07 January 2009

Harriet Craig (Vincent Sherman, 1950)

Joan Crawford movie about a woman from humble beginnings, abandoned by her father as a child. Her mother ended up in a nuthatch. Starting out as a laundress she's worked her way up to being a successful career woman and given it up for marriage to a successful man, a big house, and, she hopes, security. The only thing is she's so gun-shy that she runs her household like a tyrant.
Crawford's character is so monstrous that it's hard to watch sometimes. Kind of like in Queen Bee but this movie isn't quite as good as that. It's campy but there's something sort of offensive about it so you can't really enjoy it. You almost feel like the filmmakers are being unfair to her character. It seems like it should have been handled as a tragedy but it comes across more as a tract against women who fail to toe the line as expected by American men in the 1950s, come hell or high water. I don't see why they even bothered to give her a backstory. Maybe they meant well but floundered in the execution. The movie seems mean. I mean, she's so terrible you want to see her get her comeuppance in the end and the comeuppance isn't even so bad but there was just this sour note in there. She's cold and she's conniving but there is no credible alternative on offer. Only sexism, classism, and moralizing. A bourgeois invective against damaged persons everywhere. ;-)

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