Joan's Boxed Set #2. Winter 2007/2008.
Three of the five films on the second boxed set of Joan's films have been announced:
Strange Cargo, Flamingo Road, and Torch Song.
Strange Cargo (1940). Featuring the documentary "Crawford & Gable."
When Joan Crawford (already a major film star) was paired with the formidable, earthy newcomer Clark Gable in "Dance Fools, Dance," a torrid extramarital affair ensued which translated into onscreen electricity that "threatened to burn down Hollywood." Here was a duo of tough-talking, working class comers who met their match.
But, Gable was still married to a former spouse and married to a second wife when the Crawford affair was in full flower. So, MGM paid off wife #1, re-remarried him to wife #2, and sent Joan and husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr. on a second honeymoon with a stern warning from LB Mayer. But, the duo soon resumed their romance at the height of their popularity on "Possessed" and "Dancing Lady" and again after her divorce. However, their insatiable ambitions and other partners would mellow their affections into that of an "intimate friendship" during "Chained" and "Forsaking All Others" that would endure for the rest of their lives.
Later, Crawford's public appeal waned, and Gable offered to help her career with another teaming, but the misguided screwball comedy, "Love On The Run" lead to her being labeled "box-office poison" and the studio offered her a mere one-year contract renewal while Gable cranked out hits with other leading ladies. In time, Crawford would fight her way back to gain a foothold with the hit comedy "The Women" while Gable shone in "Gone With The Wind" and MGM paired them for one last time in "Strange Cargo" - one of their finest dramas together. But, when Gable got top billing, Crawford balked and soon left MGM for greener pastures at Warner Bros.
Gable and Crawford provided affection and love for one another (notably after the death of Carole Lombard) and recognized each other as a star-crossed counterpart - periodically rekindling their ties into the 1950's. In fact, Crawford would remark on David Frost ('67) that among all of her co-stars, Gable had been "the king - on and off the screen."
Flamingo Road (1949). Featuring the doc "Crawford at Warners."
Trying to control fiery Bette Davis, Jack Warner hired MGM veteran Joan Crawford to his studio, and she would beg, borrow or steal a string of dramatic roles from Warner Bros best actresses to make the successful transition from young to middle-aged leading lady in Hollywood.
Coming to the studio famous for its gangster pictures, Joan Crawford was reticent about her first film and waited two years to film "Mildred Pierce" which won her an Oscar for best actress. But, she knew the studio specialized in noir, and went about raiding the best vehicles on the lot.
Intended for Ida Lupino, Crawford pinched Jean Negulesco "Humoresque" for its dark, alcoholic supporting role for which she would give a brilliant performance. The following year when Bette Davis got pregnant, Crawford pocketed her role in "Possessed", for which she would glean another Oscar nomination (fuelling a feud with Davis, which played out in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane." Then, Ann Sheridan lost the lead to Joan in the Sydney Greenstreet melodrama "Flamingo Road" this time playing a seedy carnival hoofer ten years her junior to modest success.
WB tailored "The Damned Don't Cry" for Crawford, who pulled out all the stops to reinvent herself as the penultimate shady lady gangster who brawls with the bad boys and won a success. However, her attempts to stretch as an actress (playing a congresswoman) "Goodbye My Fancy" and a rehash of the gun moll in "This Woman Is Dangerous" kept audiences away in droves. Joan Crawford parted ways with Warner Bros. in 1952 having once again rejuvinated her screen persona - but not without the help of a few disgruntled actresses in Burbank.
Torch Song (1953). Featuring the doc "Tough Baby: Torch Song."
At long last, we rediscover the 1950's camp classic spoofed for decades in which Joan Crawford plays the melodramatic, domineering Jenny Stewart, a song-and-dance legend who finds love and humility in the arms of blind pianist, Michael Wilding -- the MGM musical, "Torch Song."
Made the year after her Oscar nominated triumph in RKO's "Sudden Fear," Crawford was determined to make her MGM comeback armed with a great set of gams, a second-rate script and a few recycled musical numbers for which she unwisely recorded her own still-existant vocals (including the shockingly-wrong blackface number, "Two-Faced Woman" which were later dubbed by India Adams.
Borrowing A-list director Charles Walters from rival Esther Williams, Crawford turned in the most hilariously belligerent and by stark contrast, gushingly romantic caricature ever committed to film while behind the scenes she enlisted her adopted children to the tasks of running her errands and giving her foot massages, as told by "Mommie Dearest" author Christina Crawford. The film was rife with cheesy zingers and unbelieveable musical moments and upon it's release was not surprisingly relegated to b-picture status. And to add insult to injury, Crawford's co-star Marjorie Rambeau won a supporting actress Oscar nomination as her boozy, but wise Mom while she was snubbed.
As "Torch Song" reemerges from many years of legal setbacks, it is more enjoyable and over-the-top than ever - a film that critic Pauline Kael described thus, "The viewer is asked to admire Joan Crawford's legs and her acting, which consists of pushing her mouth into positions meant to suggest suffering. The first is easy; the second impossible. In this misbegotten melodrama, she finally settles for a blind musician, which, all things considered, is a remarkably sensible decision."