If you enjoy a little film noir mystery and suspense – mixed in with unreasonable glamour and panache – then try watching “Sudden Fear” (1952), currently free to view on Amazon Prime. Joan Crawford stars as an incredibly rich woman who suddenly realises that someone might want to murder her for her fabulous wealth, mansion, diamonds and mink coats (shock! horror!).
How she discovers who is involved, and tries to survive using her wits makes for nailbiting melodrama. Yes, the whole setup is ludicrous but the visuals and sound make for genuine tension – and the cast take the script offered and gratefully put their acting into top gear.
Things to enjoy
- Joan Crawford’s acting: she is mesmerising in her performance, changing from a happy woman to a victim fearing for her life – but trying to mask this from everyone else. So her voice and actions are merry as before, but her eyes in close up tell a very different story. She seems to have the ability to have her mouth acting one emotion, her eyes another and her eyebrows trying to telegraph a third. After watching the film, I was not surprised that she earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for this film. There was another good actress also nominated that year, in competition – one Bette Davis. In the end, someone completely different won the award.
- Jack Palance’s Oscar nominated Best Supporting Actor
- Oscar nominated black and white cinematography by Charles Lang – in key scenes, the gloss, use of camera angles, crisp deep blacks and white add depth are all very conscious of exactly how to shoot that scene. I particularly like one scene where she imagines what will happen next.
- Oscar nominated costumes by Sheila O’Brien (everyone is sumptuously dressed)
- The script – which was adapted by Robert Smith and the prolific screenwriter Lenore Coffee (twice nominated for Oscars for screen adaptations)
- The music is by a certain Elmer Bernstein
- Location: the plummeting streets of San Francisco are used to great effect in moments of high drama
- all of the above must have kept the director and editor on the their toes – but sadly, neither were Oscar nominated for this script
View and enjoy!