Friday, December 09, 2011

The Torch Has Been Passed.

Torch song-1953

Where was the great liberal head of M.G.M. Dore Schary when this movie was being filmed.  Put together on the cheap in garish color and with what looks like costumes and sets from other films and with Joan Crawford basically playing herself. What was she thinking, was she so hungry for the attention that she would play a "star" that is clearly based on her off screen persona and reputation for being a BITCH. This  drek was directed  by Charles Walters an out gay man who also should have known better, but we do get to see him dance (he was a major choreographer) with Joan who jumps at the chance to show off her gams. He pushes and pulls her around like a dead weight but he plays ineffectual screwing up their dance routine which of course is a ha ha in moment for those of us who recognize Walters.  Joan wearing a deep crimson slash where a mouth is usually found wears a horrible red unfeeling wig, smokes and drinks up a storm and bosses everyone who comes in her path. Her assistant is played by the African American actress Maidie Norman who in one scene throws daggers at Crawford with her eyes, looking like she wanted to smother Joan in her sleep with a pillow, and will turn up in a few years as Joan and Bette’s housekeeper in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? It’s a good moment because it feels improvised. Her blowsy and boozy mom is played by the veteran actress Marjorie Rambeau, who for some reason was nominated for a supporting actress Oscar for three short scenes. Michael Wilding who was bi and at the time married to Liz Taylor plays a blind pianist who takes over the job of playing for Joan during rehearsals for a show that is coming to Broadway. They have problems of course, even Mikes seeing eye dog hates Joan and growls whenever she comes near. It seems that Mike is in love with this gorgon because before the war (where he lost his vision) he was a critic and saw the young Joan in her debut on Broadway and fell in love with her, and still sees her in his mind as she was. And then there is that number that comes out of nowhere  (Joan’s singing  is dubbed India Adams) and is shocking not only for the racism but also for the sheer look of it. Joan, in brown face and looking like shiva, goddess of destruction is surrounded by a dancing chorus of clumsy male and females also in brown face who embarrassingly  dance and sing their way through a rejected  number from The Bad Wagon whose out takes featuring Cyd Charisse still exist.  Gig Young is also in it, and I couldn’t quite read his character, that’s how vapid he was.  The film itself is a gay romp if you know where to look and as awful as this film is, I couldn't stop watching this car accident of a movie.


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