Forgotten Crawford Noir–better than Sudden Fear
Here is a rare gem, which hasn’t seen the light of day as a VHS or DVD release to date. It has appeared on cable (AMC) very rarely, and not for a few years, but precious recorded copies are available. When I saw the film on TV about four years ago, the print was remarkably excellent and free of age-related artifacts. The film has held-up well, but prints are scarce.
This Woman is Dangerous is worth seeking out for a number of reasons. It was Joan Crawford’s last film at Warner’s, and she absolutely loathed it. However, contrary to reviewers of the past and Crawford’s own opinion, the film is quite good. The plot, as many have already stated, concerns a lady gangster Beth (Crawford) and her boyfriend (David Brian) who is heading downward in a life of crime. As it happens, she is in need of a special eye surgery to restore her sight (as it plays in the film, it is very convincing and good–not contrived as many reviewers have claimed).
She goes to Chicago to have the operation, and hide out from the rather possessive Brian, and the doctor (Dennis Morgan) shows her that there are other alternatives to a life of crime. They slowly fall in love as she regains her sight, but she is presented with a problem when Brian wants to re-enter her life and the doctor is confronted with her true identity. Will he accept her and help her start over, or will he reject her because of her past? You will have to watch the very engrossing melodrama, This Woman is Dangerous, to find out.
Stylistically, the film most resembles Crawford’s earlier film, The Damned Don’t Cry. Both films have similar themes and noir photography. The score is also lovely. The film is a beautifully-made, rather glossy WB noir. Joan Crawford looks very attractive throughout the film, as she always did in the early ’50s when her characteristic look reached its peak (the shoulder pads, the ankle strap shoes, the big mouth and eyes). Her performance is sensitive and heartfelt–certainly one of her most memorable. David Brian’s performance is the weak link in the film, but Dennis Morgan is excellent as the doctor.
This Woman is Dangerous is a solid film noir, undeserving of its “potboiler” reputation.
Good hard-boiled melodrama is better than the plot outline suggests…
Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
26 March 2011
If it’s true that JOAN CRAWFORD called this one of her “worst” films, then she is just as bad as judging her own work as Bette Davis was. Bette thought so little of “It’s Love I’m After” which everyone thinks is one of the best screwball comedies of the ’30s, starring Bette, Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland.
If THIS WOMAN IS DANGEROUS sounds like a lurid melodrama, it is. But it’s got a lot of good things going for it. First of all, the characters are an interesting bunch–including the two rough and tough Jackson brothers (DAVID BRIAN and PHILIP CAREY), DENNIS MORGAN sincere in one of his better dramatic roles as an eye specialist who treats Crawford and eventually falls in love with her, and a plot that keeps you wondering how the whole affair is going to turn out because Brian’s character is such a hot-headed guy with a gun.
Also, it never becomes sappy in the romance department nor does it have the soap opera flavor of many a Joan Crawford film. Instead, it’s got an almost film noir quality about the sharp B&W photography, a good score, and other technical qualities that raise it above the norm for what looks like a low-budget Warner film. But the plot has enough interesting moments to keep viewers watching until the final shootout in a hospital while a surgery is being performed.
David Brian seems to be relishing his tough guy role (which seldom varied during his stay at Warner Bros.), and Joan Crawford gets a chance to play out all her anxieties and frustrations with her customary skill. Her career at Warners was just about to come to an end because she was dissatisfied with the scripts she’d been given after making such a strong showing during her first few years with the studio.
A good, steamy melodrama that manages to overcome the improbable story line by being directed in brisk, no nonsense style by Felix Feist, who knew how to keep the pace tight as the story builds toward a climax.
Strange, maybe, but not Joan’s worst
Author: blanche-2 from United States
28 March 2011
Like others on this board, I’m surprised that Joan Crawford would call “This Woman is Dangerous” her worst film. This from the woman who made Straitjacket, Berserk, and Trog?
“This Woman is Dangerous” was Crawford’s last film at Warners, and perhaps she felt like she was headed downhill at Warners the way she had headed downhill at MGM. By then she was used to seeing the signs. But for the viewer, on the surface, at least, the movie is serviceable. Crawford stars as Beth Austin, a gangsteress with vision problems and a jealous boyfriend, Matt Jackson (David Brian). She goes to Indiana to have a special operation by a known surgeon, Dr. Halleck (Dennis Morgan), and the two develop feelings for one another. Knowing the good doctor’s fate at the hands of her beau if she gives in, Beth resists his advances.
The film is a strange mix of romance and film noir, but the tension is always there. Phil Carey plays Brian’s brother, and the two have a volatile relationship; Matt is always sure Beth has run off with another guy; the police are looking for Beth.
Pretty good, though it drags a bit.
It’s Ted McCords Movie…
Author: museumofdave from Paradise, California
17 February 2014
The woman in the title is not particularly dangerous, but she seems to be crashingly masochistic. Joan Crawford, at this point in her acting career, has been playing women with an elegant sense style who fall for the wrong men, and this time it’s super-petulant David Brian, who has probably been pouting since his older sister snapped his slingshot. Early in the film, Our Joan discovers her sight is in jeopardy, and purely by accident begins to bond with her doctor, mild-mannered but sensitive Dennis Morgan, set free from Warner’s musicals for a year or so; Brian soon discovers the clandestine romance, and is ready to kill someone! He loves to wave his gun around!
Although not as tightly written as this semi-noir melodrama could be, there are plenty of exciting set pieces that delight the eye and excite the intellect–all the stuff with the trailer pursued by the motorcycle copy is, while totally illogical, fascinating and beautifully filmed, and therein for me lies a major interest in this film–the superb, careful use of the camera with which Warner films could be so effective–brilliant set interiors lit perfectly, whether in the home of a sick child’s poor parents, or in an operating room’s audience gallery, providing a dazzling set piece finale where everybody get’s involved and there’s enough shattered glass to build an igloo! Cinematographer Ted McCord is the man behind the camera; he’s already lensed Crawford in numerous other films, and is responsible for a rich heritage of classics from The Treasure of The Sierra Madre to The Sound of Music–a dedicated artists, McCord’s work could make a meatball look like filet mignon.
A sincere dedication from dozens of Warner contract players contribute to a wide variety of locales–from hospital waiting rooms to trailer parks, prison laundry rooms to doctor’s offices, and the film, I think, accurately reflects the ability of a major studio to churn out a decent film every few weeks worthy of watching. This Woman Is Dangerous is no Mildred Pierce or Humoresque, but Joan is still in top form, manages to command attention, and there are few that can suffer as bravely. Well…Kay Francis, maybe..but that’s another story.
Because the script of a gangster who saw the light had become trite by the 1950s, some sources suggest that studio head Jack L. Warner offered Crawford the role hoping the expensive star would turn it down so he could put her on suspension. That could also be the reason he offered the eye surgeon‘s role to Dennis Morgan, whose box-office appeal had diminished since World War II. To Warner’s surprise, both stars accepted the film. Crawford later instructed her agents to negotiate an end to her contract at Warner Bros. and she went on to make the independently produced hit film noir Sudden Fear.