Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Autumn Leaves

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of lyricist Johnny Mercer, and TCM is spending the entire 24 hours showing movies with Mercer songs. Mercer wrote the lyrics to the title song in Autumn Leaves, which is airing today at 2:00 PM ET.

Joan Crawford stars as a spinster who makes her living as a typist. One day, however, she goes to the local diner and meets Cliff Robertson, who seems to be getting away from it all. It's obvious they're going to fall in love, and they do, eventually getting married. However, there seems to be something not quite right about Mr. Right. He seems to be a compulsive liar, which obviously means that he's hiding something. Or, in this case, multiple somethings. One, he was married before! Two, it seems as though he's got a mental instability he failed to tell her about. And three, he's in line to inherit a piece of property that his mother owned, but his father (played by Lorne Green) doesn't consider him mentally fit to run it, so father wants son to transfer the property to him and the ex-wife (played by Vera Miles). Of course, the father has some secrets, too....

Autumn Leaves is one of those movies that was right up Joan Crawford's alley in the mid-1950s. It's got all of the melodrama of a Douglas Sirk movie (although, like Peyton Place, Sirk did not direct it; that honor goes to Robert Aldrich), giving Crawford ample opportunity to show off her strident acting style. Is it a great movie? Oh, God, no. It's got some laughable moments, including one with Joan's typewriter, although these scenes are intended to be serious. There's another scene of Joan and Cliff making out on the beach, in the From Here to Eternity style. And Crawford flinging the word "slut".... In short, Autumn Leaves is overblown fun.

It hasn't been released to DVD yet, though, so you're going to have to catch the TCM showing.

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