Cobweb, The (1955): Inside Minnelli’s Asylum Melodrama

After spending most of 1954 on Brigadoon and The Green Mansions, which never materialized, Vincente Minnelli was ready to focus on something more substantial, a film called The Cobweb. Like The Bad and the Beautiful, The Cobweb set out to reveal the inside workings of a sheltered, enclosed society, and, like the former, it centers on people whose professional careers compensate for emotional problems, specifically lonely, frustrated domestic lives.


If you want to know more about Minnelli’s career and life, please read my book:

Eager to work with him again, producer John Houseman had no trouble persuading Minnelli to rejoin forces. Since their last collaboration, The Bad and The Beautiful, Minnelli had directed two musicals for Freed, and the Lucille Ball farce, Long, Long Trail.

The film was based on the novel by William Gibson (using pseudonym William Mass), who got first-hand knowledge of the private mental hospital during his wife’s work as staff member of the Menninger Clinic. The adaptation was done by John Paxton, whose scripts for Crossfire and The Wild One showed sensitivity to explosive, socially relevant melodramas.

Minnelli felt that it was imperative to establish a definite city name as the films locale, rather than leaving the locale nondescript, and MGM opted for Riverwood, Nebraska. The casting director got a kick, when in the name of authenticity, Minnelli had asked him for “Patients Needed Types.”  He provided a long list that included a dignified thin old man; a skinny young girl who’s starving herself to death and is fed intravenously; a baby-faced girl, the bizarre mind type; a very fat, cheerful young man; a fat and morose man who’s always dressed in robe and accompanied by a nurse; a Don Juan type; and a blonde football the Princeton physical type.

Gibson supported all the changes recommended by Minnelli and the screenwriters. All along Minnelli held that the films impact would depend on the intense directness with which the audience could identify with the characters. In the book, the doctor’s wife suffers from frigidity, aggravated by menopause. A decision was therefore made to subject the chief character of the doctor to the tensions of a more normal marriage.

The Cobweb became a personal film for Minnelli in more senses than one. The psychiatric setting held a perverse fascination for Minnelli, after years of nursing Judy Garland through various institutions, including Menninger. Judy had also spent time at that clinic.

The bizarre plot, and some of the characters, touched a chord, playing to his idiosyncrasies. The films central conflict was close to Minnelli’s heart. The hostility between the clinic’s patients and the warring staff erupts over a seemingly trivial aesthetic matter, the choice of new drapes for the lounge. But for an aesthete like Minnelli, the issue was not trivial at all; it was essential. For him, decor reflected not only personal aesthetics but also deeper values and moral issues.

The production had to be delayed due to the detailed adaptation and casting problems entailed. Paxton was forced to eliminate the homosexuality of one inmate, and had to turn the central romance between an art therapist and her married boss into a guilt-ridden affair that ends with the husband returning home to his wife.

To achieve greater accuracy, Minnelli brought Gibson out to rework the dialogue, and to supervise the construction of the sets. In the end, despite great many efforts, Minnelli was dissatisfied with the shooting scriptand the final cut.

Another problem was caused by the casting, which resulted in the first big rift between Minnelli and producer Houseman. Initially, the film was to star Robert Taylor, as the chief doctor, Lana Turner, as his neglected wife, and Grace Kelly, as the woman between them. By late fall, however, when the script was finally ready, Taylor and Turner were working on other pictures.

Relieved due to his lack of respect for Robert Taylor, Minnelli was glad to settle on Richard Widmark, though he had reservations whether Widmark could segue from his villainous roles in film noir, such as his stunning debut in Kiss Before Death, into more mainstream melodrama. Minnelli hoped that pairing Widmark with Gloria Grahame, whom he befriended during the making of The Bad and the Beautiful, would bring a softer side. He was wrong, and Widmark was never convincing.

Houseman hoped to get James Dean right after East of Eden for the key role of Stevie, the troubled teenager. But Dean balked at the low fee, and John Kerr was signed, based on his appearance in the successful Broadway production of Tea and Sympathy. Minnelli would later cast Kerr in his movie version of that play. Then, a month before shooting began, Grace Kelly, exhausted form making four consecutive films, changed her mind, and Minnelli had to choose a quick replacement for her, Lauren Bacall, an actress with a strong physical presence but decidedly limited talent.

Minnelli cast his friend Oscar Levant, notorious for his real (and imagined) neuroses, as the mother-fixated Mr. Capp, who in the book was homosexual. Minnelli wished to keep the gay character intact, but it was a lost battle. A similar situation had prevailed several years back in Edward Dmytryks Crossfire, in which the victim was changed from the books homosexual soldier to a Jewish one.

It would take another decade for Hollywood to depict homosexuals on screen, in movies like Suddenly, Last Summer, and Reflections in a Golden Eye. However, Minnelli, like Cukor and other gay director, would never have the opportunity to do it himself.

Houseman persuaded Lillian Gish to make her first screen appearance in years, as the asylum’s reactionary administrator, Miss Inch. Minnelli clashed with Houseman again, when he proposed Chrales Boyer as Richard Widmark’s antagonist, a psychiatrist in decline due to excessive drinking and womanizing. Houseman thought that Boyers Gallic charm, and heavy accent to match, would add an unnecessary note to the already overburdened script, but he grudgingly conceded when Minnelli simply refused to consider anyone else.

As soon as casting was over, both Minnelli and Houseman realized that their main challenge in elevating the films stature was how to overcome the potential lackluster box-office appeal of their chosen ensemble, which didnt include a single name actor or certified star. Times were changing, and due to severe competition from TV, stars were becoming much more important in positioning films in the marketplace. Hitchcock, a contemporary of Minnelli, absorbed the new reality right away and all of his 1950s movies were cast with major stars of the caliber of Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Kim Novak.

Minnelli began a seven-week shoot in early December 1954. For this, his first, exciting dramatic feature in CinemaScope, he relied on the vet cameraman George Folsey, whose work on Meet Me in St. Louis he continued to admire. Folseys bravura style, with his noted edgy tracking shots, was so striking that Minnelli would use it again for the boar hunt sequence in his 1960 melodrama, Home From the Hills.

Throughout, Minnelli was apprehensive about a sprawling saga that had too many incidents and subplots. Among other things, it resulted in a film burdened with the excessive running time of two and a half hours. This time around, Minnelli’s penchant for long takes and atmospheric detail was not appreciated, and he found himself in serious conflict with his producer. Anticipating studio pressures, Houseman demanded severe cuts. When Minnelli refused to cooperate, Houseman asked editor Harold F. Kress to do the job. Dismayed by Housemans violation of trust, upon seeing the final cut, Minnelli accused his producer of willful interference that undermined his authority.

As expected, Schary sided with Houseman’s cut. MGM previewed The Cobweb at the Encino Theatre on April 19, 1955 to mixed results. Though most of the comments were positive, occasionally, there were nasty remarks like, “Why dont you buy Venetian blinds and have the conflict done with it.” Times were changing, and viewers in 1956 were not necessarily more sophisticated but certainly more demanding for the money they were spending at the movies, since TV provided good yet free-of-charge entertainment.

In the end, Minnelli couldn’t bring to The Cobweb the same vigor or pizzazz that had sparked The Bad and the Beautiful four years earlier.

Even so, despite lack of a unified vision and forceful style, The Cobweb was a highly personal film. Minnelli interweaved all the themes of his previous works, specifically the artist as an outsider, careers as compensation for personal disappointment, the struggle between maintaining individualism (at the price of loneliness) and the need to conform and integrate into a larger community. The film’s underlining motif was social and emotional isolation, which marked each of the teams members.

Ultimately, the picture’s domestic scenes are more harrowing than the climax at the clinic. The Cobweb was the first Minnelli melodrama to reflect his ever-growing cynicism about family life in the otherwise ideologically advertised affluent 1950s.

Indeed. all of his future domestic melodramas, Tea and Sympathy, Some Came Running, and Home from the Hill, would center on presumably respectable and happy couples who actually loathe each other and are miserably unfulfilled. It was an issue he could easily relate to based on his troubled marriage to Judy Garland, which was blissful only in the first two of six years.

Happy Ending: Imposed by Production Code

Minnelli’s bleak take on the story was so persuasive that the Production Code imposed a reconciliation and happy ending. A scrawled legend in yellow announces: “The trouble was over” across Karen’s chintz drapes, now an improvised bed for the prodigal inmate. But the film builds up for a catharsis that never occurs. The mixture of psychosexual angst and textile whimsies was right up Minnellis alley, as a filmmaker and as a person, who had worked as a decorator and experienced firsthand mental illness at his home with Judy.

The Cobweb benefited from a tremendous publicity campaign. Metros advertising came up with: “After blasting the nation with its Blackboard Jungle bombshell, MGM follows up with a smashing, all-star production, The Cobweb, a forbidden subject that will be the talk of America. For the first time, the screen dares to reveal the secrets of the psychiatrist’s couch in that strange mansion on the hill they called “The Castle.”

Minnelli identified with the storys young patient, Stevie, and his quip: You can’t tell the patients from the doctors.” A decade later, when Kirk Douglas told Minnellii about his plan to adapt One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest to the screen and play the lead role (eventually played by Jack Nicholson in an Oscar-winning turn), Minnelli was quick to point out that The Cobweb was the first film to show the fine line between sanity and madness, and that at times there really are no differences between the inmates and therapists, since both characters are troubled.

Minnelli was disappointed that MGM had scheduled a premiere at Loews’ rather than the more prestigious Radio City Music Hall. Reading the reviews made matters worse, as the major film critics were divided in their response.

Variety chided MGM for making a movie that became too tasteful and too restrained considering its harrowing subject matter.  Other reviewers dismissed the movie as being trivial.

The public reaction was not much more encouraging.  The Cobweb’s domestic rentals of $1.5 million didn’t recoup the film’s large budget, and, to Minnelli’s dismay, MGM declared it a commercial failure.

In the end, after spending over a year in re-production, shooting, and editing, neither the artistic nor the commercial results had justified the arduous production process and tumultuous arguments behind-the-scenes.

xosotin chelseathông tin chuyển nhượngcâu lạc bộ bóng đá arsenalbóng đá atalantabundesligacầu thủ haalandUEFAevertonxosokeonhacaiketquabongdalichthidau7m.newskqbdtysokeobongdabongdalufutebol ao vivofutemaxmulticanaisonbethttps://bsport.fithttps://onbet88.ooohttps://i9bet.bizhttps://hi88.ooohttps://okvip.athttps://f8bet.athttps://fb88.cashhttps://vn88.cashhttps://shbet.atbóng đá world cupbóng đá inter milantin juventusbenzemala ligaclb leicester cityMUman citymessi lionelsalahnapolineymarpsgronaldoserie atottenhamvalenciaAS ROMALeverkusenac milanmbappenapolinewcastleaston villaliverpoolfa cupreal madridpremier leagueAjaxbao bong da247EPLbarcelonabournemouthaff cupasean footballbên lề sân cỏbáo bóng đá mớibóng đá cúp thế giớitin bóng đá ViệtUEFAbáo bóng đá việt namHuyền thoại bóng đágiải ngoại hạng anhSeagametap chi bong da the gioitin bong da lutrận đấu hôm nayviệt nam bóng đátin nong bong daBóng đá nữthể thao 7m24h bóng đábóng đá hôm naythe thao ngoai hang anhtin nhanh bóng đáphòng thay đồ bóng đábóng đá phủikèo nhà cái onbetbóng đá lu 2thông tin phòng thay đồthe thao vuaapp đánh lô đềdudoanxosoxổ số giải đặc biệthôm nay xổ sốkèo đẹp hôm nayketquaxosokq xskqxsmnsoi cầu ba miềnsoi cau thong kesxkt hôm naythế giới xổ sốxổ số 24hxo.soxoso3mienxo so ba mienxoso dac bietxosodientoanxổ số dự đoánvé số chiều xổxoso ket quaxosokienthietxoso kq hôm nayxoso ktxổ số megaxổ số mới nhất hôm nayxoso truc tiepxoso ViệtSX3MIENxs dự đoánxs mien bac hom nayxs miên namxsmientrungxsmn thu 7con số may mắn hôm nayKQXS 3 miền Bắc Trung Nam Nhanhdự đoán xổ số 3 miềndò vé sốdu doan xo so hom nayket qua xo xoket qua xo so.vntrúng thưởng xo sokq xoso trực tiếpket qua xskqxs 247số miền nams0x0 mienbacxosobamien hôm naysố đẹp hôm naysố đẹp trực tuyếnnuôi số đẹpxo so hom quaxoso ketquaxstruc tiep hom nayxổ số kiến thiết trực tiếpxổ số kq hôm nayso xo kq trực tuyenkết quả xổ số miền bắc trực tiếpxo so miền namxổ số miền nam trực tiếptrực tiếp xổ số hôm nayket wa xsKQ XOSOxoso onlinexo so truc tiep hom nayxsttso mien bac trong ngàyKQXS3Msố so mien bacdu doan xo so onlinedu doan cau loxổ số kenokqxs vnKQXOSOKQXS hôm naytrực tiếp kết quả xổ số ba miềncap lo dep nhat hom naysoi cầu chuẩn hôm nayso ket qua xo soXem kết quả xổ số nhanh nhấtSX3MIENXSMB chủ nhậtKQXSMNkết quả mở giải trực tuyếnGiờ vàng chốt số OnlineĐánh Đề Con Gìdò số miền namdò vé số hôm nayso mo so debach thủ lô đẹp nhất hôm naycầu đề hôm naykết quả xổ số kiến thiết toàn quốccau dep 88xsmb rong bach kimket qua xs 2023dự đoán xổ số hàng ngàyBạch thủ đề miền BắcSoi Cầu MB thần tàisoi cau vip 247soi cầu tốtsoi cầu miễn phísoi cau mb vipxsmb hom nayxs vietlottxsmn hôm naycầu lô đẹpthống kê lô kép xổ số miền Bắcquay thử xsmnxổ số thần tàiQuay thử XSMTxổ số chiều nayxo so mien nam hom nayweb đánh lô đề trực tuyến uy tínKQXS hôm nayxsmb ngày hôm nayXSMT chủ nhậtxổ số Power 6/55KQXS A trúng roycao thủ chốt sốbảng xổ số đặc biệtsoi cầu 247 vipsoi cầu wap 666Soi cầu miễn phí 888 VIPSoi Cau Chuan MBđộc thủ desố miền bắcthần tài cho sốKết quả xổ số thần tàiXem trực tiếp xổ sốXIN SỐ THẦN TÀI THỔ ĐỊACầu lô số đẹplô đẹp vip 24hsoi cầu miễn phí 888xổ số kiến thiết chiều nayXSMN thứ 7 hàng tuầnKết quả Xổ số Hồ Chí Minhnhà cái xổ số Việt NamXổ Số Đại PhátXổ số mới nhất Hôm Nayso xo mb hom nayxxmb88quay thu mbXo so Minh ChinhXS Minh Ngọc trực tiếp hôm nayXSMN 88XSTDxs than taixổ số UY TIN NHẤTxs vietlott 88SOI CẦU SIÊU CHUẨNSoiCauVietlô đẹp hôm nay vipket qua so xo hom naykqxsmb 30 ngàydự đoán xổ số 3 miềnSoi cầu 3 càng chuẩn xácbạch thủ lônuoi lo chuanbắt lô chuẩn theo ngàykq xo-solô 3 càngnuôi lô đề siêu vipcầu Lô Xiên XSMBđề về bao nhiêuSoi cầu x3xổ số kiến thiết ngày hôm nayquay thử xsmttruc tiep kết quả sxmntrực tiếp miền bắckết quả xổ số chấm vnbảng xs đặc biệt năm 2023soi cau xsmbxổ số hà nội hôm naysxmtxsmt hôm nayxs truc tiep mbketqua xo so onlinekqxs onlinexo số hôm nayXS3MTin xs hôm nayxsmn thu2XSMN hom nayxổ số miền bắc trực tiếp hôm naySO XOxsmbsxmn hôm nay188betlink188 xo sosoi cầu vip 88lô tô việtsoi lô việtXS247xs ba miềnchốt lô đẹp nhất hôm naychốt số xsmbCHƠI LÔ TÔsoi cau mn hom naychốt lô chuẩndu doan sxmtdự đoán xổ số onlinerồng bạch kim chốt 3 càng miễn phí hôm naythống kê lô gan miền bắcdàn đề lôCầu Kèo Đặc Biệtchốt cầu may mắnkết quả xổ số miền bắc hômSoi cầu vàng 777thẻ bài onlinedu doan mn 888soi cầu miền nam vipsoi cầu mt vipdàn de hôm nay7 cao thủ chốt sốsoi cau mien phi 7777 cao thủ chốt số nức tiếng3 càng miền bắcrồng bạch kim 777dàn de bất bạion newsddxsmn188betw88w88789bettf88sin88suvipsunwintf88five8812betsv88vn88Top 10 nhà cái uy tínsky88iwinlucky88nhacaisin88oxbetm88vn88w88789betiwinf8betrio66rio66lucky88oxbetvn88188bet789betMay-88five88one88sin88bk88xbetoxbetMU88188BETSV88RIO66ONBET88188betM88M88SV88Jun-68Jun-88one88iwinv9betw388OXBETw388w388onbetonbetonbetonbet88onbet88onbet88onbet88onbetonbetonbetonbetqh88mu88Nhà cái uy tínpog79vp777vp777vipbetvipbetuk88uk88typhu88typhu88tk88tk88sm66sm66me88me888live8live8livesm66me88win798livesm66me88win79pog79pog79vp777vp777uk88uk88tk88tk88luck8luck8kingbet86kingbet86k188k188hr99hr99123b8xbetvnvipbetsv66zbettaisunwin-vntyphu88vn138vwinvwinvi68ee881xbetrio66zbetvn138i9betvipfi88clubcf68onbet88ee88typhu88onbetonbetkhuyenmai12bet-moblie12betmoblietaimienphi247vi68clupcf68clupvipbeti9betqh88onb123onbefsoi cầunổ hũbắn cáđá gàđá gàgame bàicasinosoi cầuxóc đĩagame bàigiải mã giấc mơbầu cuaslot gamecasinonổ hủdàn đềBắn cácasinodàn đềnổ hũtài xỉuslot gamecasinobắn cáđá gàgame bàithể thaogame bàisoi cầukqsssoi cầucờ tướngbắn cágame bàixóc đĩa开云体育开云体育开云体育乐鱼体育乐鱼体育乐鱼体育亚新体育亚新体育亚新体育爱游戏爱游戏爱游戏华体会华体会华体会IM体育IM体育沙巴体育沙巴体育PM体育PM体育AG尊龙AG尊龙AG尊龙AG百家乐AG百家乐AG百家乐AG真人AG真人<AG真人<皇冠体育皇冠体育PG电子PG电子万博体育万博体育KOK体育KOK体育欧宝体育江南体育江南体育江南体育半岛体育半岛体育半岛体育凯发娱乐凯发娱乐杏彩体育杏彩体育杏彩体育FB体育PM真人PM真人<米乐娱乐米乐娱乐天博体育天博体育开元棋牌开元棋牌j9九游会j9九游会开云体育AG百家乐AG百家乐AG真人AG真人爱游戏华体会华体会im体育kok体育开云体育开云体育开云体育乐鱼体育乐鱼体育欧宝体育ob体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育开云体育开云体育棋牌棋牌沙巴体育买球平台新葡京娱乐开云体育mu88qh88
Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter