Sudden Fear (1952) starring Joan Crawford, Jack Palance, Gloria Grahame
In this rediscovered masterpiece of film noir, Joan Crawford plays a successful playwright who marries a mediocre actor (Jack Palance) with a troubling secret. She soon discovers that he not only married her for money but that he plans to murder her with the help of his lover (Gloria Grahame). Nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Actress (Crawford), Best Supporting Actor (Palance) and Best Black & White Cinematography (Charles Lang Jr.), this taut thriller also features a score by Elmer Bernstein that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Review of Sudden Fear
I have to agree with both the Academy Awards, and other reviewers – Sudden Fear is an excellent film. The acting is fine — all three main actors (Joan Crawford, Jack Palance, Gloria Grahame) do excellent jobs, in an excellent film. You can read the editorial review for more details of the film, but I do want to add one thing.
I recently saw this on television, and the chase scene at the end has to be seen to be appreciated. Joan Crawford truly portrays a terrified woman running for her life. Jack Palance portrays a man also frightened — who has been pushed into a corner, and sees no way out, except murder.
In short, Sudden Fear is an excellent film, and I recommend it. I rate Sudden Fear a solid 4 stars out of 5.
Editorial review of Sudden Fear courtesy of Amazon.com
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. The result was Sudden Fear, a thriller that earned Oscar nominations for both actors as well as for its gorgeous black-and-white cinematography. Crawford plays Myra Hudson, a successful playwright and heiress who insists that actor Lester Blaine (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 (the criminally underappreciated Gloria Grahame) back into his life. The two start plotting Hudson’s murder–but when Hudson stumbles onto the scheme, she starts concocting a plot of her own. The direction is taut and heavily influenced (but successfully so) by Alfred Hitchcock; the use of sound is particularly skillful. And whether it’s because she’s playing opposite Palance or not, this is definitely one of Crawford’s most sympathetic performances. –Bret Fetzer
Cast of characters
- Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce) … Myra Hudson Blaine
- Jack Palance (The Silver Chalice) … Lester Blaine
- Gloria Grahame (The Greatest Show on Earth) … Irene Neves
- Bruce Bennett (Alligator People) … Steve Kearney
- Virginia Huston (Out of the Past) … Ann Taylor
- Mike Connors (Mannix, The Day the World Ended) … Junior Kearney
Updated July 16, 2022