Autumn Leaves (1956)

Autumn Leaves (1956)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Autumn Leaves Photos

Movie Info

Few actresses other than Joan Crawford could have successfully pulled off the melodramatic excesses of Autumn Leaves. Though a very attractive fortysomething, Crawford remains aloof from romance until she meets Cliff Robertson, a young man half her age. An ardent and persistent suitor, Robertson finally breaks down her resistence to marriage. After a few weeks of wedded bliss, Crawford is confronted by Vera Miles, who claims to be Robertson's first wife. Miles further insists that Robertson is mentally unbalanced...and his subsequent behavior seems to bear this out. What Crawford doesn't know-but the audience does-is that the real villains of the piece are Miles and her middle-aged lover, Robertson's own father (Lorne Greene). Autumn Leaves works far better on screen than it does in print, thanks to the virtuoso performances of practically everyone in the cast. And, as anyone who's listened to top-40 radio during the past four decades already knows, the film also yielded a hit title song, written by Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prevert, and Johnny Mercer and performed during the credits by Nat King Cole.
Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Columbia Pictures


Joan Crawford
as Millicent Wetherby
Cliff Robertson
as Burt Hanson
Lorne Greene
as Mr. Hanson
Vera Miles
as Virginia Hanson
Shepperd Strudwick
as Dr. Couzzens
Selmar Jackson
as Mr. Wetherby
Selmer Jackson
as Mr. Wetherby
Maxine Cooper
as Nurse Evans
Marjorie Bennett
as Waitress
Frank Gerstle
as Mr. Ramsey
Leonard Mudie
as Col. Hillyer
Maurice Manson
as Dr. Masterson
Bob Hopkins
as Desk clerk
Frank Arnold
as Butcher
Ralph Volkie
as Doorman
Abdullah Abbas
as Mexican Vendor
Bess Flowers
as Concert Attendee
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Autumn Leaves

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (1)

It's a story about mental illness, which is presented with a terrifying frankness as well as a constructive view of psychotherapy at a time when it was often stigmatized.

Full Review… | September 18, 2016
New Yorker
Top Critic

Robert Aldrich puts his signature grim and dark sensibility on this intense noir melodrama, starring Joan Crawford as an older career-driven femme falling for the younger and handsome Cliff Robertson, not realizing his mental problems.

Full Review… | July 29, 2010

Irresistible and perverse

Full Review… | October 10, 2009

Though it's strictly soap opera, Joan Crawford lifts it higher than all the falling autumn leaves.

Full Review… | August 3, 2007
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The collision of Aldrich's tough style with the soapy material makes for a film that never loses its queasy tension.

Full Review… | June 16, 2004
Slant Magazine


September 11, 2003
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for Autumn Leaves

A story of angst, remorse and grief... in short, a great great film! None better in this than a woman Crawford not married getting courted by an adoring puppy guy Robertson. Spinsterish Millicent "Millie" Wetherby (Crawford) works at home as a self-employed typist. One evening in a diner, she meets a lonely young man named Burt Hanson (Robertson). They take a liking to one another and eventually they marry. Autumn Leaves is a 1956 Columbia Pictures drama film starring Joan Crawford and Cliff Robertson in an older woman/younger man tale of mental illness. SEE the film here: [img][/img] Notice the unusual and futuristic hair of Crawford! Who could expect to see this in 1956! Came to be known as the bob cut, later advanced and shaped to be medal Olympic skater's Dorothy Hamill's signiture cut! [img][/img] Great theme song sung by no less than Nat King Cole and forever a hit thereafter. [img][/img] Sure beats the back seat! REVIEWS by the not paid: 70% An odd romance picture. But, Joan Crawford played it flawlessly 90% From what I have read, Crawford herself really liked this film. A cautious professional, Joan does not invest Millie with all she is. 60% Good score, typical Joan Crawford movie of the 1950's, perhaps not quite as good as her others in this period. she's appropriately melodramatic. [img][/img] NOTES: 1 The haircut in the film of Crawford was YEARS ahead of its time. Dorothy Hamill, Olympic skating U.S. champion and world's best adopted the cut and expanded on it. Its now called a wedge cut! 2 Cliff Robertson once said in an interview that before this movie started shooting Joan Crawford invited him over to her house, she was at her pool and all she had on was a robe;she took off her robe and was naked she then told him this is what he would be looking at the duration shooting the film. 3 The film's original title was The Way We Are but was changed to capitalize on the success of the then popular tune "Autumn Leaves" as sung by Nat King Cole. [img][/img] The book she's holding is significant Joan Crawford as Millie Cliff Robertson as Burt Vera Miles as Virginia Lorne Greene as Hanson Ruth Donnelly as Liz Marjorie Bennett as Waitress Frank Gerstle as Ramsey [img][/img] Directed by Robert Aldrich Produced by William Goetz Written by Jean Rouverol Hugo Butler Starring Joan Crawford Cliff Robertson Vera Miles Music by Hans J. Salter Cinematography Charles Lang Editing by Michael Luciano Distributed by Columbia Pictures Release date(s) August 1, 1956 [img][/img]

monsieur rick
monsieur rick

From what I have read, Crawford herself really liked this film. A cautious professional, Joan does not invest Millie with all she is. You don't see Millie throwing down plastic slip covers or replacing toilet seats, for instance. But you do see a "Gone With The Wind" moment where Millie smiles in bed, believing she has won Burt back from the precipice of madness he habitually hangs over. Crawford, like many of her generation, preferred sublime innuendo to overt sexuality onscreen and referenced the scene from the classic film where Scarlett wakes up still ecstatic after a night of abandon with Rhett. That was the way to do it, Joan reckoned. On the other hand, Joan gets pretty far down to the nitty gritty when expressing Millie's pain when Burt severely injures her. Real time, or looped-in later? Either way, superbly done. Cliff Robertson is wonderfully restrained; he and Joan are generous with each other in their scenes. This movie is a joy to view again and again, largely for Aldrich's impeccable timing and Crawford's facial expressions. And much more.

Fred Sky
Fred Sky

"autumn leaves" is one of the best pictures for joan crawford's career in the 1950s with the patron of robert aldrich whose noirish masterpiece is ralph meeker's "kiss me deadly"..but this movie inevitably encounters the doom of oblivion due to the misogynistic assumption of crawford's screen persona...mostly people misconceive "autumn leaves" as another campy crawfordian feminist piece of mature woman romancing young lad then suffering from the evil fruit of her manipulative trifling with the younger man. BUT "autumn leaves" is actually a romantic drama interwoven with a grim scent of psychological thriller. it's about a spinister called milly, who sacrifices her youth attending her invalid dying father, now she's self-sufficient with an assured career working at home, but she's secretly wretched with solitude until she meets a jolly young man named burt whose freewheeling sense of innocent humor enlightens her sorrowful life with a gleam of rosiness. hesitated by their span of age, milly tries to resist burt's boyish charm but in vain since she welcomes his proposal of marriage...but is everything too good to be true? please don't mistake it, "autumn leaves" is NOT a film noir piece of sordid doublecross despite incest is indeed an essential element within its scenarios. the twist would be burt's psychotic crackup over his father's unbearably unethical revelation (i shall leave the reader to find out) which has torn his composed sanity into pieces, and his obsession with milly might be a symptom of neurosis for the solace of maternal attachment. dismayed by the shattered happiness, milly has to confront the issue of whether she should commit burt into sanitarium, if she does, would his love for her be also cured off for good? or should she bath in the diseased love as the matriarch at the cost of mutual ruin? undetected by most, "autumn leaves" is a whispering romance of pathos and unconditional love addled with mental illness, and it's supposed to be a tender tale of an old maid's yearning, foreshadowed by nat kind cole's "autumn leaves" as theme that is the metaphor of a late-blooming love of longing since this lady's life is at the stage of autumn, and she craves for the lover who has departed to let her alone in the chilling autumn when her light of hope could only deteriorate into the frosty winter as if dream has been diminished for good. cliff robertson, who has made distinguished performance in "the twightlight zone" episode "the dummy" as the deranged ventriloquist whose identity has been thieved by his dummy, plays burt, and robertson's accomplished portrayal of schizophrenia might be a parallel to joan crawford's oscar-nominated performance in 1947 "the possessed" which is about a young nurse's decline into insanity and her redemption from her patriarch-alike husband..this could be a satiric irony as crawford's roles vary for the adjustment of ages, and it might be wondrous to observe a young actor in the similar niche of her former career milestone. nat king cole's "autumn leaves" is a beautiful elegy of lyricism and the movie has a good casting of competence. also, robert aldrich's direction is well-tuned with its melodramatic paces, and definitely far from campiness. what hinders its nowaday popularity? the heavy cosmetics of over-sized eyebrows and over-smeared lip-gloss. perhaps the only campy moment in "autumn leaves" would be its imitation of "from here to eternity" when cliff robertson does the burt lancaster/deborah kerr gesture to joan crawford as the splashing sea waves submerge the kissing couple on the beach.

Veronique Kwak
Veronique Kwak

Super Reviewer

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