Fierce: The Untameable Joan Crawford will run at BFI Southbank from August 1 to October 9 featuring extended runs of two of her best-loved films, The Women and Mildred Pearce.
Joan Crawford’s life and work will be celebrated at BFI Southbank this summer as Fierce: The Untameable Joan Crawford runs from August 1 to October 9. The season will include 20 films including The Women (George Cukor, 1939), which zings with whip-smart dialogue and ruthless high-society politics, and Mildred Pearce (Michael Curtiz, 1945) for which Crawford famously received her Best Actress Oscar in bed, blaming her absence from the ceremony on sickness.
The incomparable actresses work spans 40 years in Hollywood, in which time she became one of the most iconic figures to ever grace the screen. Her tumultuous personal life, much of it played out in the public gaze, including four marriages, and a much-documented falling-out with two of her children (including Christina, who wrote the tell-all memoir Mommie Dearest), has often detracted from her supreme acting talents.
While she was labelled “box office poison” by the end of the 1930s, Crawford was undeterred, regaining her leading-lady status with Mildred Pearce. The season will offer audiences a chance to see beyond the complicated personal life; from her early years as a flapper during the silent era to her middle-age melodramas and late-career genre resurgence. Considered a cinematic chameleon, Crawford, despite her ups and downs on screen and off it, dominated the films she appeared in with a formidable presence.
Other key films in the season will include Crawford’s first A-list talkie Grand Hotel (Edmund Goulding, 1932), The Bride Wore Red (Dorothy Arzner, 1937) opposite her then-husband Franchot Tone, and Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954) in which she plays a strong-willed saloon owner who is wrongly accused of murder. The box office hit What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Robert Aldrich, 1962) will also be screened.
On Saturday August 4, there will be a special event – An Afternoon with Joan Crawford – which will explore the many faces of one of Hollywood’s biggest stars through a series of illustrated talks. These will look at her origins as the original “it girl” and flapper superstar, to the much-parodied larger-than-life figure that has permeated films, TV series and books.
Tackling a range of subjects and characters throughout her career, Crawford has played everyone from obsessive stalker to robber, bully, cheater, diva and murderess. Throughout her career she thrived on roles of complicated and unlikeable women, pushing the envelope as her Hollywood clout grew – and then developing roles for herself when the offers started to dry up.
In the latter part of her five-decade career she continued to reinvent herself, and developed partnerships with genre-friendly directors like Robert Aldrich and William Castle, becoming a late-career scream queen with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Straight-Jacket (William Castle, 1964) and Saw What You Did (William Castle, 1965), which will all screen in the season.