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The Cobweb (1955)

Not Rated | | Drama | 7 June 1955 (USA)
At an exclusive psychiatric clinic, the doctors and staff are about as crazy as the patients. The clinic head, Dr. Stewart McIver, thinks that it would be good therapy for his patients to ... See full summary »

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Writers:

(screenplay), (additional dialogue) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Mr. Capp
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Dr. Otto Wolff
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Edgar Stehli ...
Mr. Holcomb
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Rosemary McIver
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Abe Irwin
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Regina Mitchell-Smyth
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Storyline

At an exclusive psychiatric clinic, the doctors and staff are about as crazy as the patients. The clinic head, Dr. Stewart McIver, thinks that it would be good therapy for his patients to design and make new drapes for the library. Mrs. Karen McIver, who is neglected by her hardworking husband (and a bit unbalanced herself), wants to make her mark on the clinic, so she orders new drapes. Miss Inch, the business manager, who has been with the clinic longer than anyone, sees this as an intrusion into her territory, and she too orders drapes. All this puts everyone in a dither, as they fight over drapes and clinic politics. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Story of the Strange Mansion on the Hill

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

7 June 1955 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die Verlorenen  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,976,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TCM print) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Marks the return of Lillian Gish to MGM after a 22-year absence. See more »

Goofs

When Karen (Gloria Grahame) storms into her bedroom and kicks off her shoes, she apparently launches the first one over the walls of the set, as it shoots straight up toward the supposedly low ceiling but never comes down. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Karen McIver: Can I give you a ride?
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Connections

Referenced in Omnibus: Introduction to Modern Music (1957) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Neurotic 50s classic awaits rediscovery
6 November 2001 | by See all my reviews

Minnelli's "The Cobweb" explores the fascinating, disturbing idea of a mental institution where the personal quirks of the staff and their families unwittingly have an impact on the patients. In Minnelli's films, his neurotic, lonely, unsettled characters always lead to some climactic nightmarish outburst (even the musicals), but here the whole movie is really a neurotic outburst. Amazingly, it all snowballs out of seemingly the most trivial decision: the new draperies.

What's interesting is that there is no antagonist; like "Howards End" or Eastwood's "Unforgiven", all the characters do bad things for understandable reasons and thus construct the cobweb. This compares favorably with other nuthouse movies, especially ones about the group therapy system--"Cuckoo's Nest" (based on Ken Kesey's novel of 1950, 5 years before "Cobweb") and "The Caretakers" with Joan Crawford as the inflexible head nurse. Those films tend to focus on patients having hysterics and running riot. They don't indict the system but one despotic individual within it (a head nurse); Kesey's narrator claims that she represents a larger controlling force but even then shows that other wards in the hospital are not the same. However, "Cobweb" takes a more subtle nobody's-fault approach that ultimately has wider, darker implications. It implies that these pitfalls are endemic to the system because they are part of human nature, which is a more sinister idea (especially for the 50s) than being able to blame a convenient mini-Hitler. Therefore, it works more convincingly as a microcosm of a society that thinks it's healthy. It's also more salutary and hopeful than those films because it proceeds from this clear-eyed cautionary assessment.

In the true sense of "melodrama," it underlines apparently innocuous early scenes with heavy foreboding music by Leonard Rosenman. It's also astonishing to watch Lillian Gish play a b----. And she does a great job.


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