“Sudden Fear” (1952) starring Joan Crawford, Jack Palance, & Gloria Grahame

HEARTBREAK… Poised on a Trigger of Terror! -A tag line for the film

Actor Lester Blaine (Jack Palance- his 1st lead role w/ Oscar nom) has almost landed the lead in Myra Hudson’s (Joan Crawford- in her 3rd/last Oscar-winning role) new Broadway play. However, Myra (a writer/patroness of the arts) vetoes the director and producer b/c she doesn’t think Lester looks like a “romantic leading man.” On a train from NYC to San Fran, Lester and Myra meet again by chance; he sets out to prove her wrong- by romancing her for real! Later on, we meet Irene Neves (Gloria Grahame), who has recently been dating Myra’s friend/young lawyer, Junior Kearney (Mike Conners- a former football player). Another long-time pal/lawyer of Myra’s is Junior’s older bro, Steve (Bruce Bennett- also Crawford’s no-good ex-hubby in Mildred Pierce).

Lester [after being rejected for the lead role]: Miss Hudson, in your own native city of San Francisco, there’s an art gallery in the Legion of Honor in which there’s an oil painting of Casanova. It’s quite obvious that you have never seen this painting. For your information, Miss Hudson, this is what Casanova looked like: he had big ears, a scar over one eye, a broken nose, and a wart on his chin, right here. I suggest, Miss Hudson, that when you return to San Francisco, you visit this gallery and see this painting!

Crawford was a “boss lady” BOTH in front of and behind the camera, as many of y’all classic fans know! As the executive producer (EP), she was heavily involved in ALL aspects of the production. Crawford hired Lenore J. Coffee (screenwriter), David Miller (director), and suggested using Elmer Bernstein (composer). The music score comes partly from Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Rite of Spring. She insisted on Charles Lang (cinematographer) and personally cast Palance and Grahame as co-stars. Crawford’s 1st choice for Lester was Clark Gable; Brando was offered the role also.

Lester: [quoting Myra’s play] When I wake in the morning, when I go to sleep at night, I think of you. You’re like the air which surrounds me, the sky which spreads above me, the earth beneath my feet. When I hear music, when I see beauty, when I breathe in the sunlight, I think of you. You are the sister I never had, the mother I have almost forgotten, the wife I have always dreamed of. There isn’t a relationship you can name which exists between a man and a woman of which I wouldn’t say let it be you. Let it be you.

On the train, Lester tells Myra he was born in Pittsburgh and spent some of his early years as a coal miner. In real life, Palance was born in Lattimer (in the eastern part of PA), and he did follow his father (an immigrant from Ukraine) into the anthracite coal mines for a time. Lester also mentions being in the Army during WWII; Palance was in the Air Force during the war. Palance (just in his early 30s) is a great match for Crawford both w/ his acting talent and physicality (height, severe cheekbones, square jawline, and intense gaze). Grahame’s character is more clever, nasty, and take-charge here (than in other roles); she looks a BIT fragile in scenes w/ Palance (w/ an imposing physique).

[1] This is a real edge-of-your-seat nail-biter. David Miller did a terrific job of directing this one, and the cinematography is spectacular by Charles Lang. Some of the shots are as inspired as anything ever seen in Hollywood…

[2] The three leads, Joan Crawford , a wealthy lady getting old and thinking she ‘s found true love, Jack Palance, not the romantic lead of her play but a disturbing character, and Gloria Grahame at her bitchiest are terrific.

[3] Truly thrilling in places and just plain classic Crawford. Watch for the moment when Joan embraces her love interest Palance and asks, “I was just wondering what I’d done to deserve you.”

-Excerpts from IMDb reviews

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