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Movie stars - even the biggest - have a shelf life. No one remains on top forever; not even an Oscar® winner like Joan Crawford. One of the biggest stars of the 1930s, Crawford, like her contemporaries, found that good roles were getting harder and harder to find by the 1950s. Having left her home studio of MGM, she was now at the decidedly less glamorous Warner Bros. when she appeared in Goodbye, My Fancy (1951).
The film was based on the stage play of the same name by Fay Kanin which had starred Madeleine Carroll as a congresswoman who is given a degree by the University who expelled her years before for having a fling with a young professor. The congresswoman returns to the school because the young professor is now the president. They are reunited and the attraction reignites. Warner Bros. took out the strongest political elements and cast Crawford as the center of a love triangle, with the other two sides played by Robert Young and Frank Lovejoy (perhaps best known for his radio show Nightbeat) as a reporter who is desperately in love with Crawford.
Also in the cast was Janice Rule and Crawford's Mildred Pierce (1945) co-star Eve Arden who said, "The part was the usual secretary-friend of the heroine but with great lines." Goodbye, My Fancy was Rule's first official film role (she had an uncredited bit part in Fourteen Hours, 1951) and it was a baptism of fire. Not only was she beautiful, Rule had proved herself on television and the New York stage and was naturally attracting attention from the press as well as the crew. It added up to a triple threat and Crawford, entering middle age, was not happy about it. She took to harassing Rule for not hitting her marks (walking to the chalk marks on the floor indicating where she should stand), "You're wasting a lot of time and money." This made Rule very nervous and upset and she kept blowing her lines, prompting Crawford to say, "Miss Rule, you'd better enjoy making films while you can. I doubt that you'll be with us long."
Jealous actresses were not the only problem on the set. Director Vincent Sherman received a blistering memo from studio head Jack Warner about running over budget. "After talking to you on the telephone last night, Friday, I am depending on you to finish the picture by next Saturday, November 18th . As I told you, other companies are making the same type of picture in 21-28-36 days with important casts. As you know, Metro [-Goldwyn-Mayer] made Father's Little Dividend (1951), with Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Bennett in 21 days and I am sure the Director had the same problems you have had. You will just have to do this. Otherwise, we cannot stand off this type of cost and delay in making a picture. Those days are gone and no one is going to stay on the team unless they can carry the ball. Get in there and finish the picture by next Saturday or before and stop trying for perfection. No one is interested but yourself and I am sure you are not going to pay to see the picture."
Despite the problems, Sherman, who made three films with Crawford said later, "She was a real pro, she was marvelous to work with - for any director. She knows her job. You don't have to tell her where to look to hit the light, and if you give her reasons why you're doing a thing, that's all right. You explain to her what you want done, why you want it done, that's it. She will sometimes make a suggestion - what you have to watch with her is also what you do with [Bette] Davis, that it doesn't get too much. But apart from that...Very rarely you have to say to Joan it's not enough. Mostly what you have to say is it's a little too much, play it down a bit." Crawford, for her part, praised Sherman, "When I first read the script, I thought [Jack] Warner was offering me the picture because he couldn't get either Kate Hepburn or Roz Russell for the part. I still think they could have done this sort of sophisticated political comedy better than I did. But Vince Sherman, the director, made sure I did a pretty good job. All the credit for bringing it off belongs to him."
Critical reaction to Goodbye, My Fancy varied. Variety called the performances, "very sick under Vincent Sherman's direction. Miss Crawford, recently involved in only heavily dramatic roles, sustains the romantic, middle-aged congresswoman with a light touch that is excellent." However, Bosley Crowther in the New York Times wrote, "Joan Crawford is working extra hard to make romance and liberalism attractive in the Warner's film version [of the play]. And when Miss Crawford makes a mighty effort to do what she obviously regards as a significant piece of performing, the atmosphere is electrically charged. At least, it is loaded with tension--or a reasonable facsimile thereof--when Miss Crawford herself is posing or parading within the camera's range."
Producer: Henry Blanke
Director: Vincent Sherman
Screenplay: Ben Roberts, Ivan Goff (writer); Fay Kanin (play)
Cinematography: Ted McCord
Art Direction: Stanley Fleischer
Music: Ray Heindorf (uncredited)
Film Editing: Rudi Fehr
Cast: Joan Crawford (Agatha Reed), Robert Young (Doctor James Merrill), Frank Lovejoy (Matt Cole), Eve Arden (Woody), Janice Rule (Virginia Merrill), Lurene Tuttle (Ellen Griswold), Howard St. John (Claude Griswold), Viola Roache (Miss Shackelford), Ellen Corby (Miss Birdshaw), Morgan Farley (Doctor Pitt).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Arden, Eve, Eve Arden, The Three Phases of Eve: An Autobiography
Belmer, Rudy Inside Warner Bros.
Crowther, Bosley, "Goodbye, My Fancy, With Joan Crawford and Robert Young, Opens at Holiday Theatre", The New York Times 30 May 51
Grost, Michael E. The Films of Vincent Sherman
Kobel, John People Will Talk
Newquist, Roy Conversations with Joan Crawford