This Woman is Dangerous (1952)

This Woman is Dangerous (1952) is a screen-scorching lady gangster dilemma woman-based crime drama with a timely titular suggestion concerning the moral and health and safety proclivities of a gender-based social entity played by Joan Crawford.

A slightly peculiar air of crime fantasy permeates this oddly composed domesticated film noir.

This Woman Is Dangerous is a classic 1952 film noir and crime drama produced by Warner Bros. The movie features Joan Crawford, David Brian, and Dennis Morgan, and tells the story of a woman involved with the criminal underworld who faces the challenge of losing her sight. 

The screenplay, crafted by Geoffrey Homes and George Worthing Yates, draws from a narrative by Bernard Girard. Felix E. Feist directed the film, with Robert Sisk serving as producer.

Beth Austin is a woman entangled in the criminal world who suffers from severe headaches and is on the verge of becoming blind, as confirmed by her eye doctor. During a visit to a gambling house, a group of criminals disguised as police officers conduct a raid and empty the safe. It’s later disclosed that Beth orchestrated the raid herself. She plans to seek treatment at a renowned eye clinic in Indiana, but her departure raises suspicions in her gangster boyfriend, Matt Jackson, who questions her true motives.

It seems that Joan Crawford’s self-critique of This Woman Is Dangerous as one of her “worst” films is a matter of personal perspective, much like Bette Davis’s underestimation of “It’s Love I’m After,” which is widely regarded as a classic screwball comedy of the 1930s.

In Indiana, she meets Dr. Ben, an ophthalmologist who also becomes her romantic interest. When Matt learns of this budding relationship, he rushes to intervene, hoping to prevent Joan’s character from leaving the criminal life behind.

The film’s characters and script are rather formulaic, with Joan delivering a commendable performance despite the limitations. The criminals are portrayed as clichéd grumblers, and the law enforcement agents lack depth, resembling bland stereotypes.

This Woman Is Dangerous may come across as a lurid melodrama, yet it possesses several redeeming qualities. The characters are notably compelling, featuring the formidable Jackson brothers portrayed by David Brian and Philip Carey, and Dennis Morgan in a convincing dramatic role as an eye specialist. The narrative maintains suspense, particularly due to Brian’s character’s unpredictable nature.

The film avoids the overly sentimental tone common in romance plots and steers clear of the soap opera tendencies often associated with Joan Crawford’s movies. Instead, it embraces a film noir aesthetic, characterized by crisp black-and-white cinematography, an engaging score, and solid technical execution that elevates it beyond the expectations of a low-budget production.

The storyline is engaging enough to retain viewer interest up to the climactic hospital shootout during a surgery scene.

David Brian appears to thoroughly enjoy his portrayal of the archetypal tough guy, a role he frequently embodied during his tenure at Warner Bros. Meanwhile, Joan Crawford skillfully expresses a range of emotions, showcasing the anxieties and frustrations of her character. Her tenure at Warner Bros. was nearing its end, prompted by dissatisfaction with the scripts she received after an initially successful period with the studio.

Caravanning in film noir in This Woman is Dangerous (1952)

In This Woman Is Dangerous, Joan Crawford stars as Beth Austin, a woman entangled in crime who is losing her sight. This film marks the third collaboration between Crawford and David Brian, who portrays the formidable gangster Matt Jackson.

Beth takes a break from her criminal life for an eye operation and is treated by the charming Dr. Benn Halleck, played by Dennis Morgan. During her recovery, Beth and Dr. Halleck develop a romantic relationship, raising questions about her future path.

The film attempts to draw a parallel between Beth’s moral clarity and her physical ability to see, suggesting that her criminal behavior was linked to her impaired vision. However, the execution of this theme in the screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring and George Worthing Yates, based on Bernard Girard’s story, is not entirely persuasive.

Directed by Felix E. Feist, the movie lacks the finesse of works by directors like Michael Curtiz or Vincent Sherman. It represents one of Joan Crawford’s final films with Warner Bros., a studio that, much like MGM in her later years, seemed to offer her less-than-stellar roles.

Joan’s last movie with Warner Brothers, where she staged her comeback with Mildred Pierce, marked a low point in her relationship with the studio executives, leading to a tense atmosphere on set. She later labeled this film, even after Trog, as the least favorite in her career. The film, titled “This Woman is Dangerous,” doesn’t quite live up to its name, as the most perilous actions Joan’s character takes are minor acts of aggression and a peculiar salad dressing scene.

The story is straightforward: Joan’s character is involved with a gangster named Matt, and his criminal circle, which includes his brother Will and sister-in-law Ann. 

They engage in various criminal activities, and while Joan assists them, she doesn’t partake in the more violent aspects. Her character faces a personal crisis as she starts losing her vision, leading her to seek medical help.

The dialogue is often cringe-worthy, with lines like “I’m sure your life is gonna be much brighter from now on,” spoken to Joan’s character after her surgery. The cinematography by Ted D. McCord is notable for its clarity and mood-setting, with some scenes featuring dramatic lighting that adds a disorienting effect, reminiscent of the film “Dark Passage.” The use of slow fades creates unusual visual effects, adding to the film’s distinctive style.

While This Woman Is Dangerous may not be a cinematic masterpiece, it does feature some noteworthy scenes, such as Beth’s temporary blindness leading to personal transformation and her interactions with a young girl, portrayed by Sherry Jackson, who provides a refreshing contrast to characters like Veda or Christina.

Viewers should manage their expectations when watching this film, but it’s worth noting that Crawford’s performance remains compelling, true to her reputation.

The logic within logic

This Woman Is Dangerous is a potent melodrama that successfully navigates its unlikely plot through brisk and straightforward direction by Felix Feist, who adeptly maintains tension as the story progresses towards its peak. 

The film’s ability to transcend its implausible storyline is a testament to the skilful direction and compelling performances that keep the audience engaged.

Part of her was Ritz - part of her was "racket" - all of her was exciting! Beth Austin---stylish dame with a stylish name---who lived by jungle law in a big city and clawed her way to where the money was...!

EVERY INCH A LADY...till you look at the record!

THIS STORY IS A SCREEN-SCORCHER! Beth Austin... stylish name, stylish dame...known for what she was to mugg and millionaire...every inch a lady till you look at the record!

This Woman Is Dangerous serves as the swan song for Joan Crawford and Dennis Morgan’s contracts with Warner Brothers. The film’s narrative might be considered a standard melodrama, but it’s significantly enhanced by the star-studded cast.

Joan Crawford portrays a sophisticated woman entangled with a pair of gangster siblings, David Brian and Philip Carey, as well as Carey’s on-screen wife, Mari Aldon. Following a successful casino heist, Joan’s character, grappling with vision issues, learns she’s on the brink of blindness. 

The only hope lies in a precarious surgery, and Dr. Dennis Morgan is the surgeon for the job. Consequently, Joan’s character severs ties with the criminal world and heads to Indiana for treatment at the hospital where Dr. Morgan practices.

Amidst her vision restoration, David Brian’s character commits a grave error, drawing intense heat on the gang. In a baffling decision, he abandons the trailer where they were transporting a state trooper’s body, effectively incriminating himself.

In the shadow-drenched world of film noir, the dame in our story ain’t your typical femme fatale, but she’s got a penchant for pain that borders on the poetic. Joan Crawford, the silver screen siren, has been strutting her stuff as high-class broads with a fatal flaw for falling hard for the wrong kind of fellas. 

And this time around, it’s David Brian, a fella with a chip on his shoulder so big, you’d think he’s been nursing a grudge since the day his big sis snapped his favorite toy.

Early in the flick, our gal Joan finds out her peepers might be punching the clock for good, and by some twist of fate, she starts getting cozy with her sawbones, Dennis Morgan—a doc with a heart of gold and a touch as gentle as a whisper. But wouldn’t you know it, Brian gets wise to their secret tryst, and the guy’s got a temper that could make a saint swear. He’s got a piece, and he ain’t afraid to use it.

This Woman is Dangerous (1952)

The '50s, a decade that didn’t do any favors for the gritty world of film noir or the indomitable Joan Crawford. Here’s a tale that echoes the betrayal by an era in flux and the relentless march of time itself. Crawford’s flicks, stubborn as ever, kept her in the spotlight as a siren of the screen, a vixen whose very presence could ensnare any man. 

Scene after scene, the script sang praises of her allure, but as the years rolled on from '45, the audience’s suspension of disbelief was stretched thin.

Film noir, once a realm of shadows and cynicism, now found itself invaded by the mundane: domestic bliss, kiddos running amok, and wedded unions. Even the noble professions, like those of doctors, were dragged into the murky depths, their white coats barely visible in the dim light of a hopeful suburbia.

This Woman is Dangerous (1952)

This flick, while not a masterpiece, boasts scenes that shine like diamonds in the rough, yet it’s weighed down by a thick layer of romance and the saccharine deeds of do-gooder docs. But let’s not forget the sleazy gumshoe and the muscle-brained mobsters—true to the era’s form, with the F.B.I. lurking in the background, ready to wave the flag and tap a wire or two. 

There’s enough meat on these bones to keep you from nodding off, and the high-stakes shootout in the operating theater? That’s the kind of scene that makes it all worthwhile.

Now, this picture ain’t the tightest yarn ever spun, but it’s got its moments that’ll snag your gaze and tickle your thinker. There’s this bit with a house on wheels getting chased by a flatfoot on a two-wheeler—doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s a sight to behold and shot like a dream. 

That’s the magic of Warner’s lensmen for ya—masters of the dark and light, painting scenes that can turn a dive into a palace. Behind the camera is Ted McCord, a true artiste with a knack for making the mundane look like a million bucks.

The whole Warner gang pitches in, taking us on a tour from the dingy corners of hospital waiting rooms to the cramped quarters of trailer parks, from the steam of prison laundries to the sterile silence of doc’s offices. This flick, This Woman Is Dangerous, might not be in the same league as Mildred Pierce or “Humoresque,” but Crawford? She’s still got the goods, holding court like royalty, with a talent for taking the slings and arrows like nobody’s business. Except maybe Kay Francis

In the smoky haze of '52, a picture emerges, blending the melodrama of a woman’s plight with the hard edges of crime. Joan Crawford, the queen bee of a band of crooks, is the mastermind, while her beau, the volatile David Brian, flexes the muscle alongside his kin. 

This Woman is Dangerous (1952)

But trouble brews as Crawford’s vision dims, threatening to plunge her world into darkness within a mere week—a cruel twist of fate for any soul.

Desperate for a cure, she journeys to the heartland, where a doc, Dennis Morgan, offers no promises but wields his scalpel with a hopeful hand. Meanwhile, Brian simmers in a tin can on wheels, his mind racing with betrayal and jealousy. The plot thickens when a routine stop turns deadly, and Brian’s trigger finger sends them all into hiding.

As Crawford lingers in the purgatory of a motel, she’s haunted by the ghosts of her past, her heart heavy with the weight of her sins. Morgan’s tender gaze offers a glimmer of redemption, a chance to turn a new leaf. 

But the sleuth, a vulture circling its prey, delivers the news that ignites the powder keg, setting the stage for a showdown where love and lunacy collide, and Crawford’s fate hangs in the balance, teetering on the brink of a lover’s bullet. In this dance of shadows and light, Crawford reigns supreme, her presence a force that bends the will of every soul she encounters, with Brian a ticking time bomb, ever on the verge of eruption

Although Joan’s fingerprints are found in the trailer, the FBI is aware of her alibi—she was hospitalized during the murder. Nevertheless, she becomes a prime suspect to lead the FBI to Brian, as deduced by FBI agent Richard Webb, who simultaneously portrayed Captain Midnight on television.

Without the allure of Joan Crawford and the ensemble cast, This Woman Is Dangerous would likely fade into obscurity, its ranking plummeting without the cachet of its leading lady and her co-stars. The film’s ability to transcend its genre conventions is a testament to the compelling performances that anchor it.

Back in October 1951, everyone thought Frankie Hyers would play the private detective in the movie, but it turned out to be Ian MacDonald who got the part. There was some buzz in August that year about Ted Sherdeman writing the script, but no one’s really sure if he ended up contributing anything. 

Then in November, there was talk that Max Steiner would create the music, but in the end, it was David Buttolph’s tunes that made it into the movie. The credits show Oliver S. Garretson as the sound guy, but Les Hewitt was originally listed for the job. 

There were a bunch of other actors like James Moore and Alma Mansfield who were supposed to be in the movie, but it’s a mystery if they actually appeared.

Richard Webb in This Woman is Dangerous (1952)

The film This Woman Is Dangerous turned out to be Joan Crawford’s last gig with Warner Bros. before she did Whatever Happened to Baby Jane in 1962. Word on the street is that Warner Bros. gave her the role of ‘Beth Austin’ hoping she’d turn it down—she was known to be pretty tough to work with—and they could use that as a reason to break her contract. Dennis Morgan went back to his role for a radio play in March 1953, with Virginia Mayo and Leif Erickson joining him on the airwaves.

Aldous Huxley, renowned for his visionary works exploring dystopian societies and psychedelic experiences, also had a hand in classic film adaptations. He penned the screenplay for the 1940 adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” and collaborated with John Houseman and director Robert Stevenson on the 1943 version of “Jane Eyre.” Huxley’s affinity for Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” caught Walt Disney’s attention, leading to a 1945 collaboration for a mixed live-action and animation film. Huxley drafted a script, but Disney ultimately found it too sophisticated for the target audience. Although Huxley’s version was shelved, and he was compensated, Disney went on to produce the iconic fully animated “Alice in Wonderland” we know today, released in 1951.

While some might say that Aldous Huxley’s screenplays aren’t the main highlight of his body of work, they still offer valuable insights for both film experts and those analyzing literature. Virginia M. Clark highlights Huxley’s journey in the film industry as part of his broader career. She delves into Huxley’s work in Hollywood, particularly his novel “After Many a Summer Dies the Swan” and the screenplay he never completed, “Ape and Essence.” Interestingly, these works likely influenced Pierre Boulle when he created his famous Planet of the Apes.

This Woman Is Dangerous (1952)

Directed by Felix E. Feist

Genres - Crime, Drama  |   Release Date - Feb 9, 1952  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |







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