Above: Joan Crawford making her entrance in "Harriet Craig."
"Harriet Craig" 1950
Cast: Joan Crawford ~Wendell Corey~Lucille Watson~Allyn Joslyn~William Bishop~K.T. Stevens~Viola Roache~Raymond Greenleaf~Ellen
Corby~Fiona O'Shiel~Patriic Mitchell~Virginia Brissac~Katherine Warren~Douglas Wood~Kathryn Card~Charles Evans~Mira McKinney.
Director: Vincent Sherman
Producer: William Dozier
Costumes by Shelia O'Brien
Box Office Figures for "Harriet Craig":
Top Grossing Film Position: Didn't list that year.
Gross Rentals: less than $1,000,000.
If you have seen this movie, please write a review below. Once your review is submitted, I will post the review below.
Thank you for your review on this film.
Stars: Three stars
Review: In this remake of the 1936 Rosalind Russell film "Craig's Wife," Joan Crawford appears in the titular
role as the emotionally scarred woman whose abandonment issues cause her to have a neurotic need for order and control over
her household and its inhabitants. As always in these Crawford films where audiences are invited to perceive her character
as the heavy, my sympathies are with Harriet, a woman who might lie and manipulate, but evidently needs to in order to have
any influence, living as she does in her husband's childhood home under the shadow of his mother's memory and with his biased
boyhood servant in tow. Harriet also apparently loves hubby Walter (Wendell Corey) and shows him affection, insecure as she
may be and questionable as her deceits may be. When she returns to her home, however, and finds full ashtrays and Walter's
clothes strewn about, I could well understand her chagrin, especially when she has to pick up after him. Isn't there common
courtesy in keeping things neat when co-habiting -- or is it me? Personally I've always found chaos disquieting, not "comfy."
Furthermore, looking at languidly competent yet careless Walter and the cool but efficient Harriet, it's clear that Harriet
is the more capable as far as keeping things running. According to backstory, she was also successful on her own in business,
but relegated herself to her current position as homemaker and wife in order to have a security she doesn't entirely trust.
Crawford is excellent in the role -- sexy and adorable even with the severe hairstyle, but also conveying a certain rigidity
and cold authority that underscores her coating of charm and exposes her fear of losing control. Backstory also tells us
that she blames her father for her mother's mental breakdown and does not want the same to happen to her.
Corey, in the role of affable husband (dwarfing Crawford in some scenes), is meant to be viewed as a loveable sheep dog,
yet in spite of his so-called affection, I found him contemptible on some level. His patronizing attitude toward Harriet
(driven as it is by lust) can be summed up by his comment, "Wives may be a little extra trouble now and then, but they're
mighty handy gadgets to have around the house" while Harriet's philosophy is, "Husbands must be trained."
Wasn't this exactly the attitude that was being passed down in that era in reality between the sexes because of the imbalance
in power - for men overt, for women covert? Meanwhile all the minor characters (including the delicious Ellen Corby as Lottie,
cowering when she breaks a cup the way Mrs. Bucket's neighbor does when handling the china in the Brit comedy "Keeping
Up Appearances") are drawn expressly to indict Harriet for her unreasonableness. It only stokes my sympathy for Harriet
who like Eva in "Queen Bee" finds herself the outsider in her own home even though superficially in control.
Rather than finding fault with Harriet for her behavior (except for her interference in a budding romance between her
doting cousin and Walter's business associate, which was undeserved), I wonder: Why does Harriet's mother's psychiatrist
probe Harriet on her own marriage when Harriet is consulting her about her mother's condition, even asking Harriet whether
she has children? Why does she look at Harriet as if she has two heads when Harriet volunteers that her father left at age
14 and probably caused her mother's "disassociation" a statement the psychiatrist then pooh-poohs in her clinical,
dispassionate voice? And why does Celia Fenwick (Lucille Watson) develop such an immediate camaraderie with Walter during
a card game that she, too, feels entitled to quiz him about whether he is happy in his home and why he has no children? Not
a very delicate hand in this script at times.
Apparently Vincent Sherman (whose relationship with Crawford always struck me as questionable, distasteful as he is about
boasting of his conquests, for one) used Crawford's own quirks and story in the film. At one point Harriet even mentions
that she worked in a laundry as a kid, true of Crawford.
Basically "Harriet Craig" rankles me, being at heart another attempt to frame a dominant woman with the real
complaint being that husband was supposedly denied his "right" to wear the pants in the family. Even when one learns
that Harriet lied about her ability to conceive children, fatherhood being very important to Walter, it fails to strike me
as diabolical, but more a necessary evil; otherwise Harriet would not have had her own preference honored and she'd be carrying
the babies. How necessary lying and manipulation become when one has few outlets for power, as was the case for women in
the 1950's. In the scenario presented in this film, Walter is given an opportunity to go on business to Japan for three months,
a prospect which frightens Harriet, so she approaches his boss to sabotage it. The act is viewed as an outrage (or meant
to be), but think if it were Harriet going on a three-month sabbatical for business? In "Ice Follies of 1939,"
hubby James Stewart left his wife because of her career demands and jumped with hysterical joy when she publicly denounced
her career to return to him. Double standards never sit well with me, so I see Harriet's point of view in at least resenting
such a protracted separation.
SPOILERS. In any case, well acted and worthwhile, but yet another cautionary tale to keep women "in their place."
Ultimately, however, although I felt sorry for Harriet alone in the great house at the end, particularly when she bursts
into tears, it seems almost fitting since one sees a calm come over her as she surveys what is now completely hers. Sister,
sometimes you're better off with the Ming vase.