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A woman wanders the streets of Los Angeles in some sort of emotional distress. She is also under some delusion as she approaches many men, strangers who she calls "David". Eventually, an ambulance is called, the attendants who take her to the hospital, where she is eventually placed in the psychiatric ward. Placing her under some medication to help her remember, Dr. Harvey Willard, the psychiatrist on duty, is able to get some semblance of a story out of her over the ensuing days. This phase of her life begins just over a year ago when she, single RN Louise Howell, is under the employ of wealthy Dean Graham to take care of his chronically ill and largely bedridden wife, Pauline Graham, at their lake house outside of Washington, DC. Due to her circumstances, Pauline believes that Dean and Louise are carrying on an affair behind her back. Louise can see that Dean does have feelings for her that way in his loneliness. The "David" in question is David Sutton, a civil engineer who lives ... Written by
Star Joan Crawford and director Curtis Bernhardt spent time in real psychiatric wards in Santa Monica, Santa Barbara and Pasadena, observing mental patients as research for the film and going over the script with doctors for the sake of authenticity. On one of those visits, Crawford and Bernhardt witnessed, without asking permission, a woman undergoing electroconvulsive therapy. Warner Bros. was later forced to pay substantial damages to the woman, who claimed their presence was an invasion of privacy. She also claimed that Crawford based the role on her, which must have been quite a compliment for the actress. See more »
When Louise and Dean grab the stair banister of their townhouse on their return from the lake house, the banister shakes much more than such a solid looking structure would in reality. See more »
I'm sorry, Louise. I seldom hit a woman, but if you don't leave me alone, I'll wind up kicking babies.
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Joan Crawford's incredible performance is the highlight of this thriller. In the film she plays Louise Howell, a woman who begins to suffer a mental breakdown after the man (Van Heflin) she loves walks away from her. Even though she marries another man (Raymond Massey) the stress of the other one leaving her just causes her mind to collapse. It's very important to point out the fact that this film was released thirteen years before Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO and I say that because of how much credit that film gets when it comes to looking at mental illness. Viewing POSSESSED today it's easy to see where the film is going as it is quite predictable and there's no question that some of the mental illness terms are out of date. With that said, for the most part this is a fairly good thriller that manages to keep your attention thanks in large part to the terrific cast. I'm not sure what else can be said about Crawford but there's no question that she was on quite a row at Warner. First with MILDRED PIERCE then HUMORESQUE and finally POSSESSED, the actress was really pushing herself and it made for three incredible performances. What's so amazing about her performance here is how many different personalities she manages to play. This character goes through all sorts of mental "issues" and I really loved the various ways Crawford brought them to the screen. It could be as simple as someone turning their back on her or someone telling her that they're not in love. There are several scenes where she's imagining things happening to her and Crawford is just flawless. It certainly doesn't help that Heflin is perfect as the snake and Massey is also extremely good as the supporting husband. Geraldine Brooks also deserves a lot of credit for her wonderful supporting performance as the step-daughter. Director Curtis Bernhardt brings a lot of style and atmosphere to the film and there's also some wonderful cinematography that helps. Again, the film is quite predictable but this doesn't take away the fun or the brilliant work by Crawford.
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