Movie Stars: Crawford, Joan–Control of Screen Image

The perspective of auteurism, usually applied to directors, has also led to a series of studies of actors-stars as auteurs, namely performers who have had unusual control over their careers and screen images.

The scholar Richard Dyer has proposed a classification of movie stars along the following dimensions:

1. Actors who totally controlled their image, such as John Wayne, Fred Astaire or Joan Crawford.

2. Actors who contributed actively to their persona, such as Marlene Dietrich and Robert Mitchum.

3. Actors who were just one disparate voice among others in their image construction, such as Marilyn Monroe.

4. Actors who were totally the product of the studio machine, such as Lana Turner.

The Women (1939)

George Cukor (My Fair Lady, The Philadelphia Story) directs an all-female cast in this catty tale of battling and bonding. Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, Mary Boland and Paulette Goddard play various husband snatchers, snitches and lovelorn ladies.

Mildred Pierce (1945)

From a novel by James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity), Mildred Pierce is a classy murder mystery, a stylish film noir told from a womans point of view. Joan Crawfords performance ended a two-year career slump, earning her a Best Actress Academy Award. The film was nominated for five other Oscars including Best Picture.

Humoresque (1946)

In this acclaimed and profound exploration of desire, Crawford plays socialite Helen Wright, a character torn between selfless love and selfish impulses. John Garfield (The Postman Always Rings Twice) matches her as the driven genius. Directed with panache by Jean Negulesco, and featuring an amazing score by Franz Waxman, Humoresque was a box-office smash, a worthy follow-up for Miss Crawford after winning her Oscar for Mildred Pierce. Humoresque has been fully restored from the original camera negative for this release.

Possessed (1947)

Joan Crawford co-stars with Van Heflin and Raymond Massey, and reteams with producer Jerry Wald from her Academy Award-winning performance in Mildred Pierce. She claimed a 1947 Best Actress Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the tempestuous, mentally unstable Louise. This film convinced even the skeptics that Crawford was a great actress.

The Damned Dont Cry (1950)

This film is the first of three collaborations between Joan Crawford and director Vincent Sherman. Crawford brings hard-boiled glamour and simmering passion to the role of Ethel Whitehead, a woman who moves from the wrong side of the tracks to a mobsters mansion and on to high society, one man at a time. A hidden gem, this marks the first home video release of this unforgettable motion picture.