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July 28, 2016

The Joan Crawford Blogathon - Sudden Fear (1952)

Thanks to Crystal for hosting the blogathon and inviting me to participate. I have always enjoyed the work of Joan Crawford and am anxious to read everyone's contributions to the blogathon. Please visit Crystal's fine blog, In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.

Watch the Trailer for Sudden Fear

Sudden Fear (1952) is a beautifully crafted film noir thriller. Joan Crawford turns in one of the most emotionally charged performances of her career as a playwright who must use her plotting skills to save her own life. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Actress (Joan Crawford), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Palance), Best Cinematography (b/w) (Charles Lang), and Best Costume Design (b/w) (Sheila O'Brien). Sudden Fear is an unbeatable combination of lush melodrama and drop-dead suspense.

Production Company: Joseph Kaufman Productions, Inc. and RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Producer: Joseph Kaufman
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Director: David Miller
Writers: Lenore Coffee and Robert Smith - Based on the novel Sudden Fear by Edna Sherry (New York, 1948).
Cinematographer: Charles B. Lang, Jr.
Art Director: Boris Leven
Film Editor: Leon Barsha
Costumes:  Sheila O'Brien (Miss Crawford's gowns designed by), Al Teitelbaum (Miss Crawford's furs designed by), Tula (Miss Crawford's lingerie and hostess gowns by), Rex, Inc. (Miss Crawford's hats by), Ruser (Miss Crawford's jewels by)
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Makeup: Edwin Allen (Makeup for Miss Crawford)
Release Date: August 7, 1952
Production Dates: Late January to late March 1952 at Republic Studios
Duration (in minutes): 110
Color: Black and white
Sound: Mono (RCA Sound System)

David Miller was an American film director who directed such varied films as Billy the Kid (1941) with Robert Taylor and Brian Donlevy, Flying Tigers (1943) with John Wayne, Love Happy (1949) with the Marx Brothers, Sudden Fear (1952) with Joan Crawford, Midnight Lace (1960) with Doris Day, Back Street (1961) with Susan Hayward, Lonely Are the Brave (1962) with Kirk Douglas, and the psychodrama Captain Newman, M.D. (1963) with Gregory Peck. Extraordinarily adaptable, he had an easygoing temperament and an ability to get along with anyone he was working with.

Lenore Coffee was an American screenwriter, playwright and novelist. She was twice nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Street of Chance (1930) and Four Daughters (1938)
Of the studio system she is quoted as saying:

"They pick your brains, break your heart, ruin your digestion—and what do you get for it? Nothing but a lousy fortune."

Charles B. Lang, Jr. was an American cinematographer. He received a total of 18 Oscar nominations, tying with Leon Shamroy for the most Academy Award for Best Cinematography nominations ever. Lang won for A Farewell to Arms (1932). He was nominated for Sudden Fear (1952). Actress Katherine Kelly Lang is his granddaughter.

Boris Leven was a Moscow-born Academy Award-winning art director and production designer whose Hollywood career spanned fifty-three years. He was nominated for an Oscar nine times. He won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color for West Side Story (1961). For Giant (1956), he constructed the Victorian home that sits isolated in a wide expanse of open field, which became an iconic image for the film.

Sheila O'Brien was an American costume designer. She began her career as a seamstress for Paramount Pictures but transferred to the costume department of MGM, coming into her own as a Hollywood costume designer in the 1950s. She was a favorite of Joan Crawford’s, dressing her in 1952's Sudden Fear, (for which O’Brien received an Oscar nomination), Johnny Guitar (1954), and Female on the Beach (1955).

Elmer Bernstein was an American composer and conductor best known for his many film scores. In a career which spanned fifty years, he composed music for hundreds of film and television productions. Bernstein's work was Oscar-nominated 14 times. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Music Score for Thoroughly Modern Millie. His scores for The Magnificent Seven and To Kill a Mockingbird were ranked by the American Film Institute as the eighth and seventeenth greatest American film scores of all time.

Edwin Allen was a favorite makeup artist of Joan Crawford. They worked together on Mildred Pierce (1945), Humoresque (1946), Flamingo Road (1949), Sudden Fear (1952), General Electric Theater (1953 TV Series) - Episode: "The Road to Edinburgh" (1954), and Della (1964).

Joan Crawford (born Lucille Fay LeSueur) was an American film and television actress who started as a dancer and stage chorine. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Crawford tenth on their list of the greatest female stars of Hollywood's Golden Age. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Mildred Pierce (1945). She was Oscar-nominated in the same category for Possessed (1947) and Sudden Fear (1952). Crawford was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama for Sudden Fear (1952).

Jack Palance (born Volodymyr Palahniuk) was an American actor and singer. During half a century of film and television appearances, he was nominated for three Academy Awards, all for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, winning in 1992 for his role in City Slickers (1991). His first two nominations were for 1952's Sudden Fear and 1953's Shane. He famously performed one-handed push-ups (at age 73) at the March 30, 1992 Oscars. I've always thought his razor-sharp cheekbones could cut a Kevlar cable.

Gloria Grahame (born Gloria Grahame Hallward) was an American stage, film and television actress. Often cast in film noir projects, Grahame received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Crossfire (1947), and she won this award for her work in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). Her second husband was Nicholas Ray. Her fourth husband was her former stepson. Anthony "Tony" Ray was the son of Nicholas Ray and his first wife Jean Evans.

Bruce Bennett was an American actor and Olympic silver medalist in the shot put. Born as Harold Herman Brix, he went by the name Herman Brix in the 1930s. In 1939, Brix changed his name to "Bruce Bennett" and became a member of Columbia Pictures' stock company.

Virginia Huston (born Virginia Houston) was a film actress. Signing with RKO in 1945, her first film was opposite George Raft in Nocturne. She played Robert Mitchum's girlfriend in Out of the Past (1947) and Joan Crawford's assistant in Sudden Fear (1952).

Mike "Touch" Connors (born Kreker Ohanian) is an American actor best known for playing television detective Joe Mannix in Mannix (1967-1975 on CBS). Connors' acting career spans six decades; in addition to his work on television, he has appeared in numerous films.

Sudden Fear is one of those noir gems about a love-hate relationship between a husband and wife that's doomed from the very beginning. Joan Crawford plays Myra Hudson, a successful playwright and heiress who insists that actor Lester Blaine (Jack Palance) be fired from the Broadway production of her new play because he doesn't look properly romantic. But when she takes a train back home to San Francisco, they meet again, and this time she falls head over heels in love. Before long they're married. A wedding photo in the New York City newspapers brings Blaine's old girlfriend, Irene Neves (the criminally underappreciated Gloria Grahame) back into his life and he falls under her dark spell. When Blaine and Neves plot to get Hudson's fortune, the evil scheme backfires with ironically twisted results. Blaine has no idea how much his wife truly loves him, and she has no idea how sinister he truly is. Sudden Fear is a fascinating film, with wonderful nuances and sensitive performances by the three leads. The direction is taut and heavily influenced (but successfully so) by Alfred Hitchcock; the use of sound is particularly skillful. The thriller earned Oscar nominations for Crawford and Palance as well as for its gorgeous black-and-white cinematography and natty costumes. And whether it's because she's playing opposite Palance or not, this is definitely one of Crawford's most sympathetic performances.

Did You Know?

Legend has it that Joan Crawford fought against having Jack Palance as her leading man, protesting that he was the ugliest man in Hollywood. Her producer finally prevailed by convincing her that her character had to be sympathetic—and Palance was the only actor in town who was scarier than she was.

Sudden Fear marked the first film in which Jack Palance's first name is listed as "Jack" instead of "Walter Jack." Lester Blaine was his first major film role.

According to a July 1952 Variety item, Joan Crawford and director David Miller worked on a participation basis. Modern sources note that Crawford, who had script and casting approval, chose to receive a forty percent interest in the $720,000 picture in lieu of a $200,000 salary.

Crawford originally requested Clark Gable as her co-star, according to modern sources. Miller, who thought Gable too old and well-known for the role, screened the 1950 Twentieth Century-Fox film Panic in the Streets, in which Jack Palance had a small but pivotal part, three times for Crawford, and she eventually agreed to cast him.

As the film's executive producer, Joan Crawford was heavily involved in all aspects of the production. She personally hired Lenore Coffee as the film's screenwriter, David Miller as director and suggested Elmer Bernstein as composer. She insisted on Charles Lang being hired as the film's cinematographer.

According to Jack Palance, Joan Crawford and Gloria Grahame did not get along and got into a physical altercation at one point during the filming. The fight started after Grahame sat on the edge of the set during one of Crawford's close-ups and very loudly sucked a lollipop in an attempt to anger Crawford. It worked, and Palance noted that the all-male crew watched the fight for a few moments rather curiously before stepping in to break it up.

Sudden Fear was Mike "Touch" Connors' first film.

Virginia Huston also appeared with Joan Crawford in Flamingo Road (1949).

Elmer Bernstein reused portions of his musical score the following year in Robot Monster (1953).

Watch Sudden Fear (1952)