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During the 1940's and '50's, Barbara Stanwyck created a vivid gallery of vicious,cold-blooded, sociopathic film noir dames: Phyllis Dietrichson in DoubleIndemnity (1944), perhaps her finest performance; Martha Ivers (TheStrange Love of Martha Ivers, 1946); Thelma Jordon (The File on Thelma Jordon, 1950); and Mae Doyle (Clash by Night,1952). The final portrait in that gallery was Kathy Ferguson Doyle in Crimeof Passion (1957).
When the film begins, Kathy is a San Francisco newspaper advice columnist, a "sobsister," in the jargon of the era. In short order, Kathy convinces a murderessto give herself up, falls in love with the policeman working on the case, playedby Sterling Hayden, and abandons her career to marry him and become a suburban LosAngeles housewife. But she soon grows bored with that life, and channels the ruthlessambition she had previously used to advance her career to try to advance her husband's.She does so by scheming, lying, betraying her husband's colleague, and having anaffair with the husband's boss. Finally, Kathy's perfidy escalates to an even worsecrime.
Besides Stanwyck, Crime of Passion had several participants withsuperb noir credentials. It was written by Jo Eisinger, who also wrote two of themost psychologically complex film noirs, Gilda (1946), and Nightand the City (1950). Director Gerd Oswald had recently directed his firstfeature film, which would become a noir classic, A Kiss Before Dying(1956). Co-star Sterling Hayden's credits included The Asphalt Jungle(1950) and a noir Western, Johnny Guitar (1954). And RaymondBurr had been a stellar villain in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window(1954). The same year that Crime of Passion was released, Burrbegan his long stint as TV's Perry Mason, and Oswald would direct some episodes of the series.
Dismissed as a routine crime melodrama when it opened in early 1957, Crimeof Passion resonates much more deeply nearly fifty years later. From a post-feminist perspective, it seems to be a strikingly modern commentary abouthow women were driven mad by the limitations imposed on them in the postwar period.It's also interesting to look at how the film noir style had evolved from the 1940'sto the 1950's. The light-and-shadow look of 40's noir had given way to what's beencalled "darkness in daylight," and in Crime of Passion,the bright, harsh light of southern California was particularly effective, almostsuffocating in its brightness. The bland suburban atmosphere becomes as menacingas the urban shadows of the previous decade.
Stanwyck was nearly fifty when she made Crime of Passion, andthough she was still slim and elegant, she made no effort to hide her age. The unflattering hairdos and makeup of the period didn't do her any favors either, sothe specter of being an aging career woman at a time of cozy domesticity added anotherlayer of desperation to her characterization. But ultimately, it's Stanwyck's characteristicfierceness and intensity that propels her character, and the film, and makes Crimeof Passion a worthy farewell to film noir from Stanwyck.
Director: Gerd Oswald
Producer: Herman Cohen
Screenplay: Jo Eisinger
Cinematography: Joseph LaShelle
Editor: Francis J. Scheid
Costume Design: Grace Houston
Art Direction: Leslie Thomas
Music: Paul Dunlap
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Kathy Ferguson Doyle), Sterling Hayden (Bill Doyle), RaymondBurr (Tony Pope), Fay Wray (Alice Pope), Virginia Grey (Sara Alidos), Royal Dano(Charlie Alidos), Stuart Whitman (Laboratory Technician).
by Margarita Landazuri