Thursday, March 1, 2012

This Woman Is Dangerous

Sometime not long before TCM's 31 Days of Oscar, they showed This Woman Is Dangerous. At the end of the film they ran the blurb about the movie being available at the TCM shop, having been released by the Warner Archive. It's a movie that's fun at times even if it's a bit (or a lot) overcooked; in fact, it's one of those movies that's probably more fun because it's overcooked.

Joan Crawford, now well into her post-MGM days, plays Elizabeth Austin, a woman with a past and with problems. First we see her problems: she's been having trouble with her eyesight, and is visiting an eye doctor, who tells her that she's going to go blind, except that there's a doctor who can perform an experimental operation which might restore her eyesight. Her past, if you will, is also part of her present. She's the head of a criminal gang that goes around pulling off big money stick-ups, and is in town to rob a casino.

Miss Austin's partner in crime, Matt Jackson (played by David Brian), isn't too happy with her actions, largely because she hasn't been telling him about her eye problems. He's also in love with her, and is insanely jealous, so he thinks that her being away means that she's seeing somebody else. With that background, the gang robs the casino, and makes off with the big bucks, at which point Elizabeth heads off to Indianapolis to get that operation.

Matt doesn't believe her, but what's a man to do? He leaves town with his brother Will (Philip Carey) and Will's wife Ann (Mari Aldon), only to get pulled over by the cops when Matt, in a fit of rage, throws a bottle at Will which goes through the window of the trailer in which the two are hiding. It's bad enough that they get pulled over by a cop; Matt decides to shoot the cop because the cop could be a witness against them. (I told you the guy was insanely jealous.)

Meanwhile, back in Indianapolis, Elizabeth's operation seems to have gone off fairly well. She eventually regains her eyesight, and along the way, also falls in love with her doctor (Dennis Morgan), who obviously has no idea about Elizabeth's past and that the police are looking for her. He also obviously doesn't know about Matt, and the fact that Matt is looking for her too....

This Woman Is Dangerous is a potboiler, to be sure. There are times when you'll be groaning (God, could the Dennis Morgan character be more stupid? You'd think he would have learned about women from In This Our Life a decade earlier), and times you'll be laughing even though the filmmakers didn't intend it (a lot of the earlier scenes with Matt). The movie has a big problem, which is the presence of the Production Code. Elizabeth Austin is a crook, and the Code suggests that she has to be subjected to justice. And yet, she's in love with the good doctor, seemingly wnating to do right by him. The writers have to come up with a way to resolve this conflict, and the Code means that there's not really any satisfying way to do so; any resolution is going to seem forced. Still, the journey there is fun.

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