Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


A WOMAN'S FACE (1941). Director: George Cukor.

"What the well-dressed gargoyle will wear."

Anna Holm (Joan Crawford) is a bitter, disfigured woman who heads a gang of petty criminals and blackmailers. But in her future are fateful encounters with an oily sociopath, Torsten Barring (Conrad Veidt), whom she loves, and a blackmailing victim's husband, Gustav (Melvyn Douglas)  -- who just happens to be a plastic surgeon. Will Anna find love, happiness, and a pretty face -- or will she become inveigled in Barring's plot to kill off his lovable nephew, Lars, for dollars? The plot may sound pretty silly but A Woman's Face is a winner all the way, with a strong performance from Crawford [who, ironically, looks strikingly beautiful in some shots], and a superb supporting cast, including Douglas and Veidt, as well as Connie Gilchrist and Donald Meek as members of Anna's gang; Marjorie Main as a feisty housekeeper; Henry Daniell and George Zucco as officers of the court; and little Richard Nichols as the little boy, Lars. And we mustn't forget Osa Massen as Gustav's wife, who was given the most memorable role of her career in this picture. Dickering with Anna over the price of some indiscreet love letters, she makes the mistake of exposing the latter's scars and insecurity and gets slapped around for her trouble in the picture's liveliest scene [see video]. However, there are other highlights, such as a suspenseful sequence in a cable car and the sleigh ride climax. While Cukor may never have been a Hitchcock, he handles these sequences quite well. Despite the grimness of the subject matter, Donald Ogden Stewart's screenplay doesn't eschew humor any more than it does pathos.

Verdict: Absorbing and first-class all the way. ***1/2.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Its really a very old movie about which I never heard or read earlier. From the detail that you have shared about this movie it is appearing to be a great movie of that time. I will try to arrange this film so that I can have the chance to enjoy it.
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