BARBARA STANWYCK: CRIME OF PASSION

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CRIME OF PASSION (1957) is watchable because of the cast but a better script could have made it a very good melodrama.
BARBARA STANWYCK plays an assured career woman who is ready to move on from her job as an Agony Aunt on a San Francisco newspaper.
In a very short space of time, she meets L.A. Detective STERLING HAYDEN, marries him, moves to Los Angeles and finds herself bored at the evenings she spends with Hayden’s buddies and their wives – the women in one room talking fashion and the men in another room, gambling and talking police pensions.
At one point, Sterling’s boss and friend, ROYAL DANO,advises Barbara:
” Your job should be raising a family and having a dinner ready for your husband when he gets home.”

It’s obvious Hayden wouldn’t object if she wanted to get a job, but that never comes up. It appears she does love Sterling, but all her own ambition seems to transfer to him, and that ambition is for him to be promoted .
After another boring evening with the couples, she lashes out at Sterling:
“Is this what you have to look forward to? this mediocrity. This waiting to be wrapped up in mothballs of a pension. Dont you have any ambition? I want you to be somebody,not for my sake, for your sake.”

Trouble is it’s just a job to him and all the frustration is really hers.
It’s half an hour into the film before RAYMOND BURR and FAY WRAY appear. He’s the head of the police dept. and Fay is his wife.
Barbara schemes to become their friends so Sterling will be promoted over his friend Dano ( whose wife is played by VIRGINIA GRAY in a very small role).
Barbara seduces Burr but it all goes very wrong ,ending in murder.

Barbara’s change from career woman to obsessed wife just doesn’t work. Maybe miscasting for Barbara. I could see Gloria Grahame or Audrey Totter in the part , but they would have had murder in mind from the start!
Poor Sterling Hayden ,in a bland role, walks through the film. Raymond Burr is far more effective as the police chief who is prepared to cheat on his wife.

4 responses »

  1. Yes, on paper this film should be better than be better than the way it ends up. I still don’t feel it’s a poor movie – just a bit below par. With the cast and director it actually has a lot going for it yet never comes together properly and leaves you feeling vaguely dissatisfied. Stanwyck and Hayden were two very strong performers who normally shone in such tales but, as you say, the former doesn’t quite convince.
    A bit of a missed opportunity.

  2. Thanks, Colin. It’s probably not Barbara’s fault. She played the part as written. It’s just not convincingly written. You can’t believe the woman at the start of the film could turn into the obsessed housewife who deviously plots to improve her husband’s position . Sterling Hayden couldn’t do anything with the character and dialogue he was given.

  3. I’d be interested to see this for the great cast, but will bear in mind your warnings about the script not convincing. There seem to be quite a lot of films where the cast is better than the material!

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