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

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Joan with Milner and Corbett on Route 66

Primarily a film star, Crawford, as mentioned, had numerous appearances on television in addition to GE Theater and Zane Grey Theater.

In 1963 Joan appeared in the episode "Same Picture, Different Frame" on Route 66. In this young Linc Case (Glenn Corbett, who had taken over from George Maharis) inexplicably gets involved with the "mid-forties"Morgan Harper (Joan was actually 57 at the time), whose husband, Eric (Patrick O'Neal), has escaped from an institution. Case comes to her rescue when Eric goes on a murder spree. Crawford gives a good performance, but the script, meant to be moving, is only mediocre, and Case's interest in Morgan is never explained. But then, I've always thought, perhaps wrongly, that Route 66 was a vastly over-rated TV series. In any case, this is not one of its better episodes. Martin Milner, the show's other star, doesn't interact much with Crawford. **.

Joan appeared on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in 1967 on "The Five Daughters Affair," one of the least memorable UNCLE episodes. Even though Crawford would have made an exciting THRUSH villainess, she is only cast in a minor role killed off in the first few minutes of the show,  As the two part Uncle episodes were often turned into feature films in Europe, it was hoped that Joan's name would have marquee value. **.

Joan appeared in "Lucy and the Lost Star" on The Lucy Show in 1968. Lucy and Viv (Vivian Vance) have car trouble near Joan's house. She makes them lemonade, and the two wacky ladies come to the conclusion that Joan is broke. They all put on a show, and in a sketch Crawford comes to work in a speakeasy with Lucy and Viv as molls. Joan is fine, and the show is cute. Joan also appeared in what I believe may have been a pilot for a variety series starring comic actor Tim Conway. This was very silly and negligible but Joan is funny and maintains her dignity. **1/2.

In 1969 Joan appeared in the Night Gallery telefilm, which later became an hour-long series hosted by Rod Serling. Joan was excellent as an imperious blind woman in her segment "Eyes," which was directed by a very young Steven Spielberg, ***.

Joan's last TV appearance -- her final credit, in fact -- was on The Sixth Sense, a spooky anthology series. Star Gary Collins played a psychic investigator. In the first episode, "Dear Joan, We're Going to Scare You to Death,"directed by John Newland, Crawford was the guest-star. In the version of this that I saw on youtube, Collins only provides narration. Joan Fairchild (Crawford) encounters a group of young people who are experimenting with their paranormal abilities, and some decide to see if they can literally frighten the woman to death. Crawford is good, but this seems padded, and has characters wandering around to little effect. Dull, slow-paced, and with a terrible musical score. .*1/2.

Joan substituted for her daughter, Christina, on a couple of episodes of the soap opera, The Secret Storm. Joan also did two TV movies, Woman on the Run (1959) and The Foxes (1961) but I haven't been able to find these.


angelman66 said...

The Night Gallery pilot is actually one of my favorite later Crawford performances. Spielberg instinctively knew how to use that famous face and those eyes to create emotion and terror for the audience. It was an auspicious debut for him, and though Crawford at first was taken aback at being directed by someone young enough to be her son, she was delighted by their working relationship and watched his career with interest all the way through Jaws...

William said...

That's absolutely true -- she was very impressed by Spielberg, sensing that he had drive and talent and was in it for the long haul. And she obviously was right on that score! I agree that the "Night Gallery" performance of Joan's was quite impressive.