The Joan Crawford Collection, Vol. 2

Title: The Joan Crawford Collection, Vol. 2jc2

Silent or Talkie: Talkie

Review

Warner Bros. has done it again! Following the success of the first Joan Crawford Collection, WB has just released The Joan Crawford Collection, Vol. 2. This set follows Joan from her 1930s MGM hey-day to her mature roles of the 1950s. Crawford fans will find her paired with everyone from Franchot Tone to Clark Gable, playing every character from the shop girl to a woman of questionable virtue. These five films are sure to find their way to every film-lover’s library!

A Woman’s Face (1941)
Based on the play, Il Etait Une Fois by Francis de Croisset, A Woman’s Face stars Joan Crawford as Anna Holm, a woman with a facial disfigurement who seems to hold everyone in contempt. Told in flashback mode from a Swedish court room, the film finds Anna’s beauty restored by Dr. Gustav Segert (Melvyn Douglas), but only after she has fallen under the spell of Torsten Barring (Conrad Veidt), who, posing as a member if high society, actually wishes to have his nephew killed so he alone can inherit his uncle’s fortune. Anna eventually becomes involved in an attempt against the life of Torsten’s nephew, but she backs down at the last moment and redirects her efforts to save the nephew’s life. A Woman’s Face is a remake of a Swedish film (which certainly explains the setting) made only three years prior, of the same name, and which starred Ingrid Bergman. Warner’s presentation of this early 40s Crawford gem is far superior to the 1992 VHS release. Bonus features include: Vintage Romance of Celluloid Short: You Can’t Fool a Camera, Classic cartoon: Little Cesario, Two audio-only radio adaptations with Bette Davis and Ida Lupino and the Theatrical trailer.

Flamingo Road (1949)
Flamingo Road reunites Joan Crawford with her Mildred Pierce co-star Zachary Scott. Crawford is Lane Bellamy, a carnival dancer stranded in a small southern town. She becomes romantically involved with the local deputy sheriff, Fielding Carlisle (Zachary Scott), whose career is controlled by corrupt political boss Sheriff Titus Semple (Sydney Greenstreet). Titus views Lane as a threat to his interests and organizes a campaign to drive her out of town. With Titus’ heavy influence, her chances of working in the area are slim to none. Lane ends up being arrested on a morality charge (petty, if nothing else), but lands a job as a hostess at Lute Mae’s roadhouse after being released from jail. While at Lute Mae’s, she meets Dan Reynolds (David Brian), one of Titus’ political opponents. After some time, Lane and Dan eventually marry and move to Flamingo Road, the town’s most prominent neighborhood. Things seem to be on the upswing until Fielding, drunken and upset, shows up to the couple’s home and commits suicide. Titus still has it in for Lane, and Fielding’s suicide provides him with even more reason to make her life miserable. Despite the incredible all-star cast, Joan Crawford monopolizes this film with her natural ability to command attention. The film was based on a play by Robert and Sally Wilder, and ultimately adapted into a 1980s television series. Bonus features include: New featurette: Crawford at Warners, Classic cartoon: Curtain Razor, Audio-only radio adaptation with the film’s stars and the Theatrical trailer.

Sadie McKee (1934)
Sadie is a woman like every woman! Joan Crawford stars in the title role, a local girl working with her mother as a servant to the Alderson family. Michael Alderson (Franchot Tone) looks fondly on her but condescendingly on Tommy Wallace (Gene Raymond), the poor boy with who Sadie is in love. After hearing the Aldersons insulting Tommy around their lavish dinner table, Sadie tells them off and runs away with her lover to New York City. Sadie and Tommy plan to marry, but after he catches the eye of showgirl Dolly Merrick (Esther Rolston) and joins her traveling act, Sadie is left alone and heartbroken to fend for herself. She finds camaraderie with one of her neighbors, Opal (played by Jean Dixon) and lands work in a nightclub where she is pursued by a drunken millionaire named Jack Brennan (Edward Arnold). Brennan is represented by Michael Alderson, who objects harshly to Sadie’s involvement. In spite of Michael’s opposition, Sadie marries Brennan and takes up residence in his lavish mansion. But Brennan’s drinking is becoming worse and he loses control of himself. After Sadie takes in one of Dolly Merrick’s shows and see’s Tommy again, she realizes that her feelings for him are stronger than ever. However, she’s a married woman now with a pining Michael watching her every move. She faces a hard decision in trying to pick the man she truly loves. Though the video has a few blemishes, Sadie McKee is presented very effectively for a movie of its caliber. Bonus features include: Vintage comedy short: Goofy Movies #4, Classic cartoon: Toyland Broadcast and the Theatrical trailer.

Strange Cargo (1940)
Another all-star cast! Joan Crawford stars with Clark Gable and Peter Lorre in this tale about a prison break led by Gable’s character, AndrĂ© Verne. Crawford is Julie, a girl working as a “singer” near Devil’s Island. Julie gets involved with rough-and-tough convict Andre Verne (Clark Gable) and, because she can’t leave the island, ends up joining a prison escape. A man by the name of Cambreau (Ian Hunter) shows up at the prison and starts taking responsibility for the other men. He not only joins in the escape, but leads the way and serves as a liaison between the men in making sure they don’t turn on one another. Before long, it’s evident that Cambreau is some sort of messiah-like personality, or at least, that is implied. Strange Cargo actually received a bit of backlash from the National Legion of Decency, an organization dedicated to identifying and combating objectionable content in motion pictures. The objection was almost certainly due to the film’s religious undertones and identifying the Cambreau character (and his God-like portrayal) with something as dishonest as a prison break. The studio released a cut version of the film in the wake of the Legion’s condemnation. Controversy aside, Strange Cargo is notable for being the eighth and final collaboration between Crawford and Gable. This, like the other films in the collection, is presented beautifully. Bonus features include: New featurette: Gable & Crawford, Vintage short: More About Nostradamus, Classic cartoon: The Lonesome Stranger, and the Theatrical trailer.

Torch Song (1953)
Joan Crawford is Jenny Stewart, a musical star who doubles as a ruthless perfectionist. She leaves no room for opinions but her own. Her pianist quits and is replaced by another, a blind man name Tye Graham (Michael Wilding). Graham also feels Stewart’s wrath when he suggests a small change in one of her songs. She wants him fired on the spot but soon changes her mind when she finds his suggestion to be reasonable. The two form a close relationship, as Stewart realizes that Graham’s proficiency is essential to her continuing success. Furthermore, Stewart’s hard edge is only a front to overcompensate for her lonely personal life. Her love interest Cliff (Gig Young) is unfaithful and her mother and sister depend on her in financial matters. As it happens, Tye had paid Stewart’s original pianist to quit so that he could replace him. Before losing his sight, he fell in love with Stewart and remembered her after the war triggered blindness. Stewart is also beginning to feel something for Tye, but hides it rather than act on it blatantly. The two explode in a heated argument when Tye refuses to go out of town with the rest of the show. A comment made by Tye in the midst of the argument prompts Stewart to ask her mother about something in the past. Emotions come to a head in this early 1950s love-ridden drama! Torch Song was Crawford’s “return-to-MGM” film after a long absence. It was also the second time she appeared in Technicolor. Her first Technicolor appearance was in MGM’s Ice Follies of 1939. Bonus features include: New featurette: Tough Baby: Joan Crawford and Torch Song, Audio bonus: Joan Crawford recording session, Public service announcement trailer: At Home with Joan Crawford, Vintage MGM cartoon: TV of Tomorrow, Vintage MGM short and the Theatrical trailer.

Conclusion

I could give an “A” for effort, but this is more than just an effort. Warner Bros. has done a tremendous job presenting these five Crawford films, not only restoration-wise, but with sleek, see-through packaging reminiscent of their Katharine Hepburn 100th Anniversary Collection. Though there have been many classic stars who have received their own collection, not many receive a “Vol. 2”, which says a lot for Joan Crawford’s lasting impact. This is a highly recommended set and should sit nicely on any collector’s shelf, provided it ever leaves the DVD player.

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