’s films, this, Jeanne Eagels, Broken Arrow, Foxfire with Jane Russell (another one that seemingly played on an endless loop years ago) and The Tattered Dress, but thanks to the glories of TCM and different streaming devices and services I’ve now managed to see quite a bit and he was a much better actor than I had thought. Of course like all studio stars a deal of his output is junk. Yankee Pasha & Yankee Buccaneer (if you can believe it!) are ripe twaddle as is Flame of Araby and several others. And Thunder in the Sun where he and Susan Hayward play Basque immigrants is best forgotten except for the fact that the two of them went to school together back in Brooklyn as Edythe Marrener and Ira Grossel! So it’s interesting to see them paired it’s just too bad that they weren’t teamed in a better film.

He is particularly good though as a small town sheriff who takes on big boss Orson Welles single handedly in Man in the Shadow, it’s his best film at least of what I’ve seen. Most of his others were studio fodder heavy on Westerns but Iron Man, Two Flags West, Toy Tiger, The Lady Takes a Flyer (where he and Lana Turner are competing pilots as well as husband & wife), A Stranger in My Arms (falling for June Allyson and telling off Mary Astor-in full bitch mode) and Merrill’s Marauders are decent films.

Back to this film, it is full of salacious bits that make you wonder how they were slipped by the censors of the day. That hammer scene alone should have given them the vapors.

My only disappointment with the movie is that it didn’t have enough Jan Sterling. Love her, though I can see how her brassiness held her back from bigger stardom. She was deserving of awards for many of her performances and even though she was the best of the lot in that stinker The High and the Mighty I didn’t think anyone did their best there.

Thanks Poseidon, you’ve inspired me to hunt this ripe meller down for an overdue revisit!

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

I've never seen this, but I think if I had Jeff Chandler and that beach house in my life, I'd go a little loony tunes as well!

Avenjer said...

Thanks for posting about this hoot of a film. It's a favorite guilty pleasure of mine. From Joan's bad hairstyle and frightening drag-king-in-a-dress looks, to the wonderful character actors, with Lovey Howell pre-Gilligan and even Jeff's swishy running into the water---this film entertains in so many ways. And Drake never married? Hmmmmm is right. I remember him in a small part as cruise officer in "Now Voyager" looking dashing in his white uniform. Plus we get Ed Fury in female on the beach! Wearing clothes for a change! I wish there was a sequel following Ed and Natalie Schafer on their new adventures together, lol ;-)

Rick Gould said...

Funny, I just watched Joan and Mercedes in their butch bitchfest Johnny Guitar last night!

"Female" Joan in her drag queen phase sporting puff sleeves and Peter Pan collars goes together like a swig of orange juice after brushing your teeth!

Crawford made some kooky flicks in the '50s, but this one is definitely the most lurid.

And dang, Jeff Chandler to boot as a daddy boy toy!

Great job as always, Poseidon!

Rick Gould said...

Also, do you think if Joan hadn't married Pepsi's Al Steele, would she have gone on to play Universal's other epic "female" flick, "The Female Animal?" I think it would have been right up her alley!

I shared this post with a great FB Joan Crawford fan page, friendly folks over there, unlike some fb fan pages! Here they are:

Gingerguy said...

I was thinking over the weekend Poseidon, that there was no mention of Jeff Chandler's cross dressing, as alleged by Esther Williams in her autobiography. You could almost imagine making an "Ed Wood" movie after hours with Miss Crawford's costumes. Turns out that claim was debunked by all who knew him and was retracted(?) not 100% sure she took it back though.

Poseidon3 said...

Hello, my sweets! In the nearly 600 posts I've written here, this one was a Top 5 headache due to some bizarre mess of formatting which happened because I wrote the text in another program and pasted it in. Oh GOD, it was a horror and took forever to fix. So I'm glad someone out there appreciated it!!

Gingerguy, I'm sure that the female on the beach of the title is intended to be Crawford, but in truth there are 3 or 4 with sand in their toes by the time the movie is over! LOL Bodybuilder Ed Fury was indeed beauteous. He worked a fair amount in the 1950s, often in little trunks. I had heard of Ayds, but don't know that I ever saw them in stores. I do remember once making my mother buy me a 16 oz Diet Pepsi from a vending machine because I had developed a spare tire around my middle. She protested that I would hate it and not drink it, but I railed on. It was HORRIBLE!! It was like drinking liquified Tylenol or something to my suger-fied tween lips! LOL I choked a lot of it down, but also "watered" a couple of nearby potted palms with some of it. Since 1986, I've had nothing BUT diet soft drinks when I've had them, but they've improved a lot since then.

Joel, my own experience with Chandler was even more limited than yours. "Return to Peyton Place" was the sole thing I'd ever seen him in until "Jeanne Eagels" and, finally, "Away All Boats," which is loaded down with hunks. I have a feeling I might have seen "Stranger in My Arms a hundred years ago on TNT, but I need to witness that one again! When you see "Female" again, you may be surprised at how much Jan Sterling there is. She keeps popping up at the house for one reason or another. She was so slim. At one point she wears a long, trim, grey suit and with her twist of blonde hair it's an almost Madeleine from "Vertigo" moment!

Dave, you'll have to keep your eyes peeled for this one. It's a scream.

Avenjer, I hate to jump to conclusions about Drake, but after all for that era, it was really unusual not to marry. Does make me wonder. (And to work with both Bette and Joan AND have a featured role in VOD is some kind of camp achievement in itself, regardless!)

Rick, OMG, that description of Joan's 1955-ish style is hilariously on point!!! toothpaste and o.j.!! LOLOL I have never seen "The Female Animal!" I have it on my "Watch Later" on youtube and hope it's still there. I clicked it that way not long after profiling George Nader here and never got back to it. (There are NEVER enough hours in the day...) I'm not a member of that FB group, so you'll have to tell me if they enjoyed this post or not. :-)

Gingerguy, because it was practically debunked and apparently retracted, I deliberately left out the cross-dressing allegations when it came to Mr. Chandler. I've been assured that Williams admitted she lied about it to spice up her book, but haven't gone searching online to see if any evidence exists of it. What a terrible thing to do to someone, especially when they can't speak up about it themselves any more. But after seeing him run into the surf, I can see where she might have gotten the inspiration! LOL I've never witnessed a man run like that who was supposed to be straight. (And, of course, I know that sexual orientation and cross-dressing aren't directly related to one another... just sayin'!)

DevilYouKnow said...

Great write up as usual Poseidon. I must rewatch this. I've only seen it once even though I own it (it is included in the Women In Danger! TCM box set)! I love Joan, but it's so hard for me to watch her when she was in her "1950s hard boiled bitch" phase. I don't think 50s fashions and hairstyles were all that flattering to anyone (take a gander at a matronly Judy Garland in A Star Is Born who was only in her early 30s!), but were even less flattering on Crawford. I remember rather liking Female. I had never seen Jeff Chandler in anything and my only knowledge of him was of Esther Williams' cross dressing claim. I was surprised that he was actually quite good. I've since seen him in Jeanne Eagles. A fairly terrible film but again, he's good! Ditto for Schafer and Cecil Kellaway who is fabulous in everything anyway. I love the little bits of behind the scenes trivia too. I'm trying to imagine Joan and Chandler sneaking off for quick sex and And of course Joan's insanity had to rear its ugly head. Only Joan could be mean to Natalie Schafer!

Not to go too off topic, but let's talk about ol' gossiping Esther. Another film in the aforementioned box set with Female is The Unguarded Moment starring Esther. She is truly awful in it (sorry Esther fans!). I thought maybe it was because it was a non-swimming movie but nope. I recently found another TCM set of Esther Williams movies at Big Lots and she's just as underwhelming in swimming movies too! She also guest starred in an episode of The Donna Reed Show and comes off as oddly bitchy. She was an odd duck of an actress.

Anonymous said...

Your excellent review inspired me to get hold of this film and watch it! A deliciously guilty pleasure. What an odd performance! Joan's haughty manner, coupled with the aggressive hair style and outfits didn't really get me on side of her character (I actually felt sorry for those swindlers when she had a go at them!) A bit too much Queen Bee and not enough Blanche for me. I was wondering what sort of film it would have been if a "softer" actress had been in the lead role.

Poseidon3 said...

Damn, DevilYouKnow, somehow I missed replying to your latest comment. Sorry! I agree about the severe '50s fashions. Joan looked so much better just a short while later in "The Best of Everything." I don't particularly enjoy her looks in "Sudden Fear" or "Harriet Craig" though somehow the fire-breathing "Queen Bee" comes through a tad better since she's so nasty anyway! Garland was indeed matronly for most of "A Star is Born" (and looked even worse at the Oscars that year if memory serves!) Hard to believe she was that young. I actually always liked Esther pretty much, middling actress that she was, but the Jeff Chandler thing was disappointing. Also, in her book, she came off as a pretty rotten mother (and that was even with HER telling it!!!!) One thing I did always love in her old movies was her hair. I guess all that Vaseline in it for the water sequences did it some good!!

Hi Linus! Thank you for your kind words and for taking time to comment. Joan really had a way of presenting some stern-ass power in her parts, right?? Then she tried to temper it with tearful vulnerability, which worked sometimes, but not always. I find her so interesting - warts and all - that I rarely if ever picture anyone else playing her parts. Usually the other way around! LOL