POSSESSED. (1947) BASED ON A STORY BY RITA WEIMAN. DIRECTED BY CURTIS BERNHARDT. STARRING JOAN CRAWFORD, VAN HEFLIN, RAYMOND MASSEY AND GERALDINE BROOKS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I love Joan Crawford, she of the fur coats with the wide shoulders and the imposing eyebrows. She’s every bit as good an actress as Bette Davis, her one-time screen rival and her co-star in one of the best psychological horror films of all time, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962).
Maybe more people have a soft spot for Bette Davis than they do for Joan Crawford, though, and I suppose the film MOMMIE DEAREST (1981), about Joan’s alleged mistreatment of her children and especially her daughter Christina, didn’t do the lady any favours. I still love her work though. She really was an incredible actress, a true star in an era when that word truly meant something.
POSSESSED is my favourite Joanie film ever, after BABY JANE. Maybe it shouldn’t be, lol, because it reminds me painfully of every instance in which I ever tried to cling on to a guy who was just looking for no-strings-attached fun ‘n’ games and not a commitment for life, but it’s just such an excellent film noir that I can’t help loving it.
Still, I think we women like to watch films in which other women make the same cringeworthy mistakes we’ve already made a million times over in our own lives. It makes us feel better about ourselves, heh-heh-heh. I love watching FATAL ATTRACTION and feeling as virtuous as hell because I never went as far as boiling some guy’s bunny to pay him back for his nonsense…!
Joan’s character Louise Howell makes a lot of mistakes in this film. She’s completely obsessed with Van Heflin’s character, talented engineer David Sutton, even though David’s had his fun and now he wants to move on. The bastard…! Ooops, sorry. I promised myself I’d keep calm while writing this review and not get annoyed all over again at the cavalier ways of the male sex.
David is Louise’s lover initially, though we’re not sure for how long they’ve been together. But she says the maddest things to him, the kind of things guaranteed to send a man running for the hills. Things like, Oh, I never truly felt any emotions in life until I met you, David, and Don’t ever leave me, David, I can’t go back to being on the outside of other people’s lives, looking in!
No wonder David is a bit iffy about the whole thing. She dumps all the responsibility for her own happiness squarely on his shoulders, because she doesn’t realise that she’s actually responsible for her own happiness, and not David. It’s a hard lesson for anyone to have to learn, and sometimes we go through life without ever learning it properly.
Is David really as much a villain as he appears? He enjoys the fun and games of the relationship at first, but when Louise becomes too clingy, he tells her honestly that he doesn’t want it and he can’t handle it and he’s bailing out.
It’s hard to hear and it hurts like hell, but at least he’s being straight with her. It’s his right to bow out of the relationship if he wants to, even if it breaks Louise’s heart. It’s only when Louise refuses to let him go that he turns into the wise-cracking, heart-breaking bastard we see later on in the film.
The story moves on, and Louise, a private nurse, has married her rich employer, Dean Graham, whose deceased invalid wife was Louise’s patient. At their wedding, David meets Dean’s beautiful college-age daughter, Carol, and there’s a mutual attraction between them. Not surprisingly, as Carol, played by the actress Geraldine Brooks, resembles no-one so much as a baby Gilda, the role made famous by the stunning Rita Hayworth.
David, in this instance, should probably walk away, knowing that his affair with Carol is bound to cause Louise pain. But he doesn’t, and it does cause Louise, the second Mrs. Graham, the most terrible emotional pain imaginable.
Louise goes through agonies of jealousy and rage, and she even starts to hallucinate that her husband’s dead wife, her former patient, Pauline, is talking to her and urging her to kill herself. There are some fantastically spooky, very dark and shadowy scenes cast almost in the German Expressionism mould in which Louise hangs on to her sanity by the merest thread.
Shades of Alfred Hitchcock’s REBECCA (1940) abound here, as in the dead first wife in the water, the inquest held in an informal local setting rather than in a grand courtroom somewhere, and the rich man’s wife going under a false name to see a doctor who’s not her usual physician, because she wishes to keep her visit, and possible condition, a secret from her husband.
Raymond Massey (THE OLD DARK HOUSE, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH) does a brilliant job, by the way, as Louise’s rich husband. It heartens the soul to see how much he loves her and is prepared to side with her, especially at the end.
Anyway, Louise’s steadfast inability to relinquish her hold on David causes nothing but agonies for Louise herself and the people around her. She winds up in a hospital bed miles from home in a strange city, telling her tragic story to a bunch of medics, medics who, by the way, make some pretty alarming snap diagnoses for conditions that I’m sure would require a battery of complicated tests today, but hey, it was the ‘Forties and it was a movie. There’s probably no point in my being too nit-picky…!
This is a truly marvellous film, as I said earlier. Women will certainly love it and even guys will too, if they love classic movies from the days of the big studios when a film was called a ‘picture’ and a real star made some of the so-called ‘celebrities’ of today look like total nobodies. Miaow…! Sorry about that, lol.
Women in particular should watch POSSESSED if they’ve ever felt inclined to do a Glenn Close on some guy’s beloved Mr. Floppy Ears or Fluffy Tail. It’s a cautionary tale that (hopefully) should keep you well away from the bunny- hutch…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.