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Actor Lester Blaine has all but landed the lead in Myra Hudson's new play when Myra vetoes him because, to her, he doesn't look like a "romantic leading man." On a train from New York to San Francisco, Blaine sets out to prove Myra wrong...by romancing her. Is he sincere, or does he have a dark ulterior motive? The answer brings on a game of cat and mouse; but who's the cat and who's the mouse? Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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Joan Crawford is an heiress and a famous playwright. During rehearsals, she insists that Jack Palance be fired: It's not that he isn't a good actor. He just doesn't have the matinée idol looks, she maintains. Before we know it, the play has been successfully launched and she is on a train back to San Francisco. Who should kind of turn up on this train but Palance? He and Crawford play poker and she falls in love with him. OK, it seems: He wasn't right for a Broadway Don Juan. But for an unmarried lady of a certain age like her, he has just what it takes.
The fact that Crawford and Palance (the actors) have no chemistry isn't a problem. In a way, it works in the movie's favor. We know he hasn't forgotten the humiliation she put him through. We know she thought him not so hot to begin with.
Gloria Graham is used well as his girlfriend. They're kind of rough with each other too. He speaks of breaking all her bones, rather casually and almost endearingly.
Once Crawford and Palance have married, the suspense heats up. It's a highly suspenseful film -- well written and well directed. Palance is nimble in his role and Crawford is at her very best too. My problem with it is that I've seen it a few times and the print has never been good, which is a problem in the dark scenes toward the end.
But compare this with other movies Crawford was making at around the same time. "Torch Song" is one of the most outrageously ludicrous star vehicles of all time. "Queen Bee" is pretty funny, too -- unintentionally, of course. "Female on the Beach" ... In all the others, men come from miles to fall at Joan's feet. (Speaking of feet, "Sudden Fear" seems, for whatever reason to have more than a usual number of close-ups of its stars stockinged feet and her shoes.) No one has ever seen anyone so beautiful as Crawford in these movies. Maybe this made sense at the time but it doesn't now. She was near 50. Inthose days, this was like being near 65 for a woman.
In "Sudden Fear," she is an old maid. No one comments on her appearance one way or another. She is rich and successful but it doesn't seem that we're meant to view her as a great beauty. What we have instead is a beautiful movie -- quite possibly her best.
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