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


"Because I Love Him:" Crawford

General Electric Theater was hosted by future president Ronald Reagan. Joan Crawford appeared in three episodes of the dramatic series, which ran for nine seasons:

Joan's first appearance on GET was in 1954 in a story entitled "The Road to Edinburgh." In this she plays Mary, a determined newspaper columnist driving from London to Edinburgh who meets a stranger named Wickers (John Sutton of The Invisible Man Returns) when he comes out of nowhere to fix her flat tire. She gives him a lift, but gets understandably freaked out when he tells her he just got out of prison after eighteen years after murdering his wife's elderly aunt. Fearing for her life, Mary does her best to get help from a hitch-hiking U.S. soldier (Chuck Connors) and the police. Although suspenseful, the wind-up in this episode is especially stupid, and considering the things that Wickers told her about himself, her self-contempt over her unfounded suspicions are ridiculous. **.

Strange Witness: Tom Tryon, Crawford
"Strange Witness" is listed on as being an episode of GET as well as of The Joseph Cotton Show: On Trial; possibly a rerun. In the best of her GET appearances, Joan plays Ruth. who takes a lover, David (Tom Tryon), and is trapped in a loveless marriage with Chris (John McIntire.) Chris comes home earlier than expected and tells David, "You should have fixed your face when Ruth did," referring to the lipstick on David's cheek. With the affair out in the open, David cold-bloodedly shoots Chris. As they're deciding what to do with the body, Chris' blind friend, John (Sidney Blackmer) comes a' callin'. The couple think they have it made, but there's a shocking surprise waiting for them. Tryon [The Unholy Wife] is fine as the handsome sociopath; McIntire and Blackmer are excellent; and Joan, despite some "actressy" moments, offers a very good performance. The script was by Gavin Lambert. ***.

Joan's final GET appearance was in 1959. "And One Was Loyal" takes place in the tropics where George Manson (Tom Helmore of Shadow on the Wall) asks if he can briefly enjoy the hospitality of Roger (Robert Douglas) and Ann (Crawford) Howard. Roger is a mean drunk whose tormenting actions resulted in Ann becoming mute. Her ability to speak comes back when Roger is murdered, and George begins to wonder about Ann's actions. Crawford looks radiantly beautiful and makes good use of her very expressive face in this story. **1/2.

In 1953 Joan also appeared in an episode of The Revlon Mirror Theater, in a story entitled "Because I Love Him." In this very weird and contrived bit of fiction, a doctor (William Ching) tells Margaret Hughes (Crawford) that her husband, David (I believe this was Philip Dorn), has only a year to live. She is importuned to keep it a secret, and do everything she can to help him achieve his potential in that year. Despite her devotion, however, David falls in love with a colleague, Ann (Virginia Gray). Now what? While the situation is intriguing, this has a final twist that makes virtually no sense at all. Crawford handles the dubious plot turns even better than expected, and is quite good. **1/2.


angelman66 said...

I've never seen these but need to. Crawford struggled mightily in the mid to late 1950s, constantly reinventing herself. Whenever the movie offers were scarce, she had no shame about appearing on TV. She knew she had to keep working to stay relevant.

Tom Tryon wrote a delicious roman a clef novel called All That Glitters in which he recounts the experience of working with a legendary lady of a certain age on a live TV show. The actress's name in the novel was Claire Regrette, but know I know for sure who Tryon was writing about!

William said...

Yes, "Claire Regrette" was Tryon's version of Crawford. Not a very flattering picture, if I recall. Talk about reinventing yourself -- Tryon went from a nobody in Hollywood to a bestselling author, becoming even more successful, albeit in a different profession.