Tuesday, October 30, 2018

All Abuzz About "Queen Bee!"

The 1955 film Queen Bee, starring Miss Joan Crawford, is an exercise in control. The lead female character wants to control every detail of everything and everyone in her realm and, in real life, the woman playing the title role had substantial control of the project from the very start. In other words, this was a vanity production that, in more ways than one, came back to sting its megastar. She played an almost unmitigated shrew with the lines between fact and fiction becoming blurred (particularly by her adopted daughter Christina.) And years later, the makers of Mommie Dearest (1981) borrowed heavily from this film when they set out to make not a movie about Joan Crawford, but more of a "Joan Crawford movie!"

Crawford, having climbed up from the chorus line to become a huge star at MGM only to languish there for a while, eventually landed at Warner Brothers where she enjoyed a career resurgence and copped an Oscar for Mildred Pierce (1945.) Things percolated a while longer until Sudden Fear (1952) gave her another career boost and another Oscar nomination. Thus, she was in a great position to angle for the production of this movie.

JC selects her character's jewelry.
She bought the rights to the 1949 novel "The Queen Bee," then sold them to Columbia Pictures under the proviso that she star, that it be produced by Jerry Wald, that the script would be written by the same man (Ranald MacDougall) who did Pierce and Possessed (1947, which had scored her another Oscar nom) and that the movie would be shot by cinematographer Charles Lang, who'd done Fear. She also exercised approval on all hair, makeup and costume decisions. So, she was indeed the big bee in charge of this hive. In fact, once it was revealed that writer MacDougall was interested in directing, it was he who was put in charge of helming the picture.

Crawford, who somehow ended up with so many hard-looking, not necessarily handsome, leading men in her mid-to-late career, was given two gentlemen to wrangle with here. They were both somewhere basically in-between Jack Palance of Sudden Fear (1952) and her troglodyte pal from Trog (1970), though it hardly mattered as all eyes and much of the light fell on her!

We begin our tale of woe at a big, stately Georgia mansion where a taxi is depositing a visitor.

This visitor turns out to be one Lucy Marlow, a young lady who's come to stay with her older cousin following the death of her mother, her only remaining immediate family member. To say that the house is more grand than what she is used to is an understatement.
Soon upon entering, she is met by two young children, her cousins. The young girl (Linda Bennett) takes an immediate liking to Marlow, though the little boy (Tim Hovey) bluntly states outright that he doesn't like her at all!

Considering the fact that, to me, Marlow doesn't look too far afield from the banjo-playing boy from Deliverance (1972), it's a wonder that both children didn't go screaming into the bowels of the house, hiding until they knew she was gone forever!

Having trotted upstairs to be shown her room, she is on her way back down the mammoth staircase in time to witness an argument between a couple, Betsy Palmer and John Ireland. It's only one of many instances in which someone will see or overhear something they oughtn't to in the honeycomb-like abode.

She enters the drawing room and is confronted by this overbearing portrait of her cousin. (This painting, clearly based upon a younger version of our Joan, had the finishing details of the lips overseen and touched up by, you guessed it, Crawford herself!)

Gathered in the room are a young man, William Leslie and his elder sister along with the afore- mentioned Palmer and her own brother Barry Sullivan, the patriarch of the estate, though a rather inert one, thanks to a steady stream of booze.

Sullivan is referred to as "Beauty," though it's not really in reference to his general array of features, but an ironic nickname due to a craggy scar located on his face.

Do you recognize the lady playing Leslie's loopy sister? The character lives in a rose-colored version of the past, all magnolias and juleps, with an inability to truly grasp the present. You can be forgiven for not realizing that the actress playing this role is Miss Fay Wray, once the captive beauty of King Kong (1933!) It seems even Kong wasn't enough to prepare Wray's character for the machinations of Crawford's, though.

Just when everyone seems to be getting along nicely, in wafts Crawford, fresh from a busy day of shopping! (She does, at least, bring home something nice for each of her two children and doesn't hog everything for just herself.) The tension builds immediately upon her entrance to the room.
She looks Leslie over hungrily and speaks to an obviously disturbed Wray without ever really looking at her! She also slurps down one of Sullivan's drinks in a lame attempt to prevent him from having more. Her assessment of the crowd continues with her looking over Palmer and complimenting her in spite of her "tacky riding clothes."

She finally lands on Marlow tucked away in the opposite corner and seems genuinely happy to have the girl there. (What she really wants is an ally, a drone to pay tribute to her; something her immediate family seems to have tired of doing!)

Marlow walks Leslie out to his car as he and Wray leave the premises. He seems taken with her already for reasons known only to the screen- writer.

Back inside, Marlow is informed that Wray is disturbed because on her wedding day, years ago, her groom dumped her for another woman. It's more than clear that Sullivan was the man and Crawford the other woman. Crawford and Sullivan proceed to a loud argument while a distraught Marlow takes comfort in Palmer's kind understanding.

A couple of days later (in a moment I have to admit really bothered me the first time I saw this film many years ago), Sullivan offers up a few snarky remarks to Marlow at the outdoor breakfast table before announcing that he's going to go and shoot the dog shown behind him (which Palmer explains is old and sick as it gleefully follows him into the brush with its tail wagging!)

Upstairs, Marlow gets a huge taste of what it's like to dote on her cousin. Crawford, in beauty gloves and a sleep mask, has very specific ideas about how she is to be graduated from deep sleep to mobility to morning coffee and beyond! This particular period found the star to be at her most, shall we say, garish, with the hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and lips all competing for attention...
As Marlow prepares Crawford's scorching hot bath, the phone rings. It's young gent Leslie who Crawford shamelessly flirts with. (It's pretty obvious that if she hasn't already been pollinated by this local stud, she's at least wanted to be!)

He's actually calling to ask if he can "beau" her niece Marlow and, surprisingly enough, this delights Crawford. As she considers passing the - ahem! - baton to her young relation, she fondles a phallic perfume bottle and eventually hands it off to Marlow, just like the gentleman caller she's speaking with.

Marlow is tentative, but Crawford insists that she needs to decide what she wants and must go out and take it! (It's basically a prelude to Mommie's "You've got to know how to compete and win!" proclamation. It's almost unreal how much the makers of that movie allowed themselves to be swayed by this one.)

Marlow is given one of Crawford's old dresses to wear to a local dance and after receiving a corsage begins to sashay and flirtatiously pose in front of a mirror in the drawing room/ library. She's overlooked by Ireland, who informs her rather bluntly that her aunt does it better.
The two do call truce enough for him to pin her corsage on. Marlow heads over to the mirror to give it the once-over and Crawford enters the room, not realizing that Marlow is there. She begins to give Ireland the sultry, long-lost lover treatment until she realizes they aren't alone. (Then she chides Marlow for not making her presence known or joining in the conversation.)
Crawford is thrilled to see one-time lover Ireland, but dis- appointed that she has dinner plans on a night when he's going to stay over. While he sits and listens, she calls her hostess and begs off, all the while ensnaring her prey around the neck with the telephone cord! (Thanks to wireless phones, we no longer get to do fun things like this...)
Later, once Marlow is back from her date, she is awakened by the blood- curdling screams of little Hovey, who is plagued with nightmares about his mother and a car crash. (Sullivan's "beauty mark" is the result of a car crash.) Palmer calms him and gets him back to sleep, then explains some of the situation to Marlow.

Crawford is nowhere in sight during this event. She has bigger and better things on her mind! Sporting a nightie that gives her transparent wings in the moonlight, she buzzes downstairs to the library to seek out her mate.

Ireland, who truly loves Palmer, finds it hard to resist the nectar of Ms. Crawford as she flies into his arms and lays on her seductive charms.

Unfortunately, Marlow has begun to come downstairs herself after having been awakened by Hovey's nightmare and she spies the two during their indelicate encounter. Ireland pulls away from Crawford and declares that he can't go through with it, but it's too late for Marlow to see that.

Marlow takes Palmer's advice and looks up a book in the library all about bees; how the queen kills off all her competition and calls all the shots in the hive. Crawford can hardly believe that her young relative would bother with such a thing as she primps in the mirror endlessly.
Crawford is elated that a child psychologist she has called in has apparently determined that the cause of Hovey's nightmares is not anything to do with her, but rather the fact that the boy is too coddled by his aunt Palmer! (She's equally excited that the scrawny old coot seems to find her highly attractive!)

She sets out to move Palmer out of the bedroom she's been in since she was a small child. She begins by rifling through what appears to be her lingerie drawer (!) before roaming around the room complaining about Palmer and the way she's been treated by most everyone there.

She tosses Palmer's cherished dolls onto the floor and heaves a stuffed animal into the trash. Getting more and more worked up, she begins gripping a riding crop, twisting the handle in her hands as her anger accelerates.

Next, she takes the riding crop and sweeps all of Palmer's trophies for equestrian compe- titions onto the floor! She basically trashes the place and doesn't show the slightest remorse until she realizes how horrified Marlow is and how she has managed to let herself get out of hand.

Marlow tries to talk to the always-drunk Sullivan about the goings-on in his house, of which he seems to have little to no input or control, but their chat takes a turn in another direction, with him grasping her and planting a kiss! She doesn't exactly mind terribly, though she knows it isn't right.

Crawford's hackles are soon up again as she is informed that, despite her best efforts, Ireland and Palmer are going to be wed, and soon! She tries to pass it all off as rash on their part, but her real unhappiness over it is the fact that she wants Ireland for herself.

When Marlow is informed of the "happy" news, she beams about it to Crawford and is rewarded with a healthy smack across the face! (Slaps, courtesy of Joan, were a staple in many of her films and she even poked fun at that fact a time or two.)

Unable to bear the fact that Ireland will be wed to Palmer, Crawford continues to pour on all the honey she can to him, trying to make him drive her to the latest party (with one boob poking outward!) and basically causing upset for everyone around her whenever possible.

Later, Palmer is excitedly showing Marlow the blueprints of the house she and Ireland are making over and plan to live in. Until one of JC's "come fuck me" heels suddenly steps onto the paper with a sting.

Now having really had it, Crawford let's Palmer know that men are rotten, Ireland included. She not-so-subtly reveals that not only has he played the field, he's played in her field as well!

Palmer can hardly believe her ears, but - even though it isn't true recently - she does believe it and is crestfallen.

Unfortunately for Crawford, this most recent, desperate gambit doesn't turn out the way she'd expected it to and she's distraught once more. She takes to her bed for several days and hires a nurse to take care of her and to see to her son Hovey.

The nurse is deliciously severe and haughty, with threats of slapped hands to the little ones and snarky insinuations for Marlow about her feelings for Sullivan.

The whole place is a hive of angst and unhappiness and Ireland has just about had his fill of it all.
Sullivan, on the other hand, seems to be softening towards his wife. He's begun to let up on the drinking, has attended some of her parties and gifts her with a stunning bracelet she's had her eye on.
As we near the climax of the film, we're granted this stunning sight. The eye-popping staircase and chandelier provide a showcase for Crawford in one of her most showstopping Jean Louis get-ups of the film.

Before she descends the bottom stairs, she gives her wings a bit of a flutter and they follow her down the steps on either side.

Before leaving the house for her latest big night, she takes time to berate her once-loyal cousin Marlow for the way she's begun to feel for Sullivan and for generally being a disappointment. It's for naught anyway as Marlow has determined to leave.

I strive to avoid any significant spoilers in my movie tributes, so I will not go further with how this movie winds up. The whole thing is a deliciously fever-pitched camp gem, filled with biting dialogue, high melodrama and a surprisingly effective visual style, especially when seen in its proper widescreen ratio. (Hooty as it is now, it did garner two Oscar noms, one for its costumes, which went to I'll Cry Tomorrow, and one for cinematography, which went to The Rose Tattoo.)

As I say, Crawford unintentionally did herself a disservice by performing so nastily in this film as her eldest daughter later wrote that the person on-screen was the exact double of her mother and the closest she ever came to playing herself! And, as I've said and as you can probably see for yourself, the look of this film and of Miss Crawford was heavily copied for the (itself campy) film Mommie Dearest.

The hairstyle she sports in Queen Bee is one she helped to determine for the role and not one that she ever sported in public beyond a few publicity portraits. Her regular hairstyle, less severe and with less of a queenly bump to it, is seen here in a still from her birthday, taken when Bee was in production.
The cake, and Al Steele, are pretty close, but not the hair.
She was dating husband-to-be Alfred Steele at the time, but that didn't stop her from entering into a torrid sexual relationship with big man on campus Ireland. The two spent many a wild night, boozing and balling, during production! Later, when she did wed Steele (allegedly rather impromptu while they were both living it up), she cooled down both her paramours and her picture-making, only making two movies and a handful of New York TV appearances, before his sudden death in 1959.

Sullivan began acting as a young man in short films of the mid-1930s and on Broadway. His 6'3" stature was favored by leading ladies who liked looking up (thus erasing any double chins!) and he eventually graduated to supporting parts and then leads. He lent a sort of craggy authority to countless films and TV shows, including a leading seismologist in Earthquake (1974.) He died of throat cancer in 1994 at age eighty-one.
Palmer was a stage actress who transitioned into television and movies in the early-1950s. 1955 was a banner year for her as she did not only this film, but also The Long Gray Line and Mister Roberts. This same year she joined the TV game show I've Got a Secret, which ran until 1967 and was her biggest claim to fame for the longest time. That is until she made Friday the 13th (1980) and was immortalized as Mrs. Voorhees, a role she took only for the $1,000/day paycheck (over ten days), but ultimately embraced to a degree.
Lobby card of a deleted scene from Queen Bee.
Unlike some of Crawford's younger female costars, Palmer and she got along remarkably well and stayed friendly for years after. (Ann Blyth, Diane Baker and Polly Bergen were others who made the grade on a personal level.) Palmer did 29 episodes of Knots Landing and continued to act until 2007, passing away of natural causes in 2015 at age eighty-eight.
Ireland, who was married to Joanne Dru at the time of Queen Bee, saw his marriage crumble in the wake of his real-life carrying on with Crawford. A movie actor from the mid-1940s on, he was Oscar nominated for All the Kings Men (1949), but lost to Dean Jagger for Twelve O'Clock High. He'd made a strong impression the prior year in Red River alongside John Wayne and Montgomery Clift. Always busy, he acted until about 1992, the year he died of leukemia at at seventy-eight.

Marlow, who truly plays a frump here, was shown to better advantage when a little more gloss was applied to her face and figure. Having just begun the year before this, she also appeared in My Sister Eileen in 1955. In 1956, she costarred with Frankie Laine in He Laughed Last, but thereafter only worked sporadically on television as she raised two children with a husband she wed the same year as Queen Bee.

Still with us today at eighty-six, it would have been wonderful (or terrible!) to hear of her time working opposite la Crawford on a commentary track or in an interview. According to Palmer, Crawford was initially pleased with Marlow, but cooled after she determined that the "talent wasn't there" that she thought had been. Ann Helm was another actress who found out the hard way that you had to stay on your toes with Joan. She was fired from Strait-Jacket (1964) and replaced with Diane Baker.

Leslie, who is barely given a chance to show his face full-on here, had been performing in bit parts since the early-1950s and continued to various supporting roles, never quite able to break through and play leads (one exception being 1957's The Day the World Exploded, opposite Kathryn Grant.) By the time of 1965's low-budget Mutiny in Outer Space, which he also headlined, the writing was on the wall and he was finished acting within two years. He died in 2005 at age eighty.

Wray was a really wonderful lady, liked by practically all the people she worked with (including Crawford, who sent her an encouraging and welcoming note upon the death of her husband and her acceptance of this small part soon after. The two had been WAMPAS Baby Stars, a promotional program for burgeoning actresses, together in 1926.) Having appeared in over eighty movies and plenty of TV, she was nonetheless best known as the object of affection for King Kong in that legendary 1933 adventure. Her autobiography was cleverly titled "On the Other Hand." She lived to be ninety-six, passing away in 2004.
This was a key time for child actor Hovey. The same year as Queen Bee he had a costarring role in The Private War of Major Benson opposite Charlton Heston. In 1956, he costarred in The Toy Tiger with Jeff Chandler and Everything But the Truth with Maureen O'Hara. He did a few more films and some TV, but was out of the business by 1959. (He was offered a role in Broadway's Critic's Choice in 1960, but turned it down. Eddie Hodges took the part.) Like many child actors, growing up cost him both his childhood and his performing career and he eventually turned to work behind the scenes of the music biz, but died of a self-induced drug overdose in 1989 at age forty-four.
"Art" imitating "art," rather than life...
For sheer camp entertainment value, it's tough to beat the sometimes outrageous Queen Bee. It features the fire-breathing Joan Crawford at practically her most vicious. Even she thought her character was an unpardonable bitch. As I've noted, though, her legacy was what wound up being stung the most by it when the character in the film was copied in several ways for her quasi-biopic!
Staircases like the one in Queen Bee made their way into Mommie Dearest (as well as Feud), though Crawford's Brentwood home featured nothing of the kind. Just a plain, straight stairwell done in Spanish tiles... 


Gingerguy said...

What a honey of a choice Poseidon! This was on TCM not long ago and I watched. Great point you make about Mommie Dearest (MD for short) being like a Joan Crawford movie. I was thinking recently that in the early 1950's she was still playing roles that were sexy, but by the end of the decade it was mature ladies facing lives alone or having to compromise.
The house is fabulous and the staircase jumped right out at me from MD. What a great place to slap someone.
How did you know that about the painting and the lips? I am always fascinated by the level of detail in the underworld.
I recognize John Ireland from Joan's later William Castle freakout, "I Saw What You Did and I know Who You Are".
Hilarious about Friday The 13th and Betsy Palmer, I think Bing Crosby's son was in that too. Star studded!
This is a fun movie for lots of reasons, but chief among them is that Joan really chews up the scenery, and the primping scenes are a riot. I love the poster at the end of the post, Kudos.

Poseidon3 said...

Gingerguy, look!


Thanks for your kind words about this post. This one was a biggie for how much time I happen to have these days (i.e. - none!) I wonder if John and Joan rekindled any romantic fires during "I Saw What You Did." I'm betting on YES.

Gingerguy said...

Happy Halloween Poseidon, I forgot to mention an odd item perfect for today. Blue Oyster Cult (the burnouts' band of choice in High School) did a bizarre song called "Joan Crawford" I just stumbled on the video the other day.

http://ricksrealreel.blogspot.com/ said...

Hey Poseidon,

I've watched Queen Bee by myself several times, but when I watched it on TCM one day with my Mom and sister, they were in disbelief over Joan's appearance and character! My sister was amused at how many times Joan is referred to as "beautiful" by the other characters, and sometimes, herself. My mother wondered if Joan used Sharpies on her eyebrows!

Although 'Mommie Dearest' borrowed from 'Queen Bee,' for sure, it's always been my opinion that movie makers from Joan's era incorporated elements of Joan's life into her movies...with the latter day movies confirming 'Mommie Dearest'-like traits, such as 'Harriet Craig,' 'Torch Song,' 'Queen Bee,' and 'The Best of Everything.' While I think Christina's more outrageous charges were embellished, and later even more exaggerated, Joan's control freak, posturing, petty tyrant personality was well-known.

What always amused me was Joan was great at playing bitches, but there always had to be a scene where JC got to rationalize how she became that way. In 'Queen Bee,' Eva/Joan tells of how "they" (the rich family she married into) treated her like dirt and made her that way... even though at the beginning of the movie, Joan/Eva mocks Fay Wray's 'Delta Dawn' character for getting left at the altar... and that's because Joan's Eva made off with her man... Barry Sullivan's character!

Movies like 'Queen Bee' and the even more absurd 'Female on the Beach'are what I call Meta Joan Movies. They're fascinating for many reasons, and I don't know if they call for a commentary by a film historian or a psychiatrist! But they're a lot of fun!


angelman66 said...

Beautifully done, Poseidon, in fact I enjoyed your essay more than the film itself. You have perfectly captured Crawford's late-career appeal and motivations, and so smartly showed how the Mommie Dearest filmmakers were influenced by those melodramas when creating the stylized portrait of Joan by Faye.

I need to see Queen bee again, but I must say my favorite 1950s Crawford is Harriet Craig. Could watch it over and over.

And I think the reason she had so many hard-looking leading men is that they thought it would make HER look less severe and hard. Crawford was as tough as nails!

Poseidon3 said...

Hi Rick! Joan's look in this movie is so severe another word is almost required! And the brows... well, Groucho was probably seething with jealousy! LOL I agree with you about JC's movies utilizing aspects of her own life (of course, "Harriet Craig" was a successful play & film, "Craig's Wife," before Joan was ever associated with it. But she certainly fit the material well!) I am in complete accord with your assessment of Christina's charges. Surely it was no picnic being raised by Joan, but by the time Christina souped up the situations and the moviemakers went even further it was all just off the hook. (Even Tina acknowledged this much and that's a lot coming from someone who forged an industry, even a semi-career, out of demonizing her parent.) I don't mean to excuse the tough, hard, sometimes cruel way Joan raised Christina, but I also don't like people to think that Faye as Joan in MD was some sort of documentary on the subject.

Thanks, angelman66! I'm so glad you got a kick out of this. I like "Harriet Craig" a lot, too. I happen to dislike her hair in that one also, but it's not quite the praying mantis-like insectoidal thing she has going on here! LOL And her face isn't quite as garish in that one. I love (and agree with) your comment that the hard-looking men made her look softer. If you can't look halfway pretty up against Wendell Corey or Jack Palance (I was also going to toss Constance Ford under the bus, too, but that's going too far! Ha ha ha!) you have serious problems.

Andrea said...

Fantastic write up as always, Poseidon. Queen Bee really is a hoot and I must rewatch it tonight. I find Joan’s persona in the 50s to be fascinating, terrifying and a little. She was so clearly determined to be seen as a youthful, sexy movie star that it was both admirable and rather sad. While she was still fairly youthful looking and usually looked nice in real life, she consistently looked terrible in films because of the severity of the Crawford Lips & Brows and whatever unflattering hairstyle she chose. In Joan’s defense, the short hairstyles of the 50s weren’t flattering to many people (Check out Judy Garland in A Star is Born. Simply an awful ‘do!). I think it’s hilarious that she always insisted on playing characters that were clearly much younger than her she and that other characters always remarked on how beautiful she was. I wonder if that was one of the stipulations in her contract!

I’m sure you’re probably aware of Joan’s self help book (I suppose that’s the best category for it) My Way of Life. It’s the most unintentionally hilarious and exhausting book ever. I adore it. One only has to read a few pages from it to see that Joan was definitely a queen bee in real life. It was recently republished and I urge every Joan fan to get it. She was so tightly wound that it’s a wonder she didn’t have a massive heart attack at 30.

Poseidon3 said...

Andrea, you make a great point! JC often looked so pulled together and attractive in person, but in so many of the films from the '50s it's like "Eeek!" You'd think it would be the other way around. After all, top costumers, cameramen, lighting technicians, etc... Probably a case of one being one's own worst enemy with insisting on the details. And I do dislike so many helmet-y, clamped, '50s 'dos, as you say. Doris Day was one of the few who could pull off those cuts and even so, I prefer her later '60s looks.

I bought "My Way of Life" ages ago in paperback for about $0.80 and cherish it (as well as the wondrous, "Conversations with Joan Crawford."), but did you know that she also recorded "My Way of Life" on a multi-record album set?? It's on youtube in its entirety and is MESMERIZING to listen to...! Thanks!!

http://ricksrealreel.blogspot.com/ said...

Poseidon, I just remembered that Barry Sullivan reunited with Crawford on her famous 'Night Gallery' appearance, directed by newcomer Steven Spielberg. I'm sure you've seen that one! Once again, Barry has to duel with a rich bitch character played by JC! Really one of her best latter day performances, and I love how it's established that Joan's character is 54... this was in 1970, fyi!

My local library has a copy of, as I call it, 'My Way or the Highway of Life!' And I want to steal it so bad, I know it never gets checked out and deserves a good home!

Cheers, I just read this post a second time : )


Poseidon3 said...

Rick, thank you so much for pointing out that additional casting tidbit. It may not come as a surprise that I have no recollection of him in it...! I only recall the despondent Tom Bosley and the remarkably committed work of JC, really giving her all for a young Steven Spielberg. Were it not for the fact that I actually enjoy her turns on The Virginian and The Sixth Sense and even parts of Trog, I'd say she ought to have stopped there. It would have been quite a capper to her career. LOL about her shearing a decade off her age in the show. And remember that very glamorized portrait used in the ads for it?! I love the nickname you gave her book. I usually don't advocate theft, but I think you ought to take the book...! Why wait for it to be trucked out to an Everything for $1.00 library sale or something worse..?! I always feel like I have to rescue these old movie star bios, auto-bios and film studies books. My house doesn't thank me and who knows what will happen when I'm gone, but I can't let them languish in some dump somewhere...! ;-) Thanks.

Gingerguy said...

Lol on the library book. I am not suggesting that the Underworld become a den of thieves, but I had a weekly appointment years ago and the waiting room had a shelf of books in it. There was an old copy of "The G String Murders" by Gypsy Rose Lee (that became the movie "Lady Of Burlesque) that took a walk with me one day. I replaced it with something far less interesting.

Stefano said...

An entertaining post, Poseidon, now I MUST see this movie. Crawford's axe-wielding psychotic in "Strait-jacket" cleaved the way for Palmer's axe-swinging in "Friday the 13th"; both performances are camp classics. Clearly both women were not just collecting a paycheck, they really felt their roles.

Poseidon3 said...

Thanks much, Stefano! I know you will love "Queen Bee." It is fever-pitched and full of memorable moments and dialogue. I love the comparison you've drawn between late-career Crawford wielding her axe and late-career Palmer wielding her machete...! Passing the torch! ;-)

joel65913 said...

Marvelous overview!!! What a hooty meller this is! All the more so because you know Joan was earnestly thinking that this would be a jewel in her crown since she was so involved in the production.

That's not to say that the film is wanting in any way (well Barry Sullivan? His appeal has always escaped me.) but while the production is very professional it's still lurid and over the top.

I've always loved Betsy Palmer but she's a perfect example of someone who is a TV performer vs. a movie actress. She's fine here but her special brand of warmth was more intimate and just didn't project in a film, sort of like Dinah Shore and Perry Como.

I like John Ireland as well, not conventionally handsome but at certain angles attractive and of course there are the stories of his significant equipment. A decent actor if not a great one I suppose the best term for him is reliable. He's surely more interesting in the film than Barry Sullivan.

I'm surprised you didn't mention Lucy Marlow's major claim to fame...at least as far as I'm concerned...the ultra glam and terribly phony Lola Lavery in A Star is Born! The role is small but she did impart a certain type of starlet. I've seen her other work and she doesn't make a big impact so probably best for her that she chose hearth and home.

But Queen Bee is all about Joan and as such is a delicious treat. It really is everything you hope for in a latter day Crawford picture. However you can see that both the Mommie Dearest filmmakers and Christina used it heavily as a blueprint for their respective hatchet jobs. I'm not saying that I think Crawford was a great mother-she wasn't temperamentally suited to it but so much has been revealed to be concocted in Christina's story it throws the whole story into doubt.

Poseidon3 said...

Joel, good point about Betsy Palmer. Though JC rarely left room for the other gals in her movies to make much impact! I mean the way you hear of Bette letting Mary Astor have "The Great Lie." Palmer's character has no less money (presumably) than Crawford's, but she gets one so-so dress while JC is dressed to kill throughout! LOL To be honest, I have no recollection at all of Lucy Marlow in "A Star is Born!" Maybe someday I'll see that again and check her out. Thanks for visiting and commenting! I always enjoy your remarks.