Sudden Fear Is a 1952 American film noir thriller directed by David Miller, and starring Joan Crawford and Jack Palance in a tale about a successful woman who marries a murderous man. The screenplay by Lenore J. Coffee and Robert Smith was based upon the novel of the same name by Edna Sherry.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Miller|
|Produced by||Joseph Kaufman|
|Screenplay by||Lenore J. Coffee|
|Based on||Sudden Fear|
by Edna Sherry
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Edited by||Leon Barsha|
Joseph Kaufmann Productions
|Distributed by||RKO Pictures|
|Box office||$1.65 million|
Myra Hudson (Crawford) is a successful Broadway playwright who rejects Lester Blaine (Palance) as the lead in her new play. Later, she meets Lester on a train bound for San Francisco, is swept off her feet, and, after a brief courtship, marries him.
Lester learns that Myra is writing her will and plans to leave the bulk of her fortune to a foundation. He plots her murder in cahoots with Irene Neves (Gloria Grahame), an old girlfriend hiding in the wings.
Myra discovers their plans and concocts a diabolical scheme to kill Lester and place the blame on Irene, but the complex timing so she herself is provided with an alibi starts to unravel. Lester learns of Myra's intentions and chases her through the streets of San Francisco in his car while she is on foot. Myra is able to avoid him but Lester mistakes Irene for Myra (she has dressed to resemble her) and is about to run her down. Myra shouts to stop him but he realizes too late. He tries to avoid Irene but crashes, killing them both. Myra overhears the two pronounced dead and breathes a sigh of relief as she walks off safely into the night.
When the film was released, the film critic for The New York Times, A. H. Weiler, reviewed the film favorably, writing, "Joan Crawford should be credited with a truly professional performance in Sudden Fear ... The entire production has been mounted in excellent taste and, it must be pointed out, that San Francisco and Los Angeles, Bunker Hill area, in which most of the action takes place, is an excitingly photogenic area. David Miller, the director, has taken full advantage of the city's steep streets and panoramic views. And, in his climactic scenes in a darkened apartment and a chase through its precipitous dark alleys and backyards he has managed to project an authentically doom-filled atmosphere."
Otis L. Guernsey Jr., also wrote a positive review in the New York Herald Tribune. He wrote, "The scenario...is designed to allow Miss Crawford a wide range of quivering reactions to vicious events, as she passes through the stage of starry-eyed love, terrible disillusionment, fear, hatred, and finally hysteria. With her wide eyes and forceful bearing, she is the woman for the job."
More recently, Village Voice reviewer Melissa Anderson wrote that Sudden Fear "fits into and defies different genres, its convention-scrambling partly the result of the fact that the film looks both forward and back." Dennis Schwartz liked the film, but questioned some of the film's plot points, saying that "David Miller stylishly directs this disturbing psychological gargoyle thriller ... [Yet] ... the suspense is marred by plot devices that don't hold up to further scrutiny. Joan Crawford has a chance to act out on her hysteria after her happy marriage is unmasked as a charade, and does a fine job of trying to remain calm while knowing her hubby and girlfriend are planning to kill her ... The film is grandly topped off by Charles B. Lang Jr. and his remarkably glossy black-and-white photography."
Crawford received her third and final Oscar nomination for this film, the one and only time she competed against arch-rival Bette Davis for Best Actress, who was nominated (for the ninth time) for The Star. Neither actress won; Shirley Booth took home the prize for Come Back, Little Sheba.
Laurel Awards win
- Golden Laurel: Best Dramatic Performance, Female: Joan Crawford
Academy Awards nominations
- Best Actress: Joan Crawford
- Best Supporting Actor: Jack Palance
- Best Cinematography, Black-and-White: Charles Lang
- Best Costume Design, Black-and-White: Sheila O'Brien
Golden Globe Awards nomination
- Best Motion Picture Drama Actress: Joan Crawford
Sudden Fear was first released on VHS by Kino Video. Kino also released the film on Region 1 DVD in 2003. In 2006, the film was also released as part of Film Noir - The Dark Side of Hollywood DVD box set by Kino Video. in 2016, the fim was released on Blu Ray by Cohen Film Collection.
- "Top Box-Office Hits of 1952", Variety, January 7, 1953.
- Sudden Fear at the TCM Movie Database.
- Wiler, A.H. The New York Times, film review, "Sudden Fear, Cleverly Turned Melodrama, Is New Bill at Loew's State", August 8, 1952. Accessed: July 14, 2013.
- Quirk, Lawrence J.. The Films of Joan Crawford. The Citadel Press, 1968.
- Anderson, Melissa. The Village Voice, film review, August 10, 2016. Accessed: August 9, 2017.
- Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, February 12, 2005. Accessed: July 14, 2013.
- Spencer Selby (1984). Dark City: The Film Noir. McFarland Classic. ISBN 0-7864-0478-7.