CRAIG’S WIFE (1936)

Harriet Craig (Rosalind Russell) is honest with her niece Ethel (Dorothy Wilson – Love is a liability in marriage. I married to be independent – independent of everybody. I saw to it my marriage was a way forward to emancipation for me.”

Rosalind  Russell, Dorothy Wilson

Harriet’s home is her palace, it means everything to her. Her housekeeper,Mrs. Harold (Jane Darwell) and the maid, Mazie (Nydia  Westman) know what a perfectionist she is . The living room is ,as Mrs. Harold describes it: ‘’the holy  of holies’’.


There can be no flowers in the room . A kindly neighbour,Mrs Frazier (Billie Burke)  leaves flowers from her garden for Harriet – who tells Mrs. Harold  – “Take  them out. I can’t be picking up petals.”

Harriet almost marches round her home, ramrod straight back, a general in charge of all she surveys. Her house is a museum and she is the curator, but unlike other museums, no visitors are welcome.

This character really needs , but never gets psychiatric help.

Rosalind Russell.

 

 

 

John Boles, Rosalind Russell

 

John Boles

I’ve become quite a fan of John Boles who started in silent pictures in the 1920s and was very active in the 1930s, in musicals, dramas and romances.
As ‘Walter Craig’, his devotion to the stony-hearted Harriet is hard to fathom, but when his eyes are finally open, he has some great scenes at the end of the film.

 

  • There’s a great scene between Walter  and his aunt  ( played impressively by Alma Kruger.) She can no longer stay in Harriet’s house and tells Walter a few home truths- “She’s left you practically friendless.” She reminds him his friends haven’t been to the house for a long time. She’s cut you  off, isolated  you in this precious house……I have a feeling when I look at these rooms that they have died and are laid out.”

She tells him about a conversation she overheard a man saying to his wife, “Who do you think you are? – Craig’s wife.”

 

Everyone leaves Harriet – Walter says, “You married a house . I’ll see to it that you have it always.”

 

Jane Darwell, Rosalind Russell, Nydia Westman

Harriet fires her maid , and even the housekeeper ‘Mrs. Harold’  leaves her.

 

Harriet admits: “I’m interested only in the respect of the community we live in.”

The only,partial, explanation for Harriet’s behaviour comes when she says her mother died of a broken heart when her father was unfaithful.

Harriet has married for financial security and social position.

 

Billie Burke, Rosalind Russell

 

Thomas Mitchell

Also in a small but important role was Thomas Mitchell as a friend of Walter’s.

 

Dorothy Wilson , who had the small role of Harriet’s niece, was the wife of director Lewis R. Foster . Although playing the part of Rosalind’s niece, she was only two years younger than Roz.

Dorothy Wilson

Elisabeth Risdon, as Harriet’s sister, seemed odd casting – Elisabeth was 20 years older than Roz.

 

The play, “Craig’s Wife” was written by George Kelly and won the Pulitzer Prize for Best original American play. It ran on Broadway in 1925/26. (George Kelly was Grace Kelly’s uncle.)

 

 

First film version.

Also remade as HARRIET CRAIG, with Joan Crawford.

 

 

 

On the set.

 

Rosalind Russell, Jane Darwell .

 

Rosalind was borrowed from MGM for this  Columbia  picture.  I think her performance was stunning and Oscar worthy . She was only about 29 when she made “Craig’s Wife” and yet was totally convincing as the older woman .
She  becomes Harriet, with her perfect posture and clipped tones.

Hollywood’s only female director at the time, Dorothy Arzner (1897-1979), does a great job. It’s a shame she left Hollywood in 1943 after directing 16 films from 1927.

”Craig’s  Wife” is high melodrama. If you like Douglas Sirk’s “Written on the Wind” or “All That Heaven Allows”, you’ll like this!  Wish it was out in blu-Ray.

 

 

 

 

8 responses »

  1. I have seen and liked the Joan Crawford remake but not this one. Generally, I’m not a fan of Rosalind Russell. She was clearly gutsy and didn’t shy away from unattractive parts, which I think deserves a good deal of respect, but I find her hard to warm to on screen.

  2. It’s interesting to see the changes made for Joan’s version. The murder suicide subplot is dropped, instead Harriet tries to sabotage Walter going to work in Japan. Not from the play.There is a terrific performance from British stage actress Viola Roache as Mrs Harold who stands up to Harriet in a memorable scene.

  3. Could be ,Colin, but if you dont take to Rosalind Russell, I guess Craig’s Wife isn’t one you are going to seek out.
    I haven’t actually considered if I have a preference for the 30s,40s or 50s. So many good films from each decade.

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