Gay Icons: Joan Crawford - Part 2

By: Mike McCrann

According to entertainment writer, Mike McCrann, Joan Crawford is one of the most talented gay icons—and one of the most misunderstood. In part 1 of his spotlight he discussed her work in Humoresque and now he explains why Sudden Fear is her other must-see movie.

Joan Crawford's first film after her Warner Brothers contract ended was 1952's Sudden Fear. The taut RKO thriller has Joan as a wealthy playwright named Myra Hudson who marries an actor after having him fired from her newest play because he is not handsome enough. As this part was played by Jack Palance this makes perfect sense!

Joan4(In the original Edna Sherry novel the actor is fired because he is too handsome!) The film takes place in San Francisco and much of it was filmed on location. The plots slips into high gear when Joan hears her new husband (on her Dictaphone that was left on) tell his mistress that he hates Myra and is planning to kill her and make it look like an accident.

The mistress is played by the fantastic Gloria Grahame whose brief career in the ‘50s has made her a cult favorite. Gloria won the 1952 Support Actress Oscar for The Bad and the Beautiful but really should have won it for playing the evil Irma Neves in Sudden Fear. In the supporting cast was Bruce Bennett (Burt Pierce from Joan's previous film Mildred Pierce) and Mike Connors being billed then as Touch Connors. 

Sudden Fear is Crawford's film all the way. Her close-ups upon hearing the deadly recording are fantastic and the elaborate plot she plans to foil Palance and Grahame is great, especially when it goes terribly wrong in the film's final minutes. Sudden Fear gave Joan Crawford the last of her 3 Best Actress Oscar nominations. (She, and Bette Davis for The Star, both lost that year to Shirley Boothe in Come Back Little Sheba.) The film is excellently directed by David Miller, beautifully photographed, and the tension really builds until the great climax when Crawford and Palance come face to face.

Favorite line in the film: Joan to Gloria: "Are you a San Franciscan, Miss Neves?" Gloria's response: "No, but I intend to be. I have taken an apartment at the Tamalpis Arms."

If you want to see why Joan Crawford was a star for almost 50 years, rent Humoresque and Sudden Fear. In both films she gives new meaning to the words "star power!"