Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “The Joan Crawford Collection (Volume Two)”

(Warner Home Video. 2008. 495 minutes. Not Rated. 5 discs. B&W/Color. Available now.) Sadie McKee (MGM, 1934, directed by Clarence Brown). Strange Cargo (MGM, 1940, Frank Borzage, music by Franz Waxman). A Woman’s Face (MGM, 1941, George Cukor, Bronislaw Kaper). Flamingo Road (Warners, 1949, Michael Curtiz, Max Steiner). Torch Song (MGM, 1953, Charles Walters, Adolph Deutsch).

I’m a lifelong Bette Davis fan and didn’t come to appreciate her rival Crawford until recently; this box set helped. I knew Mildred Pierce and Humoresque (both in Crawford’s Volume One set), but there’s much in this followup collection to like. Top of the list is Cargo, which was the eighth and last appearance of Crawford together with Clark Gable; their chemistry is electric! The movie, which involves a group of escapees from Devil’s Island, is heavy on religious allegory, but it made me want to see the other seven Crawford-Gable pairings. It’s always fun to see another of my longtime favorites, Peter Lorre, as “Monsieur Pig.” Bottom of the list is Torch Song, Joan’s first movie in Technicolor. (She had returned to her old studio of MGM for this project, after several years at Warners.) And boy, do they pour on the garish colors while Joan, playing a musical comedy star, runs roughshod over any man in her path (including a blind pianist played by Michael Wilding: Mr. Elizabeth Taylor at the time). It has to be seen to believed; Carol Burnett did a sendup of it on her old variety show. In between are Sadie McKee (early sound melodrama; I never much cared for Franchot Tone, but Joan must have, because she married him a year after this came out), Flamingo Road (better soap opera with Joan as a carnival dancer who marries up), and A Woman’s Face (Joan’s a scarred criminal who undergoes plastic surgery; pretty good). Tons of extras including the usual trailers, shorts, cartoons, radio adaptations, and other oddities from the vaults. Check out the new featurettes, especially the ones on Joan’s career at Warners, and her films with Gable.

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