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Warner Brothers. 96 minutes.
World premiere: 4/28/49.
US general release: 5/6/49.
Cast: Joan Crawford (as "Lane Bellamy"), Zachary Scott, Sydney Greenstreet, Gladys George, Virginia Huston, Fred Clark, Gertrude Michael, Alice White, Sam McDaniel, Tito Vuolo, David Brian.
Credits: From the play by Robert and Sally Wilder. [This was the screen credit, for the 1946 play, but Flamingo was first a 1942 novel by Robert Wilder.] Screenplay: Robert Wilder. Producer: Jerry Wald. Director: Michael Curtiz. Camera: Ted McCord. Art Director: Leo K. Kuter. Musical Score: Max Steiner. Musical Director: Ray Heindorf. Joan's Costumes: Designed by Travilla, executed by Sheila O'Brien. Editor: Folmar Blangsted.
Plot Summary: The fourth of Joan Crawford's Warner Bros. vehicles, Flamingo Road doesn't hold up as well as her earlier Mildred Pierce or Humoresque, but there's plenty to please the eye and ear. Sideshow kootch-dancer Lane Bellamy (Crawford), stranded in a backwater town, gets a job as a waitress. Lane begins falling in love with Fielding Carlisle (Zachary Scott), the political protégé of the town's big-daddy sheriff Titus Semple (Sidney Greenstreet). Semple regards Lane as a gold-digging troublemaker, and does his best to break up the romance, framing her on a trumped-up morals charges and having her shipped off to prison. Once out of the "joint," Lane returns to town, seeking revenge against both Semple and Carlisle. She charms political hack Dan Reynolds (David Brian) into marriage, then transforms Reynolds into a "reform candidate" bent on destroying the corrupt Semple machine. Faced with political ruin, Lane's ex-beau Carlisle commits suicide, a fact that Semple uses as a weapon against Reynolds. A showdown is inevitable--but the story is far from over! Flamingo Road later served as the basis for a weekly TV series; both the film and the series were based on a play by Robert and Sally Wilder. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
It is fair to state that Joan Crawford has a somewhat unsettled career in the Strand's new picture from the Warners, a murky thing called "Flamingo Road." At the start of this jumbled melodrama, Miss Crawford is a carnival girl, solemnly bent upon retirement in a barbarous southern town. Successively thereafter she is a waitress in a cheap cafe, an inmate of the workhouse, an employe of a sporting resort, the mistress and wife of a political chieftain and, eventually, a jailbird again.
In the course of this rather vagrant circuit, she initially falls in love with a young and aristocratic weakling who proves unworthy of her. That is to say, he forsakes her on the advice of his political boss who doesn't want this young hopeful getting mixed up with any strays. Then she transfers her affections to the rival political camp and soon finds herself playing housewife to the opposing boss. However, her suppressed emotions are unstable until her old suitor blows out his brains and she accidentally shoots his master. Then she knows that she loves the man she has wed. At the end, they are planning a happy future from her temporary lodgings in the jail.
Miss Crawford runs this gamut in ninety-four minutes flat, and we think it rather significant that she isn't even winded at the end. Indeed, she has evidently disciplined and conditioned herself to the point where she can go through such an ordeal without showing the slightest strain. From one dramatic crisis to the next one, she moves like a sleek automaton. Her face, deeply plastered with make-up, is an ageless, emotionless mask. Adversity only registers now and then in her glycerin-moistened eyes. Hers is a Spartan demonstration of bearing-up-under-it-well.
And that appears all that this picture was really designed to achieve, a mechanized demonstration of Miss Crawford's fortitude. For it is plain that the open-eyed inspection of political corruption that is promised at one point is midway diverted into channels that will only favor the involvement of the star. Politics goes out the window—or become a sweetly reformed gentlemen's game—when it finally becomes a matter of getting Miss Crawford straightened out.
Set up for her convenience are Sydney Greenstreet as a vicious scalawag who rules the political machinery in a geographically vague southern town; Zachary Scott as the soft-hearted weakling and David Brian as the other political boss who becomes Miss Crawford's idolater simply because she can cook bacon crisp and mix a whisky-sour. Also around and torturing accents with supposedly Dixie twangs are Gladys George as a sporting-house madam and Gertrude Michael as a hash-house belle.
Have no anxiety for the author, Robert Wilder, who wrote the book from which the film was taken. He wrote the script. And Michael Curtiz directed it with the obvious intention of making Miss Crawford devastating for her fans. How the latter will take it, deponent knoweth not.
Howard Barnes in the New York Herald Tribune (1949):
Joan Crawford acquits herself ably in an utterly nonsensical and undefined part. As a carnival performer who determines to move to the right side of an anomalous town, she is attractive and vital. It is no fault of hers that she cannot handle the complicated romances and double crosses in which she is involved. Maintaining an impeccable reputation by virtue of Hollywood's tacit censorship, she falls in love with one man, marries another, and finally kills the villain. The recurrent line in her dialogue is: "I'm not sure."
David Kronke from One-shop.com:
Besides its still-fresh political cynicism, what keeps the film interesting is the showdowns between Crawford and Greenstreet, who both give performances representative of their distinguished careers. Crawford fairly hisses at the corpulent Greenstreet, "You just wouldn't believe how much trouble it is to get rid of a dead elephant." Greenstreet, clearly, forgets that this is Joan Crawford he's dealing with.
from MonsterHunter.com (2004):
...Crawford's performance in this one is quite subdued, so if you're looking for campy moments, you'll probably want to check out her later films, but it's really Greenstreet's effort that makes the movie worth seeking out. His Semple is one of the great "regular guy" villains who's frightening because of how effortlessly and callously he plots. This is a guy who acts like it's practically in his job description as sheriff to ruin people who get in his way. He and Joan have some good scenes together whether its when he's comparing her to a rat that bit off his toes or when she was comparing him to an elephant they had to shoot at the carny or when he's smacking her upside the head with that telephone....
If you have a review for Flamingo Road that you'd like to share here, please e-mail me. Feel free to include a photo of yourself and a star-rating (with 5 stars the best), as well as any of your favorite lines from the film.
Stuart Hoggan (April 2013)
Rating: of 5
In what implied expiration point at Warners, the somewhat scatological Flamingo Road is among the weakest of Joan Crawford pictures post-Mildred Pierce. The moment our heroine, Lane Bellamy, is introduced to us onscreen while writhing in her gypsy garb, the reality that Joan Crawford is at the wrong end of her forties playing a carnival girl becomes an unshakeable distraction throughout the rest of the running time.
The plot is bedecked with the machinations of the standard Crawford role: Lane, a girl on the wrong side of the tracks, gets herself a job as a waitress and falls in love with a more affluent other half -- in this case, Zachary Scott's wilting political player Fielding Carlisle. Unfortunately, her mere presence draws the ire of Titus Semple, a corrupt town sheriff (a magnetic Sydney Greenstreet) who not only sabotages her relationship with his protege but also tries to run her out of town completely. Crawford wrangles her fortunes upward, snagging a wealthier man in David Brian's Dan Reynolds (who provides the waving-of-the-wand duties by transforming Crawford from common frump to glamorous candour) and locking in a deathly feud with Semple.
It's difficult to knock one of life's true tryers, and Crawford sure as hell gives the ruddy script all she's got, but with all its dull twists and daft narrative, Flamingo Road leaves an embarrassing impression: a 45-year-old woman clinging to a long- vapoured girlish earnestness. Sydney Greenstreet steals the show as the mean-spirited political hack, and many of his scenes with Crawford bristle with uneasy tension. Zachary Scott and David Brian, as lovely as their screen personalities are, reap up too much script time for such little character work, and the opportunity to explore Semple's corruption and particular antagonism of Crawford feels wasted.
Flamingo Road is the type of vehicle that most likely would have provided an upcoming ingenue her first Oscar nomination. For Crawford, however, it seemed to mark the beginning of many roles that required delusion of youth to play with a straight face. Save for the odd quip sold with razor-sharp timing, avoid this turkey at all costs.
Michael Lia (November 2009)
Rating: of 5
“I’m not a carnival girl anymore!” Miss Crawford shouts to fat, mean then slaps him hard twice in the face. “I know,” I say to myself. "You are 45 years old and the script was for a Lizbeth Scott, Virginia Mayo, or or Ida Lupino." I’ll be damned if she pulls it off, and she gets to take a few people down!
Love is the theme here; it is used in every angle of the script: falling in love, using love, jealous of love, thinking you're in love, wanting to be loved, and looking for love... all of which unleashes a tremendous amount of hate and hurt and murder and suicide!! And that’s not all!! The characters are motivated by success and money. Love works its way into politics and all sorts of maneuverings, just like life really is. I guess it makes for wonderful trash. This movie is fantastic in the correct meaning of the word. That is why it is intriguing. It even has its own theme song that plays throughout the nefarious “goings on." Just like a true love story! (Miss Crawford gets a chance at torching it up in a few scenes when Max is taking a break...la la la!)
This film is about acceptance. Just like when you get lost on the road and lose your way, you are going to lose some time, but what you come across may be worth it despite how frustrating the experience becomes. Remember all things have an ending. Feelings and relationships are no different.
Number one reason this is a must-see film is Sydney Greenstreet!! Call him a sleaze, a monster, a fathead, a meanie, a gloating bloating bossy pig. He is a great actor to match Miss Crawford, and she is fortunate to have appeared with him. He is a complete professional and made Warner Brothers and film noir carry on! He takes over the movie, but I don’t mind. The confrontation scene with Miss Crawford is what films are about. It is a great climactic scene. I won’t quote the lines people say to his character. When you hear them for the first time, they are bitingly hilarious.
Rumor has it bad editing (Folmar Blangsted) lost the original flair of the intended shooting script. I can see that to a point, but what is left is comforting for my Friday-night thrills; it matches with Bette Davis in a few of her movies. You just have to watch them.
Number two reason for seeing this film are the wonderful glimpses of . Her scenes are done so well, you want more of her. She is a hell of an actress. Another victim of not getting enough chances to prove herself, but when she does get a role it is always worth your viewing time. (Sadly, she died a few years after this film, and the cinema lost a great lady. I often wonder what roles and what movies she would have been in if she had lived longer. I hate being cheated.)
Miss Crawford matches well with everyone. I like David Brian; he plays a semi-villain, but he’s the kind of guy women fall for, and underneath his shady business and gruff manner, he is a sentimental man and, yep, just wants to be loved.
Zachary Scott is paired again with “Mildred,” and director Curtiz works with Scott's craft and gets a strong portrayal out of him. Even if you think Scott is a weak wimp, his acting is in high order.
A sweet little thing, ("), definitely got chopped out of a few scenes but does get to give a bit of credit to her “senator’s daughter,” in love with a rake and an alcoholic. (Gosh this is like real life.)
Miss Crawford is given class-A treatment by Mr. Warner as long as her gams are holding out. The technical crews are some of the most experienced artists of the time. Designer Sheila O’Brien (Oscar-nominated for "Sudden Fear"), making her Crawford film debut, gave the star a new look that also fit with the script.
When you want to get out of the dirt and grime of the city and relax in a small town, check out Bolden and Miss Crawford’s constant struggle for love.
Above: Three pages from a U.S. pressbook.
Above: Click to read the 2-page agreement for Flamingo credits.
For 5 cover photos of the novel Flamingo Road, see the Books Related to Joan Movies page.
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