MOKEY (1942); that was followed tonight by Joan Crawford as a mentally ill woman in POSSESSED (1947).
POSSESSED was just released by the Warner Archive on a beautiful new Blu-ray. Crawford, a previous Oscar winner for MILDRED PIERCE (1945), received her second Best Actress nomination for her performance as Louise Howell, a nurse whose romantic troubles are magnified by her mental instability.
The movie begins with Louise (Crawford) walking through the near-deserted streets of Downtown Los Angeles in the early morning hours. She looks haggard and is clearly disturbed, asking more than one man if he's "David."
She ends up in the psychiatric ward of County General Hospital, where kindly Dr. Willard (Stanley Ridges) gradually learns Louise's story. Louise loved David (Van Heflin), an engineer, but he wasn't interested in more than a casual fling and threw her over when she grew possessive.
Louise is devastated by David's rejection but eventually marries kindly Dean Graham (Raymond Massey), whose first wife had been her patient until committing suicide. As Louise's mental state crumbles she comes to think she helped the wife kill herself, until she's assured it was an impossibility.
When David returns to town and falls in love with Dean's young daughter Carol (Geraldine Brooks), Louise's condition worsens further; at one point she even imagines she has pushed Carol down a flight of stairs.
Louise also believes she shot David to death -- was that real or did she imagine it too?
Crawford is outstanding in this, giving an agonizing portrayal of a woman who is, put simply, falling apart. Crawford walks a careful line and never pushes the performance too far over the edge into absurdity; her bewildered pain is thus quite affecting, as she is beset with false memories and uncontrollable impulses.
Geraldine Brooks, who was so good in EMBRACEABLE YOU (1948) the following year, is excellent as Carol. It's a non-cliched role as Carol starts out resenting Louise, being suspicious of her motives and her role in her father's life, yet Carol admits when she is wrong and eventually comes to like and accept her stepmother. Brooks also believably makes the transition from teenage schoolgirl to a young woman in love.
I'm not sure I've ever seen Raymond Massey in such an appealing and heartfelt role as Dean, the wealthy but lonely widower who grows to love Carol. He too is written in an unconventional fashion. When first seen he is critical of Louise's job performance, apparently the scary type of character Massey was so good at portraying. However, Dean quickly apologizes and over time reveals himself to be charming and immensely supportive of Louise, even in her darkest hours. Part of the reason I'll be wanting to watch this film again in the future is because Massey is so wonderful.
I've often mentioned Hollywood's '40s fascination with psychology, especially from the years 1944 to 1947, and this film is a prime example. Someone really needs to write a book on the topic!
The large supporting cast includes Moroni Olsen and Don McGuire as doctors, Douglas Kennedy as the D.A., John Ridgely as a police investigator, Griff Barnett as the coroner, and Gerald Perreau as Dean's son.
The outstanding talents behind the camera included director Curtis Bernhardt, cinematographer Joseph Valentine, and composer Franz Waxman.
A couple of years ago Robby did a wonderful post on the film's Downtown Los Angeles locations at Dear Old Hollywood. Those who are interested in the movie will want to be sure to check it out.
DVD release, including the trailer, a featurette, and a commentary track by USC professor Drew Casper.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.