That bully Alexander Grumpface always stole my lunch money in the fifth grade. Did that mean that he secretly wanted to marry me?
Well, if the example of Joan Crawford in 1952’s classic noir-thriller Sudden Fear is any indication then maybe he did. Here, Crawford plays Myra Hudson, the benefactress of a large San Franciscan fortune, who, also, just happens to be a wildly successful playwright. Having fired the cleft chinned David Blaine, played with smooth charm by Jack Palance, from her latest production for not being matinee idol handsome, the regal Hudson soon finds herself charmed by this rebuffed gent, on a long train ride to her hilly mansion home. Soon, they are married and, naturally, both the other woman (a pouting, perfect Gloria Grahame) and his ulterior motives soon appear. Things turn decidedly deadly when Blaine and his cutie discover that Hudson is handing her inherited fortune over to charity and, mistakenly, conclude that he will be left in the lurch.
Naturally, since Madame Crawford is ever powerful, Hudson soon discovers, in a neat plot twist, everything that her supposedly loving spouse is up to. Once she gets over the shock of the duo’s murderous intent, this creative mogul soon rallies with a plan to turn the tables on them. But will her need for deadly retaliation ultimately melt beneath her expansive humanity? Of course, it will! But as always, Joan-Hudson has the last shot – as in close-up – as she regally faces life without her two timing gent, a silk scarf drifting gently from her hands and tears streaming down her face.
Accented by Elmer Bernstein’s moody score and Charles Lang, Jr.’s appropriately dusky black and white cinematography, Sudden Fear is, ultimately, the leading actors’ show. Both, Crawford and Palance, deservedly, received Academy Award nominations for their work. Most notably, as in her other 50s pictures such as Female on the Beach, Crawford telegraphs every emotion with a perfected movie goddess technique that is as grounded in artifice as it is in natural emotion. She is a wonder to behold.