Joan Crawford in Film Noir: The Actress as Auteur

McFarland. Mar. 2024. 220p. ISBN 9781476691473. pap. $39.95. FILM
After 20 years of portraying flappers, modern Cinderellas, and the occasional antagonist, Joan Crawford left MGM for two decades at Warner Brothers and ventured into noir and noir-tinged films. Meuel’s (Silent Film’s Last Hurrah) new book examines 12 of Crawford’s noir films, produced between 1941 and 1958. That includes triumphs (Mildred Pierce; Sudden Fear) as well as campier titles (Queen Bee; This Woman Is Dangerous). Meuel summarizes each film’s production and plot and evaluates its script, cinematography, music, and noir elements. Some readers might not agree with all his opinions of Crawford’s more divisive films. He argues that through her acting talent and knowledge of—and sometimes control of—various production aspects, Crawford was attempting to establish her own particular type of “Joan Crawford picture,” which allowed her to portray strong women with complex perspectives in well-made noir films that touched on serious themes.
VERDICT This focused study will interest readers looking for a deep dive into this specific era of Crawford’s career or surveys of the ways classic Hollywood films mingling noir and melodrama depicted women.
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