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Joan Crawford and others

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moira finnie
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Postby moira finnie » October 29th, 2007, 7:39 am

Ah, Judith,
Our pal Jeff Chandler is going to pop up on TCM very soon in another movie that I haven't seen since I was a lass: Jeanne Eagels (1957) with Mr. C. and Kim Novak in a George Sidney-directed story about the legendary, self-destructive yet talented theatre actress of the title. It's on Dec.6th at 9:15 AM ET. I don't know if this one is any good, at least from a critical, adult view. I suspect that it may not be the best, but I do remember it dimly and fondly for Chandler's presence as a nice guy who's a bit of a hustler. Guess we'll find out.

I've read a couple of mixed reviews of the real Eagels' performances, few of which were ever recorded on film. Fellow member Jezebel38 has seen a 1929 version of The Letter,(with Herbert Marshall as the murdered lover in a role reversal from his later part in William Wyler's version of Maugham's story. Maybe she'll add her thoughts here).

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The real Jeanne Eagels in a very demure pose (above), and, (below), in another of her in a not so ladylike moment of abandon with Fredric March in Jealousy (1929).
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Here's a link to a site devoted to the real actress, who seems to have been quite a contradiction.

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Kim Novak as Eagels as she appeared in the movie during her run in Maugham's "Rain".

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Maybe Mr. Chandler's Broken Arrow (1950) or one of my all time faves, Delmer Daves' Bird of Paradise (1951), will show up on the TCM schedule in the coming year. I think the gray hair definitely helped make him an appealing fellow.

Hey, now that I've ambled away so far from the original point of this thread, another 1957 movie devoted to a '20s legend has popped into my head: Ann Blyth as the warbling songbird with the broken wing, in the The Helen Morgan Story, which co-stars a very young Paul Newman and an endearing, pre-nose job Alan King, (in what might be described as the "George Tobias/Frank McHugh" part). This one has great songs from the '20s too and is directed by Michael Curtiz in the waning days of his career.

Forgive me for my deep digressions, please. :wink:

jdb1

Postby jdb1 » October 29th, 2007, 9:17 am

Oh, boy, Moira - two I've never seen: Jeanne Eagles and a pre-nosejob Alan King (although I do remember the pre-nosejob Joel Gray in something - maybe it was a Brother Rat remake?).


It really doesn't matter what Jeff Chandler is in - he brings so much energy and "It" to the screen, it's a pleasure to behold. Ah, those Brooklyn boys.

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Queen Joan

Postby MissGoddess » November 2nd, 2007, 11:48 am

Now, here's what I want to ask you all: do you think that Crawford in effect shot herself in the foot in her attempt to look distinctive? I sometimes mutter to myself "What the heck was she thinking? What did she see when she looked into a mirror on the set?" when I see some of the getups and ghastly hair and makeup she sported in her later films. Ugh.

I'll just address this query by Judith. I am as disappointed at the exaggerated turn Joan's appearance took in the 1950s as anyone, but I think the audience back then must have been all for it because she maintained an incredible fan following all her life. It should be added that she actually adopted a very elegant and more flattering style in the 1960s, especially when she wore those turbans that seemed to uniquely flatter her as they did few other women. I remember one picture I saw of her not long before she died and I thought she looked fantastic, elegant and just as a lady of un certain age should do. Part of this was due to her remarkable carriage---Joan had just about the best posture of any woman I've ever seen. One thing she always maintained was an exquisite figure, made the most of by that straight back and confident walk. Bespeaks an iron will.

Joan's principal performance M.O. in the 50s seemed to be that her characters would overcome by process of will any obstacle to their happiness. And they knew there would always be obstacles for a girl who had to come up the hard way. I find, looking over her career-long series of shopgirls, ambitious climbers and business women that she really spoke for the "common woman" as no other actress. Much has been made throughout history, not just in films, about "the common man" and how tough he has it, but what about the ordinary Jane? Enter Joan. I don't always admire her characters or their eyebrows and shoulder pads but I have to give the dame credit for muscleing her way through all the fine ladies, hoity-toity Actresses-with-a-Capital-A and prima donnas to conquer and maintain the title of Queen Bee.

The eyebrows drew attention to her eyes and said: LOOK ME IN THE EYE WHEN YOU SAY THAT, BUB. The shoulder pads helped when muscling her way through the kennel. :wink:

Joan seldom played a congenital Snob. That's quite a statement in a way. She played climbers who ditched their dirty pasts and pretended a sort of disdain for others like her but only from a position of protecting her throne. She never played the Great Lady who thinks certain behavior beneath her. Nothing was beneath her if it got what she wanted. Such ruthlessness is breathtaking and perhaps repellent but it's also deeply human and I can't help but cheer her tenacity, eyebrows and shoulderpads and all.

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Postby moira finnie » November 2nd, 2007, 12:40 pm

Good points, Miss G. and Judith.

I think that Miss Crawford's working girl roles may have been among her most powerful because the yearnings they expressed were closer to her own life experience, and she probably went as far as she could with her style of acting, but it had some serious limits, at least in my view, and might've benefited from some strong direction, as I tried to describe in my original facetious, yet affectionately written post.

While I'd give Joan Crawford a lot of respect for her tenacity, excellent posture and durability, I do recall adults who'd pretty much blanch when she popped up on talk shows looking fairly startling or when her late, really awful movies in the '60s were released. In my childish memory, after "Baby Jane" it seemed that many people who genuinely enjoyed her work in the '30s and '40s were saddened by the turn her career took, and she lost some dignity by trying so hard to be center stage to the end. Surely, there were some ways, (other than ticking off a bunch of chauvinist guys on the Pepsi board), that she could've found to express her talent?

So, yes, I think that her perception of herself went very much awry by that late period of her life and she did shoot herself in the foot by the often mask-like makeup that she wore for much of the period. I'm sure others feel differently, but it just might be that because she didn't leave the spotlight with the audience wanting more, it was one of the few times that the actress misread her audience.

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Postby MissGoddess » November 4th, 2007, 1:02 am

I agree about the Goth roles of the last years of Joan's career. They were a disgrace to her. I don't judge her for wanting to keep working and having limited options. I do feel resentment toward the writers and directors who would stoop to portraying a mature woman in that light, just for schlock value. It makes me ill, that kind of disrespect toward women. I am in the minority, in that I detest the beloved Baby Jane for this reason.

jdb1

Postby jdb1 » November 4th, 2007, 1:35 pm

Ladies, the previous postings regarding Crawford make points very well taken.

I think she was all those things, as befits a true Star. She was elegant and a bit over the top; charming and overbearing.

One of the reasons I asked my original question was that my memory of the Olden Days tells me that people of my parents' generation did not love Crawford's middle period looks, and thought she was garning attention in a way not the best for her. She was a sort of magnification of the look of the 1950s, especially - women did go in for heavy brows and close to the head hairdos, but Crawford's were the most of either category, and I well remember a lot of negative comments about her from my elders. Still, they did not stop going to her movies.
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Postby mrsl » November 4th, 2007, 4:07 pm

You've all said what I would have said regarding Joan, and included in this is Ms. Davis - Neither one of them should have turned to things like Baby Jane, which I still have not seen all the way through because the first scene of them made up just rips apart any respect I had of them, so I avoid it.

Joan continued on with things like Berserk, Strait Jacket, and Night Gallery, but I, unlike many others DO blame her because at the same time, other actresses of her age were finding niches for themselves in other mediums like live stage and TV. Stanwyck, Loretta Young, Ann Baxter, Donna Reed, and even Fathers Best wife, Jane Wyatt.

While typing however, it occurs to me that perhaps the reasons might be that her constant fight for survival was actually a cover up for the secret fear of not being good enough. i.e. not good enough for live stage or the quick study needed for TV weekly work.

Someone must have told her when she was young that those eyebrows were a distinctive trademark, which is why she probably kept them, but I personally found them a distraction because she did have beautiful eyes.

Anne
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Postby Mr. Arkadin » November 4th, 2007, 4:28 pm

With all due respect, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962) is one of Crawford's better later roles. Her makeup (even eyebrows!) is very subdued in this film and she gave a very understated performance. Davis has the over the top role here and yes--it's exactly what her character calls for.

One thing about Joan is she (like Welles) had a dominant prescence. People tend to think of it as overacting, but that's not true, it's more along the lines of how others look in relation to her on the screen. Joan did overact sometimes, but many times what appears to be overacting is just playing with other actors who could not match her ability. When placed with great leading men (Powell, Garfield, Van Heflin, Robert Montgomery, etc.) she did quite well.

As for her career after Baby Jane, I definitely agree with sentiments here, but the pigeonholing came after seeing how good she was in this movie and trying to recreate the magic again. Check her out when she watches one of her old films on TV, or her exchanges with Maidie Norman, her maid. The last scene where she confesses to an oblivious Davis is heartbreaking and there is nothing hammy or over the top about it.

For those who haven't seen WHTBJ on principal, see the film. For those who have, take a more careful look at Crawford's role here. What you see might surprise you.

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Postby Sue Sue Applegate » November 4th, 2007, 11:09 pm

Mr. Arkadin,

People with charisma and presence often overshadow others whether on screen or off, and I agree with your stance on that.

I also think Joan's look in WHTBF was much more pleasing than many of her later films. She had a softer, more aging ingenue quality, which is exactly the role she was portraying as Jane's more successful sister.
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Postby feaito » November 5th, 2007, 9:18 am

As I've said on another post I also feel that "WHTBJ" has one of Joan's best later roles. She has many human and touching moments in it and her face recovers its expressivity. Her acting in this movie is very subtle and subdued. It's an excellent film.

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Postby MissGoddess » November 5th, 2007, 11:24 am

For those who haven't seen WHTBJ on principal, see the film. For those who have, take a more careful look at Crawford's role here. What you see might surprise you.


Arky, if anything could convince me to take another look at that movie your words would. I just hold to pretty old fashioned ideas so it's hard for me sit and watch it. Perhaps more because of Bette's character than Joan's, now that you illuminated certain scenes.

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Postby mrsl » November 5th, 2007, 6:04 pm

Miss Goddess:

So often you say exactly what I would say, only you get there first. After reading these comments, maybe it would be worth watching Joan, but Bette is just simply a NOT for me.

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Postby Mr. Arkadin » November 5th, 2007, 6:58 pm

Bette's character, while grotesque, is an incredible performance in itself. I like to think of Baby Jane as the logical extension of Sunset Blvd. (1950).

Both deal with stars that have fallen from the heights of success. Both deal with disillusionment and madness, but while we track Norma's journey to the precipice (she is finally pushed over the edge by Joe leaving--no one leaves a star!), Jane has teetered on the brink since her sisters accident, slipping in and out of the world she has created to distance herself from pain and guilt. It is Blanche (Joan) that reinforces that guilt. Although she does many nice things for Jane and is seen as the good sister, Jane would be better off without Blanche. It is Blanche who is the evil one, and Jane is her cruel creation.

Davis does a good job with this role making us feel disgust, pity, and shame for her character. A good example for instance is when Joan says to her "You wouldn't do this to me if I wasn't in this chair." You can see Davis pause for just a second. She is in realization, feeling the hurt and guilt. Then the defense mechanism kicks in, the wall goes up, and and a smile comes over her face: "But ya are in that chair Blanche!" This happens so quickly that is more felt than seen, but it is there.

Davis has many other great moments in the film as well (check out her body language and positioning here). That her character repulses us is natural, but for some reason so many filmgoers identify Davis with Jane in the sense that both of their careers were on the downslide at this point. Davis would resent this. She made a living playing all kinds of different characters unlike many actors and actresses who play a different version of the same character over and over. Joan was much the same and this is the main reason they disliked each other. Jane was a different type from anything Davis had attempted before and if she caused viewers such discomfort, it is only further proof that she did a great job.

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Postby Sue Sue Applegate » November 6th, 2007, 7:34 pm

Great post, Mr. Arkadin!
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Postby moira finnie » December 5th, 2007, 6:18 pm

This is just a reminder that the seldom seen 1957 biopic about the legendary tragedienne and tosspot, Jeanne Eagels is being shown tomorrow, Dec. 6th on TCM at 9:15AM ET. Perhaps folks who have a hankering to see Jeff Chandler pitching woo at Kim Novak might enjoy it and would like to record it? Hope that y'all will post your views here :wink:

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