~Above: Joan Crawford in her Oscar nominated performance in "Sudden Fear."
"Sudden Fear" 1952
Cast: Joan Crawford ~Jack Palance~Gloria Grahame~Bruce Bennett~Virginia Huston~Touch Conners.
Director: David Miller
Producer: Joseph Kaufman
Costumes by Shelia O'Brien
Box Office Figures for "Sudden Fear":
Top Grossing Film Position: Ranked #64 out of 119
Gross Rentals: $1,650,000.
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Stars: Four and a half out of five
Review: As in "Midnight Lace" where Doris Day -- plagued with threatening phone calls -- might've curtailed
trouble by simply hanging up instead of shrieking hysterically into the receiver and building to a histrionic meltdown that
convinced everyone who was previously on the fence of her instability, Joan Crawford might've spared herself a whole lot of
fear by going to the police at the onset. But then the world would be short of two deliciously fun thrillers with leading
ladies who are both fearful and fashionable.
"Sudden Fear" is the superior of the two, although both are highly entertaining. Crawford not only stars, but
co-produced this top notch noir, showing further evidence of her boundless talent. She, in fact, carries the film, as she
so often does, this time with two strong and well-cast co-stars, Jack Palance and Gloria Grahame. With a tight build-up of
suspense; gorgeous, glossy black and white cinematography; and a riveting score, the whole thing works every time.
At the start of the film, Myra Hudson (Crawford), a playwright and heiress, is attending rehearsals for her upcoming Broadway
play "Halfway to Heaven" and finds the leading man Lester Blaine (Jack Palance) lacking as a romantic hero. According
to Hudson, he doesn't seem to be the type who would make "every woman in the audience sit right up and go, 'Mmph!'"
(Funny how Crawford's films always seem to mirror her own life, since she, too, wasn't thrilled with the choice of Palance
as a co-star, although his oddly sinister face makes him perfect as the "heavy" and their off-screen tension adds
wonderfully to the friction; she was also put off by his method acting which included French kissing during their love sequences.)
By chance, Hudson and Blaine meet on a train going from New York to San Francisco and begin a whirlwind romance. The pair
marry and the older-but-not-wiser Hudson is eager to introduce her new husband to all her society friends, many of whom are
suspicious of him -- like her attorney, Steve Kearney (Bruce Bennett - who played Crawford's husband in "Mildred Pierce.")
As the merciless hands of fate (and the screenwriters) have it, Irene Neves (Gloria Grahame), Lester's ex-girlfriend, is
at the party on the arm of Junior Kearney (Mike Conners - yes, "Mannix"), Steve's son. Like two cats in heat, the
conniving pair secretly meet and hatch a plot to get at Myra's millions. When they learn that Myra plans to leave the bulk
of her estate to a foundation with only $10,000 a year for Lester, they scheme to kill her and make it look like an accident
before the will is signed -- a tight deadline of only the weekend. Myra, however, learns of this nefarious plan when she
leaves on her dictaphone machine and the pair's conversation is unwittingly recorded. This begins her state of sudden fear.
After a sleepless night, she hatches a foil for this dastardly duo worthy of one of her own plays.
"Sudden Fear" is exciting fun, using the sort of nail-biting, manipulative devices of an old radio play and
much of the acting relies on Crawford's facial expressions, to which, as a former silent screen star, she is up to the task.
Although criminally underrated and often unjustly accused of being phony as an actor, Crawford was a consummate professional
and often achieved an emotional truth and naturalness onscreen. Her characters are vulnerable and human-- and therefore,
somehow real -- as is the case with Myra. Ultimately, in spite of a glamorous and capable facade, she's so human, one wonders
if Myra will carry out the ingenious plan she's concocted, which adds to the peril of her predicament. Palance is perfectly
villainous and Grahame is in her element as the brash, slightly tawdry and sexy tart (what else?) who likes rough sex and
oozes danger. It's also delicious fun watching Crawford walk from one area of Pacific Heights to the next and then run up
and down the steep hills of San Francisco in high heels and a mink -- after falling down a flight of stairs, no less, with
little stain to her glamour beyond a few beads of sweat. That -- and the glass of milk -- are some of the great quirks that
make classic films like this one divine fun.
Review: Intense and Powerful,and Joan rides it all the way!