While in the midst of shooting HUMORESQUE, Crawford was awarded the Oscar for MILDRED PIERCE and what was a smallish role was suddenly expanded to make it a full-fledged co-starring part with Garfield. With her favorite cameraman behind the lenses (Haller), Crawford never looked more
ravishing nor was her acting ever any more controlled. This was made long before she decided that the scenery might be suitable for chewing, and her restraint, in what could have been an over-the-top role, was admirable. Adapted from Fannie Hurst's tearjerker (which had already been made as a
silent film in 1920), the Odets-Gold screenplay crackles with wit (most of which comes from the mouth of Levant) and irony, thereby taking the onus off the bathetic story. Garfield (in a role not unlike the one he did in BODY AND SOUL) is a tough, temperamental, and highly ambitious violinist who
is hired to play a party at the home of Crawford, a wealthy dilettante trapped in a loveless marriage to Cavanagh, who allows her to engage in various sexual forays. Crawford uses her wealth to get men to do her bidding, sort of like a QUEEN BEE (a role Crawford did nine years later). She wants
Garfield but soon realizes he can't be bought and is totally dedicated to his music. The more he resists her, the more she falls in love with him and love is something she has seldom, if ever, felt, so she doesn't know how to handle it. She helps his career, then, functioning as his impresario,
she presents him to the public and he is hailed as a bright star on the classical horizon. Garfield's poor-but-proud family wishes he would get rid of her as they are from two distinctly different universes and the family feels that nothing good can come of it. Crawford goes so far as to visit
Naish and Nelson, Garfield's parents, to make herself known to them and to show she truly cares for their son. Nelson cruelly tells her to keep away from Garfield. Crawford and Garfield can't stay away from each other but they are always quarreling and when she spots him with an old lover, she
hits the ceiling and they both realize that this love cannot go anywhere. Crawford understands that her affair with Garfield, while deep and emotional, is but one of many that she's had over the years, all of which ended disastrously. While listening to Garfield perform on the radio, she makes the
decision to end it all by walking into the ocean, in a scene reminiscent of A STAR IS BORN.
Garfield's playing was so believable in the movie that he was often asked to pick up a violin while tub-thumping the movie. The reason for the requests was a brilliant bit of inventiveness on someone's part; a real violinist's arm was passed through a hole in Garfield's coat so the fingering would
be authentic. At the same time, a second violinist hid behind Garfield and took care of the bow work. Then Isaac Stern dubbed all of the violin playing. It was movie magic. The results were convincing and helped the picture enormously. Levant acts as the comedic counterpoint to the heavy love
story and his presence is not only welcome, it's necessary to maintain a balance in the screenplay or this would have collapsed. More than 20 classical pieces also help to raise the level of the movie to auditory heights.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: While in the midst of shooting HUMORESQUE, Crawford was awarded the Oscar for MILDRED PIERCE and what was a smallish role was suddenly expanded to make it a full-fledged co-starring part with Garfield. With her favorite cameraman behind the lenses (Haller)… (more)