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Count Armalia believes that the luck of birth is all that separates the rich from the poor. To test his theory, he sends Anni, who is a singer in a dive, to a ritzy resort for two weeks. With fancy new clothes and ersatz status, Anni decides that she likes the rich life. But with time running out, she needs a rich husband and Rudi is the one she chooses. Only it takes longer than two weeks for Rudi to dump his fiancée and propose to her. In the weeks that she has been there, she finds that she loves Giulio, the postman with the small house and the donkey cart. But will she give up love for wealth....Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Well, you can't blame Joan for trying. Always wanting to go beyond that glamorous clothes-horse/shopgirl-makes-good mold in which MGM so successfully cast her throughout the 1930's, she was always attempting to outreach her grasp. When Metro's Austrian star Luise Rainer backed out of making a film of Molnar's THE GIRL FROM TRIESTE, a dark photoplay about a prostitute sent on a masquerade in the Tyrolean Alps, Crawford grabbed it, hoping to get her teeth into a meaty role. Imagine her chagrin when Metro executives "improved" the piece to be more suitable for Crawford's image, taking the meat and guts with it. What emerged was an uncomfortable picture built on compromises in an attempt to graft a typical Crawford/Cinderella plot onto what is basically a nasty, mean little story. Registering far below the Crawford usual at the paybox, THE BRIDE WORE RED started her career to skid.
A closer look, however, reveals that not all of the edge has been softened from the piece. I wholeheartedly agree with the reviewer who calls this Joan's most underrated performance, and there is a reason we do not sympathize with this Cinderella. Crawford's Anni is cold and snappish, and has the potential to do real harm to some nice, decent folk. The film plays like the dark side of all of those rags-to-Adrian gown stories Crawford played in the Metro phase of her career, and CRAWFORD IS FULLY AWARE OF THIS. Although seemingly played straight, there is an irony underneath that tells us Crawford herself isn't crazy about Anni either. It's understandable that 1937 audiences did not warm to a Joan they couldn't root for (even her hair is cut into a severe, but stunning, pageboy), but it deserves real recognition now that we are removed from the era and have seen ALL the phases of Crawford's career. In many ways, it's a harbinger of the darker, icier roles she was to play at Warner Bros. and throughout the 1950's.
The performances are uniformly good, with George Zucco strong as the decadent, evil Machiavelli who sends Anni on her masquerade, but Crawford, for the most part, is the standout. Only in the early scenes of the film, when she attempts to portray Anni as a world-weary honky tonk singer (in what must have been the cleanest, most glamorous "dive" in all of Trieste!!) does she fail to convince.
(Ironically, Crawford's next film, MANNEQUIN, released early in 1938 and co-starring Spencer Tracy, was a strictly paint by the numbers Rags-to-Adrian tale, inferior to this, that found great favor with the movie-going public.)
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