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Millicent Wetherby is a middle-aged woman whose life is devoid of love and affection. Millicent's solitary existence changes when she encounters Burt Hansen a charismatic younger man. As Burt successfully woos her and wins her hand in marriage, rumors begin to surface that Millicent's newfound beau is in fact a deranged maniac. Things grow even more complicated for Millicent when a woman claiming to be Hansen's first wife shows up. As Burt begins to lose control of himself, Millicent ponders the most radical of actions against her husband. Written by
Joan Crawford was very pleased with the way the film turned out, saying "Everything clicked on Autumn Leaves (1956). The cast was perfect, the script was good, and I think Bob handled everything well. I really think Cliff did a stupendous job; another actor might have been spitting out his lines and chewing the scenery but he avoided that trap. I think the movie on a whole was a lot better than some of the romantic movies I did in the past... but somehow it just never became better known. It was eclipsed by the picture I did with Bette Davis". ("Bob" refers to director Robert Aldrich, "Cliff" is her leading man Cliff Robertson and the picture she did with Bette Davis was What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)) See more »
[after meeting Milly's landlady, Liz, who is sporting a garishly "loud" Hawaiian-type, floral shirt]
Who's the character?
Liz Eckhardt. She's the manager.
Is she always dressed for Halloween? In the middle of the summer?
That happens to be one of her most conservative outfits!
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Opening credits are shown over a background of...... leaves. See more »
Joan Crawford aged like fine wine, and even at 51 she is quite believable as the romantic lead here. She plays Millicent Wetherby, a lonely 40ish woman who has sacrificed her youth taking care of her invalid father. Now he is gone and she feels like life has passed her by until Burt Hanson (Cliff Robertson in only his second film appearance) interrupts her chicken salad one night at a diner. He practically pries open her life, and they begin dating even though he is over ten years younger than she. She tries to be practical, but he sweeps her off her feet and the two elope to Mexico. Then she starts to notice little things...he has told her he was from Racine, now he says he is from Chicago. Burt meets Joan's employer and talks about all of the battles he saw in the military when he has told her previously that he was a supply clerk and never saw action during his time in the service, but the final straw is when an ex-wife she didn't even know about shows up at her door.
This is a hard film to characterize. It's definitely not a soaper, but it has aspects of that. It has romance, dealing with mental illness, and even elements of a thriller to it. It deals with the self-doubt we all have about the choices we have made in life. No high-camp Johnny Guitar is this film. Although, don't get me wrong, I love Joan in her campy 50's films too.
Cliff Robertson is almost at the bottom of the bill on this one, even though he really is the male lead. This is only his second film, yet he pulls off the part of the child-like Burt like a pro. It's also good to see Ruth Donnelly as Milly's ever-supportive older neighbor twenty years after she was a contract player over at Warner Brothers. I highly recommend this film for anyone who even remotely enjoys Joan Crawford's films. You don't have to be a big fan to appreciate this one.
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