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Columbia. 94 minutes.
US release: 11/2/50.
VHS release: 2/20/96. DVD release: 11/5/12, 8/6/13 (Sony).
Cast: Joan Crawford as "Harriet Craig," Wendell Corey, Lucille Watson, Allyn Joslyn, William Bishop, K.T. Stevens, Viola Roache, Rymond Greenleaf, Ellen Corby, Fiona O'Shiel, Patric Mitchell, Virginia Brissac, Katherine Warren, Douglas Wood, Kathryn Card, Charles Evans, Mira McKinney.
Credits: Based on the play "Craig's Wife" by George Kelly. Screenplay: Anne Froelick and James Gunn. Producer: William Dozer. Director:Vincent Sherman. Camera: Joseph Walker. Art Director: Walter Holscher. Music: Morris T. Stoloff. Wardrobe: Sheila O'Brien. Editor: Viola Lawrence.
Plot Summary: Harriet Craig is the third film version of George Kelly's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Craig's Wife. Joan Crawford stars as the title character, a thoroughly selfish woman who prizes her house and her possessions above all else. Harriet Craig is even willing to spoil the business opportunities of her husband Walter (Wendell Corey) to avoid losing her precious home. When her self-involvement causes turbulence in the romantic life of her cousin (K.T. Stevens), and when her husband's eyes are finally opened to his wife's true nature, Harriet Craig is at long last hoist on her own petard. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Bosley Crowther in the New York Times
November 3, 1950
Do you remember Craig's wife, that nasty female who first appeared in a George Kelly play back in 1926 and has been haunting the movies, off and on, ever since? Well, she is back in the person of Joan Crawford, playing the role in Columbia's most recent remake. "Harriet Craig," which came to Loew's State yesterday. And, just between friends, we'd advise you to be wary of contact with her. Neither she nor her presentation have improved in the last fourteen years, which was when Columbia last loosed her with Rosalind Russell in command.
As a matter of fact, the poisonous woman which the lacquered Miss Crawford tries to play, under Vincent Sherman's direction, is not so much poisonous as just plain dull. Miss Crawford persists so intently in a harsh mechanistic acting style that there is simply no reason or reality in the perfunctory shrew that she parades. It is as though an over-dressed clotheshorse, without character or sex, were playing the role. Why anyone should work up interest in her is more than we can see.
And there's precious little interest in the screenplay which Anne Froelick and James Gunn have prepared and which Mr. Sherman has directed as though the whole thing were happening in a morgue. Slowly and tediously the meanness of Craig's wife is marched in review so that no one can possibly miss it, except the obvious dimwits in the play. These include Mr. Craig, the husband; a strangely adoring niece and the husband's boss, a doddering tycoon, to whom the lady glibly feeds a pack of lies. When finally her wickedness has been spelled out backwards and forwards and upside-down, the husband's eyes are slowly opened and he is allowed to give her the boot.
We can't say we sympathize with him. He is such an impossible dunce as Wendell Corey plays him—such a simpering, apologetic dope who goes around sucking on a brier pipe as though it were a lemon lollipop—that he plainly deserves all the misery to which he is subjected much more than do we. If he represents the Ideal Husband, no wonder this is a woman's world. K. T. Stevens is likewise dopey as the lady's deluded niece. Viola Roache as a long-suffering housemaid plays the only credible character in the film.
It may be this picture was intended for sloppy housewives to make them feel superior to the tidy monster in it. Okay, sloppy housewives; here's your film. [Editor's note: Fuck you, Bosley Crowther.]
Joan Crawford does a prime job of putting over the selfish title-character, equipping it with enough sock to cloak the obviousness that motivates the dramatics. Over the years, plot has lost freshness, but script up-dating, the strong playing, and direction add a sheen that keeps it interesting.
Otis L. Guernsey, Jr., in the New York Herald Tribune (1950):
The film gives authentic movie star Joan Crawford an opportunity to command the camera's attention through an authentic star role. She remains, as always, a stylish performer in her clear and forceful characterization....Her vehicle may be somewhat laborious, but it is steady enough to carry Miss Crawford's act....In every mannerism of speech or gesture, Miss Crawford suggests that she is a queen in the country of the cinema, playing a dominant woman whose unkindly rule of her home has psychotic origins.
Stephen MacMillan Moser in the Austin Chronicle (2000):
Joan, with director Sherman, trimmed all the fat away from Craig's Wife (that means removing every scene in which Joan would not be present) and turned it into a tour-de-force for La Crawford. As the epitome of every neurotic, deeply disturbed female that Joan ever portrayed, Harriet Craig is Joan with a capital J. Taking the role in her mouth and shaking it into submission, she is playing, ultimately, another facet of Joan herself.
If you've seen Harriet Craig and would like to share your review here, please e-mail me. Include, if you like, a picture of yourself to accompany your review, as well as a star-rating (with 5 stars the best) and any of your favorite lines from the film.
Stuart Hoggan (September 2013)
Rating: of 5
Possibly that she
played the real-life paramour of Vincent Sherman is why in Harriet Craig, Joan Crawford’s second film
with the director, most of the scenes feel manipulated for her own purpose.
Indeed the second screen adaptation of George Kelly’s Pulitzer Prize-winning
Craig’s Wife falls into the all- too- familiar traps synonymous with star
vehicles in that its singular lead performance dominates a mediocrely written
Crawford conveys Harriet’s dictatorship with a gamut of artificiality. It works and, actually, it’s one of her fine performances. Where she occasionally fails to engage is more fault with the direction. Worse yet, Crawford’s supporting players lack the writing and development to elevate their roles above lifeless ciphers basking in the wake of her superior star power. Only Ellen Corby as the maid who has Harriet’s number can contend with her dictator’s steely presence.
does not connect with his material well enough to fulfil an indelible discussion
of the underlying sexual politics and interpersonal psychosis of the play. Even
with Crawford’s commanding-enough performance, her Harriet is one dimensional.
Instead, what should play out as kitchen-sink tense reads like an anodyne
melodrama with a side dish of glamour: Sherman glosses over the messy core of
Harriet, favouring an over-the-top music score and excessive closeups of the
sophisticatedly gowned Crawford. It implies disinterest, carrying the effect of
stymying his production and turning it into something borderline pedestrian as a
Bryan Johnson (July 2012)
One of my favorite Crawford films.
In this film, Joan portrays a woman infatuated with tidiness and appearance. Early on, the audience learns that her anxiety for order stems from a dire childhood spent in poverty; however, none of those close to her, including her henpecked husband, know of her past.
The character of Harriet is definitely the antagonist of the story; however, as Harriet's interference in the lives of those around her progresses, we as the audience can comfortably root for her objectives. If not for the early scene of Harriet that provides a partial glimpse into her upbringing, and thereby reveals her fear of abandonment, we might have more of a difficult time sympathizing with her actions of attempting to block her husband's promotion at work, and preventing her young live-in niece from dating.
Much of the film's theme parallels Crawford's own personal habits of obsessive cleaning and order, which is perhaps why Joan's performance feels quite natural here. As with Crawford, Harriet believes perfect physical order translates into perfect emotional order.
By the end of the film, Harriet's dishonest behavior surfaces, which leads to her worst fears being realized. Her niece leaves the Craig household, and her husband declares his intent to divorce her before leaving her alone in the house.
Of all the open-ended films Joan made, this is the one that leaves me wondering the most about what happened to the character of Harriet after the world she had carefully constructed had collapsed.
Shane Estes (July 2010)
Rating: of 5
Wow, where do I begin with this one? I had a very difficult time hunting this movie down, but I finally found a bootleg of it from an online seller. I think it’s a crime that this film is not available on DVD in the US. It’s actually been released on DVD in Spain, I think.
This film is definitely a Crawford classic, and of the three films she did with as director (the other two being and The Damned Don’t Cry), this one is by far and away my favorite. This is a very dark film with very dark themes and Joan plays a very dislikable character, but she looks fantastic doing it. She looks exceptionally good in this! I don’t know if it’s the lighting or the hair or what, but for the year this film was made she comes off as very beautiful and very striking, in my opinion even more so than in her previous two films, The Damned Don’t Cry and Flamingo Road. I think the proper word for her look in this film is “handsome.” The dark music score by matches the film perfectly.
Here Joan plays a plotting, controlling, and conniving perfectionist of a wife who manipulates and lies to everyone around her to her own selfish ends, and in the end she is left with nothing but the house which she so coveted. I find it interesting that her character is so unsympathetic and so unlikable, yet she said in Conversations with Joan Crawford (CWJC): “At least I played a woman with which a portion of the audience could identify." What in the world did she mean by this? Am I misreading this quote, or did she really think that some women identified with her character in this film, or did she simply mean that women may identify with her in the sense that they might know what it’s like to come from an impoverished background and act out toward the people they love?
This is a fascinating film that every Crawford fan MUST see. The added biographical elements to Harriet’s character are interesting as well, such as being abandoned by her father at a young age and working in a laundry with her mother to make ends meet, as well as not being able to have children, although that turned out to be a lie in the film. This film also has many similarities with her later film Queen Bee; however, I find much more stylish and less campy. Queen Bee is basically the same film with more extremes, but in Harriet we find out in the end that her character has reasons for acting the way she does (poverty, abandonment), whereas in Queen Bee her character is just plain evil. Harriet Craig is not an evil woman, just misunderstood. I watched an Italian talk show on Youtube a while back that had saying that Harriet Craig and Queen Bee matched her mother’s real persona the most! Of course she would say that! lol
Despite the dark subject matter, there are many comical parts in this film, and the surprising sexual undertones are quite amusing. The supporting actresses -- who plays Celia, and Viola Roache, who plays Mrs. Harold -- are outstanding! Some entertaining quotes were when Walter says to Harriet: “I’ll carry a phone around with me.” If they only knew what was to come! Another is when Harriet says to her cousin: “No man’s born ready for marriage, they have to be trained.”
Michael Lia (September 2009)
Rating: of 5
Dust is the enemy! is a great piece of filmdom, especially because of Miss Joan Crawford, who is at her professional best. It does not matter that the script is a rehash of the 1936 version starring Rosalind Russell -- Craig’s Wife, from the novel by John O’Hara. The script changes give the actress and the supporting cast some fresh topics to approach.
It is a great film to watch and it was reaffirming to know that Hollywood and the studios could put everyone together and come up with this entertainment. It’s also great to watch this flip, unflappable woman clean her house while you are cleaning yours. Her house is not just a house but a citadel and one of tidy unhappiness. Tidy, tidy, tidy. Psychotic, but clean! Harriet Craig takes today’s viewer back to 1950:It looks it, feels it, and the acting is classically the same. You can watch this movie with no intensity at all. ( I love it as background: Makes my day feel 50’s as I go about my daily chores, especially when I am ironing.)
However, watched with adults for their first glimpse at Harriet, the film can be serious viewing. Miss Joan Crawford keeps your attention like a film noir femme fatale with a note pad and a duster. She is playing close to her age (unlike Daisy Kenyon in 1947); she is believable throughout and matches fine with Wendell Cory as her husband Walter. (Yes, there are men like Walter.) She also has enough venom and controlling criminal cleanliness left over for her Eva Phillips character in Queen Bee in 1955 (so she can really sort things out!).
The writers and director do a fine job of making this more than a rehash of a “woman’s” picture, and it succeeds today because these issues do not date or go out of style. The script changes give Miss Crawford and the supporting cast some fresh topics to approach. Should you feel sorry for Harriet? Or would you just run from her? Things turn out well for everyone except Harriet and her mother (poor thing has to linger on in a nursing home). Her housekeeper and her cook, of course, get new jobs in other households. Little Tommy gets his radio fixed; and his Mother grows her roses and prepares for a man someday (whether it be Mr. Craig we do not know). Clair (in real life, niece of director George Stevens) and Wes elope. Billy goes to Japan.
Lucille Watson, who has a tiny role but one pivotal to the action, was superb as the boss’s wife and played it like an old bullet shooting straight ahead and aimed directly at Harriet. You wanted more of her feisty honest character. She certainly figured Harriet out and she was not going to accept it! Harriet did not see it coming. If it wasn’t for Ms. Watson, Harriet would still be abusing everyone.
As Harriet walks up the staircase at the film's fade-out, she is all alone in her house and in her thoughts. Her only friend might possibly be Miss Eve Harrington. Harriet will have to wait and see. Thankfully, I have learned, and after several viewings of this film I do believe Miss Crawford, that there is a little bit of Harriet in all of us! Only seek help for your wounds.
Mike O'Hanlon (August 2007)
In order to truly appreciate 's performance in Harriet Craig, one must get the "" image of Joan out of their mind. In her pre-Harriet years, was rarely unlikable onscreen. Even with 1939's The Women, the author of the play, Clare Boothe, had intended that the character of "Crystal Allan" receive the audience sympathy. 1950's Harriet Craig was the first time had proved herself to be the completely unlikable bitch of the silver screen. Her performance in the title role never misses a beat.
The opening of the movie is a typical introduction to a classic movie villain, everyone running around in a panic while the villain enters calm and reserved. It takes a little while for the tension to build, but 's intimidating appearance fits perfectly when Harriet and her husband throw a dinner party. Joan's minor facial expressions reveal how important control is for this woman.
Don't be disappointed however; the beginning of the movie does move rather quickly. Her first act of cruelty comes when she verbally attacks the maids in the kitchen for their tardiness, and after one of them drops a tea cup, Harriet fires her and makes sure to deduct the cost of the cup from her salary. When her husband receives a promotion that will send him to for a few months, Harriet Craig makes sure to visit her husband's boss and persuade him to change his mind by telling him that her husband is unreliable, and spends most of his time drinking himself stupid.
There are a few moments in Harriet Craig where one begins to wonder if this woman is more than just a complete bitch, but a pathological liar at that. She lies to her husband's cousin, played by K.T. Stevens, and tells her that her new boyfriend is just merely interested in sex, and would even marry her just to get what he physically wants. Though the whole lie seems ridiculous, 's delivery is so on key, she makes even the most unbelievable crap seem true. She also lies to her husband that she cannot have children because, gasp!, children will make the house a mess. Though it never states that is her reason for not having children, the movie as a whole clearly implies it.
After her lies are revealed, her husband calls her into the living room, where he smashes the vase that Harriet has cherished so as if it where her own child. The vase, and obviously house, are clearly personified as the children Harriet never had, so for her husband to smash the vase in rage... Well, he might as well have shot her.
Vincent Sherman's direction of the movie is reasonably impressive. I have always thought that he should have ended the film with Harriet going into the living room, cleaning up the mess her husband leaves, and then have her walk up the stairs by herself, alone, and completely comfortable. As for Wendell Corey's interpretation as the husband, well, he's okay, but it's difficult to imagine him and ever being married. , , , or especially , would have been better.
No doubt in my mind should have been at least nominated for an Academy Award. Maybe if the movie had been more commercially successful, she would have indeed received an Oscar nomination, but it remains one of the strongest performances of the movie. And remember to forget the whole "" campy image before watching the film, so one can appreciate it more.
John Finley (August 2007)
Rating: of 5
What a movie, and I give it five out of five stars! Joan's acting was incredible, of course. I just wanted to put my hand in the television and beat her husband to the punch of knocking that vase over. I also wanted to beat Harriet. She needed a good butt whipping! The movie moved at an easy pace; not too fast and not too slow. All of the acting was first rate, and Mr. Craig's boss's wife was darling. Joan's acting was so spectacular that she made me hate her and believe that she was capable of doing anything. I was so mad at Harriet for going into Mr. Craig's office and telling his boss all of those lies! I thought that she would have loved for her husband to be promoted, so she could buy even nicer things, and perhaps even buy a bigger home!
In addition, the life-long maid of Mr. Craig's was right for telling Harrriet off. She was a great character. I knew the moment would come when she would finally give Harriet a piece of her mind. At times, I would get so mad at her coniving ass, I just wanted to throw my television into the street. One of the most memorable quotes happened between Mr. Craig and his frumpy friend in the sound lab: "So, why don't you come over and have breakfast with Harriet and I?" "Oh, no thanks. I'll just honk!" That was too funny, because Harriet's cousin's boyfriend had just said the same thing!
This was a wonderful picture, and now it's become a favorite of mine.
Maureen Morrison (2004)
As a lifelong vintage movie fan, I don't suffer with the need to find something contemporary in a movie. I am able to view a movie in context; to take into account the era in which it was produced, and the eras it represents.
However, I think "Harriet Craig" accurately represents many contemporary American marriages. Reviewers then and now focus only on Miss Crawford's performance, but the story as a whole is a fascinating one. (After all, it is adapted from a Pulitzer-Prize-winning play.)
It is enlightening, if you've waded through the slush about Crawford's monumental ego, to see her participate in the development of the subsidiary characters. Crawford seems to know that because only the audience knows that Harriet is a liar, seeing the things that Harriet's lies motivate others to do tell us more about Harriet's needs than her dialogue ever could. Here is the generous ensemble player her more accurate biographies reveal. Witness and admire, for example, Crawford's careful craftsmanship in the setting down of her coffee cup so as not to upstage Wendell Corey in an over-her-shoulder breakfast scene. The scene explains her husband's past, and exactly how it motivated him to marry Harriet.
In "Harriet Craig," a woman's desertion by her father creates an insecurity in her that manifests itself in a need to control every situation in which she finds herself, including marriage. It's a complex psychological study of a woman and a marriage, and it gives one food for thought as why strong women sometimes marry genuinely weak, or seemingly weak, men.
The plot has juicy twists, so I won't write too much about it.
Although the audience knows that the husband was a mama's boy, we're shown that he regards becoming a married man as an assertive move toward the maturity he seeks. Harriet didn't see her husband's oncoming maturity and independence until it was too late, and is now furiously backpedaling to stay in complete control of the marriage.
What makes this story so strong is that script and casting do not compromise the husband's attractiveness (or the complexity of the marriage's problems), by portraying him as mamby-pamby. He is brainy, educated, and ambitious to move past his already responsible and well-paying job. He is not unaware of Harriet's need for control, and sometimes expresses incredulity to her face in a kindly but forthright, or a kidding way. This gives the movie a very realistic edge.
This movie is more complex than one is lead to believe it is by reviewers who look for a vein of campiness in everything Crawford does, and review only that. Watch, for example, how Harriet's cousin and live-in secretary willingly fetches Harriet's shoes, kneels, and puts them on Harriet's feet. It might seem like Crawford camp, but it tells us much about the cousin character, and Harriet's relationship with her.
As in almost all of Miss Crawford's star vehicles, the director gives her several effective pantomimes to utilize her unique skill at this, and her silent-film experience.
A review I respect says that Harriet's feelings are dead-on correct about many things that other characters disregard. For example, the warm, easy-going widow next door who invents reasons to nosily drop in is hardly as harmless as she seems. Harriet alone knows that this woman could blow down her house of cards with her warmth and genuineness.
"Harriet Craig" is an interesting psychological study of a woman, and a must-have for Crawford fans to admire a seasoned screen pro at work.
Above: A Harriet Craig six-sheet, 81 x 81 inches.
Above: A US 'Harriet Craig' lobby poster. 7 ft long by 27 inches high.
The Best of Everything