Sudden Fear (1952) B
In this noir melodrama (woman’s picture), Joan Crawford stars as wealthy San Francisco heiress Myra Hudson, a successful playwright. She meets Lester Blaine (Jack Palance) while casting her new play in New York.
Then, “by accident,” they meet again on the train ride back, fall in love and quickly marry. Unknown to Myra, Lester is seeing mistress Irene Neves (Gloria Grahame), whom he still loves and has married only for her money.
While looking through her study, Irene and Lester learn that Myra has made a will leaving only $10,000 a year to Lester (though if he remarries following her death he receives nothing). Since the will has not yet taken effect, they plot to kill Myra without noticing that Myra’s dictating machine is on and recording their conversation.
After listening to the conversation and spending a sleepless night, Myra goes to Irene’s apartment and steals a gun. Irene then lures Lester to the apartment, intending to kill him. Losing her nerve, she flees the apartment with Lester chasing her. The film has an exciting and surprising climax, with all the characters meeting “unexpectedly” during a thrillingly-staged chase.
Joan Crawford gives a fine, if predictable performance, which garnered her third and last Best Actress nomination. (She had won the coveted award in 1945, for another noir melodrama, “Mildred Pierce”).
But the show belongs to Jack Palance is amazingly effective playing against type as a leading man.
This well executed suspense thriller earned Oscar nominations for Joan Crawford and Jack Palance and a nomination for Charles B. Lang Jr. for his striking black and white photography.
Oscar Nominations: 4
Actress: Joan Crawford
Supporting Actor: Jack Palance
Cinematography (b/w): Charles B. Lang
Costume Design (b/w): Sheila O’Brien
Oscar Awards: None
The winner of the Best Actress Oscar was Shirley Booth for reprising her stage role in “Come Back, Little Sheba.”
Jack Palance lost the Supporting Oscar to Anthony Quinn in “Viva Zapata.”
The Cinematography Oscar went to Robert Surtees for Minnelli’s “The Bad and the Beautiful,”which also received Costume Design for Helen Rose.
Running time: 110 Minutes
Directed by David Miller.
Written by Lenore J. Coffee, Edna Sherry.
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