Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Queen Bee

Could Joan Crawford avoid overacting? Tonight's selection, Queen Bee, which is airing overnight at 2:00 AM ET on TCM, does nothing to answer that question. But it's a darn enjoyable movie nonetheless.

Joan Crawford stars as Eva Phillips, a character who might be somewhat reminiscent of Bette Davis in In This Our Life: self-centered and manipulative, and perfectly willing to destory the lives of everybody around her. We first see Eva tormenting Southern belle Sue (Fay Wray), who lost her sanity after losing her boyfriend, "Beauty" (Barry Sullivan) to Eva. As a sign of how nasty Eva is, she gave "Beauty" that nickname because of a scar on his face.

And that's by far not the only evil thing Eva is doing. She's going after another man, Judson Prentiss (John Ireland). He just happens to be Beauty's friend and business associate. But even more than that, he's also engaged to Beauty's sister (Betsy Palmer)! To top off all the nice soap opera-type plot, the assorted characters are living in grand style in one of those old Southern mansions in Atlanta.

Into all this walks Eva's cousin Jennifer (Lucy Marlow), who's come visiting from the north. She's warned that Eva is a nasty you-know-what, but being young, innocent, and not familiar with the situation, finds it hard to believe, especially because at first Eva isn't that way with Jennifer. Just give it time, girl.

Is Queen Bee a great movie? God no! It's one of those, however, like Violent Saturday, that's a hell of a lot of fun. Joan Crawford engages in her usual later career take-no-prisoners style, and goes so far over the top that she's probably gone all the way 'round three or four times. The rest of the cast takes its cue from her, making Queen Bee deliciously overripe, and making In This Our Life look tame by comparison. It's not just the cast and plot. I mentioned the luxurious mansion setting; in addition, Crawford also gets to wear a series of lavish gowns that are as over the top as the acting. (Disclaimer: the picture above is not one of those gowns; I lazily borrowed a photo from Strait-Jacket because I couldn't be bothered to look for one from Queen Bee.) The only thing missing is garish color.

Queen Bee is a riot, even if it's not nearly as good as Joan Crawford's more serious work. Just don't tell Joan that.

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