(1950)2.5Craig ButlerThe cult of Joan Crawford will relish Harriet Craig, which features one of the star's most enduring and indelible performances. Indeed, in some ways Harriet Craig serves as a blueprint for Mommie Dearest, the scandalous biopic that presented Crawford as a real-life monster. Crawford is in high gear here, giving a performance which is certainly not great acting but is just about the last word in great entertainment. Imperious, bitchy, selfish, manipulative and demanding, Crawford's Harriet is a caricature and by all means should wear out its welcome early on. Instead, one watches total engagement, caught up in the sheer power that the actress brings to the role. And, in fairness to the star, the role as written is fairly one-dimensional anyway; there's only a cursory nod here and there to adding depth to her. This does cause a problem with the film, of course, for the character is so repellant that it's quite unbelievable that her husband would not have seen through her earlier or would have stayed with her for so many years. As a result, despite Crawford's Herculean efforts, this lack of credibility causes the film to sag and dampens its effectiveness. In addition, the story has been restructured to focus on Harriet to such a degree that the rest of the characters are given short shrift. Under the circumstances, the other actors do the best they can, but only Lucille Watson and Viola Roache manage to make much of an impression. While far from a great film, Harriet is worth watching for old fashioned star wattage of a very high order.
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.