What’s The Story? Marian is a hardworking gal at a paper box factory in a small town somewhere in America. She’s poor, her mom is poor, and her dad isn’t in the picture. She’s got a dopey fella, a lot of ambitions but few prospects. And then one night while she’s out on a walk, a train goes by.
Based on Marian’s interaction with this drunk richie, she decides to roll the dice and head to New York City. As she dumps her dope, she give a pretty feminist speech about how men are allowed to go do whatever but women are held to a different standard. Anyway, she arrives in New York City and meets dashing lawyer Mark Whitney (Clark Gable). They start an affair. Mark is married, see, and he wants to keep Marian as his side piece so they concoct a false identity for her that covers the fact that she can live well on her own, etc. etc. Cut to a few years later and Mark is running for governor and Marian is now a liability. She sacrifices her own reputation in a public way to save him and he runs to her on an el platform in the rain.
During the transition between silent to sound, there were a lot of bumps along the way. And this movie is one of them. It’s very, very stagy. The acting is very presentational. Lots of characters talk to and act each other but you rarely get sense that anyone is actually listening. (Joan does here and there — more below) The film is only 76 minutes long, but trust me, it feels waaaaay longer. It’s slow and sluggish. Possessed wasn’t directed; it was stuffed and mounted.
Oh And How’s Joan? She unfortunately falls into the same stagy trap that afflicts the cast here. The bulk of her acting is highly presentational. There’s a great moment when she’s eavesdropping on Mark and his buddies and you can read the pain on her face very well. She’s feeling that, not just performing it. In the lighter moments, she’s pretty good. She even sings a bit — in three languages.
She and Gable started an affair on the set during the making of Possessed, which lasted longer than the reputation of this movie. You can read that in the film as their chemistry is palpable.
Should I See It? Eh. You can skip this one and go to Grand Hotel. It came out one year later than Possessed and is waaaaaaay better.
How Can I See It? It’s available for rental on iTunes and YouTube, though the iTunes print is not good.