104 user 42 critic

Sudden Fear (1952)

Approved | | Film-Noir, Thriller | 24 October 1952 (Italy)
1:20 | Trailer
After an ambitious actor insinuates himself into the life of a wealthy middle-aged playwright and marries her, he plots with his mistress to murder her.


David Miller


Lenore J. Coffee (screenplay) (as Lenore Coffee), Robert Smith (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Joan Crawford ... Myra Hudson Blaine
Jack Palance ... Lester Blaine
Gloria Grahame ... Irene Neves
Bruce Bennett ... Steve Kearney
Virginia Huston ... Ann Taylor
Mike Connors ... Junior Kearney (as Touch Conners)


Actor Lester Blaine has all but landed the lead in Myra Hudson's new play when Myra vetoes him because, to her, he doesn't look like a "romantic leading man." On a train from New York to San Francisco, Blaine sets out to prove Myra wrong...by romancing her. Is he sincere, or does he have a dark ulterior motive? The answer brings on a game of cat and mouse; but who's the cat and who's the mouse? Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Thrilling New High In Suspense Melodrama! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Bruce Bennett, who plays lawyer Steve Kearney in this film, played Bert Pierce opposite Joan Crawford in the 1945 film Mildred Pierce (1945). See more »


The train leaving New York en route to Chicago is pulled by a streamlined steam locomotive of the Southern Pacific Railroad that was used in California. Later that evening, another scene at night in Pennsylvania shows a different type of locomotive pulling the train. The Southern Pacific locomotive is seen again pulling the train the next morning. Whilst approaching Chicago, Lester asks the conductor if he can get a ticket for the next train from Chicago to San Francisco. The conductor says he will check on getting a ticket on the California Zephyr. However, the two men are standing in the vestibule of car CZ-10, which IS a car that was the observation dome car on all California Zephyr consists. Whilst having breakfast on the Zephyr in the mountains of Colorado, Joan Crawford comments how much she enjoyed their tour of Chicago earlier that day, but, travel through Colorado would actually occur on the NEXT day, following an overnight journey from Chicago to Denver. See more »


Myra Hudson: Welcome to my home, Lester.
Lester Blaine: It's quite a cozy home.
Myra Hudson: Cozy enough to take your coat off?
Lester Blaine: Delighted.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The camera stays on an ornate pendulum clock, ticking time away as the credits appear. See more »

Alternate Versions

The previous 1999 DVD release was slightly altered. The sudden fear sequence eliminates only about 8 seconds but noteworthy ones, showing Joan Crawford's falling from a building, and being smothered by the Jack Palance character. These have been restored in the new 2016 Cohen Media Group blu-ray release. See more »


Featured in Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star (2002) See more »


by Elmer Bernstein and Jack Brooks
See more »

User Reviews

Excellent First Half
19 August 2017 | by claudio_carvalhoSee all my reviews

The wealthy playwright Myra Hudson (Joan Crawford) is the heiress of a great fortune. However she works and is donating part of her inheritance to foundations. When she watches the rehearsal of her play, she asks the director to replace the lead actor Lester Blaine (Jack Palance) that she believes is not adequate for the lead role. When she returns home, she meets Blane in the same train and they travel together. They stop in Chicago and soon Myra is seduced by him. They get married and live at Myra's home in San Francisco. Myra summons her lawyer Steve Kearney (Bruce Bennett) to change her will and transfer her fortune and properties to her beloved husband. She uses her Dictaphone to record the changes to be done in her will. However Steve will travel with his son Junior Kearney (Touch Conners) to Sacramento and they leave the room. Then Blaine and Junior's girlfriend Irene Neves (Gloria Grahame), who is his lover, come to the room to plot a scheme to kill Myra so that he will be the heir of her fortune. On the next morning, Myra learns that she has forgotten her Dictaphone on and when she will proceed to dictate her new will, she hears the conversation of her husband with Irene. What will she do now that she knows what are Blaine's real feelings and intention?

"Sudden Fear" is a suspenseful film-noir with excellent first half. The story of a wealthy spinster seduced by a crook is great until the moment that the lead character learns that he husband and his mistress are plotting to murder her. Her plan to save her life and get rid of them is also great. However her clumsy and moralist attitudes are terrible and reduces what could have been a little masterpiece to a good film-noir only. Joan Crawford has another magnificent performance. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Precipícios d'Alma" ("Precipices of the Soul")

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Release Date:

24 October 1952 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Sudden Fear See more »


Box Office


$720,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$11,126, 14 August 2016

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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