Saturday, May 16, 2020

Reunited: I've Got My "Eyes" on You!

In 1955, Miss Joan Crawford was still in a position to headline a movie above the title (something she, in fact, clung to as a status symbol for the better part of her career), but her time atop Hollywood's highest heights (in the wake of her Oscar win for Mildred Pierce, 1945) was ticking slightly. Nevertheless, as an enduring, still-popular star, she continued to work on projects that highlighted her most famous assets. These include - among other things - her iron-willed, yet paradoxically tender, persona, her flair for eye-popping costumes and styling and those incredible eyes. In Queen Bee, which has been paid tribute in full here, she buzzes around a clatch of family and friends, handing out little stings whenever possible. Her husband in the movie was played by the rugged-faced Barry Sullivan (while her sister-in-law's fiance was portrayed by John Ireland, a man JC was having an actual romance with during the filming.)
Crawford enters a virtual hive of activity.
She borrows a bit of hubby Sullivan's nectar.
Sullivan and Crawford are locked in a loveless marriage, something that somehow takes on new focus upon the arrival of Crawford's young relation.
Here Joan is trying to make a point (or two!)
Squaring off yet again...
She enjoys taunting and toying with her alcoholic hubby.
Yet enjoys an iron-clad grip on him.
Misery loves company and Crawford loves misery (for everyone else!) Note this piece of jewelry for later.
A tall costar is crucial to leading ladies of a certain age as it extends the jawline when looking up at them. Though she appeared to be towering on screen, Miss C. was in actuality merely 5'3"!
About fourteen years after having played battling spouses in Queen Bee, Crawford and Sullivan were reunited. The occasion was the 1969 pilot movie for Rod Serling's latest series offering Night Gallery. In it, he would appear before a framed piece of artwork and offer a brief introduction to a macabre or mysterious story with different stars each time. For this pilot, Crawford starred in the second of three tales. Hers was (aptly!) titled "Eyes." (This part had first been offered to Bette Davis, the possessor of even more famous eyes, who turned it down for some reason.)

Crawford never approached any project halfway and upon being cast began practicing blindness at home (she had had brush with this sort of thing in 1952's This Woman is Dangerous as well.) As relayed by novice, 21 year-old director Steven Spielberg, in his very first professional assignment, he had the task of revealing to her that her latest project was to be helmed not by a seasoned veteran, but by a wet-behind-the-ears newcomer than no one had ever heard of! And it happened in the craziest way possible according to him. He went to her home where she was blindfolded and she had her first glimpse of him upon removing it! Despite some initial misgivings, the two wound up getting along famously and she turned in one of her very best latter-day performances.
In "Eyes," Crawford plays a commandeering, very embittered and selfish woman who has been blind from birth. (In the piece, she announces her age, which is shorn of a good ten years from actual!) Sullivan plays her longtime physician.
In her penthouse palace filled to the brim with priceless art and sculpture, she longs to be able to see, even if for a brief while.
Sullivan is horrified to learn that she has located someone who will serve as a donor for an experimental operation on her eyes. She will be able to see for about a dozen hours, but the donor will be permanently blind. He flatly refuses to perform the surgery.
There's no way she's going to allow his refusal to stand...
She has in her possession a dossier on him, which includes a damning personal incident which resulted in the death of a woman he was seeing apart from his wife.
Everyone has his price...
Having a familiar actor such as Sullivan to play opposite surely helped bolster Crawford's security in these changing times on the acting landscape. Spielberg was making many daring camera moves and, while she supported him fully, it was still a far cry from what she was used to.
He did have the good sense, however, to turn his lens onto that unforgettable face, upon which decades of movie heroines had been demonstrated.
Miss Crawford knocked this one out of the park with the aid of the neophyte director. His set-ups and editing choices (some of which were diffused or changed by the network) keep this vintage piece of television thrilling and unusual even now.
Many think it ought to have remained her acting swan song (she only did three things afterwards.) Though I won't go quite that far (I can watch her do anything), I do think it ranks as her best from this stage in her career.
Once the surgery is complete, Crawford awaits the moment when her bandages may be removed.
She has surrounded herself with many of her favorite pieces of sculpture so that they will be readily available to witness once she opens her eyes.
Stubborn gorgon that she is, she insists on being left alone for the big reveal.
Then again, can you imagine opening your eyelids after more than a half-century, finally with functioning vision, and having the very first human face you see belong to craggy Barry Sullivan!?! This story does not have a very happy ending, but it is a must see for the work that its star turns in.
The man playing the optic nerve donor happened to be Tom Bosley (later a household name from Happy Days and later Father Dowling Mysteries.) While he and Crawford share no scenes here, they had been linked previously as well.
Both Bosley and Crawford had appeared in a 1963 episode of Route 66. They shared no screen time, however. His story line as the protective father of a young daughter was concurrent with, but separate from, hers in which she fretted about her allegedly deceased husband while in the arms of humpy Glenn Corbett. Can ya blame her?!

Incidentally, Crawford also met up with another of her Queen Bee costars, John Ireland, when the two of them were cast in I Saw What You Did (1965.) This time, instead of her calling all the shots, she's rather desperately in love with him, not knowing that he's just stabbed his wife to death!
In this one, she sports my all-time favorite movie necklace and has hair piled high much as it was intended to look in Hush, Hush... Sweet Charlotte (1964), from which she withdrew after filming began.
Even in low-grade projects like this, the eyes do their thing...
As I say... tall leading men definitely have their uses!
The first time I ever saw this - way back when - and the purportedly recent portrait from the show, I thought to myself, "Jesus, that looks nothing like her!" Clearly, the piece of art is intentionally flattering...
...but it's not as far afield as I used to think. It is, like many such portraits (and heavily doctored & photoshopped pics of stars today!), just a very idealized version of the subject.
Such things were important to Miss Crawford, who never left the house for any reason without dressing as a STAR. Note the brooch she has on in this snapshot. It's the one she wore in Queen Bee!
Though she appreciated and strove for the familiar (i.e. Sullivan), she was keen enough to recognize the potential of the unfamiliar (Spielberg) and the result was a great little piece of film. She and the director remained friends until her death in 1977 and she enjoyed watching his career develop. Of her experience with him she said, "When I began to work with Steven, I understood everything. It was immediately obvious to me, and probably everyone else, that here was a young genius. I thought maybe more experience was important, but then I thought of all of those experienced directors who didn't have Steven's intuitive inspiration and who just kept repeating the same old routine performances. That was called "experience." I knew then that Steven Spielberg had a brilliant future ahead of him. Hollywood doesn't always recognize talent, but Steven's was not going to be overlooked. I told him so in a note I wrote him. I wrote to Rod Serling, too. I was so grateful that he had approved Steven as the director. I told him he had been totally right." She was gone before his most considerable potential had been reached.


Dan said...

That diamond necklace in the next to last pic is one of the jewelry pieces highlighted in her magnum opus "My Way of Life". It can be worn as a pendant, a brooch, or broken into two clips. (Take that, Sarah Coventry!)
By the way, did you know you should always be in full street makeup and wear earrings when trying on hats?

Given some of the unsavory stories about her, her open admiration for Stephen Spielberg is quite telling. It really is a shame she did not live to witness his remarkable career.

Huttonmy710 said...

I just adore Joan Crawford especially her Hush Hush look. She was absolutely spot on with her approach to Miriam Deering. Bette Davis sure was a twat. In my opinion Joan was (still is) the greatest of them all. Noone worked harder to be a star to be Joan Crawford. I have to also say she is without a doubt the most maligned woman in all of Hollywood. She doesn't deserve the hate that is spewed constantly about her online. Sidenote: If there was another figure in the entertainent business just as maligned it would have to be Tina Louise from Gilligan's Island.

Gingerguy said...

Fascinating, the pilot for Night Gallery could have been Bette Davis "Eyes"! I do notice her eyes often in movies. I love to see her in this period of the 60's, she looked so great and I actually love that apartment. Queen Bee is required viewing in my house, at least yearly I need to feel the sting. Great detail about looking up extending a jaw line, I will now sit on the floor when I talk to people. Thanks for this and stay healthy and sane

Poseidon3 said...

Dan, I love "My Way of Life," even better when listening to her speak it on the big ol' record album set she recorded! The same thing about makeup and earrings should also go when buying a wig. LOL! It impresses me that she stood up for Spielberg after those initial misgivings. And he in turn wound up admiring her, too.

Huttonmy710, When I see photos from "Hush, Hush" of Joan it makes me ache to see her in the movie!! I wish they could have slogged it out for the fans' sake. I don't hate Olivia in it. I even like the change of pace for her, but come on... Bette and Joan! I'm a big up-do person anyway, but JC's in the photos from HHSC are among the best!

Gingerguy, I hear you about the floor! Sometimes I'll go to take a pic with my cellphone camera and accidentally flip it to selfie mode while it's below me!! OMG!!! As Dorothy Zbornak said (not verbatum), "Remember Blanche, always on your back after 50!" Ha ha ha!!

Forever1267 said...

I haven't seen this in ages, but this is the only "Night Gallery" episode I remember, other than a vague "moving picture dead person in cemetary?" one.

And that ending is brutal. And she was forever a STAR!!!

Poseidon3 said...

Forever1267, I think that other one you are recalling is the first story from the pilot, "Eyes" being the second. It had Roddy McDowall offing the owner of a large estate and then being terrorized by a painting which shows the dead man coming to get him. Then Roddy's servant, Ossie Davis, gets rid of Roddy, but has the same thing happen to him!

loulou de la falaise said...

The only other one I remember is when Elsa Lanchester planted her thumb.

ttt said...


I have a request.Could you post something about Alain Delon? I mean some juicy stuff - something more about his being bi. I read he had a lot of men. Do you know some stories?

Laurence said...

Both Davis and Dunaway were highly talented, determined people who were also temperamental, as many gifted people are. Actors have always been known for being emotional and temperamental, which is okay. If they weren't emotional, they would not be good actors. Be that as it may, the only thing that matters in the end is the believable characters they create, and the good performances they achieve.

Forever1267 said...

Poseidon, that's the one! So, maybe, I've only seen the movie, and never the TV series. Parents probably thought it was too scary for little me.