Wednesday 23 January 2019

Sudden Fear - 1952 film review

Sudden Fear is a well-regarded film noir that has passed me by until I came across it on Talking Pictures. It's based on a novel of the same name by Edna Sherry, who only wrote a handful of books, and it stars Joan Crawford, Jack Palance, and Gloria Grahame (she of Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool). Essentially, it's a film of two halves.

The first part of the story seemed very ordinary to me. Crawford plays Myra Hudson, a highly successful playwright - although the fragments of her dialogue that we hear are pretty dire. Myra also happens to be an heiress. She comes across Lester, a charismatic actor, younger than herself, played by Jack Palance. She falls for him, and soon they are married. But we can guess what fate has in store for a very rich woman who becomes besotted over a young man, can't we? When Irene (Gloria Grahame) turns up in their lives, and it emerges that she's an old flame of Lester's, the writing is obviously on the wall.

The story takes a fresh turn when Myra finds out that Lester and Irene are plotting against her. This development occurs as a result of astonishing stupidity on Lester's part, a weakness in the plotting. At this stage, I wasn't impressed, since every twist of the storyline had been supremely predictable. But from then on, the suspense builds nicely, as Myra determines to fight back. Soon it becomes clear that Lester and Irene have at least as much to fear from her as she does from them. But the outcome is anyone's guess.

I enjoyed the second half of the film and I could see why Crawford earned an Oscar nomination for her performance. She and Palance have never been favourite actors of mine, if I'm honest, but they do a good job here. An added bonus is the setting - the main events take place in San Francisco, and that wonderful city is nicely portrayed. Elmer Bernstein's score is in the Bernard Herrmann vein, and adds suitably to the tension. I'm now interested in tracking down Sherry's novel. 

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