Nominated for 4 major Oscars (but not Best Picture) and should have won best actor and actress roles for Joan Crawford/Jack Palance. The action really gets going half way through this one as wealthy Crawford gets taken in by now veteran actor Jack Palance as her newly wed husband. A revised legal will provides the spark that starts the suspense.
A 1952 RKO Radio Pictures feature film starring Joan Crawford and Jack Palance in a noir-ish tale about a successful woman who marries a murderous man. Money is the name of the game in this taught action thriller, it reminded me of a Hitchcock film in its making.
But Crawford sweats it out, literally, by finding a way to entrap the ones trying to kill her, namely her new husband, Palance. Co-stars Gloria Grahame as co-conspirator and girlfriend of Palance. She does all the plotting, he does the execution.
Crawford, as a playwrite, uses a recording device to write her plays. However, forgeting to turn it off one night snares her new husband and mistress Grahame in their web of deceit and plot to kill her, by way of an accident, of course.
This was to achieve gaining the estate of wealthy Crawford immediately, rather than waiting for her natural death and then only getting a yearly 10 thousand dollars a year. The bulk of her estate was to go to a charity.
Crawford, once so gay and obviously giddy about her new found husband, practically collapses when she hears by chance the plans for her demise from Palance and his girlfriend Grahame on her recording machine. Imagine her horror!
Takes some waiting to get to the action, but it is well worth it as tension builds exponentially. Crawford devises a plan to kill Palance but can't carry it through. Trapped in a closet at Grahame's place, the tension is near unbearable.
Not for the faint of heart, watch it with someone. The close ups of Crawford's face is as good as it gets when tension mounts.
The musical score by Elmer Bernstein, frequent contributor to several later John Wayne western films, adds to the movie most impressively.
Sudden Fear is exactly the title for this thriller. An interesting turn of events is how Crawford turns Palance down, early in the film, for a romantic role in her play. But in real life, has chance encounters and tries to get his attention. Finally she succeeds on a train trip to California, which Palance also by chance rides.
The pair marry, oddly enough. And there the nightmare begins. Highly recommended and watchable more than once.
In 1984, writer Spencer Selby noted, "Undoubtedly one of the most stylish and refined woman-in-distress noirs."
NOTES about the film:
1 Marlon Brando was originally offered the role of Lester Blaine.
2 Sudden Fear was nominated for Academy Awards for:- Best Actress in a Leading Role: Joan Crawford, Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Jack Palance, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White and Best Costume Design, Black-and-White.
3 According to a story told by Jack Palance,... Joan Crawford and Gloria Grahame did not get along and got into a physical altercation at one point during the filming. The fight started after Grahame sat on the edge of the set during a Crawford closeup and very obviously sucked and smacked loudly on a lolly pop in an attempt to wind Crawford up. It worked, and Palance noted that the all male crew watched the fight for a few moments rather curiously before stepping in to end it.
Myra Hudson: [to Lester]
"I haven't even got my lipstick on! A woman has to wear lipstick. I'd feel positively naked without it!"
Directed by David Miller
Produced by Joseph Kaufman
Joan Crawford (uncredited)
Written by Lenore J. Coffee
Edna Sherry (Novel)
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Charles Lang, Jr.
Editing by Leon Barsha
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date(s) August 6, 1952 (1952-08-06)
Running time 110 minutes