Cast & Crew
Before she and her meek cousin, Clare Raymond, leave town to visit her ailing mother, Harriet Craig gives the servants elaborate housekeeping instructions. One night, Harriet is unable to reach her husband Walter on the telephone and returns home immediately. When Clare questions Harriet's mistrust of her husband, Harriet explains that her father abandoned her mother and her when she was a child, and she is determined that this will never happen to her. She now regards marriage as a bargain in which she makes a home for her husband and he takes care of her. Clare, who believes that trust grows from love, is dismayed by her cousin's perspective, but admits that the older woman may know more than she does. Upon her unexpected arrival home, Harriet is greatly upset by signs that Walter was entertaining in her absence. She is further angered when she discovers he is still in bed and expresses her opinion that the household disarray is disrespectful to her. In order to retain control over her husband, Harriet has systematically eliminated his friends from their life. She is even jealous of Mrs. Frazier, the widow who lives next door. After Walter gently complains, Harriet plans a dinner party to mollify him, but when the plans are finalized, Walter discovers that none of his old friends have been included. Later, when Harriet learns that Walter's assistant, Wes Miller, who has been dating Clare, is seriously interested in her cousin, she lies to Clare about Wes's intentions, causing her to break off the relationship. After Walter is offered a promotion that involves traveling to Japan without her, Harriet visits Henry Fenwick, his boss, and insinuates that Walter has a gambling problem and is not to be trusted with money. At the last minute, Walter is denied his promotion. When a disappointed Walter arrives home, he learns that his old family housekeeper, Mrs. Harold, has quit, unable to endure Harriet's rigid rules. Walter then asks Clare why she will not take Wes's phone calls and discovers Harriet's interference in that relationship. Angrily, he accuses Harriet of lying about everything. When Harriet explains her theory of marriage as a bargain, Walter responds that all he wanted was for her to love him. Danny, Mrs. Frazier's young son, interrupts their argument to ask Walter to fix his radio. Later, Walter spends a pleasant evening at the Fraziers, and then returns home. During an argument, Harriet inadvertently reveals that she lied about being unable to have a child, and Walter tells her that he knows about her visit to Fenwick. He adds that thanks to the intervention of Fenwick's wife Celia, he will go to Japan after all, but will not return to the house. After he leaves, Mrs. Frazier returns the pipe that Walter left at her house. Having seen Walter drive away, she offers sympathy to Harriet, but Harriet, unable to admit that her life is less than perfect, lies that Walter has only gone for a newspaper.
K. T. Stevens
Crawford, then in her middle forties, was in yet another phase of her remarkably resilient career, which had taken her from flapper to proletarian working girl to fur-swathed MGM glamour queen to steely, against-all-odds survivor in her Oscar®-winning Mildred Pierce (1945) at her new studio, Warner Bros. Her subsequent roles were even fiercer. In his 1983 book, Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Star, Alexander Walker writes that Flamingo Road (1949), The Damned Don't Cry (1950), and Harriet Craig "all feel like darkening admonitions of a neurotic descent into Crawford's 'panic period,' in which the roles are fashioned to exploit her emotional dependence."
Harriet Craig was Sherman's second of three films with Crawford. During their previous collaboration, The Damned Don't Cry, the married Sherman had begun an affair with his star that would continue through Goodbye, My Fancy (1951). As production on The Damned Don't Cry was wrapping up, Columbia Pictures asked Crawford to star in a remake of Craig's Wife, to be called Lady of the House. She asked Sherman's opinion, and he told her he thought it was dated and wouldn't work, so she turned it down. Soon after, Warner Bros. loaned out Sherman to Columbia for a film with Margaret Sullavan, which he agreed to, not realizing that the film would be Lady of the House. When he found out, he protested, but Columbia chief Harry Cohn insisted. When Crawford heard about it, she called producer William Dozier and told him that she would do the film after all. Sherman was the first, but not the last, to see the similarities between Harriet Craig and Joan Crawford. As he recalled in his 1996 autobiography, Studio Affairs, "I realized that in many ways, she was the embodiment of Harriet Craig...in her obsessive attitude toward her home; her distrust of men [because she had been abandoned by her father] and her desire to control; her power of manipulation; and her concept of the proper way for a man to behave toward his wife." Years later, when Crawford's daughter Christina published her tell-all memoir, Mommie Dearest, it was not difficult to see those same parallels in her daughter's description of Crawford's compulsive housekeeping.
Sherman was not happy about making Harriet Craig, but he worked with screenwriter James Gunn to revise the screenplay, and recalled the production of the film as a rewarding experience. He especially enjoyed his creative collaboration with cinematographer Joseph Walker and editor Viola Lawrence, one of a handful women editors in Hollywood at that time.
K.T. Stevens played the role of Harriet's niece, whose romance Harriet tries to destroy, precipitating a showdown between Harriet and her husband Walter. Born Gloria Wood, Stevens was the daughter of director Sam Wood. She made her film debut at the age of two in her father's film Peck's Bad Boy (1921), and changed her name as a young theater actress in the late 1930s, so she would not be accused of exploiting her father's name. She appeared in a few films throughout the 1940s, including Kitty Foyle (1940), directed by her father, but never became a big star. In the 1950s, she began a long and successful career in television, including a four-year stint in the soap opera, The Young and the Restless in the 1970s. She died in 1994.
Crawford's performance in Harriet Craig earned her some of her best reviews since Mildred Pierce. "Joan Crawford does a prime job of putting over the selfish title-character, equipping it with enough sock to cloak the obviousness that motivates the dramatics," according to Variety. Otis Guernsey, Jr. of the New York Herald Tribune agreed. "The film gives authentic movie star Joan Crawford an opportunity to command the camera's attention through an authentic star role. She remains, as always, a stylish performer in her clear and forceful characterization....Her vehicle may be somewhat laborious but it is steady enough to carry Miss Crawford's act."
Director: Vincent Sherman (
Producer: William Dozier
Screenplay: Anne Froelich, James Gunn, based on the play Craig's Wife, by George Kelly
Cinematography: Joseph Walker
Editor: Viola Lawrence
Costume Design: Sheila O'Brien
Art Direction: Walter Holscher
Music: George Duning
Cast: Joan Crawford (Harriet Craig), Wendell Corey (Walter Craig), Lucile Watson (Celia Fenwick), Allyn Joslyn (Billy Birkmire), William Bishop (Wes Miller), K.T. Stevens (Clare Raymond), Viola Roache (Mrs. Harold), Raymond Greenleaf (Henry Fenwick), Ellen Corby (Lottie).
by Margarita Landazuri
The film's working title was The Lady of the House. George Kelly's play was the basis of two other films, both entitled Craig's Wife: a silent version starring Irene Rich and Warner Baxter (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.1070) and a 1936 Columbia film starring Rosalind Russell and directed by Dorothy Arzner (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.0856).
Released in United States Fall November 1950
Released in United States Fall November 1950