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Possessed and Flamingo Road


sewhite2000
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Tuned into some SOTM programming for only the second time Monday night, checking out all of POSSESSED and the first 25 minutes of FLAMINGO ROAD before I had to call it quits for the night. These were two films I hadn't seen previously. Well, actually I had watched the first 15 or 20 minutes of POSSESSION before. I turned it off because it was so bleak and turgid with nearly catatonic Joan walking around in a stupor, and then even when the flashback started, we immediately got a scene where she's so pathetic in attempting to cling to Van Heflin, it's no wonder he dumped her. This is not for me, I said at that time. But last night, I stuck in for the whole movie, and found much of it enjoyable, though crazily all over the place in tone and plot ideas and elements.

 

This is primarily a story about mental illness, although it's no SNAKE PIT. The diagnosis and treatment efforts, set in present day, definitely take a back seat to the lengthy flashbacks that show Joan Crawford's character becoming increasingly unhinged. It was an opportunity for an acting tour de force on her part, I suppose, and it garnered her her second Oscar nomination, though somehow she was beaten by Loretta Young in a light comedic role in THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER. I think the fact that she had just won two years before probably worked against her. Robert Osborne noted how unkempt she allowed herself to be presented and how frayed and out of her control her character was, something that Crawford never really did again. There are still scenes, however, where Crawford's character is at her most self-composed, that you can get a glimpse of the future of her super-insulated, super-in-command roles.

 

Van Heflin's character I didn't really get. This film may get mathmemticians excited, as they have consistently been portrayed as nerdlingers in the movies for a hundred years plus. But in this film, Heflin is Hugh Hefner as a mathmetician. I understand his recoiling from Crawford for being so desperately, pathetically clingy early in the film, but I don't know that we're ever given any insight as to why he seems to go out of his way to keep shoving himself into her life while still depriving her of any warmth or affection, going into business with her employer and future husband Rayomond Massey, then getting romantically entwined with Mssey's daughter, throwing it in Crawford's face that it certainly doesn't hamper his attraction to her that she's rich.

 

I sat up in my chair at one fairly shocking line when Geraldine Brooks tells Van Heflin at Crawford and Massey's wedding when he doesn't remember her that she's the girl who proposed to him when she was 11, and he instantly responds that this still doesn't register with him especially - "I've been proposed to by numerous 11-year-old girls". Good for an innocuous, maybe slightly bawdy laugh in 1947, so horrifying it would probably never be included in a mainstream movie in 2015.

 

Brooks I had never seen before, and her romantic involvement with an older man who has previously been Crawford's lover, not to mention a dramatic (hallucinated, as it turns out) confrontation scene between the two females on a staircase seems as if everyone working on the film wanted to replicate MILDRED PIERCE as much as possible. There was other swiping in the film. The cloth-vs.-sandpaper feeling from hand to hand is exactly the same as the test George Brent gave Bette Davis in DARK VICTORY. I didn't find her quite as tantalizingly, illegally hot as Ann Blyth, but she was quite an attractive actress.

 

There was a moment where it appeared the movie was REALLY going to get interesting after Crawford and Brooks have it out on the staircase and Crawford reveals something about herself, but then we realize just as quickly that the whole scene took place in Crawford's head. However, Crawford still gets to instigate some shocking violence later in the film. Let's just say for all his supposed genius, Heflin's character doesn't end up being anywhere close to being correct in his mathematical analysis of how reasonably safe he is in this later scene.

 

An imdb poster noted that Massey seemed to have some pathological attraction to really mentally and emotionally screwed-up women. That certainly seems to be true based on the evidence given in the film, but it doesn't dwell on what makes him tick. The focus remains mostly on Crawford and Heflin. I'm unsure where things were going to go after the ending. The Production Code, I'm sure, loomed large, and we had to be reminded in the final scene that Crawford would be facing some kind of consequences for her actions.

 

We finally learn almost at the end the reason for the film's title, as the doctor tells Massey mental illness is essentially the same as possession. In 2015, I find this a shockingly backward and unhelpful parallel to be drawn by a mental health care professional, but 1947 audiences probably accepted the two things were essentially the same without thinking twice about it.

 

Can't say too much about FLAMINGO ROAD. I abandoned it while Joan was still a diner waitress, though I know from reading a few plot summaries that a rise in society was coming. This looked from my small sample size to be a weaker film than POSSESSED. Cool to see Zachary Scott paired romantically with Crawford again, this time in what appears was gong to be a much more sympathetic role. I'm completely ignorant of his career other than this film and MILDRED PIERCE. Things seemed to be setting up for a years-long confrontation with Syndey Greenstreet's sheriff for no other reason than the fact she used to be a carnival dancer has blown every circuit of logic in his brain and led to irrational hatred and prejudice on his part. I mean, come on, carnival dancer - it wasn't a brothel, Sydney! Of course, you couldn't show a brothel in 1947, so maybe it was kind of like code.

 

 

 

 

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Can't say too much about FLAMINGO ROAD. I abandoned it while Joan was still a diner waitress, though I know from reading a few plot summaries that a rise in society was coming. This looked from my small sample size to be a weaker film than POSSESSED. Cool to see Zachary Scott paired romantically with Crawford again, this time in what appears was gong to be a much more sympathetic role. I'm completely ignorant of his career other than this film and MILDRED PIERCE. Things seemed to be setting up for a years-long confrontation with Syndey Greenstreet's sheriff for no other reason than the fact she used to be a carnival dancer has blown every circuit of logic in his brain and led to irrational hatred and prejudice on his part. I mean, come on, carnival dancer - it wasn't a brothel, Sydney! Of course, you couldn't show a brothel in 1947, so maybe it was kind of like code.

 

If you'd hung on with the movie a little while longer, you'd know the sheriff was a coldly calculating man (for all the sweltering they did). If you don't mind my revealing a plot point I'll let you know the reason for his enmity.

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sewhite2000--Re Flamingo Road: You left just before things got interesting.  There is a reason Sydney Greenstreet has it out for Joan the entire movie--especially after she's fired.

 

You missed the best two lines:

 

The last sentence of a newspaper editorial: "And for the voters, all we have is pity."

 

Joan, describing carnival trash disposal: "You wouldn't believe how much trouble it is to get rid of a  dead elephant."

 

Good analysis of Possessed. :)

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I think Possessed is Joan's very best performance. One of the rare times she lets herself be deglamorized and is very effective in her role (even if the psychobabble is laughable and outdated by contemporary standards)  I noticed Joan wore some ugly looking shoes this time around and even in her better dressed scenes her clothes werent the greatest.

 

Flamingo Road is a fun ride, you should have stuck it out. Not great, but typical fare from her WB period and very entertaining (even if Joan is a bit too old to be a carny dancer....)

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I think Possessed is Joan's very best performance. One of the rare times she lets herself be deglamorized and is very effective in her role (even if the psychobabble is laughable and outdated by contemporary standards)  I noticed Joan wore some ugly looking shoes this time around and even in her better dressed scenes her clothes werent the greatest.

 

Flamingo Road is a fun ride, you should have stuck it out. Not great, but typical fare from her WB period and very entertaining (even if Joan is a bit too old to be a carny dancer....)

In both MILDRED PIERCE and FLAMINGO ROAD, Zachary Scott is portrayed as a very handsome man who is irresistible to women. I find his bug-eyed appearance to be bordering on ugly.

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In both MILDRED PIERCE and FLAMINGO ROAD, Zachary Scott is portrayed as a very handsome man who is irresistible to women. I find his bug-eyed appearance to be bordering on ugly.

 

 

I think he looks better with a moustache than w/out.........

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I think Possessed is Joan's very best performance. One of the rare times she lets herself be deglamorized and is very effective in her role (even if the psychobabble is laughable and outdated by contemporary standards) 

 

I finally watched this film all the way through just last night, and I thought all the stuff about paranoid schizophrenia symptoms was really good.

 

I've heard about these kinds of symptoms on the news a lot, especially when crazy guys shoot a bunch of people and his family says, "He stopped taking his medications."

 

I think Joan's puzzled look on her face, quite often in this film, was a good example of a sick person trying to figure out what the heck was going on. It seems to her that what she was seeing (especially the girl falling down the stairs) was real and was outside her head, but it was not real and it was only inside her head, something like dreaming while awake. I kept trying to figure out which of what I was seeing was real and what wasn't, and the shooting at the end of the film I hoped was just in her imigination.

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I finally watched this film all the way through just last night, and I thought all the stuff about paranoid schizophrenia symptoms was really good.

 

I've heard about these kinds of symptoms on the news a lot, especially when crazy guys shoot a bunch of people and his family says, "He stopped taking his medications."

 

I think Joan's puzzled look on her face, quite often in this film, was a good example of a sick person trying to figure out what the heck is going on. It seems to them that what they are seeing is real and is outside their head, but it is not real and it is only in their head, something like dreaming while awake. I kept trying to figure out what was seeing was real and what wasn't, and the shooting at the end of the film I hoped was just in her imigination.

It DOES get a little confusing, especially if you see the film in bits and pieces.

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Has anyone here ever awakened from a dream or nightmare and slowly looked around your dark bedroom and suddenly saw the shadow of a big man on your wall or over near the door. You jump and screech maybe, and jump out of bed, only to find out it is just your dark overcoat and hat that you hung in a different place when you came in the night before. There is no "big man in your bedroom", only your out-of-place coat and hat.

 

I hate when that happens! :)

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Has anyone here ever awakened from a dream or nightmare and slowly looked around your dark bedroom and suddenly saw the shadow of a big man on your wall or over near the door. You jump and screech maybe, and jump out of bed, only to find out it is just your dark overcoat and hat that you hung in a different place when you came in the night before. There is no "big man in your bedroom", only your out-of-place coat and hat.

 

I hate when that happens! :)

 

I don't have a hat.

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I don't have a hat.

 

Thanks. :)

 

I've been wearing different kinds of hats since I was a teenager. Not in school, of course, but on the weekend. I was influenced by so many old movies, I developed the habit of wearing different kinds of hats. And when a fedora is on top of a coat hook on a door,, at the top of an overcoat, in very dim light, it does look like a whole person for a few seconds, when I am groggy when I wake up in the middle of the night.

 

:)

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No, I don't mind you revealing Greenstreet's secret. I'm sure I would still watch it. Glad to hear it's actually a more interesting film than the impression I got from the first 25 minutes. I'll give it another shot the next time it rolls around.

 

Sorry to delay the response for so long.  Semple's enmity for Lane arises from her friendship with Fielding Carlisle.  Semple has plans for him, marriage with the proper woman, election to the legislature, then Governor, with Semple controlling and profiting from him.  Greenstreet does a fine job portraying the sweaty, decrepit, corrupt local political boss who doesn't stop at framing people to gain his ends.  At first his hatred for her is more or less impersonal, professional, but as she shows she is not so easily gotten rid of, and is intent on contesting him, it deepens and gets more personal.  Flamingo Road isn't a great movie, but it has a lot of very good stuff in it.  I do like Joan Crawford's performance.  It's  a good role for her, a person who, due to circumstances, made her living in slimy company, yet who wasn't so herself, wanting only to earn her keep, and do a good job; a person well-disposed to others, but, provoked (and she definitely did get provocation here), is determinedly resentful.  And Zachary Scott also is good at portraying the degeneration of a weak man who knows all-too-well the mistake he made.  This is about the only movie I can stand him in.

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Thanks. :)

 

I've been wearing different kinds of hats since I was a teenager. Not in school, of course, but on the weekend. I was influenced by so many old movies, I developed the habit of wearing different kinds of hats. And when a fedora is on top of a coat hook on a door,, at the top of an overcoat, in very dim light, it does look like a whole person for a few seconds, when I am groggy when I wake up in the middle of the night.

 

:)

Idea:  don't keep your hat near your overcoat.

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Idea:  don't keep your hat near your overcoat.

 

I usually had strict rules about where I kept things in my bedroom at night, because of this problem. But, if I happened to be out late at a party, and had too much to drink, and came home tired, I would sometimes just put or throw my coat and hat where ever was easiest. It was dark in the room, but a little street light came in through the window curtains. What was worse was when a car passed by and turned a corner onto the side street, causing the shadow to move across the wall in my bedroom.

 

:)

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In both MILDRED PIERCE and FLAMINGO ROAD, Zachary Scott is portrayed as a very handsome man who is irresistible to women. I find his bug-eyed appearance to be bordering on ugly.

Zachary Scott is an interesting actor to me.   He most certainly had his best roles opposite Joan Crawford; I think they are wonderful together.   He is such slime in Mildred Pierce but he is equally adept at playing a weak sympathetic man in Flamingo Road.   Ultimately he ends up at the same place in each one, dead.    I've seen him in several other films but these are truly his stand outs.   His career was somewhat limited in the the 1950's while he was was reportedly battling depression.    Sadly, he died quite young ( 51 years old ) of a brain tumor ).     

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Flamingo Road is one of my favorite Joan Crawford performances.   She is more than up to the task of taking on Sydney Greenstreet.     I actually think she looks quite lovely in this film.  Yes she may be a bit old to be in a traveling carnival but yet its not hard to believe she had a tough life and wound up with some hard breaks forcing her to take whatever work she could get.   She just wanted to work and take care of herself.  Not much to ask unless you end up in the wrong town, in love with the wrong man.     

 

 

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I usually had strict rules about where I kept things in my bedroom at night, because of this problem. But, if I happened to be out late at a party, and had too much to drink, and came home tired, I would sometimes just put or throw my coat and hat where ever was easiest. It was dark in the room, but a little street light came in through the window curtains. What was worse was when a car passed by and turned a corner onto the side street, causing the shadow to move across the wall in my bedroom.

 

:)

 

Your life is sounding like a film noir.

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