From the moment we see her shuffling across town in a comatose stupor to the homicidal climax, Possessed is Joan Crawford's picture all the way. And once you get past some of its contrived psychobabble, this Curtis Bernhardt-directed melodrama is also one of her best. [Note: Spoilers ahead.]
In Possessed, Crawford plays Louise Howell, a private-duty nurse inexplicably obsessed with David Sutton, a cynical, hard-drinking mechanical engineer played by Van Heflin. That brings up my biggest objection to Possessed: the casting of the bland Heflin in a role that required an actor with a certain amount of animal magnetism. This viewer, for one, was unable to understand what made him put the starch in her ankle-strap pumps. Someone with sex appeal, for instance, Richard Widmark, would have been infinitely more appropriate.
That said, Possessed offers a gripping narrative (screenplay by Silvia Richards and Ranald MacDougall, from a story by Rita Weiman) and excellent production values, while Curtis Bernhardt is in top form. The film, in fact, is a believable portrayal of a woman obsessed with a man who rejects her – except, that is, for its intermittent psychobabble: at one point in Possessed, Louise is given the same I.V. concoction – to induce a confessional – that she would give to Trog some 23 years later. Only, Louise doesn't think about dinosaurs; instead, she remembers the circumstances that caused her mental breakdown.
Now, I was bothered by David's continuous taunting of Louise, even after she marries someone else so as to try to forget him. In fact, David is such a nasty slob that he fully deserves what he eventually gets. The problem I have with that conclusion is that we never really know what will happen to Louise. The doctor says she is not responsible for her actions, and she has already suffered enough. That's it.
I guess it's just too bad about David.
© Danny Fortune
Note: This is not to be confused with a totally unrelated 1931 Joan Crawford star vehicle of the same name.
POSSESSED (1947). Dir.: Curtis Bernhardt. Cast: Joan Crawford, Van Heflin, Raymond Massey, Geraldine Brooks, Stanley Ridges, John Ridgely, Moroni Olsen. Scr.: Silvia Richards and Ranald MacDougall; from a story by Rita Weiman.