Joan Crawford young & middle-aged on DVD
Joan Crawford, unfairly misremembered as a maternal ogress with a wire-hanger fixation, was actually one of the best actresses of her era, which stretched from the mid-1920s to her final film appearance in 1970.
Whether slapping or getting slapped, tearing her hair out in despair or quietly suffering in mink (or ermine or some other dead animal), Joan Crawford was a silver-screen magnet. Even when her vehicles were poor – and there were many of those – Crawford, in her unique movie-starish manner, brought honesty and verve to her roles. She was, in fact, a thespian paradox: a natural talent that manifested itself through a fully artificial persona.
Some of Crawford’s best mid-career work can be found in Warner Home Video’s The Joan Crawford Collection, which includes the following films: The Women (1939), Mildred Pierce (1945), the new-to-DVD Humoresque (1946) and Possessed (1947), and the never-released on home video The Damned Don’t Cry (1950), which comes with commentary by director Vincent Sherman. The Joan Crawford Collection is scheduled to come out on June 14.
The Women (1939), directed by George Cukor, with Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Mary Boland, Lucile Watson, Marjorie Main, and Virginia Weidler. This hilarious, all-female romp is one of the best comedies ever made. Joan Crawford is excellent as the catty, husband-stealing shop girl, even though her role is subordinate to that of Queen of MGM Norma Shearer.
Mildred Pierce (1945), directed by Michael Curtiz, with Ann Blyth, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden. One of the great classic melodramas-cum-film noir, Mildred Pierce brought Joan Crawford a Best Actress Academy Award for her role as the kind-hearted, business-oriented, and long-suffering mother of conniving, Glendale-hating little bitch Ann Blyth. The film, Blyth, and Arden also received Oscar nominations.
Humoresque (1946), directed by Jean Negulesco, with John Garfield, Oscar Levant. No one has ever suffered with as much fashion-conscious flair as Joan Crawford in this melodrama of love, class disparities, and classical music. The film overdoes some of the clichés of the genre, but Crawford is outstanding as the bossy patroness of obnoxious musician John Garfield.
Possessed (1947), directed by Curtis Bernhardt, with Van Heflin, Raymond Massey, Geraldine Brooks. Joan Crawford goes nuts – literally – in this one. Hers is a superb (Oscar-nominated) I’m-losing-it performance in a visually stunning, though not fully satisfying melo. Geraldine Brooks is the young woman who gets to feel Crawford’s slapping prowess.
The Damned Don’t Cry
The Damned Don’t Cry (1950), directed by Vincent Sherman, with David Brian, Steve Cochran. This above average noir-ish melodrama has Joan Crawford as an ambitious woman from the wrong side of the tracks who finds herself stuck between two men – both gangsters. At his most seductive in this 1950 crime melo, Steve Cochran was a more effective (and better-looking) Clark Gable type, though Cochran never made it as a top star.
Joan Crawford Mildred Pierce photo: Warner Bros.