Deep within this tale of screen icon Joan Crawford getting her sight back thanks to the efforts of Dr. Dennis Morgan there lurks a so-so Noir tale or what could have been a far greater one had I been given a pair of scissors and a pen to rewrite the center portion of the script. That’s assuming I was working for Jack Warner as a script doctor in 1952. But then this is a Joan Crawford film and not the saga of cop-killing brothers played by David Brian and Philip Carey. Still it has merit when the two killers are on the screen or when Joan stands her ground against the insanely jealous Brian who’s playing her lover.
From the outset two major plot points are introduced to us. First is the fact that Joan is losing her eyesight and is referred to a clinic overseen by Dr. Morgan. Secondly, she’s involved with Brian and Carey in a planned heist of a gambling den which they successfully pull off. The casino’s host, Douglas Fowley, reports the robbery and the FBI are called in. Joan is an obvious suspect for being in the right place at the wrong time. That and the fact that she has a criminal past to back up the suspicions of law enforcement.
Her lover Brian is a loose cannon. He’s prone to violence at the drop of a hat and his jealousy has no limitations when it comes to Joan and other men. He’ll kill anyone within whistling distance of the aging Hollywood Queen. He isn’t overjoyed when Joan flies off to Morgan’s clinic. She begs him to lay low and “no guns.”
Now here’s where we get into the Crawford sideshow. Plenty of opportunity for her expressive eyes to emote as she looks into Dr. Morgan’s penlight following her operation that restores her sight to full capacity just in the nick of time. Could romance be in the air? Morgan is of course smitten with his star patient and as he’s a divorced father of one, he’s available. Thankfully his little daughter takes to Joan as well. For her part, Joan sees a whole different world. One of kindliness and love as opposed to guns and killings. Perhaps there’s a future for her in the arms of the gentle doctor.
Back to our spurned lover Brian who is convinced Joan is falling for another man. He sets off across country with Carey and his gal, Mari Aldon in tow. They’ll kill a patrol officer which moves them up the public enemy list and Joan’s under the watchful eye of both the FBI and a unsavory private eye (Ian MacDonald) that Brian has hired to report on her movements. The report isn’t all that good where it concerns nice guy Morgan. Brian has murder on his mind…….
Am I being a bit harsh on this one? Yeah probably and Joan can be such an easy target but make no mistake, I did enjoy it. I just couldn’t help thinking that if it was stripped bare of the whole blindness episode this could have become something in the world of Noir. Best scene in the film is without a doubt a great clip that fits the Noir mold. It’s when Brian confronts private eye, MacDonald, whom he has on the payroll in a motel room. Only one of them is to leave alive. The finale earns marks too when Brian meets Joan and Dennis as the FBI closes in. Pretty good stuff in black and white from director Felix Feist. Felix had already dabbled in Noir with 1949’s The Threat and 1950’s The Man Who Cheated Himself. He’d move mainly into television by the end of the decade and stay there until his death in 1965.
It would be another ten years before Joan returned to the Warner Brother’s stable with her triumphant turn opposite her longtime nemesis Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Following this entry she’d have the Noir classic Sudden Fear in theaters before the end of ’52 which earned her a third and final nomination for the Oscar over the course of her lengthy career. Leading man Dennis Morgan was nearing the end of his movie career by this point and like Joan would leave his home studio of Warner’s by the end of the year. He’d appear sporadically on TV and film over the next few years before giving it up in 1980 following an appearance on …..The Love Boat. What else?
Both Carey and Brian were just starting out at this point and had plenty of roles ahead of them in both movies and television. Brian had already appeared alongside Joan in the 1950 release, The Damned Don’t Dry. Next to character player Douglas Fowley, you’ll also spot George Chandler among others who plied their trade in the background of movies.
This Woman is Dangerous has been made available via the Warner Archive Collection in case you haven’t been able to catch it on TCM where it plays on occasion.
Great review! As you say it could have been better with changes to the plot. David Brian is always good.
Every now and then that happens while watching a movie that you just want to rewrite it and snip a couple plot developments. Because of course we know better…:)
Of course we do!
This was one of the later films of Crawford’s that I managed to catch up with. It came after I had read that Crawford hated the picture with a passion and considered it the worst movie she made.
So I was braced for a disaster and while it’s certainly a cheap looking production and far from her best it is fun in a sensationalistic way and she gives it her usual commitment. Some of her hard feelings towards the film were undoubtedly laced with her situation at the studio at the time. Warner wanted her out and was offering her junk to try and force her hand. Seeing the writing on the wall she negotiated her exit upon completion of this. If she actually thought this was the worst thing she made she purposely blocked out some real lemons, even discounting the C level crap she finished up in surely Ice Follies of 1939 is a horrifying disaster several rungs below this.
I too read that comment she hated it. Writing was on the wall for both her and Morgan by this time. It’s not at all bad if you keep the focus on the gangster element of the story with Brian and Carey. I’ve yet to see Ice Follies but do have a copy around here somewhere. Maybe on a cold night this winter sometime to get in the right mood.
Just brace yourself before watching, it is truly a stinker. Joan made it at a low ebb at MGM directly before The Women restored her lustre for a few years. Funnily she only made two films with Jimmy Stewart, this and the almost equally dire The Gorgeous Hussy (Joan in hoop skirts!! Just no!) and both are among both of their worst. They styles weren’t complimentary but it’s the material that fails them in both cases.
It’s a real pity with Hussy because its root story, the Petticoat Affair, is a fascinating one but Ice Follies is just so much drivel.
I have seen Hussy and remember Jimmy miscast but it was an early role and he was still finding his way.