Sunday, March 23, 2014

Reunion with Joan

Happy birthday to my favorite Golden Age movie star, the one and only Joan Crawford. Born March 23, 1904 (possibly 1905) in San Antonio, Texas as Lucille LeSueur, Joan went from an impoverished, hardscrabble start in life to become one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Her amazing career spanned forty-five years, from her start in silent films to her starring role in 1970's Trog. Even in the least of her films (and Trog may well be that), she always gives 100% in her performances, and is never less than fascinating to watch.

While I love Mildred Pierce, which won her an Oscar as Best Actress, I also have a soft spot for one of her least-acclaimed movies, Reunion in France, co-starring John Wayne. Released in 1942 by MGM, Reunion cast Joan as Michele de la Becque, well-heeled French socialite whose comfortable life comes crashing down when the Nazis occupy Paris. Wayne plays American flier Pat Talbot, shot down by the enemy, who needs Michele's help to make it safely out of France. I love the exchange in which a shopgirl says of the initially self-involved,  high-handed Michele, "Mademoiselle seems annoyed by the war." Her pal replies, "It's a wonder she doesn't forbid it."

By most accounts, Miss Crawford didn't share my fondness for the film, which helped persuade her to bid MGM adieu after many years. She told interviewer Roy Newquist (Conversations with Joan Crawford), "If there is an afterlife and I'm to be punished for my sins, [Reunion] is one of the pictures they'll make me see over and over again." You can visit YouTube to see the original theatrical trailer, and get a taste of the film.

Not convinced? Sue me, I like it.

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