Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
USA, 1950. Warner Bros.. Screenplay by Harold Medford, Jerome Weidman, based on the story Case History by Gertrude Walker. Cinematography by Ted D. McCord. Produced by Jerry Wald. Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof. Production Design by Robert M. Haas. Costume Design by Sheila O’Brien. Film Editing by Rudi Fehr.
She’s climbing her way to the top again, but this time there’s an element of film noir added to make her journey a shadowy one. After a tragedy separates her from her oil rig worker husband for good, Joan Crawford leaves her family’s dusty shack and heads to the big city, getting a job working a magazine counter before meeting a man who gets her a job modeling his fashions in his warehouse. While there she hooks up with a straight-arrow accountant (Kent Smith) and introduces him to her nightclub friends, which quickly results in Smith becoming bookkeeper for the mob while she falls in with the leader of the entire organized crime operation (David Brian). He takes her on as his mistress, setting her up in a ritzy apartment and paying for her to travel the world, and she, still an ignorant working girl from the sticks, doesn’t realize that nothing in life comes for free. When one of Brian’s district bosses (Steve Cochran) starts to get out of line, Brian sends Crawford to the west coast to shack up with him, get proof of his treachery and then pull the trigger. She grows sympathetic for Cochran and can’t stomach the thought of killing anyone, not aware that she doesn’t have much of a choice in the matter. The resulting conflict with Brian reaches an explosive, terrifying climax, an impressively powerful scene of violence that is that much more effective for how well the actress pulls off her physical vulnerability. Putting a familiar Joan Crawford melodrama into a story you’d expect from someone like Nicholas Ray works out really well, she gives a sharp and charismatic performance in all the character’s stages, and the feeling of danger is present at every turn of the exciting plot.