Of COURSE we had to watch some Joan tonight. Not taking time to behold the wonder that is our patron saint, Lucille LeSueur, would be anathema, blasphemy, time wasted!
First up was 1952’s Sudden Fear — Joan with Jack Palance, Gloria Grahame, Bruce Bennett, Virginia Hudson and Mike “Touch” / “Mannix” Connors. David Miller directed. Playwright takes up with menacing actor Palance, who is really plotting with Gloria Grahame (who else?) to knock off Joan and take all her fabulous wealth. Mike Connors is there to be supposedly pretty and try to romance Gloria Grahame, who brushes him off because, of course, she likes being smacked around by her dreamboat Palance. Also, she has a closet with handy poison and a gun all ready to go.
Summary: “After an ambitious actor insinuates himself into the life of a wealthy middle-aged playwright and marries her, he plots with his mistress to murder her.”IMDb.
Myra Hudson: “Remember what Nietzsche says ‘Live dangerously!'”Lester Baine and Myra Hudson, Sudden Fear
Lester Blaine: “You know what happened to Nietzsche?”
Myra Hudson: “No, what?”
Lester Blaine: “He’s dead.”
“I was just wondering what I’d done to deserve you.”Myra Hudson, Sudden Fear
Next up was 1950s Harriet Craig — Joan with Wendell Corey, Lucile Watson, Allyn Joslyn, William Bishop, K.T. Stevens and Ellen Corby. Directed by Vincent Sherman. She plays, what else, a Mommie Dearest without the kids, who actually hates kids, disorder, had to work to survive in a laundry and other foul places, but who now worships a perfectly clean, massive house and a Ming vahse and browbeats the servants and the little boy next door. Only thing missing is cans of Dutch Cleanser. Harriet is my paternal grandmother with money, youth, and better tailoring. Now THAT woman knew how to clean! The Ming vahse fails to survive the picture, as does her marriage.
Summary: “Domineering Harriet Craig holds more regard for her home and its possessions than she does for any person in her life. Among those she treats like household objects are her kind husband Walter, whom she has lied to about her inability to have children; her cousin Claire, whom she treats like a secretary; and her servants whom she treats like slaves.”IMDb
“No man’s born ready for marriage; he has to be trained.”Harriet Craig.
“I’m going next door. Where the scheming widow lives.”Walter Craig.
We also caught the tail end of Torch Song from 1953, with its infamous scene of Joan doing some serious legwork and vamping in full black face lip synching as India Adams sings Two Faced Woman and one of Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands, Michael Wilding, playing blind, complete with drunken old biddy mother, seeing eye dog and costumes and more lip synching and other acts of violent culture appropriation.
Summary: “Jenny Stewart is a tough Broadway musical star who doesn’t take criticism from anyone. Yet there is one individual, Tye Graham, a blind pianist who may be able to break through her tough exterior.”IMDb
“Your idea of art’s the fruit in the slot machine.”Jenny Stewart
Jenny: “Carl, after you drop me will you take Mr. Norton home?” Carl: “Yes ma’am. What’s your address Mr. Norton?” Jenny: “Any dark bar.”Jenny Stewart and her chauffeur
Joan emotes with aforementioned Michael Wilding, as well as Gig Young, the always fabulous Marjorie Rambeau, Harry Morgan, and Maidie Norman, who plays the usual part reserved for women of color: the maid, who remains completely silent when the white folk smudge their faces with charcoal, paint on big lips and start singin’ field hand songs. (Maidie was five hundred times the actor Joan was, but made-up black face gets Oscars and real black face gets two lines talking about how dinner or the fancy white woman dress is ready. Ms. Norman and Ms. Rambeau are pretty much the only redeeming features of this one, as well as a little bit of Mr. Wilding’s handsome mug. Should’ve been titled Black Face Lip Synching Song, but theaters in the south would have been all in a snit and shit. If you’re not into being entertained by many appalling elements in a 90-minute period, skip Torch Song. Sudden Fear and Harriet Craig I can personally recommend.
Tonight is the end of this year’s Summer Under the Stars. How appropriate to end it with Dearest Joan. And that fabulous production, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? so that Bette Davis can yet again trample on Joan’s special Summer Under the Stars day.
It’s now September. Thank god. This summer weather-wise and otherwise was brutal. Fall can’t get here fast enough.