What’s The Story? Prim Jennifer Stewart (played by Lucy Marlow) arrives in Georgia to spend time with her cousin’s family. She steps into a whirlwind of drama centered around her evil cousin Eva (played very well by Joan Crawford). Eva is barely speaking to her alcoholic husband Avery (Barry Sullivan), who sports a nasty scar on his face from a car accident. Avery’s sister Carol is involved with Avery’s business associate Jud (John Ireland), but Eva still holds a torch for Jud. And poor Jennifer tries to get her footing in all this drama, all while trying to comfort Eva’s son has he has recurring nightmares of the car accident that disfigured his father.
Carol and Jud announce their engagement, which sets Eva off.
Avery and Jennifer start catching feelings for each other. Eva gaslights Carol into thinking that Avery will split up with her. Carol then kills herself in their stable, which sends Eva into hysterics, realizing she's gone too far. When Eva realizes that Avery may actually leave her for Jennifer, she threatens a nasty public divorce. Avery backs off, and then concocts a plan to kill Eva and himself in a car accident. Jud takes Eva in the car, confronts the Queen Bee and then kills them both. Ta-dah!
Now, it sounds very soapy. It isn’t. It should be more. The big problem is that most of the characters are very passive. Eva takes charge of scenes and all of the characters are cowed by her. If they were putting up more of a fight from the beginning and then built to the end, then it would be more satisfying. As it stands, you do root for Eva to get what’s coming to her but if you want a more satisfying experience, you also should want to root for the other people to win against her. And they are so milquetoast you don’t. So, not as satisfying as it should be.
Side note: the film is set in Georgia and there are barely any Southern accents on display, except for Fay Wray (!) as a local eccentric (and early Eva victim). The costumes are gorgeous and were nominated for an Oscar.
Oh, And How’s Joan? Joan really brings her all to this. It’s a good performance. Not only is she super evil when it’s required, she also shows you the severely fucked up person underneath the Jean Louis gowns. Eva is hyper desperate for love and acceptance that she’ll go out of her way to make other people miserable. The scene where she is talking to Jennifer about her feelings for Jud and she starts trashing the room is genuinely scary. Eva is a disturbed person, not just a Queen Bee monster. Eva is similar to Harriet Craig, if Harriet was a full-tilt narcissist sociopath.
Should You See It? Sure. It’s entertaining and fun to look at. Joan is the highlight. It’s not an essential film of hers, so I’d put it lower on the list.
How Can I See It? You can rent the DVD from Netflix. Streaming-wise, it’s available for rental on Vudu, YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Google Play.