Flamingo Road (1949), I decided to use the awesome powers of the U-Verse Total DVR For Life© and record it for viewing at a more convenient time. (I also grabbed Possessed  and The Damned Don’t Cry —two Joan vehicles I had not previously seen…which is why I am able to present for your edification a Crawford hat trick.)
His deputy, Fielding Carlisle (Zachary Scott), falls hard for Lane and helps her get a foothold in B.C. by talking a diner owner (Tito Vuolo) into hiring her on as a waitress…something that doesn’t sit particularly well with Sheriff Semple who, while the subtext is so blatant a blind man could see it, has big plans for his “Bud”—he’s going to get Field a state Senate seat and marry him off to Annabelle Weldon (Virginia Huston), daughter of one of the prominent families in Boudon (the title of the film refers to the tony section where all the high muckety-mucks live).
Semple arranges to have Lane lose her job at the diner…and to make sure she’s received the message loud and clear, has her sent to the sneezer for thirty days on a trumped-up charge of solicitation. (Bellamy’s cellmate is played by uncredited TDOY fave Iris Adrian, who explains that she’s living on the bounty of the county because her husband “cut himself on a knife I was holdin’.”) Once she’s out of the hoosegow, Lane gets a job at the roadhouse run by Lute Mae Sanders (Gladys George), and to piss Titus off further, ingratiates herself with the area’s big political boss, Dan Reynolds (David Brian), by wooing and marrying him. There will eventually be a showdown between Lane and Titus, of course—and while I won’t give too much away I will simply remind you of Crawford’s immortal line in Mommie Dearest (1981) when she’s addressing the gentlemen in the Pepsi boardroom.
Adapted by Robert Wilder from his book/play (co-written with his wife Sally), Flamingo Road isn’t necessarily a great Crawford film but I seriously doubt you’ll be able to find one that’s more over-the-top entertaining. Joan squaring off against Sydney Greenstreet is worth the price of admission alone (all I have to do is hear that man laugh and I’m in for the long haul), and to me the film’s true strengths are the superb female characters in Lute Mae (one of my favorite Gladys George showcases) and waitress pal Millie (Gertrude Michael).
Flamingo Road later became a short-lived 1981-82 nighttime soap that featured Morgan Fairchild, Mark Harmon, Kevin McCarthy, Stella Stevens and Howard Duff—who played the Greenstreet role (and while I bow to no one in my enthusiasm for radio’s Sam Spade, he just wasn’t up to the task).
Possessed (1947) – Crawford nabbed her second Academy Award Best Actress nomination for this mellerdrammer that casts her as Louise Howell, a nurse in the employ of bidnessman Dean Graham (Raymond Massey) whose wife Pauline is…well, she is not well. Nurse Louise has been seeing an engineer named David Sutton (Van Heflin), whom she is mahdly in love with…but her amorous intentions are not reciprocated by Davey. When Pauline (played by an uncredited Nana Bryant) commits suicide, hubby Dean asks Louise to stay on as a nanny to his young son Wynn (Gerald Perreau)…and after a year, proposes marriage to Louise even though she’s still pining for David. (Hey, Dean’s lonely…)
This kind of puts Louise in a spot because relations between her and her stepdaughter are a little strained: Carol believed for the longest time that her stepma and her dad were carrying on while her mother was still alive…but even after straightening all that out, now the man Louise still loves is making a play for her stepdaughter. (Oh, this does not bode well…)
Possessed is essentially a blend of Mildred Pierce (the relationship between Joan and Geraldine is similar to the Crawford-Ann Blyth entanglements in that earlier film) and the mental illness craze in movies at that time (Spellbound, The Snake Pit, etc.). Director Curtis Bernhardt (who also directed High Wall, another mental illness flick that same year), in addition to utilizing first-rate German expressionistic techniques, coaxes a nice performance out of Joanie; I can see why she was nominated for an Oscar because she’s marvelous at getting the audience to sympathize with a woman whose cheese has kinda slid off her cracker. (To be fair, Heflin gives her an assist by playing his character as a bit of a wanker.) A box office success, Possessed was entered into the Cannes Film Festival that same year.
The Damned Don’t Cry (1950) – I have author Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart, Lost Highway) to thank for bringing this one to my attention; I knew I had to see it after he reviewed it in his great book on film noir, The Devil Thumbs a Ride and Other Unforgettable Films. Joan’s a frumpy hausfrau named Ethel Whitehead in this one, whose stifling existence in the Texas oil fields is made palatable only by the love for her son (Jimmy Moss). The kid begs his mom for a bicycle and Ethel’s able to get him one on sale…which pisses off her dinkerplatz husband Roy (Richard Egan). He lays down the law: Ethel’s got to take the bike back, and when he yells at his son to return the bike to the house the kid is hit by an automobile while crossing the street and is killed. (Nice going, Roy.)
It’s while working as a model (and as the film subtly suggests, a part-time “escort”) that she meets up with milquetoast C.P.A. Martin Blankford (Kent Smith), whom she’s able to introduce to a small-change nightclub owner (Hugh Sanders) for the purpose of overseeing his books…as well as a few of his friends. Ethel and Martin eventually attract the attention of mobster George Castleman (David Brian), who appoints Marty his bookkeeper and Ethel his moll. (Marty’s not all that keen on working for the mob, but he agrees because he thinks he has a future with Ethel.)
A friend (Selena Royle) of George’s has even made Ethel over into a phony socialite, with the new name of Lorna Hansen Forbes. When an associate of Castleman’s, greasy hood Nick Prenta (Steve Cochran), starts overbounding his steps as the man in charge of West Coast operations, George sends “Lorna” out to be his Mata Hari, gathering up enough evidence that will allow him to terminate Nick with extreme prejudice. Well, Lorna’s already gone through three men in this picture (Roy, Marty and George)—one more won’t make any difference.
It’s anything but subtle; a lot of the plot contrivances are enough to cause severe eyeball-rolling…but if you simply accept it as the camp melodrama it’s supposed to be I think you’ll have fun with it. Sadly, it’s not one of Crawford’s stronger performances (though watching her transform to dowdy housewife to hard-boiled B-girl to continental sophisticate is a hoot) but Brian is better than usual (he doesn’t seem so bland when he plays bad guys) and I liked Smith’s character even though his conversion from mousey accountant to loyal lieutenant convinces no one. Damned was directed by Vincent Sherman, who’d go on to supervise La Joan in Harriet Craig (1950) and Goodbye, My Fancy (1951); Sherman had an affair with Joan during the making of this one…just like he did with Bette Davis (on Old Acquaintance) and would later with Rita Hayworth. (They should’ve billed him as Vincent “Horndog” Sherman.) Of interest to the character actor fans in the crowd: Herb Vigran plays one of the buyers ogling Joanie in her modeling career, Ned Glass a smart-alecky cabbie, and Dabbs Greer is one of the reporters towards the end of the film.