January 06, 2013


Joan Crawford plays a schizophrenic in Possessed (1947), which some have called her best performance. It's bad Freudian psychoanalytic nonsense at its most dramatic, and there's nobody more up to the challenge, or more appropriate for the role, than Joan Crawford, with her wide eyes and her arched, black eyebrows and severe, intense expressiveness. Ever the social climber (she had won an Oscar two years prior for being a self-made woman in Mildred Pierce), Crawford's character in Possessed is that of a nurse whose obsession with an ex-lover (Van Heflin) slowly unravels her. The film has some inventive touches, like a haunting opening sequence where a distraught Crawford wanders the streets of L.A. in the early morning hours, sans make-up, looking like a lost lamb. And there are some wonderfully campy hallucination sequences that further the paranoia that madness is a looming specter rather than a curable disorder. Even though the doctor in the movie tries to counter this age-old suspicion of mental illness, all of the movie's energy comes from our fear and morbid fascination with insanity. And thus, Possessed was a hit. With Raymond Massey, Geraldine Brooks, and Stanley Ridges. Directed by Curtis Bernhardt. ½

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