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 ... See full summary »
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Roscoe Lee Browne
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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 »
Even 50 years after it was released, this movie is shocking. The betrayal is appalling. The incest is not romanticized or played for any sort of laughs. The physical violence is both subtle and horrifying: We don't quite see what Cliff Robertson does to typist Joan Crawford but we get the idea very clearly. And it is shocking almost beyond words.
Crawford does a fine job. She may have been better in a couple other movies -- her signature, "Mildred Pierce"; "Sudden Fear." But as entertaining as "Mildred Pierce" is and as beautifully made as "Sudden Fear" is, I'd choose this as the best movie in which she appears (if possibly not her single best performance.) Cliff Robertson is perfectly cast as the handsome young man who woos her. He IS handsome. But this character is troubled, and Robertson plays that brilliantly. This is the movie for which he should have won as Oscar.
Lorne Greene is a sneering villain. He's even farther from "Bonanza" here than Raymond Burr was from "Perry Mason" in the many film noir outings that predated that series.
Vera Miles turns in a fine, evil performance too. She did well for Hitchcock but I think this is the best I've ever seen her.
Ruth Donnelly is Crawford's landlady and pal. She is cast against the type she played in her standard movie. And she's very good. I'm not entirely sure the slightly light touch she gives the character is right in this context. But Aldrich knew what he was doing; so it must be.
I saw "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" when it first came out. I was a child and had never seen Bette Davis or Joan Crawford before. I was totally confused by the whole thing. In later years, I've seen it again and it's fun.
But though it shares one star with Autumn Leaves," "Autumn Leaves" is closer to Aldrich's greatest picture in style: "Kiss Me Deadly." "Autumn Leaves" seems like a high toned soap opera on the surface. It's about an older woman who allows herself to fall in love. Etc. But that's not what the movie is. It's dark and it's deep.
I can't quite figure out whether it could have been better with a less turgid actress. In a way, some of its themes presage those of "Room at the Top." Signoret could have blown us away in "Autumn Leaves." So could Jeanne Moreau. But would the movie have been as believable? Maybe not. It may be just about perfect as it is.
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