Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Torch Song

Sometimes, you just want to sit down with a movie that's a hoot, even if it's not very good. I think that's especially when it's one of those movies that's hilarious despite most assuredly not having any intentions of being a comedy. An excellent example of a movie that fits this genre is Torch Song, which is running on TCM tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 PM.

Joan Crawford plays Jenny Stewart, a Broadway star currently in rehearsals for her new show. THe thing is, she's not just a star, she's a STAR, and dammit, she's going to make certain everybody around her knows this. The haranguing of the various cast and crew members results in the pianist leaving; he just can't take it any more. Who could blame him. Ah, but Jenny's in luck, as there's another pianist around who knows her well. That man is Tye Graham, and he knows all the arrangements that Jenny likes. More than that, however, he knows what would work best for her. Except that what would work best for Jenny isn't what Jenny thinks would work best for her, and nobody is going to tell Jenny what to do. Oh, and there's one other small issue: Tye is blind, having lost his sight in the war.

So these two are going at each other, and you just know that Jenny is eventually going to find herself somewhat romantically attracted to Tye. Tye, however, has problems of his own, and both of the main characters are going to have to sort out their problems before they can wind up together in the final reel. Along the way, successful Jenny is helping take care of her mother (Marjorie Rambeau) and sister (Nancy Gates).

I haven't gone into as much detail about the plot as with some other films because the basic plot is fairly pedestrian; you can probably think of a dozen "two unlikely people thrown together hate each other at first but fall in love" movies. That, and I wanted to save space to discuss the presentation of this movie, which is what makes things so fabulous. When TCM showed the movie early this year, I found a lot to be shocked about, in a "what the hell were they thinking" sort of way, and posted about it on TCM's boards, so I'll copy and revise and extend some of those comments:

Joan Crawford starts off with a dance number that shows off her legs. This is silly, but at least naturally shows her legs as the dress moves around them. It's not as "WTF" inducing as the oversized poster ten or fifteen minutes later that shows off one leg in the same dress from that number, and has the other wrapped in the 1950s substitute for spandex.

The plot hinges on one of the hoariest of tropes, that of the blind guy who can see what everybody else can't. Still, Joan Crawford gets to zing him with such memorable lines as suggesting he get a seeing-eye girl. Of course, he's already got one of those. (And there are a lot of hilarious lines in this film.) And how could Tye afford that apartment?

Joan Crawford's bedroom, in all its sea green push-button glory. But for some reason, the layers and layers of drapes aren't operated by push button. The color scheme as a whole has been described by various IMDb reviews with highly descriptive adjectives from "garish" to "putrescent".

Harry Morgan with a moustache. Or at least, it sure looked like a moustache.

Joan Crawford in blackface. Yowza. The musical numbers are generally poor here, but the "Two-Faced Woman" number that has her in blackface is particularly jaw-dropping in it's OMG value. Especially when she pulls off the wig in anger at the end of the scene. Double yowza.

So there's a lot in Torch Song to love, for how amazingly off it all is. I believe the movie is available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

No comments: