Queen Bee (1955)

Directed by Ranald MacDougall

Eva Phillips (Joan Crawford) dominates her Georgia mansion and her husband Avery (Barry Sullivan), an alcoholic mill owner who hates his wife. A cousin, Jennifer Stewart (Lucy Marlow), is pressured into moving in with the family, and she watches in horror as Eva maneuvers to prevent the marriage of Avery’s sister Carol (Betsy Palmer) to Judson Prentiss (John Ireland). Carol tells Jennifer to watch out for Eva, and that she read a book about bees and feels that Eva is like a queen bee who stings all her competitors to death. Jennifer refuses to believe such bad sentiments about Eva, and eventually becomes the putative personal assistant to Eva.

That same night, Eva and Jud have a meeting in a darkened room where he tells her that their relationship and anything they had together was over because he is marrying Carol. Eva rejects this and begins to kiss him, but Judson stops kissing her after a few seconds once he realizes that he is falling back into her trap. Meanwhile, Jennifer witnesses this rendezvous from the top of the staircase and is shocked. Jud turns the light on and tells Eva that he is serious, and she warns him that he will ultimately be sorry for refusing her. When Carol and Jud’s engagement is announced to Eva, Eva strongly hints at her former affair with Jud, and Carol commits suicide by hanging herself in the barn.

Jennifer and Avery are drawn together and share a furtive kiss when he tells her that he is aware of Eva and Jud’s past. Eva senses the developing relationship and increases her malevolent actions, and tells Avery to not interact with Jennifer any longer. When he refuses, she threatens a scandalous divorce in the press. Meanwhile, Jud, still guilty over Carol’s death, leaves the house for a few weeks, but comes back one day for work. He finds out from Jennifer that it was really Eva who told Carol about his earlier relationship with Eva, not Avery as he had assumed. Now, for different reasons, both men are determined to avenge it.


Avery changes his attitude completely, and acts as though he is in love with Eva. She changes her attitude and says that she is done being manipulative because her husband finally loves her. However, Jud sees through the charade and confronts Avery that his true motives for being nice to Eva is so that she will trust him enough so that he can kill her. Jud preempts his plan on the night Avery intends to commit murder-suicide and takes Eva driving. When Eva discerns that he wants her dead, she frantically attacks him, resulting in a crash over a cliff, killing them both. Now, Jennifer and Avery are free to love each other.

“Any man’s my man if I want it that way.”

This little known 1955 melodramatic gem starring Joan Crawford, Barry Sullivan, Betsy Palmer, John Ireland, Lucy Marlow is not only incredibly over-dramatic (sometimes hilariously so) but a great opportunity for Joan Crawford to show off her inner diva and those great acting skills of hers.

Emotions run high as ruthless Southern socialite Eva Phillips (the Queen Bee – played by else but the magnificent Joan Crawford who is absolutely in her element) manipulates those around her, turning them against each other. The story begins when her sappy cousin (badly played by Lucy Marlow – you are almost happy when she gets slapped) arrives at Eva’s mansion and boy, is she in for one wild ride! Affairs, suicide, car accidents, love, manipulation all drive this movie.


It is such a pleasure to watch Eva Phillips tear people apart and see the cunning ways in which she works and gets her own way. The script is, as I previously said, insanely dramatic (and sometimes the lines aren’t delivered well – bad acting) and sometimes it got very funny as it just seemed really pathetic. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it though – no, I loved every minute of it. I loved Eva Phillip’s ability to torment the people around her (for example – calling her drunk, scarred husband ‘Beauty’) – it was incredibly fascinating to me. And the ending was very rewarding too.

Undoubtly over-the-top to the point of laughing, but a very entertaining ride perfect for a day in. I enjoyed every minute of it, I thoroughly recommend it to comedy and drama fans alike – both could get some enjoyment out of this.


A very, very Crawford movie

Author: verna55 from cincinnati, ohio
26 September 2000

Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but having seen a great many of her movies, I would say that Joan Crawford was at her bitchiest in this picture. That is to say, bitchier than usual! She tears at the scenery, she tears at the script, and brother I feel sorry for her co-stars, because even though they are also a talented group, they of course don’t stand a chance when Crawford’s on the screen, which is basically every scene. Although her character doesn’t appear right away, it’s still obvious from the very start that this is a very, very Crawford movie.


The film just instantaneously gives off that omen. The gist of the story is this: Crawford is a glamorous socialite who dominates her Southern family and takes great pride in doing so. Yes, we’ve seen Crawford play this type of role before(HARRIETT CRAIG), but I personally never tire of seeing Crawford getting the upper hand. Though they didn’t get along too well in real life, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis had much in common when it came to choice of movie scripts. They both specialized in playing catty, indomitable females, and they both clearly relished doing so. Crawford is at her best in this one. Sure, the script isn’t the greatest she’s been given, and frankly it’s pretty sleazy stuff, but Crawford does wonders with it and manages to turn in her finest performance. She clearly works at the part and isn’t simply clawing and nailing at everyone around her. Even though her character is an absolute horror of a human being, Crawford does her best to make her a sympathetic one, and she just about pulls it off! Some people will discard this one as pure camp, but this is a movie that serious Joan Crawford fans like myself will treasure, and no doubt watch over and over again. Terrific!!!!!


Oh MY God!

Author: thedavid01 from San Francisco, California
4 February 2007

From frame one, she is EVIL! I totally cracked up because everyone else is dressed and lit adequately,but in each shot, each frig-gin’ shot, Joan is in fantastic gowns, jewels, lit fabulously and with just that HINT of gauze, Vaseline over the lens. Same year as Female on the Beach. Go Joan! She chews through scenery like a wood chipper. However her character, originally from Chicago, is intimidated by a southern family..I don’t think so. I realized she is the prototype of characters like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction”. The scene where she dares her husband to divorce her is shark-like.Glamorous from start to finish.And poor Betsy Palmer….


Welcome to Hell

Author: J B Thackery from Atlanta
3 February 2007
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I could rave about the fantastic acting and directing. But every scene is like waking up in a real Hades. I mean, these people seem locked into the never-ending strain of having to live with each other, and even worse, with themselves.

I disagree with another posted comment which said none of the acting was good except for Joan Crawford. They were all superbly on cue, dynamically intertwined, and their interactions were so genuine I kept thinking I was in the room with these miserable rich people.

I kept getting ulcers, and feeling angry, depressed, or panicky with each character interaction. Now and then the sweet-natured visiting cousin, Jenifer, offers a fresh breeze of hope, but wow, how she gets caught up in their poisonous existence. You never know if she is going to save this wretched family, or destroy them; you can’t quite figure what she is about.


There is plenty of movement, dynamic interplay, psychological warfare and symbolism, and smooth continuity. Every actor surprises you with revelations of their inner selves which they are not afraid to expose, which in every scene stirs up more conflict to work out.

I also slightly disagree with the posted comment that the ending was tacked on. In a way it could seem so, but the events leading up to it keep you wondering… was the freshly budding resolution of all their sorrows real? Or just a lot of fake premise that never got to full light? We will never know. But after seeing this otherwise well produced movie,I am determined to live as good a life as I can, if this is what Hell is like! And these poor people are in Hell.


Long Live the Queen.

Author: Jamie Moffat (jamie_moffat@hotmail.com) from Melbourne, Australia
10 March 2000
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

“This won’t do at all” sniffs Joan Crawford, surveying a particularly glum cocktail party in her mouldering Southern mansion. “I like my admirers to be gay and laughing.”

I strongly suspect that they’re both, Joan, but you don’t have to be gay to find this one a riot. Here is a film so camp that even Anita Bryant would have a hard time suppressing a smirk.


The plot reads like a bad parody of the sort of thing used to do the thirties, which in itself was a bad parody of the better stuff that Garbo and Shearer did. Mega bitch Crawford stomps around her l’il ol’ plantation with more petticoats and more starch than was expended on the entire cast of “Gone With the Wind.” She tosses off faux-bitchy comments to anyone who’ll listen – “My you look nice, even in those tacky riding clothes” – yet nobody tells the old cow to put a sock in it. Enter a sweet young thing, recently orphaned, and Crawford kicks into high gear, plotting, plotting, plotting.

Since Crawford’s character exists for no other reason than to make everybody else feel atrocious, its just as well that the rest of the cast are such a gormless bunch. When Crawford asks “Do I look fairly human?” nobody offers the obvious rejoinder. When she pushes a younger rival to suicide, nobody dobs her in to the inevitable inquest. Its left to her long suffering husband to polish her off in a car accident in a gender reversed scene from Bette Davis’ “Dangerous”, and not a minute too soon.


All of the actors seem too awestruck by the antics of the star to register much on screen. Fay Wray has a nice cameo early in the piece as a Blanche du Bois wannabe, a faded victim of Joan’s treachery. But we all know its Joan who’s really bonkers.

A special mention to Joan’s gowns, which are a show in themselves. I particularly liked the hang glider affair that she wears at the afore mentioned cocktail party. But my hat really goes off to the one that looks a bit like a moulting Christmas tree.

Whatever Happened to Mildred Pierce?

Author: billpappas-1 from United States
19 April 2010
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Oh, Joan, That hairdo, those eyebrows, hide the children. Someone said she looked like she was wearing ‘warrior makeup’. But, we love ya, Joan when you’re as bad as you can be. This was before the Joker in the Batman movies.

Other reviewers have already laid out the plot but there are a few scenes that simply delight me. There’s the one where a seated John Ireland has a telephone cord gently wrapped around his neck by Joan while she’s on the phone.

In another scene, she is talking to her young niece or whoever she is while semi-reclining on the sofa. Meanwhile Joan has her leg elevated admiring it and pointing her foot in her high heel shoe, somewhat distracted by its shapeliness, I guess.


Then, while the young woman and Betsy Palmer are on the floor looking at blueprints of the house Betsy will live in, they don’t hear Joan enter till you see her high heel shoe with its ankle strap stepping on the blueprints and ruining their fun.

Another delightful moment is when Barry Sullivan, ‘Beauty’ is in his office pacing in front of his desk where Joan is seated out of camera range while he is trying to tell her he wants a divorce. It’s a heavy, serious scene. The camera pans over to Joan who is admiring herself in her compact make up mirror in a wonderfully blasé, Joan Crawford way.

These little moments are worth sitting through some of the tedious plot development. There is one scene where Barry Sullivan is having a long dialog with John Ireland in Sullivan’s bedroom while he is dressing for a formal dinner. The dialog is one long shot while Sullivan is tying his bow tie, something we don’t see in today’s movies with all the quick edits. Today’s actors don’t seem to be able to do a long scene without cuts like in these old movies.

I guess Joan didn’t mind playing a character that was so nasty that the audience cheered her demise at the end of the film.



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