Tag Archives: housewives from hell

Crime of Passion (1957)

  “I hope all your socks have holes in them.”

crimes-of-passionIn the film Crime of Passion, tough, successful career woman Kathy Ferguson (Barbara Stanwyck) abandons her newspaper column and a prestigious new job to marry LA police detective Bill Doyle (Sterling Hayden). She imagines a life of domestic bliss, and soon she’s living in suburbia–along with all the other detectives’ wives. Doyle is happy plodding along in his career, but Kathy really can’t stand the life she finds herself in. The Doyle’s social life is composed of dreary evenings with Doyle’s co-workers. The men play card games, and the women chatter on about inane subjects. While no unpleasant words exit from the mouths of the detectives’ wives, it’s quite clear that a strict social hierarchy exists. In particular, one wife, Sara Alidos, is all too happy to carry on at length about her intimate friendship with the Police Commissioner Pope (Raymond Burr) and his wife. Kathy really doesn’t belong with these other wives. Try as she might, she just doesn’t fit in, and her own lack of conformity drives Kathy to the brink of a breakdown.

But then Kathy has an idea. In Kathy’s mind, her husband is superior to the other detectives, and she is cleverer than the rest of the wives. And so Kathy sets out to use her brain to promote her dullard of a husband through whatever means are necessary.

Barbara Stanwyck is excellent in the role of Kathy–a woman who gives up her career and lives to regret it. Kathy is hard and tough, but when she meets Bill, she gives into romance, and in her case, this is a big mistake. Bill Doyle is a good, hard-working man, but Kathy doesn’t respect him. Raymond Burr as Pope is the man who sees past Kathy’s persona and sees the conniving woman underneath.

From director Gert Oswald, Crime of Passion contains some extremely interesting comments especially about the roles of women in the 50s. For film noir/Stanwyck fans, this is a film well worth watching.

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Filed under Barbara Stanwyck, Film Noir

Harriet Craig (1950)

“No man was born for marriage. He has to be trained for it.”

In the opening scene of the film Harriet Craig a houseful of servants scurry around frantically as they help Harriet (Joan Crawford) prepare for a trip. While Harriet, at first, speaks politely to her cousin/maid Clare, the harried, frantic manner in which Clare attempts to meet Harriet’s every whim, is chilling. Harriet Craig is a domestic dragon. Her house is run like clockwork–nothing is to be moved out of place–everything is to remain spotless. This neatness fetish may not sound too daunting, but Harriet’s obsession with perfection runs deeper than a tidy house. Harriet is a domineering controller, and everyone who lives in her house must bend to her will in all situations.

Harriet Craig moves forward with precision. At first, Harriet’s fetish with neatness is slightly deranged, but within a few scenes, Harriet takes increasingly greater liberties with the lives of the people she’s supposed to care about. The incidents which reveal Harriet’s true nature build with steady momentum. As the film progresses, the buried depths of venom spew from her in rapid succession. Harriet is capable of layers of spite. She doesn’t worry, for example, about the social niceties with the servants, and with them, she doesn’t even bother to appear nice. With her husband, Harriet is at her most manipulative. One brilliant scene, in particular, (when she dissuades him from a game of golf), shows Harriet’s seductive power. By the time she’s finished with her husband, he thinks it’s his idea to miss the game and stay home, and he’s even happy about it! He is blissfully unaware of Harriet’s true nature, and he thinks he’s married some sort of domestic goddess who worries about the house too much. Harriet controls her husband with guided sweetness, but under that facade of sweetness, she will stop at nothing to keep him under her thumb. Things in Harriet’s house become decidedly out-of-control during a dinner party, and as Harriet moves back and forth between her servants and her social acquaintances, she switches back between viciousness and controlling masked by concern. Joan Crawford delivers a tour-de-force performance. It’s easy to see her as the perfect house-frau, cold, heartless, and cruel. She acts her heart out, and just as she appears to give the role everything she has, deeper layers of viciousness explode to the surface. Great stuff.

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Filed under Drama, Joan Crawford