A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Woman's Face (George Cukor, 1941)

Joan Crawford in A Woman's Face
Anna Holm: Joan Crawford
Dr. Gustaf Segert: Melvyn Douglas
Torsten Barring: Conrad Veidt
Vera Segert: Osa Massen
Bernard Dalvik: Reginald Owen
Consul Magnus Barring: Albert Bassermann
Emma Kristiansdotter: Marjorie Main
Herman Rundvik: Donald Meek
Christina Dalvik: Connie Gilchrist
Lars-Erik: Richard Nichols
Judge: Henry Kolker
Defense Attorney: George Zucco
Public Prosecutor: Henry Daniell

Director: George Cukor
Screenplay: Donald Ogden Stewart, Elliot Paul
Based on a play by Francis de Croisset
Cinematography: Robert H. Planck
Art direction: Cedric Gibbons
Film editing: Frank Sullivan
Music: Bronislau Kaper

I don't know why the screenplay for A Woman's Face is credited as an adaptation of the play Il Était une Fois by Francis de Crosset with no mention of the 1938 Swedish film En Kvinnas Ansikte, directed by Gustaf Molander and starring Ingrid Bergman. The 1941 A Woman's Face is clearly a remake of that film, which was released in the United States in 1939. Both films are set in Sweden, when as far as I can tell, de Croisset set his play in France, and both Bergman and Joan Crawford play characters named Anna Holm. Moreover, Crawford had seen Bergman's film and pressured MGM to buy the rights to it for her. As well she should have: Although Louis B. Mayer reportedly objected to Crawford's determination to play a disfigured woman, thinking it would hurt her at the box office just as she was entering her mid-30s, a dangerous time for a female movie star, the film gave Crawford a chance to show her stuff -- to play vulnerable as well as tough. She starts off tough, as a member of a gang of blackmailers, then softens when Torsten Barring begins to woo her, apparently indifferent to her scarred face. But since he's played by Conrad Veidt, we know he's up to no good. Meanwhile, another man, the cosmetic surgeon Dr. Segert, enters Anna's life -- ironically, since his wife is the target of one of the gang's blackmail schemes. Several implausible plots begin to intersect and everything winds up in court with Anna accused of murder. Flashbacks abound as everything gets sorted out. Meanwhile, Crawford acts up a storm in a role that's a bridge between her younger, scrappy MGM persona and the put-upon middle-aged women of her later career at Warner Bros.

No comments: