A Woman's Face Reviews
When weighing Crawford's performance in A Woman's Face against her Oscar-winning one in Mildred Pierce, she gave great performances in each despite Mildred Pierce being a lesser film, nevertheless in this brooding film, she is more effectual in her self-discipline, which was one thing she had that Bette Davis didn't. Her character's internal wounds emerging through her communicative and incidentally beautiful eyes and crushed gaze. (In spite of her character's horrendous disfigurement, she remains tremendously beautiful.) Seeing the scene in which her disfigured face is shown for the first time when she takes her hat off, as if she were expecting a reaction of horror from Veidt, and absorbing the true sorrow in her eyes and lips which, pertaining to her character, shows accidentally her cynical notions, the real actress owes the reality of her portrayal's nuances to her own chaotic personality.
There is a share of comparatively sluggish conformity that Cukor occasionally allows to peek around the corner, such as the oft-used device of telling the story through flashbacks from a courtroom of assorted caricatures, lending to its stock usage of Melvin Douglas, as per his usual, delivering a likable performance as a dashing good guy. robe the criminality allowed in a 1941 film. Crawford goes to Conrad Veidt, who by this time in the story temporarily lost touch with her, and he in a roundabout way tells her that his very old, very wealthy uncle is leaving everything to his four-year-old grandson, although if something happens to the child, Veidt himself will become heir to everything. The concept is then initiated, as Crawford poses as a new governess for the boy, who Cukor ruthlessly presents as one of the most adorable little kids in the history of movies.
This intriguing stranger of a movie is film noir that, in the face of its obedience to convention, rises above said genre by unfolding with sympathy and hope. Film noir, done right anyway, is unyielding and severe. Film noir illustrates the soul of nature inside, the unwitting impulses of the characters, their material depths, jealousy, greed, resentment, deceit, and all known vices of the unaware, which can show in two ways, a beautiful way and an evil way. The film's central character is a misunderstood woman in the halfway point of a blackmail mob and as a result living on the underside of a world that has rejected her, hence it has to be measured as such. Cukor utilizes simplicity in his manipulation of the film's world through her mind's eye, employing lighting, things positioned on the scarred side of her face, tossing a shard of light on top of her open eye after an operation and other such subtleties. The suspense is fluent, we want to see her unwrap the gauze, in many respects, and that uncomplicated idea steers the whole film. This is my first Cukor film, and I see that he is a very able director. His production values in 1941 are comparable to today's. The film's music score is, save for the conventional closing, very effective and not at all trite.
Crawford gives one of her most nuanced performances as Anna, bitter at life after half her face is scarred in a fire as a child. Running a blackmail ring she targets a society woman cheating on her husband. Anna goes to the wife's house to confront her but the husband returns home unexpectedly. He turns out to be a plastic surgeon and persuades Anna to let him operate on her.
The operation a success, Anna now finds herself at the mercy of her creepy lover. He wants his family's fortune but a young nephew stands between him and the money. He gets Anna the job as the little boy's nanny with a view to the boy meeting with an 'accident'.
Anna's disenchantment with her lover is compounded by the surgeon arriving at the family home for a visit...
Joan is excellent as Anna, capturing her anger at life but also her tremulous feeling of happiness when the man who will become her dominant lover shows her affection and later her despair when she realizes what her love for this man is driving her to do.
She is helped by Cukor's excellent handling of the story and a cast which boasts excellent performances from Conrad Veidt as the crypto-fascist lover, Melvyn Douglas as the surgeon, Marjorie Main as the suspicious housekeeper of Veidt's family and Osa Massen as the surgeon's flighty wife. There are also scene-stealing roles from Donald Meek, Reginald Owen and Connie Gilchrist as Anna's seedy fellow-blackmailers.
Definitely one to seek out.