Torch Song (1953)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama  |   Release Date - Oct 23, 1953 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

A prime example of the "incredibly-bad-but-enormously-entertaining" film, Torch Song is a hoot from start to finish and a favorite of bad film aficionados. Playing the kind of tough hardened dame that had become her trademark (she "has the mouth of an angel, but the words that come out are pure tramp," as one character says), Joan Crawford turns in the kind of over-the-top, ludicrous performance that is entirely removed from reality, yet maintains an undeniable fascination; one simply cannot look away. Much the same can be said of the entire film, which tends to elicit a "Did-they-really-say-that?" response from viewers. Filled with incredible, instantly quotable dialogue (such as Crawford snapping to the blind Michael Wilding, "Why don't you get yourself a seeing-eye girl," or criticizing a chorus boy who trips over her leg with "He gets paid a very handsome salary to dance around that leg!"), the script piles cliché upon cliché and sidesteps no opportunity to provide its star with a "big scene," no matter how poorly set up. Even the physical production provokes laughs, from the inch-thick make-up on the star to the faux-modern bedroom set. The piece-de-resistance, however, is the legendary "Two Faced Woman" number, featuring staggeringly inept choreography, gaudy costumes, an all-too-obviously dubbed Crawford and possibly the most embarrassing use of blackface ever in a major production. (Crawford's emotional outburst at the end of the number is in a class by itself.) Torch Song may not have turned out to be the kind of film its star intended it to be, but it is definitely a memorably experience.