As writer, Ranald MacDougall successfully rebooted Joan Crawford’s career as leading lady with MILDRED PIERCE/’45; a decade later, he successfully booted whatever was left of it as writer/director of this Southern-Fried dish of domestic hooey. In this sub-LITTLE FOXES set up, Crawford’s raging ego rules her mansion-sized roost as she lunges about blindsiding her dipsomaniac hubby; plies her wide-mouth wiles on an old flame; drives a blonde to suicide; hires a vicious disciplinarian as nanny; entertains a feebleminded romantic rival from her past; and welcomes a young cuz from up North as personal playmate for hearth & home amid the magnolia trees. Artificial in the extreme, but played without style by a benumbed cast who either can’t or won’t make eye contact with their pedestaled star, the film is undoubtedly catnip for fanciers of late Crawford, but should be sampled with care by non-believers. They may wonder if the startling figure on screen is real or audio-animatronic. You sure can’t take your eyes off her.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The pretty little thing who comes to visit and stays as catalyst is Lucy Marlow, James Mason’s cute official date in the opening scenes of A STAR IS BORN/’54. Alas, someone sabotaged her looks here, turning her into a moon-faced Cupie Doll . . . or is she supposed to be Sniffles the Mouse?