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Possessed

Joan Crawford , Van Heflin , Curtis Bernhardt    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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The opening shots of Possessed achieve their goal: it is startling to see Joan Crawford wandering around without makeup, her hair drawn plainly back, in the early dawn of a grungily real location. Her unbalanced character, Louise, has been traumatized and must now recount her nightmare, in true film noir fashion, to a questioning psychoanalyst.

Possessed has an abundance of noir atmosphere (everything gets to be as shadowy as the inside of Louise's brain) and a full ration of Crawford at her most florid. The story is a wild ride: an invalid wife, a lonely widower, a daughter resentful of former nurse Louise's new status in the household. Plus there's the true crazy-making love of Louise's life, an engineer (Van Heflin) whose heart is as dry as his manner is breezy ("When a woman kisses me, Louise, she has to take pot luck"). The film's overripe writing is balanced by Joseph Valentine's sharp-angled photography, to say nothing of the vectors of Joan Crawford's sharp-angled face. As a companion piece to Crawford's Mildred Pierce performance, this one takes Mildred to her extreme--single-minded obsession and derangement. What Crawford lacked in subtlety she made up for in sheer commitment, which perhaps suits this character very well. --Robert Horton


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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
By May of 1946, Joan Crawford had seen her film career revived by the release of "MILDRED PIERCE", her first starring role since leaving M.G.M studios after 18 star studded years.
Crawford assended even further when she recieved the Academy Award as Best Actress. A renewed, lucrative contract with Warner Bros. studios quickly followed, under which she completed some of her finest films.
"POSSESSED", written and produced by the same team which created "MILDRED PIERCE", began filming two months after she recieved the Academy Award. It is perhaps because of this sudden burst of praise, that Crawford was able to tap deeper into her talents and deliver first rate performances in the three films she made during this period.
In portraying Louise Howell in "POSSESSED", Crawford gave what was arguable the most vivid and well crafted performance of her 81 film career. As a mentally unbalanced private Nurse involved in a one way love affair, Crawford dominates the film, but doesn't push her co-stars out of the frame. Instead, she works with them to help her create a portrait of a schizophrenic woman teetering on the edge of self destruction.
Her descent into madness is slow, but evident from the start. Every detail of this production is geared torwards creating an atmosphere of despair and lunacy (In the wedding scene, Crawford's black wedding suit is adorned with various straps making it seem almost like a black strait-jacket).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
Any of the numerous detractors who complain about Joan Crawford's acting ability need to watch a screening of the Warner Bros Noir classic "Possessed". I'm sure they will be pleasantly pleased by the wonderful range of ability displayed by Joan in what is without a doubt one of her finest performances during the 1940's.
Often overshadowed by her wonderful performance in her first Warner film in 1945 "Mildred Pierce", for which she won an Oscar as Best Actress, "Possessed" involved a far more difficult acting task for Joan Crawford in a role that had numerous layers of complexity dealing as it did with the tragic issue of schizophrenia and its effects on the mind. Crawford rises admirably to the task and received a second Academy Award nomination for her work here. "Possessed" (not to be confused with an earlier film of the same name that Joan made costarring Clark Gable at MGM in the 1930's) tells the story of a personal nurse Louise Howell who suffers through a one sided love affair with David Sutton (Van Heflin in a stand out performance) an eternal bachelor type who is not willing to commit to an ongoing relationship and treats Louise with a dimissive attitude that feeds her inner uncertainity. The tragic consequences of this lack of love in Louise's life eventually leds to murder and a total mental breakdown with her being taken to a psychiatric hospital. Despite eventually marrying the husband (Raymond Massey), of her sick charge after her death as a form of compensation the obsession with David never leaves Louise and when he returns to her part of the world after working in Canada the old attraction that Louise thought she had buried forever returns with tragic results.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Joan Crawford shines in a demanding role Aug. 30 2002
Format:VHS Tape
Joan Crawford said that the role of the nurse, Louise, in "Possessed" was the most emotionally and psychologically demanding she undertook in her long career. This is a satisfying potboiler of a 1940s movie with themes of love (of course!),jealousy, guilt, obsession and murder. Crawford's Louise is a calm, quiet, very competent and tactful nurse whose foiled love affair unbalances her to the core. Van Heflin plays a rather sardonic, heartless type; Raymond Massey turns in a fine performance as a wealthy man who falls in love with Louise and marries her.
Joan Crawford fans will relish this movie, which deserves a high ranking among 1940s era films. Highly recommended.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
Not being a Joan Crawford fan, I watched this film since it was produced by my favourite old movie studio, Warner Brothers. I have to admit that I was surprised by how good the film and Crawford were. It tells the story of how Crawford descends into madness when her lover, Van Heflin, spurns her and she cannot get past her love for him. She becomes obsessed with him (or should I say "possessed" with her love for him), despite marriage to her employer, Raymond Massey, and the growing relationship between Massey's daughter, Geraldine Brooks, and Heflin. Her increasing madness threatens to ruin the lives of everyone around her. The story is framed well, with a terrific opening of Crawford wandering the streets on the verge of catatonia, eventually relaying the events that led her to this point while under observation in a psychiatric ward. Crawford really delivers with this performance, apparently willing to forego some of the artificial glamour that I associate her with. It's a very effective performance of a woman on the edge. Heflin, Massey, and Brooks are also strong here. Director Curtis Bernhardt really establishes a dark mood, with some excellent shots and moments that establish Crawford's growing insanity. This is a top production that proves that Crawford could be an actress and not just a star.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  41 reviews
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FATAL ATTRACTION NINETEEN FORTIES STYLE... Jan. 21 2002
By Lawyeraau - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
This is a superlative film in which Joan Crawford gives the performance of a lifetime. This 1947 film opens with an disoriented woman (Joan Crawford) wandering the streets of Los Angeles and searching for someone named David. She is ultimately brought to the psychiatric ward of a hospital for evaluation, after she collapses. She is now catatonic.
The film then flashes back to those events that brought her to that state. It turns out that she is Louise Howell. She had an affair with David Sutton (Van Heflin), a man who treated her badly and did not return her love. For him, she was just a fling, while for her, he was more, much more. She smothered him and obsessed over him. This is the beginning of her slow descent into another reality.
Her marriage to a wealthy man (Raymon Massey) sets into motion a series of events that over time cause Louise's already tenuous grip on reality to loosen even more. Louise's obsession with her former lover finally takes her over the edge into the unchartered territory of a paranoid schitzophrenic with most unfortunate consequences for David.
Ms. Crawford's performance of a woman descending into the snakepit of madness is a wonder to behold. One senses her tenuous grip on reality. One feels her face life with trepidation, and her fear and confusion is palpable. This is certainly one of Ms. Crawford's best and most poignant performances. The viewer gets the sense that Ms. Crawford poured her heart and soul into this magnificent performance.
Joan Crawford fans and lovers of classic movies will enjoy this engrossing film.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oscar nominated Joan Crawford in one of her best roles Jan. 16 2003
By Simon Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
Any of the numerous detractors who complain about Joan Crawford's acting ability need to watch a screening of the Warner Bros Noir classic "Possessed". I'm sure they will be pleasantly pleased by the wonderful range of ability displayed by Joan in what is without a doubt one of her finest performances during the 1940's.
Often overshadowed by her wonderful performance in her first Warner film in 1945 "Mildred Pierce", for which she won an Oscar as Best Actress, "Possessed" involved a far more difficult acting task for Joan Crawford in a role that had numerous layers of complexity dealing as it did with the tragic issue of schizophrenia and its effects on the mind. Crawford rises admirably to the task and received a second Academy Award nomination for her work here. "Possessed" (not to be confused with an earlier film of the same name that Joan made costarring Clark Gable at MGM in the 1930's) tells the story of a personal nurse Louise Howell who suffers through a one sided love affair with David Sutton (Van Heflin in a stand out performance) an eternal bachelor type who is not willing to commit to an ongoing relationship and treats Louise with a dimissive attitude that feeds her inner uncertainity. The tragic consequences of this lack of love in Louise's life eventually leds to murder and a total mental breakdown with her being taken to a psychiatric hospital. Despite eventually marrying the husband (Raymond Massey), of her sick charge after her death as a form of compensation the obsession with David never leaves Louise and when he returns to her part of the world after working in Canada the old attraction that Louise thought she had buried forever returns with tragic results. The lack of response in David to her advances unhinges Louise's mind and she eventually forsakes her new family and shoots David as a form of revenge for the hurt he has caused her. This action springing from her schizophrenia completely sends louise over the edge to the extent that she looses the knowledge of who she is and what she has done.
Joan Crawford's handling of this complex role is light years away from much of her earlier work at MGM. Her depiction of the schizophrenic mind at work and how it distorts the personality is brilliantly displayed. Crawford made a famous quote about this film in that she stated that she worked harder on "Possessed" than on any other film in her career and it is easy to see that she was corrct in saying that. She is at times loving, desperate, frantic in her illusionary world and lack of control of it, and heart wrenching as her character progressively looses her grasp on reality. Besides her power house performance most of the other characters have a hard time competing. Van Heflin is fine as the object of her desire who moves from a playful dismissing of Louise's affections to an almost open hostility towards her to his own detriment and Raymond Massey in a surprise performance creates a sympathetic portrayal as Louise's devoted husband who marries her despite knowing her attention is elsewhere and who battles trying to fully understand Louise's condition and possible treatment. One standout in the cast is young Geraldine Brooks as Louise's step daughter Carol who begins a relationship with David under Louise's nose unwittingly triggering off Louise's psychotic tendencies. Done with all the customery gloss of the noir genre at its height the film benefits from beautiful photography and a distinctly shadowy black and white look. This shadowy effect really heightens the "grey" feel of the story and makes the progression of Louise's character so much more engrossing to witness. This is an instance where colour photography would have been a grave error. In "Possessed" Joan Crawford has rarely been photographed more stunningly and it's a shame that it almost marked the last time she was so flatteringly photographed just prior to the hardening that her screen image began to take on in the late 1940's.
Depressing and heavy the theme of "Possessed" may appear to the reader however what unfolds is an fascinating story that is bold in the theme that it explored. Schizophrenia is not a topic often tackled by mainstream Hollywood but it is dealt with in an honest and straightforward manner. Joan Crawford's understanding of this role gives the film a strong conviction that rings true and it all adds up to an engrossing melodrama of the higest order with an interesting storyline, terrific performances and a bit of education of just how the mind can react under different circumstances. Enjoy Joan Crawford in her greatest acting role of her 1940's career.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crawford should have won the Oscar for this one! Sept. 13 2000
By chad edwards - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
A nurse's obsession for a womanizing-heel nearly ruins her life and the lives of those around her. This dark, disturbing drama was the FATAL ATTRACTION of the 1940's, and while Crawford doesn't boil any bunnies, she's no less terrifying. In fact, I would venture to say that this is Crawford's finest hour. Her character is on the screen for most of the film's two hours, and she's believable and effective every moment. As much as I loved her in MILDRED PIERCE, I must say that Crawford should have won the Best Actress Oscar for this one. Crawford said in a later interview:"I worked harder on POSSESSED than any film I made", and it shows. POSSESSED features the glamorous star's richest, most powerful performance to date. A must, but don't confuse this film with the similarly titled 1931 movie which also stars Joan Crawford.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ACTRESS CRAWFORD AT HER PEAK IN WARNER'S "POSSESSED" April 11 2004
By Vincent E. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
By May of 1946, Joan Crawford had seen her film career revived by the release of "MILDRED PIERCE", her first starring role since leaving M.G.M studios after 18 star studded years.
Crawford assended even further when she recieved the Academy Award as Best Actress. A renewed, lucrative contract with Warner Bros. studios quickly followed, under which she completed some of her finest films.
"POSSESSED", written and produced by the same team which created "MILDRED PIERCE", began filming two months after she recieved the Academy Award. It is perhaps because of this sudden burst of praise, that Crawford was able to tap deeper into her talents and deliver first rate performances in the three films she made during this period.
In portraying Louise Howell in "POSSESSED", Crawford gave what was arguable the most vivid and well crafted performance of her 81 film career. As a mentally unbalanced private Nurse involved in a one way love affair, Crawford dominates the film, but doesn't push her co-stars out of the frame. Instead, she works with them to help her create a portrait of a schizophrenic woman teetering on the edge of self destruction.
Her descent into madness is slow, but evident from the start. Every detail of this production is geared torwards creating an atmosphere of despair and lunacy (In the wedding scene, Crawford's black wedding suit is adorned with various straps making it seem almost like a black strait-jacket).
From the clinging, pathetic creature hoplessly in love with a self absorbed engineer to the rigid private Nurse ascending the stairs of her employer's home, to the rejected woman accepting her employer's propsal of a marriage of convenience, to the crumbling and scorned woman lost in her own private hell, Crawford is nothing short of mesmerizing.
After "MILDRED PIERCE","HUMORESQUE" and "POSSESSED", never again would Crawford reach the same level of carefully nuanced acting. There would be ambitious attempts, but never again would all the elements blend together to create a classic Crawford film.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars JOAN CRAWFORD DRIVES YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND! March 21 2000
By Sean Orlosky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
Curtis Bernhardt created a picture with compelling storyline and scenes and sculpted an image of Joan Crawford that movie audiences wouldn't soon forget. Just look at "Possessed". Look at the flashes of light as Crawford walks suspiciously through a room... fearing... alert. As the terorrized Louise, her story recounts her meeting a dream man who spurns her(Van Heflin). Testing the limits of his jealousy, she marries another man. But Louise's mental balance snaps when Heflin falls for her attractive step-daughter... Joan's Oscar-nominated performance is incredible, the character Crawford through and through, and with the finest support of the rest of the cast, story, and eerie cinematography, "Possessed" is a film which has marked its place in cinema, in acting,... and in memory.
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