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A woman wanders the streets of Los Angeles in some sort of emotional distress. She is also under some delusion as she approaches many men, strangers who she calls "David". Eventually, an ambulance is called, the attendants who take her to the hospital, where she is eventually placed in the psychiatric ward. Placing her under some medication to help her remember, Dr. Harvey Willard, the psychiatrist on duty, is able to get some semblance of a story out of her over the ensuing days. This phase of her life begins just over a year ago when she, single RN Louise Howell, is under the employ of wealthy Dean Graham to take care of his chronically ill and largely bedridden wife, Pauline Graham, at their lake house outside of Washington, DC. Due to her circumstances, Pauline believes that Dean and Louise are carrying on an affair behind her back. Louise can see that Dean does have feelings for her that way in his loneliness. The "David" in question is David Sutton, a civil engineer who lives ...Written by
Muddled, yet entertaining (if slightly unbelievable) drama
Another coup for Joan Crawford, 1947's Possessed (Joan co-starred with Clark Gable in a 1938 film of the same name), sees the star in a great vehicle in which to show off her many dramatic talents.
The hospital scenes are a bit over the top, and Stanley Ridges plays the psychiatric doctor a bit too eagerly. I half expected him to start wringing his hands with an Igor-type `yes, master I think it's working, master' look on his face every time one of the drugs he gave Joan Crawford began taking effect. Ridges' performance is earnest, but his approach made me giggle more than once.
What's good about the film is its insight into issues regarding mental illness and its compassionate, non-exploitative exploration of the subject matter. This is accomplished in spite of Ridges' misguided portrayal of Dr. Willard, and due in large part to Crawford's brave, unglamorous portrayal of patient Louise Graham.
On the whole, Possessed is a very entertaining film that left me wanting to know what would happen next.
I think the death of Dean Graham's first wife is rushed and a bit muddled. Her character should have been actually introduced (even in one brief scene) rather than merely heard or talked about in flashback. Instead, there is just a big jump right into the marriage of Dean and Louise. This lack of transition really annoys me, although I can't exactly pinpoint why I guess the whole thing just feels rushed.
Conveniently appearing and re-appearing on the scene is architect David Sutton, always around to throw Louise into a tizzy, as she cannot seem to get over the fact that he has broken off their relationship. It's difficult to understand David's appeal, as his character is extremely smarmy and smug, and he has no socially redeeming values whatsoever. To illustrate this, he shows up un-invited to Dean and Louise's wedding reception for the free food and drink. Ultimately, Dean's daughter Carol falls for him. Why, ladies??
If one can get past this implausible plot thread and take the story at face value, this is when the film really takes off, and Crawford's neurosis/psychosis picks up speed. The film improves greatly from here, and the plot advances nicely.
CAST/PERFORMANCES: Joan Crawford (Louise Howell Graham) Crawford's transformation from personally neurotic, yet mild, unobtrusive caregiver to scheming, paranoid, jealous, unstable woman scorned is fairly believable, given the plot. I adore her voice, and the circumstances of the script, her role, and therefore her dialog really allow Crawford to express herself well, and she is a treat to hear as well as watch, as usual.
Raymond Massey (Dean Graham) Massey is such a natural actor that I always adore his performances, and here is just wonderful. I love the scene where he dances with Crawford watch as he forgets himself and sticks his tongue partway out with the effort of the dance. That, his quoting Bugs Bunny and his very tender, heartfelt scenes with Joan (his Dean Graham character is so sweet and patient) are a standout. I think it was a good casting choice to go with Massey, as his self-effacing nature is perfect for this role.
Van Heflin (David Sutton) Despite the character's flaws (a very difficult role to play), in the actor's capable hands, it is done well. In his inimitable style and voice inflection, Heflin has the best line in the film, which he delivers offhandedly while pacing the floor: `I'm sorry, Louise I seldom hit a woman, but if you don't leave me alone, I'll wind up kicking babies.'
Geraldine Brooks (Carol Graham) a lovely actress, who I am sure I've seen in other films, as her name sounds familiar. Shes very good as Carol, and gives a lively and strong performance as Massey's daughter. Her reaction to her mom's death and to Crawford's motives for marrying her father are very believable.
A good cast, interesting plot, and decent execution make for a fine film noir.
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